May 25 was a down day as supercells were unlikely across the Great Plains. I slept in and then I had lunch with Jason Persoff, M.D. who was staying in the same Topeka hotel. Jason was on yesterday's tornadic storms earlier than I and filmed several photogenic tornadoes. We ate at the Amarillo Grill in Topeka, and I tried to help Jason upload some video at Kinkos. My computer was acting strange, and Jason eventually had to upload through a local television station. His video was later shown on Fox
After Jason left for Denver (he planned on returning in a few days), I slowly meandered down to Wichita, Kansas on back roads. I always enjoy exploring scenic roads and small towns. This was an opportunity to take some landscape images. While driving by a field, I decided to stop and take some pictures of the cows. The whole herd of cows ?bulls (1V) converged on my location and took up a defensive posture (2V), occasionally snorting at me. They obviously did not like my presence. Virginia cattle usually just ignore people but these animals were mean. Maybe they knew about the steak I had for lunch. (A storm chase tradition after intercepting a tornado). Since the fence was rather flimsy, I decided to move on before the cows became too agitated.
This was a very frustrating day. I started in Wichita, Kansas and the forecast for supercells appeared to be marginal except for in Missouri or far southern Texas. I left early and drove to Oklahoma City where I had lunch at a truckstop and checked more weather data. The best area for photogenic tornadic storms would be in far southern Texas, beyond my reach. I decided to target the dryline in west Texas/Panhandle. The northerly extent of backed winds was between Childress and Abilene, Texas. This would be my target. The winds were veered through Oklahoma. I drove west on I-40. The surface winds were still veered and the sky was mainly overcast with mid layer stratus and Cu. At 3:35PM, I noticed a high-based tower (1V) forming just north of Eric, Oklahoma. The tower exploded and rain began to fall by 4:00PM. The storm (2V) was moving northwest as was near Elk City. A tornado watch was issued for central and western Oklahoma. Now I was in a dilemma. Do I follow the storm by me (in a tornado watch) or try for storms that were expected to form in a more favorable environment to the south? I didn't know why the SPC issued the tornado watch. I decided to try farther south. I drove to Childress, Texas and then south to intercept developing supercells northwest of Abilene. A tornado warning was issued for one of those storms. Unfortunately, I had to approach from the north and drive around the storm to see where the tornado would form. As I was getting into the correct position, the storm ejected a few large pieces of hail that cracked my windshield and then the storm died. I later found out a tornado was reported from the storm a few minutes before I arrived. Arrrghhh. I did see a pretty rainbow (3V) but no tornadoes or good storm structure. I later found out that the storm I left in western Oklahoma became a photogenic and long-lived supercell. Another Oklahoma storm formed a brief tornado that caught many chasers by surprise. I ended the day tired, hungry and frustrated in an Abilene Super 8 with a non-functioning Wi-Fi connection.
I started the day in Abilene, Texas. After photographing some local wildflowers (pic #1 (1V),pic #2 (2V)), I had lunch at Joe Allen's Pit BBQ. The restaurant was suggested by Tim Vasquez' Storm Chase Handbook. The barbecue at this local favorite was absolutely amazing. I checked additional weather data at the Abilene library. Chances for severe weather were marginal. Storms were firing early and cooling the air with rain and clouds. I prefer isolated storms that fire in the late afternoon. I waited and a storm just north of Abilene became severe and produced a brief tornado. It died before I had a chance to intercept. By late afternoon, I decided that the chance for photogenic supercells was very low. I bagged the chase and headed back to Norman, Oklahoma. Of course, as soon as I leave, a supercell formed in the grunge south of Abilene. Oh well. I had to get in position for a potential severe weather outbreak later in the week. Along the way, I was able to relax and take some more landscape images including a turtle (3V) that I removed from the highway in north central Texas.
May 28 was a travel day as no severe weather was expected. There was a potential tornado outbreak for May 29 in an area from southern Nebraska to northern Oklahoma. My early target was Hutchinson, Kansas. I would be in position to go either north or south. I stopped in Guthrie, Oklahoma and had lunch at Granny Had One. They have great soup and sandwiches. Guthrie is a picturesque town with antique stores and Victorian architecture. The town was crowded with visitors attending a fiddler's convention. I explored a pharmacy museum and learned about the strange medicines (pic #1 (1V),pic #2 (2V), pic #3 (3V)) that were once given to patients. Many of the herbal medicines contained chemicals that actually gave benefit to patients with asthma and other ailments. I still think medicated cigarettes for asthma is a bit strange. I continued north, photographing wheat fields (4P) and other landscapes along the back roads of southern Kansas. I relaxed that evening and watched The Day After Tomorrow. It was opening night for the scientifically bankrupt but fun special effects extravaganza. I turned in early as the next day was expected to be a major tornado outbreak, and I needed to be well-rested and alert.
(V -- Video Still. P -- Scanned from slide. Fuji Velvia 50.)
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