I had some shaky and low quality video clips from the Goshen County-tornado I saw on my tour with Cloud 9 Tours back in 2009 (June 5th). It was the first tornado I ever saw and is still the best one. The tornado was covered by many chasers as well as the Vortex 2-project.
The video was shot with a simple pocket camera since I did not have a video camera nor iPhone back then. Most of the video is also shot while I also was shooting stills with my other hand so it was quite shaky. The YouTube-stabilizer functionality did a good job on it though. It won’t be the most amazing tornado video from that day but I am glad to have it documented.
We went down to Texas our last day and I’m now on my way home from there. I will have about 2 hours sleep before I go to the airport and then back to Stockholm.
We ended Day 13 at a gimmick Texas theme restaurant – The Great Texan. They had bull cojones (“mountain mushrooms”) and rattlesnake on the menu. The rattlesnake, was unfortunately not in season and the bull balls tasted… not good. Instead I had a bloody piece of 18 oz M E A T .
On a stage in the restaurant you could challenge the restaurant in an attempt to finish a 72 ounce piece of meat including baked potatoes, salads and snacks – all in one hour. If you can make it you get the food for free. Two men accepted the challenge, one was successful but it sure looked painful. Only in America!
The last day was actually the opposite of most other days, and actually resembled the first day the most. No real storm clouds, a long elusive search of a cloud but, in fact, a tornado!
Not everything is bigger in Texas, at least when it comes to tornadoes. Today’s tornado crept down from the cloud, sniffing gently at the ground and retreated back to the safety of the wall cloud again – all in about 8 seconds flat. I just had enough time to put down my binoculars and take a picture of it in horizon. In addition to this we managed to see some spectacular lightning, including five parallel flashes simultaneously!
This was the end of my trip and I really would love to go back for the next season as well. It is, however, a bit expensive. I will see how things turn out but I really would like to! This trip was one of the most amazing things I have done in my life and I have been travelling everywhere from the Amazon jungle to Sydney.
The funny thing is that I have never before had a real interest for weather, and in a way I still don’t. I am just so completely amazed in how spectacular severe weather is!
Sitting in the car now on the way from Colorado to Texas to position for the very last Storm Chasing Day. Texas is supposed to be quite promising for tomorrow, and Texas feels good – everything is a bit bigger in Texas – and it was here we saw our first super-cell. I heard this morning that some other storm chasers (again) had seen a tornado just minutes away from where we experienced our 80 mph winds the other day. So it was not completely in vain when I peered out the window, waiting for a tornado to appear.
This was the second time in a short time we ended up very close to a tornado without knowing it. Apparently, we had fallen between the outflow and inflow – if you look at the pictures from Day 12 you will see what that means. Rain which basically comes in from the side together with powerful winds.
I have probably gained a few pounds during these two weeks – we eat very poorly and basically do not move at all. I can hardly recall what vegetables look like!
Day 12 turned out to be a classic Storm Chase-day. We went to Colorado in the morning and drove toward a promising storm, but the roads were not in the same direction as the storm so we got behind and inside the storm again, which meant rain and poor visibility.
Fortunately, the storms pops up earlier in Colorado than the rest of the Midwest so even though we wasted 2 hours on this storm in vain it was still only around 4 p.m. when we made our second attempt. This time, ee ended up in front of a perfect scenery with two super-cells next to each other – we stood and looked back and forth and did not really know which one to keep an eye on. All that was missing was a tornado and the Pulitzer Prize 2009 would be mine! Supposedly it was very close since virtually all the data indicated that a tornado could be formed at any second but the storm rotated a bit too slow.
We continued on and I guess you know the story now. Repositioning, wall cloud, core punch. Today’s big event was that we got directly under our first great hail storm and we followed it for nearly 40 minutes. The hail was not as large as before (dime sized hail) but it was cool to see how it completely tore the trees to pieces and was drumming so hard on the car making it completely impossible to talk.
The two super-cells merged some time later and we were hoping for The Perfect Storm, but even if the storm was unbelievably photogenic, it never went as crazy as we hoped.
I was talking about broken expectations yesterday. I do not know what the opposite would be called, but it was certainly what happened today.
In the morning two girls dropped out of Tour. They have had a bit different expectations about Storm Chasing (more party, less waiting – more shopping, less driving). They were quite nice but the extra room in the vans was appreciated as well!
Today was a Travel Day again i.e. when the objective is to only get from one place to another in order to position yourself for the day after. The relatively negative mood in the van that had lasted a few days has started to dissipate again. The tour is coming to an end and we have been quite lucky to see so much. We just hope for one more tornado or something new!
Somewhere during my third nap of the day, we stopped at a village that promotes itself for having the world’s largest hand dug well. Surely that was a bit impressive but not as impressive as the fact that the village was more or less wiped out on May 4th, 2007 by, you guessed it, a tornado.
The tornado that swept through Greensburg, KS, was about 2 km in diameter! They had a small museum (200 square feet), which was for the well, but which served as a temporary museum for the tornado event as well. We saw photos of the enormous devastation the tornado had made. In a tree, I found a piece of metal still was wrapped around a tree…
A little bit later we stopped at a gas station where a seemingly harmless storm piled up a few miles ahead. Since we had nothing better to do we decided to chase it. It showed no “good” signs, and didn’t have a severe storm warning or anything.
A sure sign that absurdly often prove to be a good sign is when the tour van happens to kill a bird with the wind shield on the way into a storm. This happened before the tornado in Wyoming and also happened now. Apparently, the combination killed bird / tornado is very common for Cloud 9 for some reason.
We, however, did not see any tornado today but what we experienced was just as cool.
Entering the storm we thought we saw a funnel, but it is so often wishful thinking and easy to confuse with scud that one rarely reflects very much about it. Photo Evidence later showed, however, that it actually had been a funnel (a “tornado” that does not reach the ground). A little further into the storm everything came at once. The storm got a Severe Storm Warning and then got the status Tornado Warned. A bit later, we received information that a tornado had been reported from the storm. Of this, we saw very little since we once again ended up in the middle of the rain and had a hard time getting out of it.
Early on, we had taken the decision to do a core punch for fun because the chance that the storm could produce a tornado was minimal. Otherwise it would have been a better idea to stay outside in order to see it better. We realized, with hindsight, that it was probably a bad decision to make a core punch. We officially gave up and started to drive out of the storm again. What happened then made this whole day.
The visibility decreased rapidly while the wind and the rain intensified. In the end, the visibility so poor that we could not even see 15 feet ahead. The visibility on the sides was slightly better – maybe 20-30 feet. The wind continued to pick up and eventually we found ourselves in ridiculously strong winds. Our guides who have been doing storm chasing and hurricane chasing hurricane in about 20 years estimated gusts of wind to 80 mph!
E i g h t y mph ! !
This is equal to the power of being in the middle of an F1 tornado or a Category 1 hurricane. The difference, I believe, between being at 80 mph in a tornado and being in the same eind speed without a tornado is that in a tornado the winds are more concentrated in a certain point. If I understood my guide Charles correctly, we were in a “mesocyclone”, i.e. an undefined rotating air mass during a storm. An air mass that at any time can produce a tornado as well, even directly above you! We were quite happy that there were no hail for in that case our wind shields would have been smashed to pieces. I mean imagine the hail you seen in my photos earlier. In 80 mph. Coming from the side.
The most exciting thing about this was that you knew you were in the middle of the danger zone, in a storm with tornado warnings. This, with a view of 60 feet. I looked out the window and was just waiting for the rounded shape of a tornado to break out at the line of visibility. The scary thing was maybe that I was actually hoping for it! Sometimes, in the excitement, the logical thinking is not quite there! If it would have been ok’d by the tour guides, I would have jumped out of the van to feel the wind. Probably not the best idea either…
This was probably the most thrilling on the whole trip, including the tornado, and it came as a pure bonus. It felt like a bit of a revenge for the previous day where we expected everything but did not experience anything special. Today, I expecting nothing and was caught in the middle of a raging storm.
Today was the most promising day of the year according to the forecast. I tried not to get my expectations up too much but it was of course difficult. Especially, when the day begins with the first storm coming in over us when we are driving already at 11:30 a.m. A lightning bangs down about 100 meters next to us and we can not separate the flash from the bang, it was just that close.
Then we end up waiting again as usual. After a while we begin to follow a storm that does not seem directly exciting though. Having positioned ourselves nearby a couple of oil tanks alongside us, we see the storm come in and it is after all quite powerful, at least it has very powerful winds.
We continue on and end up in the rain again, this time without the hail. Basically we drive around in the rain for over an hour and it’s pretty boring. Finally we stop at a gas station – and hear about the most interesting thing of the whole day. A couple of storm chasers who been at some distance from us when we were positioned by the oil tanks have seen a tornado during a very short time – a matter of seconds – touch down on the other side of the oil tanks while we were standing there!
There was never any real danger, I guess, but a bit sad that we were placed so that we did not see it.
An all in all pretty boring and a bit of a frustrating day. We had high expectations and also raised the bar a bit – all storms must, at least in some respect, be better than the last! What can be said about today’s storm was at least that was the windiest (probably around 50 mph, where we stood) and the greenest (plenty of hail in the clouds).
Well, I just hope some of the last days will have something exciting to come up with. I am starting to look forward to go home now – I especially look forward to normal food. Today I was incredibly hungry at 7 p.m. when we stopped at the gas station. The most healthy I could choose was…peanuts.
Update at 9.50 p.m. – The last we saw of this storm was after dinner when it suddenly showed some cool features: A stunning display of lightning fireworks. The lightning were mostly hidden behind a large cloud and each flash lit up the clouds as if it was a bomb, and there were about 3 flashes per second. It was very pretty!
The large low pressure that caused the storms we have been observing lately has come to pass, and our choice was either to continue eastward to Illinois, or wait a day and go back to Kansas on Tuesday. We chose the latter and took a so called “Down day”. During Down days, you often go to a museum, visit some weird tourist attraction or something else. We took the opportunity to wash, shop and go back to Kansas.
This promising Sunday started out slow and it was not until 4 in the afternoon when we actually landed at our first prospect. A very beautiful storm that seemed promising, but above all gave us a…sense of hail. At first, we heard a constant and fairly loud rumbling above us while we observed the storm. It was like thunder in the distance but the noise came from hail inside the storm. This “hail roar” was caused by hail falling down, getting caught by the updraft and tumbling around on each other. But, how could small bits of hail make a noise like that? I will get back to that at a later point.
This first storm fairly quickly turned uninteresting. Fortunately though, we just needed to turn 180 degrees around to find another storm cloud. It was just one of those days. We began to chase it but since we had positioned ourselves for the first cloud, we were completely wrong for the other. As a result, we had to make a so-called core punch, i.e. go straight through the storm to reach the right place.
This core punch was a long and tedious process of constant rain and at constant risk of hail. It was also pretty exciting to constantly be driving in the storm’s immediate trace. The rain, however, makes it very hard to discover a tornado, so we were quite keen to get out of the core.
After chasing through Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, we finally reached the edge of the storm and passed it. By then it was sunset, which gave the whole cloud, a very eery looking color. Everyone hoped for a tornado right there and then. It would have give us some quite wonderful photos…but we were to see no tornado today. The storm did apparently produce a tornado later on that night, but tornado chasing at night is quite another matter which we did not attempt.
Today’s big adventure nevertheless was hail. First, the unspeakable hail rumble in the afternoon, secondly when we were once again gunned with golf ball sized hail on the way from there. The worst, however, was when we drove past the small village of Oregon, Missouri, arriving a few minutes after the storm had passed. Their tornado siren was on which created an even more dramatic dimension to what we saw on the ground. Hail the size of oranges! Oranges!
I realized then that we had previously been standing under a storm cloud in which tens of thousands of orange-sized spiky ice balls defy gravity only because of upward flowing air, tumbling upside down and constantly getting bigger and bigger…Wow!
Can you imagine the people who live there? You hear on the radio in the morning that there are tornado warnings in your county and that you should keep your eyes open. You continue to hear reports as the storm seems to be heading straight at your village. At 5.43 p.m. a tornado siren is starting and the sound drowns everything in the village. You go down into the basement with your family and just wait for a possible tornado to rip your house apart. First, the wind start to roar, then an artillery of hail roars against the ceiling, walls and windows.
When the storm have passed you go out into your garden or farm and realize that you are standing in Mother Nature’s driving range. You also realize that you are very happy not to have been caught outdoors. The punishment for being outdoors during a storm is Stoning with Ice Rocks!
Sitting in the car in an extremely humid and hot Kansas, not far from Manhattan, where I studied at K-State 03-04. It is a fairly typical “before” scenario. Everyone walks around a bit restless, moving back and forth into the gas station and buying more and more junk food (I have eaten so much bad food the last week it is almost ridiculous!). Once in a while people come up talking to us, being a bit curious about what we do or worried by the fact what it means that we are there. What we consider our great joy is typically their nightmare – a fact which is easy to forget sometimes.
The conditions for today looks really, really good so if you’re reading this after 22:30 it might be fun to watch our webcam.. Right now we just sit and sweat…and wait.
The amazing day yesterday ended in a really nice hotel, simply because we could not find anything else. Not a problem to me, since lodging is included in this trip!
This weekend is expected to be really great and it apparently started of really well. Saturday, however, was a “bust day”. This means, you go out to an area that has the right conditions, but nothing really happens. We stopped at a corn field in Iowa and it was extremely hot and humid, but absolutely nothing happened. The highlight was when we walked into the little town nearby (Sidney, Iowa) and bought a Fat Tire (Colorado beer), sat down by the water tank and just chilled out.
Another interesting thing is to look at the group dynamics among us. How groups are formed, and how different people react to the boredom which quite often is apparent (5-6 hours in the car per day!). I guess how you treat the boredom depends a lot on how well you are prepared for it, mentally, but also what you bring in terms of books etc.