Chase Log - 1997

Chuck Doswell (chasing with Al Moller)

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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: Except for video frame captures, these images have been scanned from original slides, with some digital enhancement (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). 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.

Added some links to images of tornadoes we missed.

Narrative : Interesting, fun day to start off the chase. Our target storm developed north of AMA. High based storms were lined up west of Borger, with several rainshafts and an odd linear patch of green sky to our west. Perhaps we got some nice lightning in the late evening [nope ... see narrative for 28 May]. Storm began to push eastward after awhile ... several mini-bow echoes with "cigars" and "stingers" were feeding onto the north side of the bows. As they chased us E, each cell got a striated shelf structure for a time, then passed the energy to the next cell south. Nice sunset E of Canadian. Really interesing structures along the gust fronts, even after dark (near Higgins, TX). Raced ahead of it to Pampa, and finally on to Woodward.

Route : Met Al in SPS ... US287 WNW to Claude, N on TX297 to Borger, ESE on 152 to Pampa, east on US60 to US83, north to Canadian,TX to Arnett, OK, north on OK4 to OK15 to Woodward

Sunday, 25 May 1997 - supercell/tornado/lightning show

Narrative : Another interesting day: We thought things might get going nearby so we wandered slowly out of Woodward; even stopped for some scenic pictures in NW OK [no slides ... see narrative for 28 May] ... finally, we saw explosive developments to the north and raced into KS, hearing tornado warnings north and northwest. Saw some possible tornadoes as we got north of Great Bend, but couldn't confirm them. [Check here for what Gene Moore saw with these storms, before we got to them.] Encountered 3 mesos lined up E-W north of Hoisington, with the newest one east. As we roared east, it might have produced a wedge for several min, but we were too far away to be sure. Near Holyrood, it produced a brief condensation funnel to the ground and then continued to rotate strongly, with a cone funnel about halfway to the ground and some other strange things. Then it got hit hard with the RFD ... it then produced another tornado near Holyrood proper (we saw Neil Rasmussen [Erik's brother] nearby), which I did not see at the time I caught it on video (poor contrast and I was expecting tornadoes from a different part of the storm). We then had to go east and south to get ahead of the next storm ... we chose not to drive into the dark area (with lots of lightning) ahead of us on I-35, rather we went east first and then south through moderate anvil rain. We emerged near Geudas Springs and saw a lot of anvil CGs and a moose of a mesocyclonic storm [a storm that produced a large spectacular tornado, called by some the "Wellington wedge" (actually south of Wellington) ... see here for some images of what we were unable to see!]. Then it got off to the northeast and another one rolled in from Kay County, OK. We sat in Arkansas City, unwilling to try to negotiate the area in the dark and rain. It got east of us, finally and treated us to quite a spectacle, with IC lightning and rotating towers. [no slides ... see narrative for 28 May]

Route : Woodward E on US 412 to US81, N to GBD to Hoisington, E on KS4 to KS156 to Holyrood, S on an unnumbered road to K54, E to Lindsborg to I-35, S to MacPherson, W on 101st St., S on some forgotten road to I-235 around ICT to Wellington, E on US160 to Oxford, S on S. Oxford Rd. to Geudas Springs to US166, E to Arkansas City, W on US166 to I-35 to ICT.

Monday, 26 May 1997 - supercell/lightning show

Narrative : Disappointing day. Big CAPES and moderate shear with supercells galore ... but visibility was miserable. Lots of anvil precip and haze meant we couldn't see storm structure very well from ahead of them and that can be dangerous, as well as limiting video/still opportunities to virtually nil. Tornadoes all around us, but we didn't feel safe approaching any storm, due to the visibility problems. [Turns out, the best strategy would have been to hang back with the bases, rather than being ahead of the storms .. but we didn't know that at the time.] Sat out the precip at sunset in Muskogee, in moderate to heavy rain, 35 kt gusts, and pea-size hail. Nice lightning with towers after the storms moved east. Also a nice mammatus display but no light on it by that time. Basically, a bust for us - no images worth showing.

Route : S on I-35 to NRO, back N on I-35 to I-44, ENE to TUL, S and then N on US75, to U64, ESE and then S and then N to OK51, SE to Coweta, S on OK72 to OK16, E to Muskogee.

Tuesday, 27 May 1997

Narrative : No chasing. Major tornadoes north of Austin at Cedar Park and Jarrell, TX ... major event (we had no chance to chase). It was a long, but scenic drive from Muskogee to FTW.

Route : US69 to Sherman, TX121 to Fort Worth.

Wednesday, 28 May 1997

Narrative : Sort of a chase. Convection on the high plains drew us to a possible photo op at the Palo Duro Canyon. I found out that my film had not gone through the camera, so I missed a whole roll of images I thought I had ... I don't recall how far back it goes, so I don't know what I have missed! Ouch. [The pictures I thought I took but did not included several images of the sunset on the 24th and the tornadic storm of the 25th. Ouch-ouch!]

Route : US287 to TX207, S and then N to US287, to AMA.

Thursday, 29 May 1997 - supercell/lightning show

Narrative : All in all, not a bad day. Cirrus seemed to be suppressing heating in the northwestern TX panhandle so the best storms looked to be north of the crap we were seeing near Stratford, TX. As we approached Elkhart, KS, an LP supercell developed and we stayed with it for awhile, but it began to shrink. Some other storms developed north of the LP storm and they began to move southward, so we stayed with them. Near Guymon, a storm got a real fierce HP look and we stayed with it, down to around Spearman, TX. Unfortunately, storms fired up to the south of ours and it eventually ran into their outflow and crapped out. Great sunset with mammatus and alpenglow on the towers and under the anvil! We then moved south to get in position for the next day. Great lightning show as supercells continued on well after dark (got some video but no stills).

Route : N on US287 to OK171, N to Keyes, OK, NE on US56 to Elkhart, KS, S on OK95 ~5 mi, then N to Elkhart and N on KS27 ~10 mi, then S to Elkhart, S on OK95 to US64, E then S to Guymon, OK, S on OK136 to Gruver, TX, SE on TX15 to Spearman, TX, SSW on TX207, W on FM281 ~ 2mi, then E on FM281, then S on TX207 to US86 to LBB.

Friday, 30 May 1997 - bust

Narrative : Major bust. We followed the front S and E, but it never really fired anywhere near us ... turns out there were supercells in NM W of LBB in the upslope flow behind the front. Ouch! We saw video from tornadoes near DDC ... apparently along the E-W frontal boundary that had me worried in the morning before we started toward the moisture convergence in northeast NM. Double ouch! I am not a fan of moisture convergence, I guess, but it's not fair to play Monday morning quarterback. We were compensated for our chase failures somewhat by a nice sunset with wildflowers along I-10 about 10 miles east of Sonora.

Route : SE on US84 to Sweetwater, TX, S on TX70 to SJT, E on US87 to Eden, S on US83 to JCT, I-10 W to Sonora, TX.

Saturday, 31 May 1997 - supercell/lightning show

Narrative : An interesting day. A long drive ... nice flowers east of the NM mountains. Convection began and we went after it. A nice CB developed over Ruidoso, and then new stuff developed further north, including a supercell over the mountains to the east of us, near Three Rivers, NM ... with a nice sunset and lots of lightning, some late in the day and some after dark.

Route : W on I-10 to FST, NW on US285 to ROW, W on US70/380, then S on US70 to US54, N to 1 mi S of Three Rivers, then S to Alamogordo, NM.

Sunday, 01 June 1997 - lightning show

Narrative : A day with successes and failures. Another long drive, but very scenic ... CBs began to develop over northern NM as we drove along US54 (a great drive) ... again, nice flowers. Then we drove toward the developing storms (nice drive on NM3, also) ... lightning just north of the Springer, NM exit (daytime). A nice sunset near Grenville, NM and then frustration with a small CB that produced 4 CGs but caused me to waste nearly a whole roll of film in a vain attempt to catch one of the CGs. Tomorrow sounds promising for the high plains so we aimed toward AMA but stopped in Dumas, TX.

Route : N on US54 to Duran, NM, N on NM3 to I-25, N to Raton, NM, ESE on US64/87 to CAO, SE on US87 to Dumas, TX.

Monday, 02 June 1997 - supercell

Narrative : A long drive but a pretty decent supercell at the end. [Beautiful wildflowers all the way, esp. in the OK panhandle at two different sites here and here (we got the photos the next day)... interesting rock outcrops on W side of 287/385 N of Two Buttes.] Construction delay on US287/385 just inside Colorado cost us about 30 mins! Drove hurriedly NWwd, eventually hearing warnings for Weld County ... encountered the storm near Goodrich, CO ... saw Lance Bosart and Ed Bracken there and several other places ... it was moving slowly ESEwd, with a messy HP look ... mesocyclones rotating along the RFD gust front into the notch. We stayed with it and it eventually changed its look into a very nice classic structure, without so much precip on the back flank, N of Brush, CO.

Route : W on US87 to DHT, N on US287 to Kit Carson, CO, N on CO59 to Seibert, CO, W on I-70 to LIC, N on CO71 to I-76, W to US34, NW to CO144, N and then E and then SE to I-76, E to CO52, N to CO "T.5", E to CO "24 Rd", N to CO 71, S to US34, SE to AKO.

Tuesday, 03 June 1997

Narrative : No storms ... nice wildflowers in the Cimarron River Valley in the Oklahoma panhandle. Recommend restaurant "NORKA" in Akron, CO ... great food at a good price. Also recommend Sands motel in DHT ... nice room at a good price.

Route : US34 E to Wray, CO, S on US 385 to DHT (includes detour around construction between Springfield and Campo, CO by taking CO "Rd T" E to CO "27 Rd", S to Campo).

Wednesday, 04 June 1997 - supercell/lightning show

Narrative : Good day. We did laundry in Dalhart ... ran into Mike Foster ... and then wandered out into NErn NM. First, we tried Johnson Mesa ... storms developed but with very little lightning (nice wildflowers, tho) ... a rapid "scooper" type with little lightning, so we pushed south. Saw some storms developing on what appeared to be the south end of a short line ... it developed into a supercell and put on a terrific lightning show right in front of us ... lots of spectacular CGs with mountain foregrounds. Great experience for a day with low expectations!

Route : NW on US87 to CAO, NW on US64/87 to Capulin, N on NM325 to Folsom, W on 72 ~15-20 mi and back to Folsom, NM325 to Des Moines, SE on US64/87 to Grenville, S on NM453 to unnamed gravel road ~9 mi S of Grenville, W ~5 mi, then return to NM453, S to US56 to CAO.

Thursday, 05 June 1997 - supercell /lightning show

Narrative : Amazingly enough, another lightning evening. Did some artsy-craftsy stuff on Johnson Mesa, then headed towards building tstms to the SW ... saw more rotating storms ... lightning NE of Roy .. met Mike Foster again there ... then lightning at the Canadian River Canyon, then more lightning SE of Roy and a great sunset. Had some close calls with close lightning strikes near the Canadian River Canyon! Neat country and another great experience on a day with low expectations!

Route : NW on US64/87 to Capulin, N on NM325 to Folsom, W on 72 ~20-25 mi and back to Capulin, SE on US64/87 to Grenville, S on NM453 to US56, SW to NM120, S then W to Canadian River Canyon, then back to Roy, NM, SE on NM39 to Logan, NM, SW on US54 to TCC.

Friday, 06 June 1997 - bust

Narrative : Another basic bust day. Wandered about central NM without seeing much worthwhile, except maybe a nice rainbow. Most of the convection was disorganized and outflow-dominated. One cell got a good look for awhile, northeast of Vaughn, NM (between Vaughn and I-40), but then it fizzled and we just aimed for LBB. It seemed difficult to put the thermodynamics and the dynamics together today, with storms pushing outflows to the north.

Route : I-40 W to Santa Rosa, NM ... SE on US84 to Ft. Sumner, NM, then NM20 SW to US285, NW to Vaughn, NM, NE on US54 to Santa Rosa, I-40 E to TCC, to San Jon, NM, S on NM469 to Grady, NM, S on NM209 to CVS, SE on US84 to LBB.

Saturday, 07 June 1997 - supercell/tornado

Narrative : Great day! Drove to Guadalupe Pass (upslope SCu on east side of Guadalupe Mts. ... clear to S and W) ... found a developing supercell south of I-10. Watched it develop and evolve, shooting more daytime lightning. The storm also produced some pretty dramatic "rain foot" microburst signatures. We were about to give up on it as it moved east, and were heading south when it developed a good look again ... and then it produced an isolated tornado on the northern edge of the Sierra Diablo Mts!! It lasted about 8 mins with a nice debris cloud and then got hit with a gust and roped out. Ran into Gene Moore shortly thereafter. Got slides early and video of the last few mins of its life [I have video captures, first when it was still about the same size and then as it started to rope out]. Pretty storms over the Davis Mts. to the SE, but they bailed out at sunset. Another supercell, even bigger and nastier got going to the NE of Van Horn, but roads wouldn't let us get a good look ... it was awesome, looking like the 1957 Fargo storm but low hills wouldn't let us see under it from a distance and we chose not to gamble by trying to get close on unpaved roads. A tremendous "stack of plates" storm followed up the wake of the others after dark. Spectacular IC lightning but very few CGs.

Route : SW on US62/385 to Seminole, TX, W to HOB, to CNM, SW on US62/180 to GDP ... then W for ~28 mi, then back E to TX54, S to Van Horn, then W on I-10 ~20 mi, then back E on I-10 to I-20, NE to Monahans, TX.

Sunday, 08 June 1997 - bust

Narrative : Another bust day. Too much cold outflow and southward-propagating storms to permit tornadoes (plus poor visibility), but we shot some lightning north of Sanderson and then west of Sanderson ... then, a diverse sunset scene west of Sanderson, with a nice rainbow, mammatus and red rain. Several interesting storms during the day, apparently exhibiting some weak rotation again. Saw Roger Edwards and his Meatwagon north of Sanderson.

Route : I-20 E to MAF, I-20 W to Odessa, S on US385 to McCamey, SW on FM190 to Bakersfield, TX, E on I-10 to FM2886, S to FM2400, W to US285, N ~10 mi (Big Canyon Cr. valley)... then S to Meyer's Canyon Cr. valley and then on to Sanderson, W on US90 to Alpine, NW on TX118 to Ft. Davis.

Monday, 09 June 1997

Narrative : A down, but relaxing day. Lunch at the Davis Mts. State Park's Black Bear Lodge (good food and good service). Drove towards Big Bend State Park ... sadly, the road into the park is closed off on its north end so we could not reach the Solitario ... but we saw some pretty developing convective towers over some wild country. A beautiful Cb at sunset and then back to Ft. Davis. Turns out there were supercells near LBB that we missed by relaxing ... ouch!

Route : S on TX17 through Marfa to FM169 to the Big Bend State Park boundary and back.

Tuesday, 10 June 1997 - bust

Narrative : An artsy-craftsy day, sadly. Interesting morning ground fog at dawn in Ft. Davis, then great burgers at Pop's in town. On north toward a boundary .. storms fired to our north, but when we got there, the storm was a tiny one with an ever-diminishing base. Yuch! Then we turned north again towards some other storms ... roads were a problem. Never able to see under them, mainly from road problems, so we settled for some fairly decent sunset stuff at Conchas Lake.

Route : TX17 to Pecos, US285 to ROW, N to NM20, NE to Fort Sumner, US84 NW to Santa Rosa, I-40 E to Newkirk, N on NM129 to NM104 to Conchas Lake and on to TCC.

Wednesday, 11 June 1997 - supercell/tornado/lightning show

Narrative : Some success, but mostly frustration. Without looking at any data we drifted NEwd to LBL ... saw some early developments near Conlen, TX but they went nowhere ... Al called DDC and we found out the strong winds aloft were in the TX panhandle. Storms blew up south of us and we raced southward ... too late! ... tornadoes warnings on the radio but we got into Wheeler Co. to see a fabulous HP storm with tail cloud and beaver's tail. Found out the next day the storm produced a major tornado that crossed I-40 and hit some travelers ... it was pretty nasty (probably an F3) ... and wide ... heard it lasted for 20 minutes. Our storm produced two dust whirl tornadoes simultaneously north of Quail (video of it shows they were beneath cloudbase rotation, so they do not appear to have been true gustnadoes) but without ever showing visible funnels. Got some more lightning opportunities with a beautiful, wrapped up "stack of plates" storm late in the day. Many minor frustrations ... Al lost a polarizer but we went back and found it the next day! See Greg Stumpf's page for what we missed [<):-(].

Route : US54 NE to LBL, S on US83/270 thru Perryton, TX to FM1268, W to FM49, S to Mobeetie, TX, W on TX152 to FM2857, S to FM1321 to TX273 to McLean, TX, S on FM3143 to FM1547, S to Memphis, TX to TX256, E to US83/62, S to CDS, US287 NW to AMA.

Thursday, 12 June 1997 - supercell /lightning show

Narrative : A day of mixed outcomes. Had a bad morning ... locked our car keys in the trunk! Finally got it opened by a locksmith, and got going ... drifted SE towards CDS and waited. Skies were mostly clear and storms took a long time to get started. Got on a TCU early and it eventually developed into a wild supercell ... it appeared to have trouble standing against the shear but had a lowering along the flank right from the beginning. Ran into Sub-VORTEX and a host of others near Wheeler. Rotation galore, with many wild little funnels (including a "bowtie" funnel), a very promising spin-up at cloud base that never produced any tornado, but with some interesting lightning, and an anticyclonic spin-up started less than 100 yards from us and moved on to hit the Sub-VORTEX crews nearby (who quickly packed up and left)! ... winds were only about 70 mph or so, so it was not serious (and even amusing, depending on one's viewpoint). But no tube to the ground. Talked with two very interested and observationally knowledgeable ranchers (one with a law degree) from the vicinity. Some lightning opportunities late.

Route : US287 SE to CDS, N on US83/62, W on FM1036 to Dozier, TX, N on FM1547 to I-40, W to FM453, N to FM2473, NE to Wheeler, TX, S on US83 to FM592, E ~9 mi ... then W to US83, S to Shamrock, TX, W on I-40 to AMA.

Friday, 13 June 1997 - bust

Narrative : Bad chase day, but good photographically. Nice breakfast at Polly's Home Cookin' on I-40 in Amarillo, next to the Motel 6 on the east side of town. Chased into SE CO and virtually nothing happened, except some weak fuzzballs. Apparently, good storms were well off to the NW, near the Palmer Divide, but we couldn't see any evidence of them so broke off the chase mode. However, a nice photo situation developed near and after sunset S of LHX, with a pretty (albeit weak) Cb to the E and another to the SW that produced a pretty anvil as it dissipated around sunset.

Route : US287 N to Eads, CO, W on CO96 to Haswell, CO, S on unnumbered road to US50, W. to LHX, S on CO109 to Kim, CO, S ~5 mi on US160 ... then N and E on US160 to Springfield, CO, S on US287 to Dumas, TX.

Saturday, 14 June 1997 - supercells

Narrative : Another supercell day ... it looked very unpromising, thanks to a stupid ex-tropical system moving NEwd from ELP, so we went to Dumas to pick up the jacket Al left in the motel ... on the way, we could see a developing storm!! It evolved into a supercell ... initially a classic and then into an extended HP phase, with new mesocyclones developing as old ones occluded. Some tornadoes were reported but we have our doubts about some of them (of course, who knows?). Wild structures, again. Probably got some decent video of the first HP mesocyclone. Considering my initial expectations, it was far better than I expected, but yet another non-tornadic rotating storm event!

Route : US287 to AMA ... then back to Dumas, TX, S on FM772 to TX354E (becomes FM1913) to FM3395, SE to FM687 ... to Sanford, TX, to TX136 E to Borger, SE on TX15 to Pampa, SW on US60 to AMA.

Sunday, 15 June 1997 - supercells

Narrative : Last chase day. It wasn't obvious where the best coupling between dynamics and thermodynamics was going to be so we dawdled in AMA. We finally went towards Canadian to shoot wildflowers, which we did, then drifted N towards the developing convection. We were astonished to see a really pretty HP supercell just N of the KS-OK border. We stayed with the storm for awhile but it pushed outflow at us pretty hard, so we fought to stay ahead of the layered gust front clouds. Got some nice shots of the structure with wildflowers, etc. In Woodward's Subway, serious chaser convergence after 10 pm ... Matt Crowther and Betsy Abrams, Casey Crosbie, the Sub-VORTEX crew, Tom Grazulis, plus assorted hangers-on too numerous to mention. Then on to home.

Route : US60 NE to Canadian, TX, US83 NW to TX23, N to ~4 mi N of the KS-OK border, then S to US64, E to ~2 mi E of Rosston, OK, S on US183 to US270, E to Woodward, OK, SE on US 270/183 to Calument, I-40 E to I-35 to Norman.


All in all, a year with an inordinate number of supercells (12 of 21 days with one or more supercell encounters!) and some terrific photography opportunities ... especially lightning. We made a number of tactical blunders, many related to not wanting to penetrate cores (owing to uncertainties about what they might contain). In retrospect, we probably could have penetrated them successfully, but I am very conscious of the dangers of large hail and core punching in the face of uncertainty, so I have no serious regrets. Missing the main event on 11 June was our biggest mistake ... we dawdled too long in Liberal and getting through Perryton was agonizingly slow, given what we were looking at in the distance. The tornado in the Sierra Diablos was an unexpected treat and so we were guaranteed a "successful" chase from that point on. Although we missed tornadoes with monotonous regularity, the rest of the chase was wonderful ... a banner year for wildflowers all over TX, OK, NM, and even KS. Great sunset photography, too, as well as some of my best-ever daytime lightning events.

Recommended eateries:

1. Polly's Home Cookin' on I-40 in Amarillo, next to the Motel 6 on the east side of town ... closed on Sunday morning, though.

2. Phillips Manor Motel Restaurant in Dumas,TX

3. NORKA Restaurant, in Akron, CO

4. When the Sands Motel Restaurant (already highly recommended, especially on Sunday afternoon) is closed in Dalhart, there's a truck stop on the south side of town (a Conoco station) that stays open til 11:00 pm, offers pretty decent food, and has friendly service, as well as phone hook-ups (for laptop modems) right at the tables.

5. Black Bear Lodge Restaurant, in the Davis Mountains State Park, TX. If all you want to do is eat at the Lodge, get a pass when you first drive into the park. But the park is nice, too, especially if you are at all inclined to camping.

6. Pop's burgers at Ft. Davis. Be careful ... the burgers are B-I-G!

Good camera stores (they stock Fuji Velvia!):

1. Armadillo Camera, in Lubbock

2. Hertner's Camera in Amarillo

Acknowledgments : I am grateful, as always, for the help, friendship, and courtesy of the NWS staff in the offices we visit. Thanks again to Pattie, as well as Hal and Joanne Belknap, for their hospitality.