Day 12: Suprise sunset supercells in Wichita

pink horseshoe supercell

As today was a very marginal day we chose to really sleep in and catch up on some work. We didn’t leave Lincoln, NE, until after a nice lunch at Ihop and headed east towards Topeka, KS, to play the dryline again. The dewpoints and temperatures were super high so it was almost painful to be outside. I also had quite a headache and nausea so I was not too involved in the events of the day. 

Although we had some towers going up just after noon, the subsidence was keeping a lid on all convection throughout the day. For yet another day we played the waiting game and eventually gave up at around 6 p.m. and started heading towards our hotel in Wichita. We knew from the radar images that there was a small storm south of Wichita but it was not a supercell and we did not really expect it to be there when we arrived.

The cell however stayed put so we thought we could core punch it for the fun of it and maybe experience some small hail. As we started nearing Wichita the storm started to grow and started to rotate and eventually became a supercell, to our surprise. Having been too far away from tornadoes on several occasions we decided to head under the meso directly. As it turned out, the structure of this supercell was the best I have ever seen. The pink hue from the sunset, the striations on the mid-levels and the horse shoe shape of it all just made up an incredible structure.

As we were standing underneath the meso the storm produced a small funnel. As the storm was relatively high based it was nowhere near a tornado but we would have had a perfect spot to see a pink tornado from less than a mile away!

When we left, the storm started dissipating but another one grew up just next to it. At this point it was already dark and although we stayed close enough to see any potential tornadoes we mainly went for structure and lightning shots. This storm turned out to be incredible as well, and we continued on dirt roads in the dark to chase it. In fact, we could almost have walked as the storm barely moved.

In the end, we were positioned on a small road outside of Mulvane, KS, that was the scenery of the best tornado photo ever shot (Eric Nguyen). It was one of my best storm chasing experiences ever. It was nice and warm, pitch black and we had the storm producing a spectacular lightning show in front of us. Behind us the skies were clear and filled with stars and on the fields around us there were hundreds of lightning bugs lighting up the fields. In the end I turned off the camera to enjoy the scenery, only looking at the stars and the lightning bug filled fields.

That feeling, right there, was quite the opposite of the adrenalin and excitement filled day in the Nebraska panhandle. Instead, it was such a calm, overwhelmingly peaceful experience that I will never forget. 

pink supercell
Just look at this thing!
pink funnel cloud
This pink funnel cloud last only a few seconds. I can only imagine how beautiful it would have been if it had become a tornado!
storm at night
This is how the second storm looked when we stopped the first time.
stars and a storm
I have been wanting to take a photo like this one for a while. A storm together with the stars. You can see the big dipper in it!
fireflies
It was tricky to take photos of fireflies, this was my best shot. Later that night a firefly was smashed on our window, causing a glowing piece of smudge on the window!

Day 8: Rainbow chasing in Oklahoma

For the first time in ages I woke up after a good nights sleep. I had a large breakfast and brought up my laptop in order to catch up on some work. After such an amazing week I was way behind on photo editing, video editing and normal work so it was great to get some time to prepare.

At 3 p.m. David Williams (Tornado Alley Chasing) that I chased with last year came by to pick me up along with his other Swedish (!) guest Alexander. We had randomly seen each other on at least four different times during the week but now it was time for me to change chase company and enter David’s hail guard protected Toyota.

The outlook of the day was not great but we thought we might get the most out of what was there. Since we were a bit late we went for the closest severe warned cells north of Oklahoma City. The storms never really shaped up but we were treated with some amazing rainbows and really photogenic sceneries during our chase. Mostly, the chase was about catching up and chatting about the previous week.

rainbow wheat
Rainbow over a wheat field in Oklahoma.

 

wheat field

 

double rainbow
Double rainbow

 

road storm

Chase date: May 27th 2016.

Day 5: Dodge City, KS. The Perfect Storm.

As of the morning on Day 5 I had seen 13 tornadoes in total. I was about to double that number today. Day 5 was an epic storm chase day and many seasoned storm chasers have mentioned this was their best day ever. I was fortunate enough to experience the Dodge City-tornado outbreak of 2016.

We knew today was going to be a major chase day but the target area was not 100% clear. Some things pointed towards the Texas or Oklahoma Panhandle and other further up in Kansas. We positioned ourselves in the heat in Woodward, Oklahoma, in the early afternoon.

Around 4 p.m. cells started firing up near Minneola in South west Kansas. Erik noticed a subtle low pressure in that area and was convinced that would definitely be a major event – “I have seen this before, this storm will go nuts!” he mentioned to his two chase partners who was more convinced of staying in our area. They discussed for quite a while until Erik convinced them and we blasted north.

Erik was right. The storm positioned itself on that boundary and just grew bigger and bigger and for us it was a race against the clock and I was super stressed in the back seat worrying we would miss the show.

When we arrived the storm was south west of Dodge City and was showing an impressive wall cloud. At this point we knew it was just a matter of when the storm would fire a tornado. We got a little bit closer but when the storm started producing a funnel we stopped and looked.

The show of the decade was about to begin.

There was not long until a tornado started to form. After that everything was just going crazy. The first tornado stayed on the ground for about 30 minutes. The storm generated a second wall cloud which started spitting out secondary tornadoes as well. At one point there was four tornadoes At The Same Time!

four tornados on the ground
At this brief point, the Dodge City supercell actually had four tornadoes on the ground at the same time!

 

two tornadoes
Many times the cell had two tornadoes on the ground at the same time.

 

supercell with tornado
Structure shot of the supercell with a rope tornado on the ground. This is one of my all time photos!

We drove a little bit closer as the storm progressed and regrouped but never got really close. First of all, we did not want to waste time in the car when there was tornadoes on the ground, second of all the roads to our west (where the tornadoes were) were mud roads not suitable for our car and thirdly, the storm was dropping tornadoes everywhere so it was not safe.

tornado
One of the multiple tornadoes we saw.

 

tornado tour
Another storm chasing tour company enjoying the tornado at a safe distance.

 

tornado rope out
One of the last tornadoes roping out.

 

wall cloud dodge city
The wall cloud of this storm was MASSIVE.

The storm missed Dodge City, KS, by a mile or so and while we were driving into town we saw the last tornado rope out behind the trees and houses. We chased it a bit further and followed another tornado warned storm for a while until we called it a day and headed back to Dodge City.

Like most of these amazing days you don’t just get tornadoes but we also saw some amazing (anvil) lightning, some while there was a rainbow. On our way back we also stopped to photograph the most amazing mammatus field I have ever seen (even better than Leoti, KS, last Saturday).

anvil lightning
Powerful lightning from the dying anvil above us.

 

mammtus clouds and wind mills
Mammatus clouds at sunset by a wind mill farm. This is one of the best photos I have ever taken, I think. Just love this one.

I feel so grateful to have experienced this day since it surely will be a day I will remember for the rest of my life. I don’t know how many tornadoes we saw today but it was somewhere around 15. Not only did we see many tornadoes but they were all unobscured, good contrast and high based. We saw all ranges of tornadoes, from wedges to drill bit-tornadoes. Thankfully, the tornadoes never hit Dodge City either and there were no casualties. In other words – it was the perfect storm.

We finished the day at Applebee’s in Dodge City that was full of storm chasers. I got to meet storm chaser legend Reed Timmer (from the Storm Chasers TV-series) and had a well deserved beer.

Update: I will probably continue to update this blog post with more photos and videos as I am getting them edited.

Chase day: May 24th 2016.

Day 4: Beautiful supercells but no tornadoes

Today looked really well with CAPE-values of 6.000. The problem was that there were three targets to choose from: Big Spring, TX (where I saw a landspout tornado in 2014), Woodward, OK and Donley, TX. We chose Donley since there was a big flood risk in Big Spring and Woodward did not look as good as Donley.

There was an apparent target already at 3 p.m. coming up along with a tornado watch in our area. We watched it for a while at a distance before we headed out there. We arrived at a beautiful immature LP-cell in the perfect environment. For the first time on this tour we could observe it without rain and, in all other aspects, perfect environment.

immature LP supercell
The LP supercell that died off.

 

anvil sun dog
A neat sun dog feature in the anvil.

For some reason, it started dying off more and more and completely evaporated after a while. There were no other good options really in the area so we sat and waited to see where we should go. It felt like the day was over.

hail jericho texas

After about an hour a second wave punched through and pushed up a new set of storms a bit further west. It did not look all too impressive at first but generated, lowered to the ground and started to look really impressive. For some 20 minutes it formed a wall cloud and apparently spun up a brief tornado (that we did not see).

When the sun was about to set it was the absolutely perfect setting for a photogenic tornado. We had the sun in our back, we could see the entire storm structure and there was a rainbow to our left.

Instead the RFD undercut the storm and you could start feeling the wind in your face (coming out from the storm, instead of going in) which was a sure sign it was dying off. It did so in a spectacular manner though.

dying storm jericho texas
A beautiful dying storm near Jericho, TX.

outlaw chaser car

We finished off at Big Verne’s steakhouse in Shamrock, TX, where I realized I had dinner before (after the Canadian, TX, tornadoes). It always feels funny when you realize you arrive at a place you have already been to in Tornado Alley.

Arriving at Elk City, OK, I saw a familiar car at the parking lot of our hotel. Apparantly, Randy and Lisa from the Outlaw Chasers that I chased with last year, was in the same hotel. I had a quick chat with them before finally crashing in my bed.

Chase date: May 23rd 2016.

 

In-flight entertainment for a storm chaser

Today I was treated with not only one but two different types of “inflight entertainment” I really appreciated as a storm chaser. I am not talking about the tornadoes on Mars I saw in the movie “The Martian” on the flight but these two things:

glory from airplane
What you see is like a small circular “rainbow” with the shadow of my airplane in the midde. A so called “glory”.

This first thing is something called a “glory” I learned from Twitter today. It is an optical phenomenon that well, I could not fully understand even after reading the Wiki-page about it. I have been on hundreds of flights and never seen this before so I was excited!

 

wingnado
This phenomenon you probably have seen before. It went on for about two full minutes which was quite unusual I think.

On my other flight between Paris and San Francisco we had this “wingnado” going on for two full minutes. This aerodynamic column of air is quite common in humid areas during takeoff and landing, as fas as I have seen. Common or not, it is a really cool phenomenon and it does look like a tornado so it made my day together with the Glory.

Just when I open up the box of StormChasingUSA.com merch…

If this blog post would be a true click bait the title of this would be: “Just when I open the box the incredible thing happens”. It was really cool though.

A couple of days ago I ordered some merch for StormChasingUSA.com: some t-shirts, business cards and a cap. I want to be able to distribute them during this year’s storm chasing season. Today I got the box and brought it back home to unwrap it and take a photo with me in it. Right when I have opened everything and put on the t-shirt and the cap I look outside the window and see this:

double rainbow
Double rainbow just outside my window in Malmö, Sweden.

Actually, when I looked outside it was only a single rainbow. I got out to take my selfie with the rainbow and realize, when I look at the photo, that it is in fact a double rainbow.

If this is not a sign that 2016 will be a great storm chasing season, I don’t know what is!

selfie with double rainbow
The selfie with me wearing the merch.