Here is my archived 2005 Storm Chase with Virginia Tech. First, a photo of the team, taken in Kansas, as we were about to drive back to Virginia.
2005 Chase Team (L to R)
Maria Floyd (Skywarn)
Seth Price (VT)
Amanda Worrell (PHS)
Beth Owens (NRCC)
Jacob Carley (UNC-A)
Jeremy Swink (VT)
Isaac Sarver (PHS)
Ethan Knocke (VT)
Erich Dalton (PHS)
Kevin Myatt (Roanoke Times)
Anthony Phillips (PHS)
Dave Carroll (instructor, not shown)
We chased with two vans. The first van was a Dodge Grand Caravan, and had the following equipment on board: Yaesu FT-7800, Icom 2100H (for simplex), Yaesu VX-7R, Icom 281H (ARPS) to Tiny Trak3 and Garmin Etrex, Alinco DR-135TP to laptop running UI-View, Radio Shack Pro95 Scanner, CB, Weather Radio, laptop with Verizon wireless service, 2 FRS radios (front and back).
The second van was a Ford Freestar and had the following equipment on board: CB, Radio Shack Scanner, Weather Radio, FRS radio (relay between chase vehicles), laptop with Verizon wireless service.
Sunday, 5/15/2005 at 14:02 EDT
The final equipment log is updated in the notebook. Important notes: Not enough power to work inverter (warning light on, and laptop not charging). No hits on UIView32 past Pulaski, VA.
Went the Northern route: 64 to 70. Currently stopped in Grayson, KY at the KY highway rest stop. Thankfully, they have Ale 81. It looks like Tuesday will be the first busy day, headed towards KS.
APRS dropped to low power (5W) at 14:16 EDT.
Sunday, 5/15/2005 at 19:24 EDT
The Motel 6 in Dale, IN has high speed internet, but we are not headed to Dale, IN, we are going all the way to Mt. Pleasant, IL tonight to stay at a Comfort Inn. Leaving the Dale, IN Dennys and headed west.
Monday, 5/16/2005 at 8:XX EDT
A trough is developing in the plains. Low in NE/SD, dryline through TX. Low level flow from south, and instability present. At 850mb, there is some mixing, W KS, W OK, W TX temperatures getting into low 80’s. The instability shows a CAPE max is around 2000 in central KS, southern NE. The best helicity is in S NE, W IA. The deep layer shear is around 35kts in KS.
This hotel was pretty good, wireless and all. We are headed to Hays, KS.
Monday, 5/16/2005 at 14:35 CDT
Conditions for chasing are not so favorable. There is almost no deep layer shear, no moisture and almost no heat. Temperatures throughout the midwest and plains are at a uniform upper 60s, lower 70s, with dewpoints in the 40s and 50s. The lower level shear is in NE, and the CAPE is mediocre in N KS, with a dryline set up in W KS and W NE. IF the dryline bulges in NE, some shear might develop in KS, but the chances are slim. St. Louis NWS has been saying ‘spotter activation is not anticipated.’ Stormtrack.org spotters are almost all calling tomorrow a bust, some heading to N KS, others to Dodge City, KS We are headed to Hays, KS and will make a decision later on.
Radio-wise, the 12V socket shows 12.72V when the engine is not running, yet the inverter does not work. I programmed 435 memory channels in the software program, only to have to reprogram them again in the van. Finally, all repeaters are programmed into the Yaesu.
[edit: Later that day, I took several photographs of the sunset near Salina, KS]
Tuesday, 5/17/2005 at 11:30 CDT
Conditions are similar today as yesterday except it is windy today. Midlevel stability present over W KS. We are headed to Hays, KS to get updates on models. The strong southern wind might eventually bring some moisture. Low level shear is excellent, but with no moisture and low temperatures, it could be a busted day.
Early on, today was learning to use equipment and get used to chase life and chase mode of travel. Here, we stop at a Stuckey’s near Wilson, KS, and Maria and I begin taking ground level observations.
Off in the distance, a cumulus field begins to build. These storms are probably over southern NE.
Tuesday, 5/17/2005 at 14:24 CDT
The RUC shows a southern low broke away and intensified (992mb) which will pull into N KS along the NE-KS border. We need to be SE of low where wind pulls in from SE. Questionable moisture, intensifying low, CAPEs in 3000s, low shear. Shear may increase as low intensifies. NE was clear earlier, so it is sunny, and might get to cook longer. Dew Points at 69 (North Platte, NE). Dryline buldge-intensifying low. Dr. Mike Brown was in North Platte, and other chasers in McCook, NE, so someone should intercept something if storms fire.
We stopped to get a few updates in Cambridge, NE, and I snapped a few more pictures of the developing storms.
Several of these cells have gone severe, and we are on our way to Lexington, NE. After driving around, trying to find a way out of Lexington, we manage to go north a few miles.
A disorganized wall cloud was apparent on the base of this storm. We did not anticipate a tornado from this, but it was a wall cloud, none the less. Our first one of the trip!
As we stand and watch, our north and south paths become blocked with precipitation. We head south and run through some quarter to golf-ball sized hail. Thankfully, the hail was really slushy and splattered on the windshield, rather than breaking it. The hail was also really dusty, probably from dust kicked up by downdraft winds. The hail resembled blobs of coffee-flavored ice cream when it hit the windshield.
I reported the hail to the NWS in Hastings through a Lexington repeater, and they issued a severe thunderstorm warning on my report. Once we escaped the hail, we got to see the rear flank of another cell as the cells began to morph into a squall line.
Here, we can see a rainbow on the back end of the squall line. Apparently, the “pot of gold” at the end of a rainbow is really the “Golden Arches.”
[Edit: we fueled up and while the gas was pumping, the crew inspected for hail damage. Thankfully, there was none.]
With the cells becoming a line, and nightfall rapidly approaching, it was about time to call it a night. Mammatus clouds are visible on the backshear of an embedded supercell.
Wednesday, 5/18/2005 at 8:XX CDT
Successful chase yesterday. We caught an isolated cell just before it morphed into part of a squall line. The interception occured just north of Lexington, NE. I radioed a repeater there (a new one, that was not listed) and they radioed the NWS and issued the warning. We drove through golfball sized hail, but the hail was slushy and broke easily, even on our windshields. The hail was also really tan colored, from all the dust that had been pulled into the updraft, I suppose.
Today, SPC shows a 2% tornado threat for W and C KS. MO, KS and OK should have dewpoints in the 60s, 2000-3000 J/kg CAPE, and 40kt deep layer shear. Earl’s page is showing 1750-2000 J/kg N of Saline, KS and Manhattan, KS, with the Gulf of Mexico opening slightly. The best LCL heights are 800m in Northeast KS. GOES shows a few boundaries, no cloud cover.
Wednesday, 5/18/2005 at 14:12 CDT
We are headed to Wichita, KS. CAPE looks to exceed 4000 J/kg, LCL heights are around 1000m, deep layer shear is around 40kts, and dew points are approaching 70. Lower level shear is only around 15kts, but it should be good enough. The cap is strong, but is expected to break. My phone battery died, and is currently charging.
Wednesday, 5/18/2005 at 14:18 CDT
More detail on yesterday-a set of supercells which evolved into a squall line by evening. I found a repeater in Lexington, NE and reported quarter to golf ball sized hail. Hasting issued a severe thunderstorm warning based on our observations 12-15mi north of Lexington on Rt. 21. Warning was issued for Dawson County, NE. The back end of the squall line was beautiful, as we got to see the back end highlighted by the sun on our way to the hotel for the evening.
Wednesday, 5/18/2005 at 15:39 CDT
Headed to Wellington, KS. Ethan was talking to his friend in Medicine Lodge, KS. FRS radios have become problematic: always cutting out. I think the problem is in chase van 2.
We headed south towards the KS/OK border, only to be met with a really strong cap that prevented storms from firing.
Thursday, 5/19/2005 at 8:XX CDT
SPC shows a slgiht risk which extends through IL, IN, OH, WV, KY, VA, TN, AR, MO and IA. There is a hatched area for hail in central MO. Mostly hailers today. IL has a weak cap, 40-50kt jet, 1000-2000 J/kg CAPE. The low in OK moves out, heating will increase CAPE to 3000 J/kg, forcing weak, deep layer shear favors supercells. MO, IL and AR, storms from above, caps weakinng over MO. LCLs are best in NE OK (800m), but SW MO, C OK and SE KS are at 1000m.
Thursday, 5/19/2005 at 18:18 CDT
Today consisted of a tour from Blackwell, OK through Ponca City, OK, through the Osage Nation. We headed north at Bartlesville, OK to Independence, KS. After watching a cumulus field die into a cloudless sky, we called it a night and headed west towards the KS turnpike through Arkansas City, KS. The destination for the night is Emporia, KS at a former Super 8. They are giving us government rates, since we are chasing storms.
I did get quite a few photos of the countryside of NE OK and SE KS. Despite the humidity and heat, I have a feeling the photos will have been worth it.
I cannot get my phone to update its roaming services. Not sure why.
[Edit: Light cumulus is above during the early morning hours as we leave Blackwell, OK.]
[Edit: I’m impressed with the amount of pipes this plant uses. It’s crazy to think that a group of people were able to design this, and have it work. We passed a refinery this day- little did I know I would later work for a chemical engineering department and spend time learning about all of this ‘plumbing.’]
A cumulus field develops in Bartlesville, OK. We sat at a gas station to retrieve updates from some of the models.
Our cumulus field begins to fade away. As we head west in southeast Kansas, the cumulus goes away completely! Our ‘6:00 magic’ did not produce storms, but instead managed to produce a completely cloudless sky. Note the moon in several of the pictures.
Friday, 5/20/2005 at 8:41 CDT
EHI will be 4.1 in E NE, 0-1km shear out of SW, S 15-25kt in central IA, VGP: >0.2 favorable, and it will be 0.5 in E NE. CAPE approaches 6250 J/kg in KS, but it is capped, 3000 in E NE. LCL heights will 1000m-1200m in W IA. Shear is 70kts in S, C IA, but favorable everywhere, as it will be 50-60kts in NE, IA, MN, SD, MO, KS, etc. A moderate risk is possible tomorrow. Isolated tornado threat. We must find the low and be ahead of it, such that the wind is from the southeast, pulling what little moisture is available from the Gulf of Mexico. A travel day for us, from Emporia, KS to Bellvue, NE.
Friday, 5/21/2005 at 10:45 CDT
A general rule: When 700mb is at 12°C, it’s a cap that won’t bust.
SPC: W KS, W NE, E CO 25% Risk Area for day 2. CAPE will be at 3000 J/kg, shear > 40kts, maybe 70kts.
[Edit: 5/22/05, sometime]
Busted day yesterday. They predicted a cap of -25, but it was actually -288. No storms of any magnitude occurred anywhere in tornado alley, in spite of their giant watch box.
With a tornado watch box from SPC, and us not knowing how severely the atmosphere was capped, we waited patiently for cumulus clouds south of Sioux City, IA. Due to the small number of Missouri River crossings on the IA and NE border, strategy is everything. We decide to leap to NE at some point. The storms all died in the cap, and then we struggled to find a way back into IA, and eventually SD. Here, I met Bill Hark http://www.HarkPhoto.com, a fellow VA storm chaser with much experience.
Through northwest IA and into the tiny southeast tip of SD, we chased a cumulus field, which eventually turns into a 19,000 ft monster. Ok, so it wasn’t much, but it was the only game in town for practically the entire tornado watch box. We hoped to see some dust kicked up by an RFD, but instead it was merely a guy burning some brush. Not a tornado, not even outflow. Oh well, another busted ‘moderate risk’ day.
We ‘core punched’ a storm with a whopping 19,000ft top, which dispensed BB sized rain. The teddy bear’s cage had nothing of interest, though we did get a few pictures of this stormette in the sunset.
I also got several good photos of the SD sunset. We stayed at a Comfort Inn in Vermillion, SD, which SD is a new state for me.
The alternator might not be generating enough current to run the inverter.
Sunday, 5/23/2005 at 13:42 MDT
Friday night was spent at the White House Inn in Bellevue, NE. It had internet hookups in the rooms, and was a REALLY nice place. I went for a walk that night and tried to put pennies on the track, but no train came until I was too far away to do anything. BOO that! I called mom, since I could update my phone here and I chatted with her for an hour or so. I also found a baseball laying in the grass, so I have that as well.
My laptop is dead. The battery light flickers, and sometimes even goes to a DOS screen that says ‘Battery critically low.’ The power supply shows 19.97V, so it is supplying the power. This leads me to believe that the powerjack on the motherboard might be to blame. Maria’s van probably blew a fuse, as they lost several devices at once.
We are headed to Burlington, CO. A few towers are going up and SPC has a 25% hatched area in eastern CO. Colorado is a new state for me as well.
[Edit: Finally a break in the pattern. Dew points rose, and the cap weakened. A cumulus field went up, and some of these turned into supercells. These photos were taken in Burlington, CO]
After a short time, the discrete supercells soon formed a line, which combined with the poor road network in eastern CO, pulled us out of position. There was no good way to negotiate around these storms, as we did not want to get boxed in by large hail.
A wall cloud became visible somewhere just across the Yuma County, CO line. It did not produce a tornado, and we did not get to hang out long, due to the hail threat.
By the end of the night, the storms had morphed into a line, and were unchaseable. We called it a day in Goodland, KS.
Monday, 5/24/2005 at 15:16 MDT
We are located in Yuma, CO, after having had an active chase day yesterday. We saw several rotating wall clouds in eastern CO. The road network was not good, so we had to turn around several times to avoid hail. I saw N3ARN, and his truck looked like it had taken some hail damage. The DOWs, Blown Away Tours, Tornado Chasing Adventures and several others were in Goodland, KS when we arrived for the night.
[Edit: Somehow, I lost part of this journal. We had a really active day on 5/25/05, seeing seven wall clouds before the day was over.]
It all started with some towering cumulus clouds over eastern Colorado.
After a bit, some cells when up near Yuma, CO. We had stopped for gas when things started really developing. We headed north, and then west. On a dirt road, we found a cell with a VERY low wall cloud.
While I was watching the very low wall cloud miles west of our position, a new mesocyclone developed and produced this beautiful blue-green ‘donut of doom’ in the field we were in! It wanted to tornado, but was probably ingesting some cold outflow from another cell, as the wind was strong, but chilly. We got to watch this rotate for a LONG time.
The precipitation threatened to cut us off, so we headed south, past Yuma. We did not want to lose this storm, but so many cells went up, and so few roads ended up forcing us to be the chasee. Here that blue-green color comes through on a shelf cloud which was rapidly approaching us.
As we escaped from the shelf cloud, we got to see the back end of two cells. These pictures are looking east. Notice the chiseled appearance of the cells, there is nothing fluffy about those clouds.
Another shelf cloud moved past us, and once we could see the rain-free base, two wall clouds developed. One passed a few hundred yards behind us, and the rotation was incredible.
Another break in the cloud cover revealed an anvil situated over El Paso County, CO, which was probably 80 miles away.
We weren’t finished, yet. We headed south into Kit Carson County, CO. Another two wall clouds were visible. All said and done, there were seven wall clouds.
Because of the weak cap, these cells placed themselves into a nasty squall line. We got cut off, after going down several dirt roads and getting lost. When we called it a night, we decided to head back to Goodland, KS. Along the way, there was some mammatus, and a really wide rainbow. We stopped in Goodland and saw the sunset under the approaching squall line.