I had some hopes for popup storms today, maybe storms with a little structure, but I’m wondering if I’ll see anything here in Texas. Chances will be marginally better in northeast Colorado, but I question whether it’s worth it for me to drive all the way there and then back into western Oklahoma (probably) for tomorrow. I will look over the data one more time before making a decision, but I don’t think I will go to the northern extremes, given the time and gas money involved.
Sometimes I’m asked if I’d like to chase storms full-time. And I would, except that it’s a seasonal gig. In addition, in between the storm systems, there is usually down time, as there is right now, when high pressure is sitting over Tornado Alley. I’ve always said, when I make my fortune, I’ll build my bunker vacation home in Oklahoma. Then I can hang out at my second home in between the storms. In the meantime, though, I’m languishing in a hotel, watching “Betelgeuse” and again wishing for a teleportation machine for easy cross-country commuting. It may be a few days before I have anything to update – whether it’s storms, or going home. In the meantime, have you seen my lightning gallery?
Late update today, because I’m in another crappy hotel (in north-central Kansas) whose wireless wasn’t working last night. I called the front desk and asked what the name of the network was, because it wasn’t showing up in the list. “I think it would be some kind of Internet thing, America Online or something like that,” the gentleman informed me. After a few minutes of conversation, he confessed, “I’m almost computer illiterate, to tell you the truth.” Thanks. Oh, yeah, and they told me breakfast was over at 10, but I found out the hard way it ended at 9. No hot waffle for me!
Not that I’m complaining, though in a way I am. I was on the main storm show from the start yesterday. It was another day of a churning low and crazy storm motions as the cells in question formed and then moved north or west around the low pressure. My first thought was northeast Kansas, but as the low’s position became more evident on the computer models, I felt it was important to go to eastern Nebraska, where the surface winds would be backed, thus aiding rotation. I spoke with Steve Sponsler and with Daniel Shaw, and Daniel and I decided to go for the Nebraska target, despite the Storm Prediction Center’s more likely tornado risk farther south. It was a good call, even if we didn’t see the reported tornadoes. We were in York when the first storm went up and a tornado watch came out. We got to the storm fairly quickly, but as the whole line of convection exploded, the potential for photogenic storms fell. The photo is from that first storm, which was tornado-warned, between Cairo and Ravenna, Nebraska. It was an interesting chase, as storms kept training over the same area. The storm system almost looked like a hurricane over Nebraska on radar. Or, as I said on Facebook, a giant toilet that kept flushing supercells. It wasn’t exactly what I came out for, though. I’m still looking for a long-lived, isolated rotating storm that will pose for its picture. It doesn’t have to smile.
See the May 12 photos.
There’s nothing like eating your continental hotel breakfast of generic fruit loops and hard-boiled egg while hearing the morning “crapvection” spitting rain all over your hopes for the day. Not that I am entirely without hope, or I’d be at home, given that essentially all storm-chasing is about gambling time and gas money against a few moments of reward. But this morning, what it comes down to is that this big shield of clouds and rain is going to have to get out of the way in order for sunshine – and thus heat and destabilization – to occur to fuel severe storms later. How all that will play out is up to Mother Nature. In addition, there are multiple potential target areas. Northern Kansas? Oklahoma-Kansas border? Mars? Rather than rush out to chase the rain, I’ll do a little more analysis before I give up my wi-fi.
At least, the storm driving has begun. I started Friday afternoon in Florida, and now I’m in Norman, Oklahoma, missing my dogs and hubby but enjoying the Mexican food.
I should admit that I’m a little bit obsessive. If I want to get something done, I’ll dive in until it’s done. If I want to get to storms in northern Nebraska, I’m willing to get up before dawn to drive there. And it looks like that’s what I’ll have to do to get into play, possibly near the South Dakota border, in time to catch whatever might fire. And, as always, I hope whatever fires gets into the juicier air before dark. A lot of ifs, as usual.
I’ve already had a lot of alone time in the car and caught up on some of my “This American Life” podcasts and listened to Tina Fey’s “Bossypants,” a funny, quirky memoir that convinces me I have a lot of her neuroses and southeast Pennsylvania background, minus the mostly gay theater camp, but only 1 percent of her success. I also came up with some ideas for the novel I’m writing and took some audio notes. But I can’t really write that way. I need a chauffeur so I can write while he is driving. Meanwhile, I’ll stockpile ideas and hope I still have the inspiration when I have more than five minutes to sit down and write.
My friend Steve Sponsler spotted this video on YouTube. Give it a minute. The tornado emerges between the buildings, and its power and speed are incredible. I’m not just talking about the wind speed … the land speed is stunning. This thing was racing across the city.
I could only watch in horror and amazement yesterday (April 27) as tornadoes ripped through the South – particularly Alabama – on TV and on the ABC 33/40 station’s live stream. This is one of the more stunning videos to come out of yesterday, posted by ‘jason835a’ on YouTube. It was shot from the University Mall parking lot in Tuscaloosa – and it is an ample demonstration of the point that if you see a tornado apparently sitting still and getting larger, it is coming right for you. Incredible stuff. I have a feeling I’d be freaking out just as much as the driver here.
I can’t emphasize enough that everyone needs to have a plan for where to go for shelter, and a weather radio. Have the radio on whenever there is a potential for severe weather. There was a fair amount of warning for the killer Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado, but many lives were lost. I’m sure that’s partly because shelter was inadequate in some cases – this is the kind of tornado that will destroy anything above ground – but it’s so essential to get those warnings. They give people time to find shelter. My thoughts are with the victims and their families today.