Late last March, I got to chase a great squall line event, too. These kinds of Florida storms are good warm-ups for my Tornado Alley trip, when I get to learn all over again how to juggle cameras, radar, navigation and driving while trying to capture the storms of the Great Plains. I expect to head out in May and will be posting regular updates. I’m happy to note that I’m again among several storm chasers with whom Midland is partnering to show off the capabilities of its cameras. New this year is the XTC-400 HD Wearable Video Camera. I’m looking forward to trying it out, hopefully on a mothership supercell! Wide-angle lenses do amazing things to mothership supercells.
In 2013, I saw a lot of extreme weather, most of it packed into less than three weeks during my annual whirlwind tour of Tornado Alley. Yet I still curse myself for not being in better position on some of the storms I saw and for missing others. Such is always the way of the perfectionist; that drive is a blessing and a curse, since perfection is never possible, except, perhaps, in the sweeping curves of a supercell at sunset. I’ll leave perfection to nature and post my imperfections right here.
The blue moon – the full moon on August 20 – was a magical photographic opportunity for me. I was able to shoot a lightning storm with the full moon overhead, from the beautiful vantage point of Cocoa, Florida, looking east over the Indian River Lagoon. I’ve photographed not-so-great shots of the moon with a thunderstorm before, but nothing like this. Better yet, there were multiple shots, though the one shown here is definitely my favorite.
When I’m on the road during my annual storm-chasing trip in May, I try to post as many reports as I can here and on my Sky Diary site. But thousands of miles of driving and serious sleep deprivation often mean that I skip days and have to finish the reports when I get home – especially for the less momentous chases. This week, I finished up those reports in between Florida storms.
The report I posted today is from May 27, the same day Sean Casey got caught in a tornado with his home-brewed tank. The tornadoes were pretty messy that day, and my friends and I took our chances on more isolated storms in central Kansas that didn’t produce more than pretty structure, lightning and lovely light at sunset. If you’ve ever wondered how a typical chase evolves, my video captures the process pretty well. (By “typical,” I mean a chase with no tornadoes – because not every chase ends with a tornado!) See the page with my May 27 photos and video, or watch the video here:
I also posted an “odds and ends” report consisting of select photos from minor storm days and busts, along with pictures of people, sights and more. With it, I included a video of a dust devil chase on May 22 in the Texas Panhandle. It documents a direct hit. I definitely had dust in my teeth afterward. See the page with all the photos and video, or watch the video here:
See all the 2013 storm reports in this index – as I photograph Florida storms, I’ll add more photos and videos.
With the reports done, I’m looking forward to having more time to invest in writing “Zap Bang” – the upcoming third novel in the Storm Seekers Series.
I stayed ahead of the line from Rockledge to Port Canaveral, stopping to snap photos of the undulating shelf cloud that preceded it. You can see the video and all the photos on my Sky Diary site, or watch the video right here:
I’ve never attempted a stop-motion film before, and that news won’t be a surprise to someone watching “The Chase: a silly storm safari.” It’s primitive, but it’s a fun first try. I just need to cultivate a great deal of patience before I try to shoot another one, given the painstaking frame-by-frame photography in each stop-motion clip.
The film is a combination of short video clips and stop-motion, all shot with my Nikon D7000. I set up the maps and toys, including several miniature storm-chasing vehicles, on our pool table and lit it well. I used shredded cotton balls to make the clouds, and a posterboard for the sky. Check it out:
One of the most impressive storms of my Tornado Alley chase didn’t produce a tornado, though it was tornado-warned. That’s because it was spinning like a top. The May 26, 2013, supercell near Arcadia, Nebraska, was LP, or low-precipitation – not much rain, but amazing structure. It also had one of the best lightning shows I’ve ever seen.I’ve already posted photos, but now I’ve added video to the report. Or you can watch the video above.
I’m easing back into life in Florida, where we’re getting a fair share of thunderstorms, at least for the moment. I look for lightning in the evening, and I caught some last night at Port Canaveral. Here’s a sample, but you can check out all the photos from June 18 here.
I’m adding more reports and videos to the 2013 storm chase pages – the latest show the wedge tornadoes I saw (or barely saw) on May 28 in Kansas and May 31 at El Reno, Oklahoma. That’s the sad and deadly day that’s on everyone’s mind right now, and I’m going to write about it in a lot more detail, but for now, here are the videos.
First, the wedge tornado at Bennington, Kansas; I would have moved closer had I known it would be on the ground for so long (also see the full report with photos and video):
My video of the May 31 El Reno, Oklahoma, tornado is more of the storm structure than anything else. I wasn’t under the storm at all – nowhere near the danger zone. But the most terrifying part of the chase was being stuck in the traffic jam caused by people fleeing their homes on bad advice from KFOR TV as a circulation bore down. Here it is (also see the full report with photos and video):
The following is NOT my video but is one of the best I’ve seen of the developing tornado at El Reno. Tempest Tours was closer than I would ever be, but far enough back that you can see the mesocyclone and tornado evolve rapidly and violently. Note that this was shot with a wide-angle camera, so they’re closer than it looks:
I’ve been posting chase reports in scattershot fashion. After yesterday’s squall line … not much to see … I posted a report from the May 20 Duncan, Oklahoma, tornado. It was small, and the condensation funnel didn’t extend all the way to the ground, but we had confirmation that the circulation did indeed contact the ground. After we saw it, we saw the radar from the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado and knew we had missed a large and devastating tornado. A lot of the storm chasers (and there are so many these days) were in our target area and missed it, too. Here’s the video, which you can also find on the report page with all the photos.
See all the 2013 reports – they’re growing! One of my favorites so far is from May 26 – a gorgeous, sculpted supercell in Nebraska. Here’s a photo from that day. This storm had both incredible structure and dazzling lightning. Video will come later.
Normally I don’t go around quoting myself, but I couldn’t help but think of a line from my novel “Tornado Pinball” when I saw this rotating updraft spinning above our heads during a storm chase May 24: “The rotation above the road drew him in, a swirling gateway to infinity, all the circles of nature, a tunnel to the past.”
This storm, which I chased with friends from northeast Colorado into Nebraska, was filled with high-based rotation, shear funnels and lightning and eventually was severe- and tornado-warned. But the “cinnamon bun” swirl above our heads was its most beautiful and entrancing moment. This video includes time-lapses of it. You can find the full report with video and photos here.