Storm Chasing 2012
Storm Chasing 2012
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My trip to the Great Plains in 2012 would be my third year storm chasing and my first experience driving while storm chasing. For the first five days I would chase with Brian Morganti until joining Tempest for another tour at the end of June.
My trip began in Oklahoma City at the Wingate Inn as usual, It was starting to feel very familiar being there for my third year but the excitement was just as fresh as the first trip out there. I arrived the day before I would meet up with Brian and knew we would be heading straight out chasing so I needed to get a good sleep and beat the jet lag. That first night there were thunderstorms rolling over the city for more than 8 hours, I had to resist the urge to go outside with my camera. It had been a whole year since seeing any good storms so I could not help a few trips to gaze out the window and be greeted with a spectacular lightning bolt. The storms were still going when I woke early that morning so I headed out with my camera to grab a few shots before getting some breakfast.
I hung out at the hotel expecting Brian to arrive around midday with his departing tour group, he soon arrived and we headed out to get the van serviced and cleaned ready for the next trip. As soon as we had the van done we packed our gear into Brian’s Ford Explorer and hit the road in search of my first big storm of the trip. There was a chance for storms in the Texas Panhandle so we had a 300 mile trip to do before we would reach our target area. We managed to get to a storm before dark and were treated to a decent lightning display near Vega, Texas.
We stayed in Amarillo for our first night and headed North into the Oklahoma’s Panhandle for our second day chasing where we would hook up with Bill Reid and his tour group. Our second day didn’t bring any good storms but we did get some pretty skies as we headed into south west Kansas, that night we stayed in Wakeeney, Kansas.
We left Wakeeney and headed West into Colorado for our next chase, we found a couple of decent storms by late afternoon and were treated to some great skies on the high Plains of Colorado.
We chose the strongest storm that was near Pueblo and made this our storm for the rest of the evening. We were kept busy trying to keep ahead of the storm, every time we stopped to view the storm we had very strong winds and blowing dust following closely behind. The storm continued to strengthen after dark and was soon giving us an incredible lightning display that would last two hours. Stopping for lightning pictures became to close to impossible as we had strong winds filled with rain and dust with every stop. After getting a couple of decent shots I gave up deciding not to ruin my equipment and just watch with my eyes.
That night we did not arrive at our hotel in Garden City, Kansas until nearly 1 am after more than 500 miles on the road. Without the Driving rain and dust I would have had endless amounts of lightning shots but these two will have to do.
Our next day would be the last me and Brian had chasing together as we had to return to Oklahoma City for the tour, there was a chance for storms in Eastern Kansas so we headed that way with Bill’s tour group. Storms fired up late and did not really get going until after dark though we were treated to some great sunset skies.
After enjoying watching the storms roll away as the sunset, me and Brian headed to Braums for a bit of food before heading a little further south to our hotel for the night. We headed back to the car and could see the storms that had been quite pathetic had suddenly picked up and were putting on a great lightning display, we found a high point to stop again and try for a few lightning shots. Most of the lightning was hidden in the cloud so did not allow for many great lightning pictures, it was still an incredible sight to watch the storm as it moved away across Kansas.
The following day would be one of those painful days where we would be driving away from one of the best days of the whole season, we had to be back in Oklahoma City so decided not to chase the risk in central Kansas. Later that afternoon as we arrived back at the hotel a couple of isolated super cells developed and produced several nice tornadoes.
The next day everyone met at the Wingate Inn for our tour with Tempest, we had our orientation and headed out to see if we could catch some storms in Western Kansas, although there were no big storms we did manage to find some spectacular sunsets to enjoy.
Our next day started and finished in Hays, Kansas at the same hotel. The day had a moderate risk for storms and we all felt very hopeful at the start of the day, we were pretty much in the target area so we had a slow morning with a trip to Walmart and an early lunch at Golden Coral.
We drifted north as the afternoon went on to try and find the best place for storm development later that day, we ended up being in the middle of two areas of storm development not really knowing where to head. The storms were quickly merging into a big mess and not leaving us much to target, we decided to head south and try for a tail end storm but didn’t have enough time to reach the strongest cell near Hays.
Although the day had been very disappointing we were again treated to an incredible sunset as we watched a dying updraft light up in the beautiful light of the Great Plains.
Our next day would start with a 300 mile trip through Oklahoma and over the ‘Bridge of Doom’, the bridge was not all that doomy but did have some guys shooting at stuff under the bridge.
As we crossed the bridge into Texas on foot we could see storm towers starting to develop to our south, they soon became quite strong looking as we started to pick out our storm for the day.
We were soon standing beneath our storm listening to a ‘hail roar’, it was a constant rumble like thunder caused by large hail falling from the storm colliding and landing in the distant fields.
The storm became quite outflowish and we measured winds over 50mph in the blowing dust.
There were moments when the storm looked ready to tornado but it was just too unorganised for anything like that. As the sun set we were again treated to some beautiful skies.
After dark we headed for a quick dinner and then to our hotel in Breckenridge, Texas after more than 500 miles driving. Some storms moved into the area so I headed out with the camera to get some lightning shots. The shot of the close lightning bolt shows a step leader just to the right of the main bolt.
The following day we would be driving back into Oklahoma for what would turn out to be one of the best chase days I have had yet. We saw storm towers starting to go up to our east not far from Okeene Oklahoma, the storm was looking a little multicellular to begin with but soon had one dominant updraft. We had plenty of times to stop and watch the storm develop and start to drop large hail stones.
After a couple of hours keeping ahead of the storm it started to look very impressive and was obviously rotating nicely, for a while it looked very close to producing a tornado. We found an open field to stop and watch the storm base approaching, the rotation in the base was incredible and was almost directly over head as we watched hoping for a tornado.
Our storm was starting to pelt us with very large hail so we had to blast east to try and get some distance from it, we considered sitting it out in the town of Piedmont but every space was taken by people thinking the same thing. Not stopping turned out to be a great decision, as soon after passing through town the storm collided with another storm moving in from the south, as this happened our storm had the most phenomenal structure and colours. We had a couple of brief stops to enjoy the incredible view.
Shortly after the ridiculously amazing structure show we had a very brief tornado, I just about had enough time to jump out of the van and get a shot before it lifted. We soon ran out of places to run from the storms quickly approaching from the West so decided to sit out the next one before heading backt o Oklahoma City for the night. That was one of the best chase days for sure.