May 26 - 28, 2008 Storm Chase Report

storm video, chase images and log by William T. Hark, M.D.

May 26, 2008 Northwestern Oklahoma Bust

Jason, Robert and I totally busted. We started the day in Hays, Kansas and planned to target southern Kansas, maybe into Oklahoma. We drove south, stopping in Dodge City to check data and have lunch. The best area for severe storms was ahead on an axis of very warm unstable air going into south-central Kansas. There was a dry punch moving in from the west. While in Dodge City, we had some of the best fajitas in a tiny Mexican restaurant (Casa Alvarez). At that point, we were fairly confident in seeing some nice storms. We drove east and stopped in Pratt, KS to check data. We waited for a couple of hours as some storms developed to the north and others to the south. Finally we shifted south to target some isolated storms moving out of Woodward County, Oklahoma. As we neared the storms, they died. There was a conglomeration of storms to our north. They were too far to reach, and we doubted they would do anything except produce large hail. They did produce hail up to 4 inches in diameter that trashed a few chaser's car windows. Then, we heard that a couple of brief tornadoes were seen near Pratt. Our chase was over. Jason went to bed early. Robert and I drove around Alva looking for food. There was nothing but a few chain restaurants in a largely abandoned town center. Most of the businesses had died though there were plenty of houses. Maybe the super Wal-Mart near the hotel contributed to the business failures. Anyway, Robert suggested that we try a barbecue restaurant that was 12 miles away. Luckily, I brought my camera and was able to take some nice pics of a distant storm lit by the setting sun. As usual in these areas, the barbecue was very good.

May 27, 2008 Texas and Oklahoma Storms

Jason, Robert and I started the day in Alva, Oklahoma. Severe storms were predicted for southwestern Oklahoma into Texas. Tornadoes were possible but we mainly hoped for some photogenic supercells. We drove south to Clinton, Oklahoma, then further south to Altus. Storms were forming ahead of a cold front. There was a boundary approaching from the east and we hoped something good would form between them. We dropped south to near Vernon, Texas. Some more isolated storms were developing but the storms started to die near the cold front. Meanwhile, there was an isolated storm that was displaying rotation back near Altus. Eventually, we backtracked toward Altus but the storm died a horrible death and “gusted out.” There were many storms in the area but nothing looked good except for a lot of rain and hail. We called off the chase and headed to Amarillo, Texas for a steak dinner at the Big Texan. A roving cowboy band came by while we were eating and asked what we wanted them to play. Yellow Rose Of Texas and Country Roads had already been played. I asked for their choice and they played, “On The Road Again.” Very Appropriate!

May 28, 2008 Texas and Kansas Images including Greensburg

After a final lunch with Jason and Robert, I left the Big Texan to head back to Kansas. There was the possibility of chasing in New Mexico but chasing the following day in Nebraska and northern Kansas would be difficult. Jason and Robert decided to do the New Mexico target since they planned to head back to Denver for a Friday flight. I was considering chasing in Nebraska the following day, but at the time, I didn’t like some of the forecast parameters. I planned to check more data before deciding on my plans. Traveling to New Mexico would prevent either leaving from Wichita or chasing in Nebraska. When I left the Big Texan, I ran into Ron and Jack They were taking some people out storm chasing along with another film crew. I chatted with them for a few minutes before I left for a leisurely drive across Texas and Kansas. Storm chasing is not just about the tornadoes. I love the adventure and the open road. This has been an unusual season with multiple chase days. I was actually was looking forward to a restful day of exploring and taking landscape photos. On my way through Kansas, I stopped by the town of Greensburg to pick up a book on the Greensburg tornado. Greensburg is the town that was almost completely destroyed by an EF5 tornado in 2007. They are trying to rebuild “green.” The town is on a major crossroads, and I have frequently stopped on the way for a chase. This was my first look as I avoided the area last year after the tornado. They are rebuilding but there are many areas that are essentially gone. I was saddened to drive through the typical residential grid of streets yet there were no houses. Hopefully, they will come back better and the experiments in green technology for housing are a success.

I stopped in Pratt to check data that evening. I really didn’t like the set-up for Thursday especially forecast winds from the southwest at the 850 mb level. There would be severe storms but not very many tornadoes. I continued to Wichita and made reservations to leave the following day. Of course, I was careful not to dismantle my chase equipment since predictions can change. I was glad I kept my equipment ready as the forecast changed and Thursday was going to be potential tornado outbreak.

Chaser Food

Greesnburg, Kansas: one year after the tornado


Next Page: May 29, 2008

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