Since my storm chasing obsession really took off 3 years ago all I ever wanted to do was go chase in the plains states. April 21st 2007 I finally did. Though no tornado would come of it, I would not take it back for anything. I enjoyed everything about it. The whole time I just kept thinking to myself “this is it…this is where it happens…this is how it is.” I was living a dream and had reached a short term goal. It felt great. I now have more motivation to move down there. It’ll happen sooner than later. Its where I belong. Anyways…
Left Chicago around 9pm…an hour early! It was a long, dark drive.
We arrived in Wichita, KS at Mikes house around 730am, he was due home at 10am so I took a much needed power nap. We woke up, and off we went. Our first stop was Pratt, KS for gas, food and a wifi spot so Mike could check some updates. My laptop has a cell card and would remain connected about 3/4 of the chase. Matt and Mike checking the updates.
Random victim. OWCH.
We stopped again in Liberal, KS for gas. How fitting this was:
It was there some dude noticed the van and asked if we were storm chasers, we said yes and he asked where he should go to avoid the bad weather. I told him we were headed west and that should give him a clue. Off we go, into Oklahoma, we notice the first storms start popping up.
We stop again in Boise City, OK for more gas, munchies and updates, and notice what looks to be a nice developing storm so we observe it for awhile:
This storm was nothing but a tease, still pretty to look at though. VIDEO:
Winds were gusting as high as 50mph. We saw a new storm developing to the north.
It looked nicer than the one we were currently on, so off north we go, into Colorado, where the real fun began.
It was then I noticed white things rolling across the road. Hail. What we didn’t know was this storm would be quite a hailer. It ended up having a tornado warning, with a report of other spotters/chasers actually seeing it touchdown. We, however did not see anything and are somewhat skeptical of the report.
VIDEO: Hail. Im dissapointed in the audio quality in this, it was much, much much louder and more painful sounding than the video depicts, Mikes footage captured the audio 10x better than mine did, but due to technical reasons we cannot get that footage online at this time. IF YOU CAN, TURN THE SPEAKERS UP!
Needless to say it was pretty intense, and I had a feeling of nervousness/excitement. Chasers generally try to avoid the hail core of a storm, especially one that is producing baseball sized hail for the 2 reasons I mention in the video. It will easily total your car and really large hail often falls closer to a tornado than smaller hail does. We did not know where the apparent tornado was, thinking its view was obstructed by the hail, we play it safe and stop. We knew the storms direction and where the worst parts were headed and had a general idea of where the tornado COULD be. Definitely the most hail Ive seen to date. It stole that title from the Menomonie bow echo we had chased about a month ago.
Looks like snow! wheres my sled?
Once it passed we decided the chase was over, that was the strongest storm in the area. Time to head back, on the way we noticed some rotation in the clouds and I of course wanted to stop for a photo.
Ive got video footage of the rotation so perhaps I’ll put that up at a later date. The rotation wasn’t wall cloud related but still looked amazing, sort of like a mini hurricane embedded in the clouds.
On the way back it wastime to stop for SONICS!
Poor mike got shafted on his chicken popcorn, but otherwise their food rocks! The rest of the way back, as is typical, featured an amazing lightning show, and had waves of lightning strikes that lasted over 5 seconds. In terms of lightning that is a long time! I Wish I had the camera rolling.
Hail dent on the roof of my van, it takes at least a golfball hailstone to do this:
So ends my first plains chase trip, the actual severe weather event that day was far far less than expected. I wont get into too many technical reasons why, but lets just say I hate 3 things. 1- Stratus clouds 2- The ridge of high pressure that brought all your lovely weekend sunny weather and 3- Low 50s dewpoints.
But i still had an awesome time and will certainly head down there again when the conditions are right!
Total Miles driven for this trip: 2,214
Number of double cheeseburgers from McDonalds consumed: 8
Gas station Ham n cheese sandwiches: 5
Bottles of soda: 9
Total pounds gained: 3 1/2
Storm reports for the day, the red dot in SE Colorado is the storm we were on that produced all the hail and had the tornado with it.