May 30, 2010: Down day and visit with Project VORTEX 2



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


I ended the travel day at a Super 8 in Blackwell, Oklahoma. Not my ideal choices of towns to hang out in but this is where I decided to stop for the evening. The price ($48.00) was right. Interestingly, there is not a lot of difference between hotels that cost around $48 to $70 and those that cost $70 to $100 (eg Comfort Inn) except the breakfast in the morning is usually better. All have free internet. Try getting free internet at a Hilton and they'd laugh. I started in North Platte, Nebraska. This was a down day as the front had pushed farther south than the upper level support. There would be some severe storms in Oklahoma but nothing worth chasing. I had heard that Project VORTEX 2 was staying in North Platte and I decided to visit since it was a down day for them. I know a few people in the group. Project VORTEX 2 (Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes) was a multi-million dollar two year research project studying the formation of tornadoes. The armada chased tornadoes and measured various parameters around the storm including windspeed, temperature, wind direction etc. They also study the storms with multiple radars at close range, probes that are dropped in front of tornadoes and in some cases, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAB's). There were over 100 scientists, 35 vehicles and multiple media groups including The Weather Channel. I enjoyed checking out all the different equipment including Doppler and Phased-Array radar on wheels and sticknet probes. I also chatted with Tim Marshall, who I have known for years. He was taking over as the lead forecaster for VORTEX 2. After lunch in North Platte in a nice barbecue restaurant, I meandered south and east, stopping to take pictures and shoot some "b-roll" video for a production company in England. I had hopped to visit a couple of small museums along the way but they were closed. There was a slight potential chase opportunity the following day.

Mike Bettes from
The Weather Channel interviewing
one of the participants

Myself and Tim Marshall
then lead forecaster of VORTEX 2

There are lot many radar trucks.
I think the phased-array radar have square dishes.
Most are Doppler radars

These are the 100 pound tornado PODS
that are placed in front of a tornado. They measure
windspeed, temp, pressure, dewpoint and
shoot HD video. Tim offered to allow me to "deploy" one
in the parking lot but I declined as I
value my back. Usually three people will deploy them.

May 31, 2010: Travel and down day

May 31 was a down day as I drove from Blackwell, OK to Oklahoma City and packed. There were marginal chances for storms in eastern Colorado and New Mexico. I was already "fat and happy" with tornadoes and was not impressed with the set-up to warrant a drive to the target area and return trip overnight to make a morning flight out of Oklahoma City. I stopped by the Twister Museum in Wakita but it was closed for the holiday weekend. I also saw Charles Edwards and the new group of tourists in Enid, Oklahoma and gave them some chasing supplies that I couldn't take back (Windex, RainX etc.). They were going to chase storms in the Oklahoma Panhandle and eastern Colorado. I then sent some footage to a production company in England and later to StormStock. Although I market my own footage, I have a nonexclusive agreement with Stormstock to also sell my footage. That evening, I got a call from Jason Persoff who was chasing a massive, slow-moving and photogenic tornado in eastern Colorado. I then saw live streaming video from Charles Edwards and later on The Weather Channel. Arghhhh! I may have been able to chase eastern Colorado and driven into the night to return to OKC for the Tuesday morning flight. I've done it before on higher risk days. If I had been leaving a day later, I would have been out there. Oh well. I already had three tornado days, two that were amazing. Definitely, a very successful trip. I am especially happy for Jason and Robert as they were just starting their trip and long term predictions were not very favorable for good tornadoes at that point. Charles had a new group of tourists for two weeks. The group looked a bit glum in Enid with the depressing long-term outlook but they were quite happy after the Campo tornado. I was totally psyched for Charles and third 2010 storm chase group.

I left Oklahoma City on June 1st. Although I missed the famous Campo tornado, I had two amazing chase days with multiple photogenic tornadoes along with another tornado day and some beautiful storms. Definitely my best storm chase season in 13 years of chasing storms.

Total miles: 4723

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All images Copyright 2010 William T. Hark