Storm Chase 2000: May 19 - 23


May 19 (Tornadic storm in Richmond, Va)

For the week prior to my departure, I had been watching the weather patterns and noticed the possibility of a good chase day in Virginia on May 19. The day I was to leave Richmond for storm chasing in Tornado Alley. Chaseable storms in Virginia are very rare. I tried to change my flight to Saturday earlier in the week but Delta wanted $650. I was stuck. By the time I reached the airport Friday evening, there were tornado warnings for a storm visible to the north. My first chase consisted of running through the airport to get the best view of the tornadic storm. No rotation was visible from my viewpoint but it was an interesting storm. From my last analysis of the long range weather forecast computer models, I was concerned that my video and photographs out the airport window would be my best for the week. The storms did delay my flight, and I didn't arrive in Dallas until after midnight.

May 20 (Sightseeing in West Texas, crepuscular rays, chaser dinner)

I drove from Dallas to Abilene in the early morning. I had previously talked with Steve Sponsler who gave me some weather data that pointed me in the right direction. I didn't have a laptop and there were no sources of data late at night. I had expected to use the internet/business center in the Atlanta airport but it closed at 10 PM. Very useless for an airport. After sleeping in Abilene for a few hours, I checked data on a computer at the Abilene Public Library. There was poor moisture and convergence making storms unlikely in West Texas, at least until after dark. I decided to leisurely drive to Childress, Texas along Route 83, checking out the scenary. Although many people consider West TX to be barren, there is a lot of beauty to photograph. I explored some small towns, river valleys and even watched an ant colony forage for food. Steve, along with Nick Nicholson and Amy Gardner (a meteorologist for KTVT in Dallas/Ft. Worth) decided to look for storms north and east of Lubbock, TX. By evening, a line of storms was visible to the northwest of Childress, TX. I continued northwest heading along Route 287 near Memphis and photographed some nice crepuscular rays (1P) at sunset. I was in contact with Steve and his group via cell phone during the short chase. They were on the opposite side of the storms. We later all met at a restaurant in Childress along with Dave Fogel and his girlfriend. He had some video of a large tornado from the previous week. By midnight, I crashed for some much needed sleep.

May 21 (Unexpected beautiful storm, mammatus, rainbow, hiking Caprock Canyon, butterflies)

After saying goodby to Steve et al (they had to return to Dallas), I checked more weather data. This would be an off day. There was only the slight possiblity of a few "pulse" non-severe storms. I decided to relax and slowly meander towards Amarillo. I took Route 94 towards Northfield and then to Turkey. The region is very isolated with only a few scattered farms. Many farmers use old box cars as outbuildings since construction materials are expensive. I learned that Turkey, TX (2P) was the home of Bob Wills, a country singer. I photographed old buildings (3P), flowers, and butterflies.(4P) I spent most of the day hiking in Caprock Canyon (5P) which has beautiful red hills with white calcite bands, flowering cacti (6P) and pronghorn deer. In the late afternoon, I observed an isolated storm just south of Silverton, TX. I watched the multicellular storm (7P) grow and took some tripoded video by 6:30PM. A larger storm was visible to the north through the growing overcast cirrus. I drove north on 207 through Palo Duro Canyon. While looking for a better view, I ran into chasers Bill Reid (8P), Cheryl Chang and Cindy Rose on top of a hill overlooking the canyon. We chatted and watched the growing storm. I became concerned about lightning and drove lower into the canyon to watch the storm from the safety of my car. The setting sun (9P) against the clouds and virga produced beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow against a blue sky. A rainbow formed by 8:30PM. This was one of the most beautiful storms (10P) that I've seen. A storm doesn't have to produce tornadoes to be worth watching. By 9:10PM, I had driven farther north on 207 and rejoined Bill Reid and the others watching a sky full of mammatus(11P) in the fading light. When, it became dark, the chase was over. Dinner at the Big Texan was fun especially watching two English guys try to tackle the 72 OZ steak. They failed.

May 23 (Supercell with overshooting top)

I slept in at the Big Texan hotel, finally catching up on sleep. Finally, I went looking for data. The town library had internet access but was too crowded. I was able to access data at Amarillo College and discovered that the best target area would be in Eastern Oklahoma into Missouri along a moisture axis. I blasted eastward along I-40 with an initial target area of Muskogee, OK., where I would check more data. I had gotten up late and I didn't expect the delays while looking for data. When I reached Oklahoma City, some cumulus (Cu) was visible to the east. At approximately 3:30PM, a tornado watch was issued for eastern Oklahoma, eastern Arkansas, and southwestern Missouri. I headed east and I sighted a distant supercell with an overshooting top. Maybe I could catch it. I continued along I-40 and was able to get a weather report from a local station. The storm was in Sequoyah County, directly east of me on the Ok/Ark border and moving southeast at 30 MPH. There was a tornado warning on it, and I was too far away. There was no way I could catch it. A radar/satellite report from Tim Vasquez confirmed my fear. There was nothing else forming. A possible outflow boundry with some Cu died. I guess I can say that the storm was moving over a poor road network and would have been impossible to chase. Which is sour grapes. I screwed up my forecasting and should have gotten an earlier start. I returned to Norman, spending the night at the Guest Inn. I'm still amazed at how a very distant storm can appear close.

May 24 (Aborted chase, Oklahoma City Memorial)

After checking data at the Kinkos near the Guest Inn in Norman, Oklahoma, I drove north toward Kansas. Rechecking the data revealed that the cap would probably hold firm preventing convection in northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas. Any storms would be in eastern Missouri and Kentucky. They would be too far away and also in areas with poor road networks and decreased visibility due to trees and hills. I aborted the chase and met up with some friends in Oklahoma City for some sightseeing and relaxing. The day ended with a visit to the new Oklahoma bombing memorial. (12P) I spent another night at the Guest Inn in Norman.


1P 2P 3P 4P 5P
6P 7P 8P 9P 10P
11P 12P

(P -- Photo) (V -- Video Still)

Next Page: May 24, 2000

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