All the images contained herein are copyrighted. Any use of them in any medium without Chuck Doswell's expressed permission is a copyright violation. Please respect that and ask first! E-mail him at email@example.com.
Route notation: "USXX" denotes US highway XX, "I-xx" denotes Interstate highway xx, "SSxxx" denotes state (SS) highway xxx, "FMXX" in TX denotes farm-to-market highway XX. Wherever possible, cities having National Weather Service offices are identified with the appropriate 3-letter identifier.
NOTICE: These images have been scanned from original slides, with some digital enhancement: generally, touch-ups of dirt on the slides when scanned, and some enhancement of the original scanned images to make them look more like the original slides. In this year's chase, however, my photography was so inept, that I have included modified versions of the images that have been substantially enhanced digitally to bring up feature that are difficult to see in the original scans. These are clearly identified as such in the text. Screen captures usually need some help, so these have been enhanced, as well.
I do not alter my images digitally to put in things that were not originally in the image or remove things that were originally in the image, and I do not make digital composites. I am personally opposed to such image manipulations unless they are admitted to clearly and obviously.
Narrative: A slow start ... Some problem with the chase vehicle yesterday meant we couldn't get it until Sunday ... a day's delay in the departure. I was expecting a Saturday delivery of an order made on Thursday: new lens for my new medium-format camera and more film. Turned out they meant second business day ... given the Memorial Day holiday on Monday (I HATE holidays sometimes!!) this meant that the chase would get a late start ... on Tuesday. There was a chance for something in KS, so we left late ... and returned early, when nothing was happening.
Route: OUN north on I-35 to the South Haven exchange ... and back.
Narrative: Fixed the chase vehicle situation, but still waiting for the lens/film delivery, but we went out anyway. Drove to the vicinity of Ft. Supply, OK, and waited for something to happen. After a number of hours, we heard a report of a watch having been issued in KS, so we took off northward. Drove under a developing line of updraft bases toward more advanced storms near DDC. Intercepted a multicell storm near Spearville, KS ... as we approached, it blew up into a real supercell, with a corkscrewing updraft ... and then promptly gusted out. Suddenly, there was outflow everywhere! By that time, the line of stuff we drove through earlier had begun to fire. We threaded a gap between cells at Bucklin, KS and tried to get south of the outflow. On the way south, we saw a mesocyclone developing that looked good for a while but it got eaten up by the RFD, so we dropped south further, to just north of Sitka, KS and waited for the next cell moving up the line. It also was rotating ... and outflow dominant. Kissed it all off and went home.
It turned out, of course, that by roaring north too early, we missed a better storm in northern OK. However, at least we worked out a number of logistical kinks. It was at this point that I thought, erroneously, I had loaded the video camera with a videotape.
Route: OUN to I-40, west to US281 spur to Geary, OK to Woodward, OK, OK15 west to Fargo, north on unpaved road to US270, west to US283, north to DDC to US56 east to Spearville, KS, south on RD132 to Jewell Rd to RD137 east ... and then west back to RD132, south to Bucklin, to US34 to Sitka, to US183 to Ft. Supply, OK, US270 to Woodward to Geary to OUN.
Narrative: No chasing ... still waiting on delivery of the lens/film
Narrative: Finally, the lens and film arrived this morning. However, it was late in the morning and nothing was likely to be of interest, whereas we still had a number of things to put together for the trip, so we waited another day at home.
Narrative:. A low probability day, so we went north to Hastings, NE ... mostly a positioning drive.
Route: OU via I-35 north to Salina, KS, I-135 north to US81 to York, NE, back on US81 to US6, west to HSI.
Narrative: Frustrating day. Analyzed a lot of charts in HSI ... decided northeast NE was the best bet, but saw a large region of backed flow to near HSI, so analyzed several surface charts waiting for something to shake out. Stuff finally fired to the north-northeast late in the afternoon, so we roared off after it. But the stuff was pathetic ... the best stuff was in the original forecast area. We heard about tornadoes on the AM radio northeast of OFK when we were still about 60 mi from OFK ... by the time we got into the area, we could see the best storms, but they were already over the border into IA. Got some nice crepuscular rays at sunset, there ... then bagged it.
Route: HSI, north on US281 to NE92, east to NE14 to Fullerton, to Albion, east on NE91 to NE45, north to NE32, east 2 mi, north on county rd to Meadow Grove, east on US275 to OFK, north on US81 to 6 mi north of OFK ... then south again to OFK, southwest on US30 to GRI.
Narrative: Another frustrating day. We returned to HSI for more analysis, then chased yesterday's forecast (using the H700 thermal advection at 12Z) south into northern KS. The cap was too strong this day, and nothing happened anywhere in reach. Went to GLD, anticipating possible high plains action the next day.
Route: GRI south on US281 to HSI ... south on US281 to US36 to Smith Center, south to KS173, west to K23, south and then west to US83, southwest to US24, west to Colby, KS, I-70 to GLD.
Narrative: What a wild day! We left GLD at about 10:30 am, driving toward the strongly-worded SPC outlook in IA. The anticipated high plains activity was a mistake, and we had a long ways to go. All through NE, we were buried in milky cirrus and Mexican smoke. By the time we got to OMA, it was clear that IA was going to be a major bust, so we went north on I-29, toward FSD. Once there, we could see anvils of a line of storms so we decided to head west on I-90. We could make out a line of mushy-loking towers and a scalloped anvil (bad) that looked weak and multicellular. Continuing west, the anvil began to harden up, and I could make out "knuckles" under it. Thus, it was clear that the mushy towers were in front of the real burner, so we turned north on US-81, and then immediately west on SD-38. As we drove through Spencer, hardly noticing it, we could see some of the base, and some sort of a lowering that went to the horizon. A few miles west of Spencer, we came on a gaggle of chasers (incl. Bill Bunting and Dave Beusterein) ... Mike Foster came up seconds after we arrived, then the DoW radar, and a bunch more. According to Bill, the storm had produced a nice condensation funnel to ground, but was now shrouded in dust. A modified version of this image to enhance the dust cloud can be seen here. As the storm moved east-southeastward, it was passing to our north, then to the northeast. Modified versions of these images can be seen here and here. The debris column dissipated and the RFD wrapped strong around the mesocyclone, between us and the action area. We went back along SD-38, and could see a black wedge/tube wrapped up behind the RFD, and cloud elements along the south edge of the wall cloud racing from left to right, nearly overhead. As we roared eastward, the road took a northeast jog ... there was a sand/gravel pit just west of the road and the RFD was whipping sand/gravel across the road. Mike Foster was just ahead of us .. he stopped and so did we. The only way to get ahead of the storm was to go through the tornado, which was probably about 1/2 mile or so away ... unbeknownst to us, it was hitting Spencer (we'd forgotten there was a town there!). Since the storm had cut us off, we went back west a short way and cut south on a gravel road and promptly got lost trying to get south of the Interstate. By this time, the storm just behind the Spencer storm was producing a tornado, near Emery, SD [a modified version of this image can be seen here] ... I had no cameras with me and it was raining so it was tough to stop and grab something. Finally, we hit a paved road that crossed the I-90 and I used the 35 mm camera with a 24 mm wide angle (couldn't get to any other lenses!) to get some shots. At one point, the second storm's tornado had seemed to dissipate and then we saw 3 tornadoes at once: a nice cone [here is the modified version] about halfway to ground with a debris cloud, a rope condensation funnel to ground, and a "dirt dauber" (debris with no condensation funnel at all) to the southwest of the other two. The evolution of all this was rather unclear, as we were struggling to find paved roads. By the time I got out my video camera from the back of the Blazer, I discovered to my horror that I had shot the Spencer event with no tape in the camera!!!! ARRRRGGGGHHH!! I got a few minutes of the rope-out of the cone (described earlier) ... the rope and the dirt-dauber had long since dissipated. By this time, it was well after 9 pm, and we were running out of daylight, well behind any good storms, so we bagged it and headed to Yankton for the night.
We ran into Bill McCaul and his wife at a restaurant in Yankton, where we swapped stories and celebrated as best we could, at that point unaware of the deaths in Spencer, which we heard about when we finally settled in for the night. My wife's first tornado, and my first killer tornado (regrettably) in 26 years of chasing.
NOTE: The SPC has a page devoted to the Spencer tornado, as does the NWS office at Sioux Falls.
NOTE (added 21 July 2000) ... in reviewing my video for my "oldies" page, I got some frame captures of the end of the last tornado near Emery. When I started my video, it was still a stubby cone tornado ... as the dissipation proceeded, the funnel descended into the debris cloud. Then, as the funnel narrowed, it descended still further. The narrowing continued in the upper portions of the funnel, but it got a nice look, briefly. Curiously, the narrowing continued in the upper part of the funnel, until that part just disappeared, leaving a funnel coming up from the debris whirl but seemingly not attached. It still had that look just before the tornado dissipated completely.
Route: GLD east on I-70 to Colby, northeast on US83 to KS383 to US36 to Calvert to US183 to Alma, NE, northeast to I-80, east to OMA, north on I-29 to FSD, west on I-90 to US81, north to SD38, west to Spencer to SD25, south to Emery, south on to SD42, west ... then back east to Bridgewater, SD to US81, south to YKN.
Narrative: A down day. Wandered around trying unsuccessfully to find tracks of the tornadoes west of Emery, then decided to go to the Badlands NP [National Park] to camp.
Route: YKN north on US81 to SD42, west to SD37, north to Mitchell, SD, west on I-90 to Cactus Flat entrance to Badlands NP.
Narrative: Another down day. Wandered south to Scottsbluff.
Route: who cares?
Narrative: Visited Scottsbluff NM [National Monument], Chimney Rock NM, then hit the Agate Fossil Beds NM ... all in the Nebraska Panhandle ... artsy photography and sightseeing. Stayed a second night at BFF, but at a different motel.
Route: who cares?
Narrative: Thought there might be a weak chance for something in Kansas the next day ... went to DDC for positioning. Stayed in DDC
Route: who cares?
Narrative: Dropped south to AMA, stayed there for the night.
Route: who cares?
Narrative: Sighteeing at Caprock Canyon SP [State Park], in TX
Route: who cares?
Narrative: Sightseeing at Buffalo Lake NWR [National Wildlife Refuge], in TX
Route: who cares?
Narrative: A day with poor visibility, leading to mistakes and frustration. Headed for CVS as this looked the best from the analysis done at AMA ... bad visibility pulled us north toward a storm north of CVS. Saw numerous chasers, including Matt and Betsy, headed in the opposite direction but we HAD to see the dud for ourselves. By this time, we had some moderately good visibility and saw the developing CVS storm south. We roared into CVS from the north, shortly after it passed through town. Then we joined a caravan of chasers following the storm as it moved east. It was between roads, so we had to roar east, then go north to look at it, then dive back south and roar east to the next opportunity to go north to take a look at the storm. It was gusting hard, and showed little sign of producing a photogenic tornado, so we broke off, returning to AMA. At least we avoided the hail! If there was a tornado in CVS, it apparently was not a very photogenic or long-lasting one. Anyway, it was a bust of a day for us.
Route: Buffalo Lake NWR to Umbarger, TX, US60 northeast to Canyon, TX, I-27 to AMA ... I-40 west to FM809 to US60, southwest to CVS, south on US70 to near Portales, NM, then north again to CVS to NM209 to NM299, west to NM268, north to NM312 to McAlister, north on NM252 to Regland, east on NM209 to Broadview, south to CVS, E on US60 to Farwell, TX, southeast on US70/84 to FM145, east to Lazbuddie, north on TX214 for about 5 mi, then south again back to FM145, east to FM1055, north to Hereford, northeast on US60 to Canyon, north on I-27 to AMA.
Narrative: Yet another frustrating day. Things looked good in south-central KS. Started out for there, but got pulled east by early convection firing on the dryline. This stuff looked pretty mushy and multicellular ... to the distant north, another storm showed a large, difluent anvil and a solid, steady dome of an overshooting top, so we roared after it in a hopeless "stern chase" ... we caught the remnants of the storm near Junction City, KS but it was a dead duck. The best stuff was probably near ICT and our good-looking storm, had we been on it when it looked so good in central and north-central KS. Lots of tornadoes in the vicinity of ICT that we might have seen if we had stayed with the storm we originally targeted on the KS-OK border.
Route: AMA ...north on US 287 to Stafford, US54 northeast to Hooker, OK, east on US64 to OK34 (east of Buffalo), north to KS1, to US183 to Kinsley, NE on US56 to GBD, northeast on KS156 to I-70, east to Junction City, south on US77 to Florence, southwest to Newton, KS
Narrative: A relatively good chase day. Chose to go after the high plains stuff. We ran into storms in northeastern CO that evolved from typical, high-based, high plains junk into a honking HP beast. We just beat the storm into Crook, CO, ahead of the notch ... then it followed CO 136 for a ways before beginning to propagate hard to the south of east. From that point, it was a struggle to stay ahead of it without getting swallowed. I stopped for some video north of Grant, NE ... I also stopped for some lightning on NE25 south of Wallace. Thought there might have been a tornado wrapped up in the notch, but it was just scud/rain, as the photos show. [Note: the lightning photos have been digitally enhanced to show the cloud structures]
Route: Newton, KS north on I-135 to I-70, west to Burlington, CO, north on US385 to Wray, west on US34 to Akron, north on CO63 to I-76, northeast to US6, east to Fleming, north on CO55 to Crook, east-northeast on US136 to I-80, northeast to Ogallala, NE, so on NE1 to Grant, east on NE23 to Wallace, south on NE25 to US6 to MCK.
Narrative: Dud day. Did some photography. Stayed in GLD.
Route: who cares?
Narrative: Dud day. Did some photography. Stayed in HSI
Route: who cares?
Narrative: Positioning day. Did some photography. Stayed in MCK.
Route: who cares?
Narrative: Last chase day. We started the day slowly, beginning at MCK. A leisurely morning because the event was going to unfold somewhere close and there was no reason to roar about without a target storm. The winds were screaming, pumping moisture into the region and time passed slowly at first. Then, as the day progressed, information became a concern ... drove to Holdredge, NE and asked at the Library to use their Internet connection. It was down and the bureacratic biddies wouldn't let me hook up my laptop, so we drove to the truck stop at Elm Creek (I-80). By the time we got done and had lunch, the storms were blowing up south of us. Thus, in spite of my good intentions, we ended up in another stern chase. Again, the storm was travelling eastward between highways, one in NE another in KS. We could either drive through the core to get to it (no way, José), or try to turn the corner after diving south. Roads in Kansas foiled our attempt to use non-paved roads to catch the storm, although we got one good look at it from fairly close behind. We were never able to catch it. By early evening, it was obvious that we couldn't overtake the storm, much less "turn the corner," so we blew it off and simply went home. Apparently, if we had stayed in McCook, Holdredge, or Elm Creek, we would have seen tornadoes. ARGH!! Arriving in OKC about 12:30 am, we drove past the tornado damage at Frontier City!! AAAARRRRRGGGGHHH!!
Route: MCK east on US6/34 to Holdredge, north on US183 to Elm Creek ... then south on US183 to some Godforsaken farm roads in Phillips County, KS, from which we emerged on the paved road north of Agra, KS, south to Agra, then east on to KS8, then north to NE10 to Franklin, NE, then east on US136 to Hebron, then south on US81 to SLN, south on I-135 to ICT, south on I-35 to OUN.
This was not a very good year. If it weren't for the Spencer day, it would have been my worst year ever ... even 1987/1988 look like the superoutbreak by comparison. Mexican smoke, bad logistics, unfamiliarity with my camera equipment, and a lack of photogenic storms, with almost no lightning opportunities. We hardly ever saw a photogenic sunset/sunrise and had virtually no thunderstorms on a majority of days. Wow! It was 1996 when Al and I saw supercells on the majority of our days. Quite a drop-off in experiences. If this is El Niño in the era of global warming, this sucks! Some of this was bad decision-making on my part, of course.
I hate chasing in Kansas!! Kansas road construction was incredibly widespread, even by the Kansas standards we had seen in previous years ... it seemed like there was a flagman with a "Be Prepared to Stop" one lane road about every 20 miles. It was a real deterrent to Kansas chasing this year. I hope this is just a bad year and things will return to merely lousy in Kansas, instead of the monumentally miserable construction delays we encountered this year. Furthermore, there must be some sort of law in Kansas that has driven a lot of the "Mom and Pop" motels out of business, at least in towns along the Interstates. What you get virtually all over at the Kansas Interstate stops are the pricey chain motels (Best Westerns, Holiday Inns, Ramada Inns, Econo Lodges, etc.), and Motel 6's (which I don't care for ... too noisy and no amenities). And there always is a shortage of accomodations throughout most of Kansas along the Interstates. What's going on?
In our wanderings, I listened to the "NOAA" Weather Radio (NWR) frequently and in diverse locations ... I've accumulated some comments about NWR that I am sharing here.
I was very disappointed in the KS and SD Atlas and Gazeteer maps. In SD, SD71 is mostly unpaved, until just before you hit Nebraska ... shows as all the same on the map. The section roads in Phillips County, KS, do not resemble those shown in the Atlas and Gazeteer at all! When you pay reasonably high prices for one of these, you expect them to be useful ... I am not impressed with them.
However, there are several bright spots. I've learned a lot about using my medium-format camera and it appears to have a lot of potential for the future. Having my wife as my chase partner worked out really well. She caught the chase bug pretty bad after Spencer, and wants to see more tornadoes ... as I told her, there's never enough "tornado time"! She was helpful as a chase partner and an enjoyable companion otherwise.
We also found a fair number of good places to stay and to eat (see below) and if circumstances bring us into NE and SD again, we feel pretty good about the country. It's mostly plains, of course, with considerable wheat country and some attractive little draws and other erosional features ... plus interruptions to the plains (like Chimney Rock, the Badlands, etc.). All in all, very nice indeed.
As usual, there were several bright spots in my visits to WFOs; notably, Dodge City, Kansas ... Hastings, Nebraska ... Rapid City, South Dakota ... and Amarillo, Texas. At these spots, we were warmly received and got all the help we could use. Thank you. No matter how independent of WFOs I might get in the future, what with laptops and all, I will still enjoy visiting them during my chases. I missed some of my normal stops this year, thanks(?) to the weather. We owe special thanks to Larry Ruthi, as well as Doug and Sandy Crowley for hospitality well beyond the expected.
1. Bernardo's Steak House in HSI, just north of US6, west of US281. Good food, reasonable prices, beer and wine available.
2. Fuller's Family Restaurant in MCK, on US6/34 ("B" street), a block or so west of the intersection with US83. Incredible portions, reasonable prices, and open 24 hours.
3. Mexico Lindo in MCK, on Norris St. just north of US6/34 near the center of town. Good Mexican food for so far north. Great ad on the radio brought us there and Corky, the owner, is a great guy to talk with, if he's not too busy.
4. Batenhorst Smokehouse and Country Store in Umbarger, TX on the east side of town on US60, a short ways east of the road to Buffalo Lake NWR. Excellent barbecue food (don't expect California yuppie-style low-fat cuisine!) and very reasonable prices. The folks that run it are pretty much rednecks, but very friendly ... on a Sunday morning, we spent more than an hour in there drinking coffee and talking, and they wouldn't take any money for the coffee at all. Many "rednecks" are really pretty decent people, and make travelling the plains a nice experience. It won't be hard to find ... Umbarger is not exactly a metropolis, after all.
1. Grand Motel in HSI, on US6, east of US281. Reasonable prices, TWC, data phone, continental breakfast included. Ph: (402) 463-1369
2. Capri Motel in BFF, on NE71 on the north side of town. Reasonable prices, TWC, can use the phone hookup for laptops, will let you use their laundry, coffee in room, small refrigerator in room.
3. Sage Motel, in MCK, on US6/34 on the east side of town, east of the US83 interection. Reasonable prices, TWC, will let you use their personal phone for laptop hookups. Only 6 units, though. Ph: (308) 345-4310
4. Motel 7 in GLD, on Business 24 on the east side of town. Reasonable prices, TWC, no data phone capability and a bit run-down, but clean and not so pricey as the chains on the west side of town.
5. Buffalo Lake NWR, south of Umbarger, TX. Only a $2 entry fee and camping is free! Nice campsites and very underutilized, with flush toilets and a water spigot.