May 25, 2018: Supercells and Lightning Fire in Texas Panhandle

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While not the type of weather event that we expect to see, Tour 2 witnessed a common and extremely dangerous result of lightning when a low-precipitation supercell started several wildland fires north of Allison, Texas. Lightning is a major factor in wildland fires, and the average number of acres burned per fire is much higher in lightning fires than in fires that are caused by humans according to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association.

In additional to causing fires, lightning strikes are one of the biggest risks associated with thunderstorms, and this would also include storm chasing since we’re often with the range of a lightning strike. The general rule-of-thumb is: if you can hear thunder, you’re close enough to be struck by lightning.

Much of the Texas Panhandle has been rain deficient for several years now, so it doesn’t take much for a wildland fire to get started. We stood in awe as lightning was hitting the ground around us and nearly every lightning strike was setting off a new fire to the point that local firefighting crews were getting overwhelmed while some fires flared up from a spark to engulfing small forested areas within mere seconds.

May 04, 2007: Arnett, Oklahoma – Tornadic Supercell

posted in: 2007, Chase Highlights | 0

May 4th originally brought us to western Oklahoma along the border of the Texas Panhandle where we intercepted a severe warned supercell that quickly produced a needle shaped tornado which lasted for nearly 20 minutes.  This supercell would later track northeast across the Kansas state line and become tornadic again after dark, producing the first ever EF-5 tornado (on the new Enhanced Fujita Scale).  Due to the fact that these events took place in different states and a few hours apart, we’re entering them as different events and there will be another entry for the Kiowa County, Kansas tornado that struck Greenburg on the evening of May 4th.

April 23, 2007: Protection, KS – Incredible Tornadic Supercell

posted in: 2007, Chase Highlights | 0

day1otlk_20070423_2000_prtWhat a day this turned out to be! Not only did the folks on Tour 2 get a closeup and personal meeting with a tornado on the 21st of April, but just 2 days later they saw 7 tornadoes in Southwestern Kansas on the 23rd.

The day presenting many challenges with a few different interesting target locations, either in the Texas Panhandle or in Southwestern, KS. The day required intense monitoring of every little detail throughout the afternoon, my original target was the Texas panhandle, but it became evident my early afternoon that it was the wrong play and we repositioned on the second area of interest in southwestern Kansas and northwestern Oklahoma.

Our first storms of the day were intercepted near Buffalo, Oklahoma where we witnessed our first brief tornadoes of the day (I believe there were three out of this storm) just to the north. That cell died out, a new cell formed on its southern flank and we shot north to meet the cell as it crossed into Kansas due to limited road options.

When the cell finally caught up to us it went crazy and produced tornado after tornado for a show that lasted several hours. We caught a total of at least 7 tornadoes between these two supercells and spent much of the early evening hours photographing lightning out of this thing as it moved away from us to the northeast.

Overall – an incredible day for an already incredible tour!

May 29, 2004: Central Kansas – Tornadic LP Supercell

posted in: 2004, Chase Highlights | 0

day1probotlk_20040529_1630_torn_prtMay 29th was the type of day you live to chase for, a “classic triple point” with a strong dryline punch in central Kansas and a deep low pressure system near Wichita and 1800 CAPE on the DDC 0z sounding.  SPC had issued a high risk area covering most of the central plains, a very large area which was more or less useless when you need to narrow it down to a single corn field.  I choose to play the dryline punch as opposed to the triple point and it paid off extremely well.  My late afternoon cumulus towers began to build and shortly after a couple of low precip supercells formed between Highway 54 and the OK/KS state border.  We could monitor both storms from one location, but quickly got into position when a wall cloud began forming on the southern cell.  With more cells popping up just south of the OK border, the pressure began to build, our storm was rotating, but it wasn’t in a hurry to produce a tornado.  Meanwhile, tornado warnings were being issued across north-central Oklahoma, and we had time to get to them.  I decided to wait as patiently as possible and not long after that, our storm tapped into some extremely moist air with dewpoints in the high 60s and began to spin like a top.  We were positioned less than a mile from the first tornado formed, giving us easy access to pursue the tornado for several miles during its 31-minute lifespan.