Saturday, 31 May 2014

May 31st thoughts


We're about to check out of our motel in Cheyenne. We'll probably hang around reasonably close to this area today...there is a slight risk of severe thunderstorms including supercells, and this area is one where storms can often form.

May 30th - Pike's Peak, then on to Wyoming


Today we fulfilled an ambition: to drive up Pike's Peak in Colorado, to attain an altitude of over 14,000 feet above sea level in the comfort of our car! It was an experience which didn't disappoint! From waking up this morning and looking at the amazing view of the Garden of the Gods from our hotel room, to the slow drive up the mountain to the graupel and snow falling at the summit, the experience was fantastic. Yes, we had thick fog at the summit because of the cloud passing over, so we missed the spectacular views, but the cloud brought its own charm, and it always seems correct that one should pass into the clouds with altitude.

After a time, thunder boomed in the distance - an odd sound at this altitude as the thinner air gives the sound a different quality. We decided after about 40 minutes that it was time to descend - it was cold, and there's only so long we can look at fog! Also, although the effects of altitude were very minor for us, we could tell there was some subtle effects starting.

The slow drive down gave us time to stop and take pictures from time to time, and I was rather smug that the lady park ranger at the half-way down point said that our brakes were 'nice and cool' - which is ironic, as I usually like to get the brakes smoking!

We then headed north through the very busy areas around Denver to Cheyenne, Wyoming, for the night. We encountered heavy rain and thunderstorms on the way here, with some great lightning.

We ate dinner at Applebee's with Nathan Edwards, and reflected on events a year ago - May 31st. 2013.

This was the day of the infamous El Reno, Oklahoma, tornado, which tragically took the lives of three experienced and extremely popular storm chasers: Tim and Paul Samaras, and Carl Young.

As you may recall we had a narrow escape from this tornado too - I've gone over this day many times since then. It's certainly had an effect on our chase methodology and I think it would be tragic if no-one learned from this day.

Looking back at my blog post from this evening - May 30th - last year, the last paragraph was:

Friday looks like being another volatile weather day for central Oklahoma, unfortunately. Once again the Oklahoma City area is in a risk area for severe thunderstorms including tornadoes, some of which could be strong, especially into the evening hours.

Of course, I penned these words knowing the atmosphere was primed for significant weather, but I could have hardly imagined, or even cared to imagine, what would follow. I think one thing to take from all of this is that a day is either a very normal thing for us: we go about our lives with normality, and we assume we'll do the same tomorrow, and so on; or it can be an historic day, or a tragic day.

Of course, one should never approach the new day with any sense of morbidity - but perhaps having a greater appreciation for each day, and the people around you and the experiences you have each day, is something which we should embrace more. I can't say I have always done this since last May 31 - but as we reach that tragic anniversary, perhaps it's time do it more.

Here are a few pics from today:

The view which greeted us this morning from our balcony.

Pike's Peak summit - pleasant weather! 1C and graupel/snow!


Graupel on my arm.

On the descent - thunder growling away too!


This bottle was sealed at the summit, and then crushed by the higher pressure lower down.

Friday, 30 May 2014

May 29th - Amarillo to Colorado Springs


Today was another driving day - we intend to go up Pike's Peak tomorrow so we needed to be in position in Colorado Springs this evening. It's a lovely drive, with the vast prairie giving way to more rugged terrain as we moved into NE New Mexico - this is a vast, ancient landscape of volcanic origin, made very obvious by the extinct Capulin Volcano, which is a National Monument. We stopped to get some snaps.

We then continued into Colorado - by these stage, the skies to the west were painted an obsidian steely blue-grey, as thunderstorms across the Rockies were present. We noted several CG lightning bolts as a approached the storms - a stunning sight in a stunning landscape.

We're staying in the Garden of the Gods Club resort - our room has an amazing view of the Garden, as well as Pike's Peak beyond. I went for a swim this evening before we ordered room service! We thought we'd treat ourselves!

Capulin volcano

The view the other way

Thunderstorm in New Mexico, looking west from near Capulin

Me examining the hotel room!

The view from our balcony - the Garden of the Gods, with Pike's Peak in the background

Helen getting excited by our room service burgers!

Evening view from the balcony

Thursday, 29 May 2014

The way to Amarillo - May 28th

Hello. Today was a driving day, from Austin to Amarillo - that means we stayed in Texas the whole time, and yet drove 501 miles! For those of you in the UK that's just shy of driving from Reading to Aviemore! The traffic was light, so the journey was nothing like trying to undertake the same length drive in the UK!

Tomorrow we're going to head to Colorado as we want to go up Pike's Peak, either later tomorrow or on Friday morning - this choice will be modulated by how the chance of storms is looking on Friday - if we believe some reasonable storms are likely in either the Denver area, or further north into Wyoming or perhaps western Nebraska, we may do Pike's Peak on Thursday afternoon, otherwise it may be an early trip up on Friday - the latter might be better as otherwise the views might be messed up by afternoon convection.

On this day last year we saw a big wedge tornado near Bennington, Kansas - this year we saw lots of sunshine!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Driving to Amarillo likely today!

Just deciding what to do today...some chances for storms across the higher ground of the N Plains towards the mountains late week before perhaps a more widespread chance into next week in the northern and central Plains. To leave our options open and perhaps to tick off driving up Pike's Peak we'll probably head to Amarillo today so we can move up into CO tomorrow.

May 27th - central TX supercells

We started the day in San Antonio, and decided to drift across to Brownwood. It was more tricky today to pick a defined chase target area so we thought we'd let serendipity dictate any chase possibilities!

After lunching in Brownwood, and meeting up with Dan Holley and Chris Steele, we noticed showers developing close-by to our NW. As any activity would be moving SE we headed out of town and headed SSE towards Goldthwaite. We were in the heavy rain for a time, and the shower became a thunderstorm. With a SE storm motion, we needed to get across to the west side of the storm(s) to see any updraught. We did that after Goldthwaite by turning SW towards San Saba - we caught some nice supercellular features on the first storm, although a second storm became more dominant, and we also got some nice shots of this. The storm(s) we tornado warned, but although we saw some reasonable rotation at times early on, the HP nature of the storms meant we could not see anything tornadic - they seemed rather outflow dominant too.

We eventually wound our way around to Llano (having taken a diversion towards the Colorado Bend State Park) and thence to Burnet. We paused here to take stock, and decided to book a room in Austin for the night.

It's our first time in this part of Texas and I must say the scenery is amazing. Austin is also a cool city, especially by night with the big buildings lit up.

A very nice chase day, and we got to catch up with a few chasers, including Stu Robinson and Alistair Chapman.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

May 26th - supercells!


We started the day in Odessa, Texas, and hung around the hotel until later in the afternoon as Helen wasn't feeling very well. Storms were firing to the north and north-west and I kept an eye on them on the radar, and also visually - they looked impressive as they erupted into the blue Texas sky.

Around 4pm or so we managed to depart, and targeted the southern cell. We raced up I20 to Stanton, and then headed across to Garden City. We noted strong rotation from time to time, although the cell was somewhat outflow dominant. Several wall clouds were observed, along with hail up to around 1 inch or a bit more. We dropped south from Garden City, as we didn't really want to run the gauntlet - we missed a couple of brief tornadoes, I think, by doing this, but we saw some stunning structure.

We then documented a second cell coming in from the west - this had a tornado warning on it, but from our vantage point it was too outflow dominant to be one which would spawn one, and it didn't, as far as we know. The storm did produce some hail larger than tennis balls though - we didn't want to get involved with its core!

We headed to Sterling City, and then gradually wound our way over to San Angelo, where we're staying the night. We saw some stunning lightning and I managed to get a few bolts on the new camera - I also did a little photography after dinner of the departing storms.

Monday, 26 May 2014

May 26th thoughts

Hello. Rumbling this morning from outside turned out to be hundreds of bikes heading west...some kind of Memorial Day ride I imagine.

Today, several outflow boundaries exist across this area. We'll probably target a more major one which is fairly close by, heading initially to Big Spring and then seeing how it develops from there. Supercells are possible again, with a conditional tornado threat if any storm interacts with a boundary.

May 25th - another bust!

After getting woken up at around 5am by a thunderstorm in Odessa (so at least we had a storm today!) we headed to Fort Stockton, leaving the hotel around midday, and getting there in time for lunch. We then spent the next 5 1/2 hours in a futile wait for storms to form off a dry line to our west. It was a day to trust the HRRR model's depiction of a supercell moving across SE New Mexico, and those who gambled on it got a nice storm. We decided to hang tight to no avail. Headed back to Odessa for tonight, staying at the Best Western again. Saw a nice sunset, with the storm to the north. Ate dinner at Chilli's.

There was a great chaser convergence at Fort Stockton. Amongst others we saw Dave Lewison, Scott McPartland, Reed Timmer and the Dominator 4, Nathan Edwards, Cammie and Tim, Bill Hark, Lou Rou, Claire Hudson, Jolyane Limoges, Mark Robinson, to name a few.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Fort Stockton for lunch


After several more thunderstorms rolled overhead late last night and this morning we got up and we've headed SSW to Fort Stockton, where we've paused for lunch. A tornado watch has been issued, as there are a couple of outflow boundaries in the area, a dry line to the west, and reasonable flow aloft atop low level SE or E winds, especially north of the boundaries. We have a brisk easterly in FSL just now - a thunderstorm has developed to the south, and was tornado warned for a time, but seems to be easing now - perhaps as it ingests some of the modified air behind the outflow boundary.

We have towering cumulus to our west, so we may sit here a little while to see whether they mature.

Early wake up call!

We thought we'd got away with an undisturbed night's sleep but we've been woken up by active thunderstorms here in Odessa! Plenty of thunder and lightning, with some very close bolts at times.

May 24th - Bust!

Today we had a bit of a lie in until 9am as we'd been kept awake for much of the night by some very active thunderstorms in Roswell. We knew that the best chance of severe weather was likely along an outflow boundary which was already quite far to our south, but we decided to drift southwards anyway, as a second round of storms was possible later, from an approaching upper disturbance. It was a bit tricky knowing quite where the second round would form. In the end, some storms formed close to where we'd started the day! Nothing formed around Pecos, where we ended up, during the afternoon, so we've headed to Odessa for the night.

Highlights today totalled three:

1) Helen mending our laptop cooler after the wire came out, by watching a YouTube video of someone with a slightly comedy voice demonstrating how to take it apart.
2) Being able to buy a pint of coffee for under 2 bucks.
3) Being able to legally drive at 80mph as this is the speed limit in west Texas.

Below - the sunshine in Pecos.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

May 24th thoughts

Hello! We were kept up a lot of the night by spectacular thunderstorms which brought a record amount of rain for Roswell...see the tweet below from the NWS in Alberqueque:
4.39"  Airpark breaks all-time 24hr precip record back to 1946. Previous was 4.34" 7/13/1991

Today brings another risk of severe storms across parts of New Mexico and Texas, especially near an outflow boundary in the south of New Mexico. We'll head south from Roswell to see what happens.

May 23rd - New Mexico


We started the day in Pueblo, Colorado - we had a very pleasant drive down I-25 into New Mexico, with the plan of reaching Hobbs by the end of the day, in order to target Saturday's risk. However, we also knew there was at least a small risk of catching some storms on the way down, and sure enough, several cells formed. We intercepted a couple of them close to Vaughn, New Mexico - the first exhibited some supercell structure, as did the second. They weren't especially long-lived, but they were severe warned for hail and wind, and we saw some great CG lightning, as well as some cool structure. The one annoyance for me was leaving my tripod unattended for a few mins and it was then blown over by some modest outflow winds. My video camera seems to be OK, luckily, bar some minor damage to the casing - it could have been a lot worse but it was certainly a reminder not to leave it!! We also saw Will Owen again, which was cool.

We ended the day in Roswell, New Mexico -we ate dinner at Applebee's, and there is now a line of storms to our west moving in - thus, it is likely to get quite noisy soon, as the storms move in.

Nice convection on our way south - this is looking west into the mountains.

First storm near Vaughn.

Train under first storm.

Second storm showing some supercell characteristics.

Friday, 23 May 2014

May 23 thoughts

Hello. We're just considering our options for today at the moment. I was rudely awoken by a moth crawling across my face...I think it's some kind of payback for my views on last night's karaoke noise in the Applebee's.

Anyway, the next few days will see a risk of severe storms across parts of west Texas and eastern New Mexico. We'll head in that direction today, perhaps taking in any storms which might occur on the way.

May 22


We had a good chase day today - intercepted a marginal supercell near Deer Trail/Byers in Colorado, after hanging around Limon for a time, waiting for things to get going. A Denver Cyclone and vorticity zone had set up, and these were the focus for showers/storms to get going, with others developing over the Rockies and drifting east. We got some nice structure for a time, and the cell(s) became severe warned. We hung back and just watched for 2 hours or so.

Beforehand we saw Paul Botten and Ian Miller - and then whilst watching the storm we were joined by Willoughby Owen, Cam Czuchnicki, and Tim Moxon - a great day!

Below is a selection of images from today.

Thursday, 22 May 2014


Hanging around in Burlington for a little while...a very marginal supercell risk west of here today, which may tempt us to hang about instead of going to Amarillo.

May 22nd thoughts

Morning! After yesterday's action the upper flow is even weaker today, so supercell structures seem fairly unlikely. Even so, a large slight risk area has been posted by the SPC, effectively down a lot of the High Plains, along the weak lee trough, where moisture is moving upslope. Some pockets of backed surface flow could allow more storm organisation, e.g. around and north of the Palmer Divide in mid-Colorado into the NE of the state, or further south across Baca County, north of the Raton Mesa. The choice is to whether to hang around here or points NW of here (Burlington) to catch any stronger cells here, or make our way to the Texas Panhandle for potential severe storms, including at least a risk of a supercell, over the next few days. We've decided to head south, as it's 6-7 hours to Amarillo, and we may catch some storms on the way.

Funnel cloud from high-based convection

A quick extra post regarding yesterday's events - May 21. I mentioned in the last post that we saw a funnel cloud from high-based convection - a 'shear funnel' some may call it. Either way I didn't post an image, so here is one! It developed from convection east of the main supercell storm.

Supercell near Denver

We started the day in Hays and headed over 200 miles west to Limon, Colorado, for lunch. We wolfed it down pretty quickly as a severe thunderstorm had developed over Denver. This became tornado warned, and also developed into a supercell. We headed NW and W for an intercept but it was a high precipitation supercell and so seeing any tornadic development was very tricky. Add in the fact some large hail was lurking within its writhing mass, and the traffic was very heavy, we opted to hold back a bit.

We did note, after a while, increasing motion on the leading edge of the RFD - this was a newly developing wall cloud - this rotated rapidly for a time, and was not far to our west. We headed east again but within a convoy of a large number of chasers. There were certainly a lot about today, and some of the driving left a lot to be desired, especially ambling along at 30mph or so - come on folks!

This was all close to and east of Byers. We then continued east to Last Chance, by which time the storm was beginning to be overtaken, somewhat, by a line moving in from the SW. We let this pass over and then got some nice shots of the landscape and the sky.

We then headed to Burlington for the night. A reasonable chase day, but with poor visibility and a lot of traffic it wasn't the greatest! Even so, we're out on the Plains enjoying it all!

Wall cloud near Bennett.

East of Byers.

East of Byers.

Between Byers and Last Chance.

On the way to Burlington.