Targeted the Oklahoma panhandle after a leisurely start to the day in Colby, KS. 28 miles west of Guymon, OK, the boundary lit up with storms and we watched an intense dust storm develop. We stayed ahead of the storm but I’m still tasting dust this morning.
Yesterday, we saw a very low contrast tornado at Guthrie, OK. The sky was filled with haze, the storms were amazingly difficult to deal with due to the energy in the system and the cell mergers, and we refused to try to chase in the Oklahoma City urban area due to traffic issues, although we started the day in Oklahoma City. Chasing in urban areas is almost as bad as chasing in the trees and hills of Missouri, Arkansas, etc. Therefore, we are heading home. We have seen tornadoes four days in a row. A record for us. It has been an active season and we are tired. A good kind of tired but tired nonetheless.
People keep asking me why I chase storms. Days like yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that….are the answer. The sky is alive with raw power. Nothing else matters but the energy. In my profession, there are conference workshops dedicated to learning how to “be in the moment” and “mindfulness.” Storms are elemental, a part of the soul of humankind that requires no learning. Being in the moment is essential to stormchasing if one wishes to truly understand this elemental part of nature, stay safe, and experience the energy of these beasts. Standing in wind that threatens to whip my shirt off my body, driving through rain that falls harder and harder and faster and faster, hearing the first dings of hail and knowing that bigger and dangerous hail is just behind, knowing that there are tornadoes wrapped in rain that no one can see until they destroy, or seeing columns of twisting air rotating from a cloud to the ground with dirt and debris coloring it to make it visible…this is the power of energy that mother nature produces and that I experience while chasing. It is real and these beasts speak to me in a way that other things don’t. That’s why I chase.
We were lucky to come out of this day alive! Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but it was fast, furious, and wild. In Nebraska, headed north to Lake McConaughy to watch a storm cross the lake…but it didn’t. However, saw a lot of whitecaps on the lake. The wind was howling. Headed further north on Rt. 61/92 trying to stay ahead of the storms, which were moving at 60ish mph. We stayed on Rt. 92 at Arthur, heading east. Before reaching Rt. 97, we got ahead of one of the north tracking fast moving storms and captured a brief tornado on camera while almost being blown away by 70mph winds. Shirts were being held on by hand. The tornado was near Tryon, NE and we were looking NW.
We continued east on 92 through hail and suddenly, out of nowhere, a fast moving shed roof passed in front of our eyes. This thing was close! Debris. At that point, we decided to head on to Oconto to let the storm roll over us and ended up sitting under the whale’s mouth. What a day.