A delightfully fun chase with an isolated supercell on the dryline NW of Ogallala. We chased this storm through Arthur, Keith, and Perkins counties, staying just ahead of (most times), the hail core, that was dropping quarter sized hail. One funnel and a short-lived gustnado later, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset mammatus show and one of the best light shows for a long time. What a treat!
Target SE Nebraska. Left Valentine early and were rewarded with quite the show. We sat on the front and the low developed with isolated supercells firing. Beautiful! NE of Nelson, NE, right after 5 pm, we got ourselves a brief tornado that formed right in front of us. Whoa! I’ve never been close enough to hear one before. What a treat – especially when it wasn’t strong enough to do much or in a populated area. We played with these storms and with strong gustnadoes (debris flying), beautiful mammatus, and ran into TWC’s Mike Bettes at a gas station in Hebron, NE where he was taping for the Great Tornado Chase 2012.
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.
Yes, we were chasing the storm that hit Joplin, MO. We veered off of it a few miles from Jopin when any tornado that developed would be rain wrapped and very dangerous to chase. The storm was a beast and kept evolving and expanding. The beast that hit Joplin ate 3 more cells as it grew. We have seen from the field that cell mergers appear to contribute to tornadogenesis, and Ian has done a bit of research and found some articles on this topic.
We were sitting on top of a hill watching beautiful storm structure when we turned on the radio and learned about what happened to Joplin. Speechless, with tears in our eyes, we could only say our prayers and look in awe at the power of mother nature. We talked about whether we could help in any way but none of us is a qualified first responder and we knew that the chasers in our community who are would respond generously, as they did.
We carried on the chase with mixed emotions, knowing that we couldn’t change what mother nature brings to us. Many ask why did this happen and why are there more deaths this year? It’s an active year – La Nina is one reason. And, for all of the unpopulated and sparsely populated land in tornado alley (and what they have now coined dixie alley), storms and tornadoes don’t determine their paths by whether structures and people are in front of them. It’s probability. The vast majority of the time, tornadoes hit noting but fields and many go unreported unless someone happens to see it. Sometimes, it hits a town. Like in Alabama, Joplin was under a tornado warning for quite some time. In this end of the world, there is a bit of a “it won’t happen here” mentality, which we hear all the time.
Yesterday, while watching storms develop on a dirt road and looking at some holes in the ground (armadillo dens?), an elderly man stopped to check that we were ok. I told him that we were watching the storms and he said, “You know what I do when those bad storms come? I go to bed and say my prayers.”
Many people don’t have tornado shelters. A tornado as strong as the one that hit Joplin requires a basement or a reinforced storm shelter to be really safe. Most important – it requires that someone actually be in one of these. A few years back, we met a woman who showed us her storm shelter. It was filled with junk. She was using it as either as extra storage or a junk bin. We were watching a storm that could produce a tornado right where she was. I hope that she decided to clean out here shelter.
We went on to see a beautiful tornado just on the other side of a lake in Bernice, OK and a beautiful sunset.
Belated post since we’ve been quite busy. I’ll be catching up with a few. Here’s more on Yellowstone:
While walking around Yellowstone, I discovered the USGS’s new Volcano Mitigation Strategy. Actually, Ian, being a contractor, immediately called it this after I said to him, “Hey, they figured out a way to fix the volcano.” I guess it’s time I re-take contractor speak 101 since I’ve lost my touch.
Duct tape has many uses!
More incredible colors of nature, not photoshopped! I swear this is real! We remain in awe of what mother nature produces every single day.