May 24, 2016: Dodge City Tornado Outbreak

May 24 2016 Convective Outlook* Includes Storm Chasing Drone Video *

An incredible day of storm chasing during a tornado outbreak event in southwest Kansas near Dodge City. Just today alone, we witnessed over a dozen tornadoes!

I’ll repeat that in case you missed it, today we witnessed at least a dozen tornadoes!

Triple Threat Tornadoes

The day actually started with three tornadoes on the ground at the same time from the same storm cell. We were able to document the triple threat tornadoes on video.

In the gallery below, is a frame of the video showing these three tornadoes. Two rope satellite tornadoes on the right, and a large center-of-circulation tornado on the left.

Drone Flight…

I’ve been waiting all month for the perfect opportunity to attempt to capture tornado footage with our new drone. Today it worked out flawlessly.

While watching the first tornado of the day, I noticed that we were close enough to get a good video with the drone’s wide-angle camera, yet the inflow winds were not outside of our flight limitations.

It took about 30 seconds to get the drone launched and it successfully captured nearly five-minutes of amazing video.

It was the first time a storm chaser intentionally pursuing a storm has been able to document the tornado with the use of a drone.

After successfully landing the drone (due to flight level winds increasing) were able to pursue this supercell for almost two hours while witnessing nearly a dozen other tornadoes from it.

May 23, 2016: Night Time Tornado near Turkey, TX

May 23 2016 Convective OutlookStorm chasing days like this are both frustrating and rewarding. The day ended with a tornado forecast validation. However, the tornado happened after sunset.

Chasing storms at night not only makes it more difficult to obtain good photos of the tornado. But also changes the way in which we pursue a storm due to possible flash floods.

The Storm Prediction Center had issued a Slight Risk covering most of western Texas and Oklahoma.

Additionally, an Enhanced Risk area was issued for much of the South Plains. The day, however, looked to struggle from limited moisture return.

We targeted an area just north of the Enhanced Risk area, hoping for the Caprock to provide its magic and create the lifting mechanism that would be needed for today’s forecast.

We began the chase while flying the drone. I captured some nice videos of the beginning stages of the supercell while it was over farmland.

The storm began to rapidly intensify and came very close to producing a tornado quite a few times during the daylight. However, the supercell remained low-precipitation and never fully matured to the tornado producing stage.

Just after sunset, we were ready to give up because it became to difficult to monitor the base. As we were backing out to drive away, I caught a glimpse under the base when a lightning strike illuminated it – I thought I saw a tornado!

I pulled back into the spot and waited for the night lightning strike to once again illuminate the base.

Validating this tornado was difficult. The lightning wasn’t constant enough to get a good visual. I knew from the radar that we were safe as we were a few miles to the east.

The radar was also indicating a velocity couplet, which helped to confirm my suspicion of a tornado. I decided to set up a still camera and take some long exposure photographs hoping that we’d get our confirmation from photo evidence.

Within a minute, another lightning strike backlight the base and I checked the camera – tornado confirmed! A few minutes after that we saw power flashes on the ground as the tornado was moving through powerlines and causing the transformers to explode.

We had to move further away than we’d normally attempt for safety reasons to continue to monitor the storm. Eventually, we were starting to get pinned in by the road networks.

Not wanting to travel through the Palo Duro at night during a potential flash flood, I decided to end the chase. We went south to get away from the storm, and then back west to the Interstate for the trip to Amarillo.

An exciting end to a mediocre chase day. All it took was a low-level jet to intensify after the sunset to give this little storm just enough to shear to create a tornado.

May 21, 2016: Kansas Sunset for Storm Chasers

May 21 2016 Convective OutlookOn May 21st the storms were few, but the storm chasers got an amazing sunset!

What started as a somewhat messy cluster of storms eventually transformed into one of the most beautiful supercell thunderstorms I’ve seen in the Great Plains in more than 25-years!

It was a fairly classic triple-point set up, very common in western Kansas. Warm and moist air flooded into the region from the south as a dry line strengthened near the Colorado-Kansas border.

The dry line is a boundary between dry and moist air, acting as a conduit for storm formation. In addition, a warm front draped across the area.

The warm front helped turn a mess of storms into a more focused zone of intense activity. From there, a magical scene was born.

We intercepted one tornado from this storm, but it was difficult to see from our vantage point due to being rain-wrapped. There were a lot of storm chasers out.

The big show, however, was the supercell structure of this incredible storm! I decided to go back east and set up for some time-lapsed video since the storm structure was intense. As I was shooting video, we were getting pelted with golfball-sized hail.

By far, this was one of the prettiest supercells I have witnessed, the sunset just topped off the vista. This is the reason why we chase storms! I could have stayed in that moment forever.

May 16, 2016: Fort McKavett, Texas Hail Storm

An exciting day of storm chasing in south-central Texas, which ended with a busted windshield due to hail! We started in the day in Lubbock and worked our way south towards Eldorado where we intercepted a decent looking, well-structured supercell with a rotating base.   Hopes were up as the storm began to lower and built an intense-looking rotating wall cloud, but this storm wouldn’t produce a tornado, even though it tried very hard to do so!

Our road options weren’t “picture perfect,” but the storm was traveling due east, so we traveled along with it on highway 190 towards Menard. Near Fort McKavett, the storm began a more southeasterly track and crossed the highway in front of us.  With little road options open, our only choice was to either lose sight of the updraft base, or punch through the core of the storm to advance our position to the next available south road option — we decided to take the adventurous route and 10 minutes later, the windshield in the lead chase van was completely destroyed by hail, which also completely covered highway 190!

It became obvious after punching through the storm that it was going to get away from us as it gained forward speed and moved over the South Texas Hill Country. We decided to fly the drone and shoot some video from the air as we parted ways with the floating icebox, then headed back into San Angelo and set up an appointment for a new windshield.

September 13, 2015: Florida Keys Waterspouts

Another on-call waterspout tour ends with the successful interception of two waterspouts in the Florida Keys. Earlier in the day, a waterspout was sighted just offshore Miami and when we heard that news, Brian began questioning whether or not he misinterpreted the forecast.

Within a few hours, things started shaping up and we intercepted a severe storm near Plantation Key and the town of Tavernier, which produced not just one, but two waterspouts at the same time. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to access the water in some areas in the Florida Keys and these waterspouts were both on the bayside of the island, which is lined with private residences, so we had to settle with photos taken from US Highway 1.

A waterspout is an intense columnar vortex (usually appearing as a funnel-shaped cloud) that occurs over a body of water. They are connected to a towering cumuliform cloud or a cumulonimbus cloud. In the common form, it is a non-supercell tornado over water.

We only offer “waterspout tours” upon special request (via our contact form), we don’t offer them through our normal Tour Schedule.  And, they are not easy to operate, a lot of this depends on the customer.  Waterspout tours are “on-call” storm chasing tours.  The customer(s) must be willing to either book a flight into South Florida, or be in in South Florida on very short notice.

We carefully monitor weather conditions for the type of conditions that might create waterspouts. When we see a pattern emerging that catches our eye, we send an email out to you. When you receive that email, you have one-hour to RSVP and prepare to book your flight or make whatever necessary arrangements possible to be in South Florida within 24-hours. It’s not for everyone, and we admit that it is extremely difficult to do, but for those who make it possible, it’s a great adventure!

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