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July 4th, 2013---: Happy 4th! Ok, lol...so I haven't exactly been keeping up with this blog that's for sure. Well, if you haven't already, please do follow me on Twitter (link above in the navigation bar) as I post frequent updates there. The reason for the inactivity here has been because it's been a busy go of it for me these past few months. The highlight of the past few months was of course my 2013 chase which was a memorable, but tragic one. First the memorable part. On my latest trip I saw my first EF4 and EF5 tornadoes. The first being an almost mile wide monster that came very close to the town of Bennington, KS on May 28th. This tornado was literally stationary at times, and even when it was moving, it was meandering at a rate of only 2mph! Both Dave Lewison and I documented the entire life cycle and it was truly an incredible chase moment for me. Not to mention the fact that on top of being stationary at times, the tornado stayed on the ground for over 40 minutes! Video of this chase is already up both on my YouTube channel (link above) and on my Storm Chase Videos page. Oh, and I should mention that prior to this EF4 monster we saw another, incredible tornado on May 18th near Rozel, KS! This tornado was a classic elephant trunk beautifully back lit by the setting sun. And, much like the Bennington, KS tornado, it stayed over an open field. Video of that tornado is also up both on my YouTube channel, and here on the website.
After our Rozel chase there were a few days where nothing much happened, so Dave and I decided to take a trip back down to Oklahoma City on May 25th to document the aftermath of the devastating Moore, OK tornado of May 20th. This was the third time Moore has been hit directly by a violent tornado since 1999. Upon getting there we both were taken back by the incredible power of this tornado. Cars were literally crushed like tin cans and thrown a fair distance, and many homes and businesses were completely destroyed. At times the damage path was very wide, while at other times it was narrow. Still pictures that I took on this day are up in the Photo Gallery section under the "New Photos" tab. We had stayed just a few miles from Moore the night before this tornado struck, but on May 20th, the day of this tornado we targeted an area southwest of the OKC Metro, along with many other chasers as that is where the strongest threat for storms appeared to be that day. And we did see a brief tornado that day near Duncan, OK. But, it appears that a dryline buldge formed just west of OKC early that afternoon, and that was one of the crucial ingredients needed to kick off violent storms around OKC. The models hadn't picked up on this in advance. Following our trip to OKC we drove 600 miles back north to Nebraska the following day (May 26th) to meet back up with our friends from Canada and continue chasing. It was a VERY long drive but totally worth it as we ended up witnessing one of the most amazing storms I have ever seen in all my years of chasing! It was a beautifully sculpted LP Supercell near the town of Arcadia, NE. The storm structure on this was jaw dropping, and the lightning was incredible. While there was no tornado observed this day, it didn't matter, I love all aspects of storms so I considered this day to be one of my best of the trip! If you haven't seen my video from this day yet, once again, the video is up both on my YouTube channel and here on the website.
Then came May 31st. On this day we awoke to a "loaded gun" sounding in Oklahoma City. A loaded gun sounding essentially means that all the parameters for violent storms and tornadoes are in place for a specific location. And on this day, OKC was that place. Bear in mind, just 11 days prior OKC was hit, so the fact that they were under the gun once again really put a scare in a lot of people. After breakfast we decided to head a little bit west on the I-40 to the town of El Reno, OK where we held up at a local gas station and assessed the situation. We spent several hours there and during that time, many other chasers also showed up. It was clear by this time that every chaser was essentially thinking the same thing, El Reno was where the best parameters looked to be that day. Around 5:30pm storms began initiating a bit west of town, so we hit the road and the chase was on. After some repositioning we decided to hold up on the southbound shoulder of Highway 81 just a few miles south of town. Many chasers decided to get closer to the storm, but this storm was an HP Supercell (High Precipitation) and visibility wasn't all that great, so we wanted to give it a bit of room. I'm glad we did that. We began hearing reports of a large tornado on the ground, but still couldn't make it out through the rain curtains. Within a few minutes, more and more chasers began reporting it, so we had no doubt it was legit. A few moments later both Dave and I made out the left edge of the tornado, and then the right edge, and it was huge! It was also heading in our direction so it wasn't long before we made the call to continue south on Highway 81 to ensure that we position safely south of it. What we didn't account for was just how fast this tornado would expand. As this tornado approached the 81, it was now rapidly expanding and was approaching 2 miles in width! Thankfully, we made it south in time, but a Weather Channel crew a few miles behind us didn't get out of the way in time. Their vehicle was rolled off the highway and injuries were sustained. Thankfully though, nobody was killed. Dave had calculated that if we would have waited just two more minutes at our original viewing location, we wouldn't have made it south in time. Talk about a close call. This storm was very erratic, and none of us anticipated such a rapid expansion of this tornado. A few miles to the east of our location were Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and chase partner Carl Young. They attempted to get east of the tornado but just couldn't do it in time. The tornado at this point had now taken a very pronounced turn towards the northeast and was heading right at them. It was also close to it's maximum width of 2 1/2 miles wide. They just couldn't get out of the way in time, and all three of them were killed. Such a tragic day for the storm chaser community, and for the families of Tim, Paul and Carl. I can say this, while I didn't know Paul and Carl, Tim I knew rather well. And he was such a nice guy, and a true scientist. They will be missed and my thoughts are with all of their families. At the end of the day, the El Reno storm reminded me that these storms mean business, and that I need to stay alert at all times, no matter what. Things can, and do sometimes change in an instant so I always need to be on my toes. To sum it all up, my 2013 chase trip offered up a little bit of everything. From amazing storms, to good times with good friends, to tragedy. What an emotional roller coaster it has been.
March 24th, 2013---: Spring is here! All though you wouldn't know it with all the cold weather we've been having lately here in NYC. But, regardless of the weather it IS officially spring and that means storm chase 2013 is not far away! Dave and I have already begun making preparations for this years chase!