2019 Chase Season Epilogue: How was yours?

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
stormhighway.com
We probably could have started this thread 3 weeks ago, but that's the 2019 chase season for you: ever giving you hope, then failing to deliver.

This season was one of my worst ever, despite having one very good tornado day. 2019 ranks #2 all-time (27 years) for me in both chase mileage and chasing expenses, but ranks near the bottom in terms of quality/usable imagery and video captures. I logged a total of 18 chase days in the Plains over the course of 3 separate trips, the longest being a 12-day run in late May. Again, that's 2nd only to 2005 in which I logged 22 Plains days. I'd rather have a 2006 or 2009 death ridge season than one like this - the end result would be the same, and I'd still have those thousands of dollars in my pocket.

This season was exhausting and maddening both in the Plains and here at home. I was Charlie Brown, the weather was Lucy and the football. I made a substantial investment in a new camera to capture lightning footage, and this was my main goal all season long. And I went into the season motivated and ready to work hard for it! But storms failed to produce and were extremely uncooperative. Storms died as they approached or as I approached them. I spent hours at a time recording countless storms that failed to produce even one quality bolt. Great lightning repeated in an area of sky, then refused to strike again once I had the camera on it. Going into June, it just kept happening over and over and over. Yet I kept on, expecting that this bad streak couldn't last forever. But it just kept going.

So here I am, with maybe 5 or 6 quality lightning captures on my new camera - I had expected to have 40 or 50, enough for a really nice video highlight reel. That will have to wait probably until next year, unless this summer can break my trend.

The bright spot in the season was May 17 in Nebraska, a quality tornado day. I have to look at that and be very thankful I was there - I only got it because I left one day early for my third trip than I'd been planning.

My stats:

Tornadoes: 8
- Plains: 6
- Midwest: 2
Miles: no clue yet, easily 15,000
States chased: 9

Firsts:

- First March tornado (Vega, Texas on the 22nd)
- First time getting stuck on a dirt road (Kirkland, TX on May 20)
 
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Dec 8, 2003
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Southeast CO
www.youtube.com
So it's not just me? I just arrived home this afternoon, and with a bad attitude. I had 6 hours of drive time today to mull over what a crappy year it was. I did see 7 tornadoes, but not one of them was memorable or worth showing the vid to other people. Last year was worse, but similar to what Dan said, at least last year you didn't EXPECT anything. I just cannot get over the fact that we just had a big, honkin' trough cross the plains for nothing.
 

TimMaynard

Enthusiast
Jun 16, 2019
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New Zealand
This year was my fourth trip for a weeks chasecation.
I’ve chasecationed previously in 2015, 16 & 17.
This year we got to see five tornadoes, second best for me after 2016 when we got somewhere around 18 for the week I think...depending on how many we counted at Dodge.
Overall it was a good week...maybe would have liked a bit more visibility on a couple of the storms we saw but it is what it is.
We saw Mangum, OK. Got one in Kansas then popped over to Missouri at Carl’s Junction which went on to cause fatalities in Golden City...that was sad to see.
Caught Booker to finish off the week
 

Attachments

I had very low expectations for this season, since numerous competing commitments kept my chasing to the fewest days in many years, and I knew that would be the case. I only managed to get in three chase days, and even that was more than I thought I might get given all the other things going on this year. Sometimes, life just gets in the way of chasing. So, it was a big surprise that this turned out to be my best chase season since 2016, with photogenic tornadoes on two of the three days I chased and some non-tornadic eye candy on the other day. A combination of good forecasts and good luck offered me up photogenic tornadoes near McCook, NE on May 17 and southwest of Clayton, NM on May 26. I saw probably three tornadoes on the 17th, so a likely ratio of four tornadoes to three chase days, the first time that ratio has ever exceeded one for me.

Chase days: 3
Tornadoes: 4
Tornado days: 2
Largest hail: 2.5 inches, Culbertson, NE. (On the ground when I drove through afterwards).
Total chase distance: 2177 miles.
States chased: NM, KS, NE (and through TX and CO)

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Jun 16, 2015
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Oklahoma City, OK
quincyvagell.com
This is a good time for me to update, as after chasing a lot over the past five weeks or so, I'll mainly just chase sporadically the rest of the year. For that result, these results are not final.

Note that this is my 6th season in a row chasing with consistency.
  • Total chase days: 35 (tied for most YTD)
  • Tornadoes: 7 (2nd most YTD*)
  • State chased the most: Texas - 20 out of 35
  • Chase mileage: 22,286
  • Mileage per chase day: 637**
*Almost every tornado I've seen this year was either brief, low/no contrast or not even a classic supercell tornado.
**This seems like a lot, but it's pretty close to my average. Being based out of Oklahoma City, if I'm within 3-4 hours from home after a chase, I'll almost always come home, unless the chase target the next day is in the opposite direction.

Overall, it's been a very tough year. Like @Dan Robinson, I purchased a new camera and it was a major investment. I do think that I have stepped up my photography game, but I only had two chase days with photogenic tornado(es) all year. On the first day, April 30th, I was new to my camera and a mix-up with the settings prevented me from getting quality photos. At least I was running video at the time. For the second day, May 22nd, I had trees blocking my view most of the time and I was trying to navigate with bad, locally flooded roads in eastern Oklahoma. Once again, at least I was running video at the time, but even then, the trees obscure view for most of the chase.

While I think I did fairly well with the storms I've had, I botched or missed almost all of the big days. I was not able to chase on May 17th. I missed the tail-end Charlie tornado in New Mexico (as most did). I was just a few minutes late for Mangum. On May 28th, I would argue I picked the wrong target and although I was on the long-track EF-4 tornado in northeastern Kansas, I could not clearly see it. I made strong arguments against the north-central Kansas target, but after the fact it was very clear why it was the right target. Today I came to an acceptance that I can't keep favoring the HP/messy target, just because I feel like it has the best parameter space to produce a tornado. I would much rather chase upslope/photogenic storms/LP supercells/etc. for just a few minutes, than spend hours wandering around with low contrast views.

I would say that I have learned a lot this year. It's probably the most I've learned in a single season since either 2016 or 2014. I've learned to be more critical and objective about setups. Going forward, I am going to more heavily lean upon the more photogenic target, versus the tornado target. Early in my career, I always favored the tornado target. Over the past three years or so, I was about 50/50 split on days that had multiple targets, meaning roughly half the time, I'd pick the target that would favor a tornado, while the other half of the time I would go for the photogenic and/or sleeper target. The approach of being more focused on tornadoes is really not working and now I'm in a slump of 16 straight chases with no tornado. As bad as that sounds, I've done worse...

Chases per month:
February - 1
March - 2
April - 4 (2nd least in my career)
May - 15
June - 13 so far

I had a career best 13 straight days of chasing between May 20th and June 1st. I just finished another long streak of 8 straight days, ending on June 23rd). That means that the bulk of my chasing this year has come over the past five weeks without a lot of early season chasing.

Miscellaneous notes:
  • Only one chase in the Northern Plains and that was only a few towns over the South Dakota border last week.
  • Only chased in Colorado three times.
  • Only chased Nebraska twice and one of those times was a "cold core" day in March that I almost erased from my chase stats.
  • Only chased outside of the Plains twice. Once was a quality chase day in Illinois and the other started in Kansas, but ended in Missouri. In most years, I'll venture into the Midwest a few times and occasionally even the Mid-South. The latter of which I'm not unhappy about avoiding, these days.
  • I have chased Texas very frequently this year with several chases in the panhandle and/or NW Texas vicinity. I chased in Southwest Texas a few times, but easily could have chased there even more if I had been more daring.
  • I decided that the Texas panhandle is my favorite place to chase, as it has bumped western Kansas down the list.
My chase style favors slower-moving, photogenic storms and I prefer the High Plains over the "traditional" tornado alley. This year has been limited in those areas. The one exception is probably the number of quality chases I had in the Southern High Plains.

I'm not sure what I would give this year for a grade, but it's either near or below average for me. Yes, I've chased a lot and I've taken better photographs, but I've struggled to find tornadoes and I've continued to make mistakes that I should know better about.
 
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Mar 8, 2016
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Bloomington, IL
While I don't consider my chase season over just yet, it does look like my runs to the plains are about over for the year and I'll likely be sticking with the standard midwest summer setups locally.

Early season chasing in Illinois this year was pretty sparse, yielding only 3 local chases for me and one very short lived tornado. I opted for a 2 week chasecation this year, which ended up being both a blessing and a curse. Opening day was 5/17 with the McCook, NE tornado which was one of the best of my career, but I missed the rest of the tornadoes associated with this cyclic supercell due to stopping to assist at an impacted farm. Getting such a jump start on the chasecation and then managing to get the Mangum, OK tornado against the odds gave me false hope though for what would end up being the single most frustrating chasecation I've ever taken. 3 Tornado days total out of the 14 days I was on the road, and two additional tornado days that were botched either because of smoke or car trouble. The rest was just a complete mess trying to avoid floods until the final day with the Waldo/Tipton, Kansas tornadoes on 5/28.

2019 Stats as of 6/24/19:
Miles driven: 7,000 Miles
States chased: Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska
Tornado days: 4
Total Tornadoes: 8

My number one rule to not call it quits early was reinforced this year, especially seeing as I had seriously contemplated just driving back to Illinois on 5/28.
 
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May 28, 2011
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Omaha, NE
Despite the ridiculously active pattern in May, this year still resulted in the lowest total of chase days in my career. Virtually everything was in the TX panhandle or thereabouts which, living in Omaha, is outside my radius unless I'm on an extended trip. Also looking back on it, the "dream pattern" largely ended up a huge bust. Day after day after day of southwest flow in the same area brought flooding rains, little to no cap, and grungy garbage on most occasions. The most disappointing thing so far is that there has not been a single chase-worthy setup north of I-80 this year. Not one. Every year seems to go by without a decent one and it gets more and more frustrating each year.

I "ended" the year with only six chase days, with two of those days being significant tornado days. I caught the McCook tornado on May 17 and the Tipton, KS tornado on May 28. I only took the camera out on three of the six total days and missed any structure this year. I got stuck behind the epic structure near Imperial on May 27 because an SUV on the highway was insistent on driving 35 mph and refused to drive through the rain for over half an hour. Probably my most frustrating moment all year.

Overall, a very disappointing year given the potential.
 
Aug 9, 2012
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Galesburg, IL
www.facebook.com
While not my *worst* season to date, it was certainly my most frustrating to date. The two days I really wanted to chase and couldn't ended up producing big time in the plains. The one that stung the most was May 17th. I had a wedding to attend early the next day and knew I'd never make it back in time and I don't like skipping out on prior engagements. My target for the day was McCook, NE (ouch). May 28th, I probably would have ended up in Northeast KS/Northwest MO, but alas, couldn't chase, can't do much about it. My best day of the year, came as a surprise on the drive home from the May 20th event in Oklahoma. I intercepted a large multi-vortex tornado as I was coming out of the rain near the town of Marshfield, MO. The storm cycled up and produced a couple more smaller satellite tornadoes as it crossed the interstate, which was secondary to a large wall cloud to the north. The next day I also managed to score a small tornado well after-dark near Rushville, IL making it my first time seeing 3 consecutive tornado days back-to back to back....although none of which were top notch or even close to it. May 24th, I managed to see a tornado near the town of Table Grove/Industry, IL shortly after noon. My last tornado of the season was a spin-up near the town of Dahinda, IL on May 27th. The only day I really regret as far as choices go is May 20th. While I still managed a couple tornadoes and should be thankful I saw anything, I sat in the town of Mangum, OK for almost an hour prior to initiation and got antsy and went after the storm SW and ended up missing the main show by 10 minutes tops. I have images that show *potentially* the Mangum tornado from several miles away, but they are crap and not even worth posting. Overall a very disappointing season for me, hoping July in Illinois can somehow make it up as I've had good luck in July. Oh and I shouldn't forget I did see a small tornado in Southern IL back on April 30th,, so I'll add that to my highlights: Here are a few images I shot this season:

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April 30, 2019 near Donnelson, IL

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May 20, 2019 near Hollis, OK

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May 21, 2019 near Marshfield, MO

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May 21, 2019 near Northview, MO

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May 24, 2019 near Industry, IL

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June 15, 2019 near Little York, IL

I made 2 trips to the plains this season and both yielded less than stellar images/video for myself. In fact, I actually shot more video of snow and flooding this year than I did severe storms. I give the season about a 4/10 for myself. While I'm thankful to see what I did, it could have went a whole lot better. Thankfully I live in Illinois, so who knows what the rest of the season brings. Last year I had one of my best chases on the first day of December. I will say, this year leaves me wanting redemption and I think that's a good thing, the hunger is always there for more
 
Six tornadoes this year -- one unconfirmed in New Mexico. Did not photograph a single one because I was either driving to get a better perspective or the contrast / haze was unacceptable. Really a sub-par photography season. Avoided all convergence. Lots of lingering cold / modified air in addition to haze from Mexico really hurled a monkey wrench into the best set-ups. Season really came down to one, late set of highly-dynamic systems where the atmosphere never recovered. The usual late May / early June Colorado season never developed. New Mexico had some really nice set-ups late, but the lack of low-level inflow killed the show. Banking on an active monsoon and hurricane set-up with the current weak flow, upper-level pattern.
 

Todd Lemery

Supporter
Jun 2, 2014
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Menominee, MI
So, the Southern plains left chasers feeling a little short changed. That’s why God made the Northern plains, to give people who want a little bit more the chance to get it. Good roads and not much for chaser convergence are calling everyone in the Southern plains North for a chasecation. If you are from the South and never headed up North for chasing, give it a try.
The Southern plains were a slice of heaven this year compared to the complete crap fest I had down there last year. The most intense thing I got last year on the Southern plains was sunburn!
 
I don't keep stats but overall I wouldn't consider this year successful even though I captured some decent tornadoes along the way. I was out for most setups, but 98% of them were grunge fests and I spent more time chasing rain wrapped circulation this season than all other seasons combined.

Winning days for me:

Vega, TX tornado on March 22nd.
Memphis, TX photogenic storm on April 3rd
Aspermont, TX tornado (2% day) on April 27th
McCook, NE tornadoes on May 17th
Putnam, OK nighttime tornado (2% day) on June 15th.

Days I wish I could have back:

Imperial, NE (took the day off to rest after being on the road non-stop)
Tipton, KS (same as above)
Mangum, OK (Missed it by a few minutes, caught in traffic)
Canadian, TX wedge (Was in the right spot, went to get snack and gas, wedge happened in the 20 minutes I was gone)
Tahoka, TX tornado (Was 30 minutes north, didn't want to drive through Lubbock to reach southern cell)

Misplayed:

Sulphur, OK (Started in Shawnee, met the storm in Ada and it died)
Henryetta, OK tornadoes (Chose to go after SW OK cell that died, then drove back and forth between Lindsay and Chickasha five times just to bust)
Chose Eads, CO storm over New Mexico photogenic tornado. (Actually didn't consider NM that day so that was just bad judgement in hindsight)

Summary: A high quantity of messy storms and lots of chases, which is the opposite of about the last 8 years for me which was much fewer storms/chases but higher quality photogenic tornadoes and structure.
 

Dave C

EF2
Jun 5, 2013
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Denver
www.davidcrowlphotography.com
It was pretty bad, the worst ending feeling of any of them so far. Only two photogenic days in CO and one great lightning night in NM. May 17 in NE was ruined by wasting time on the wrong storm and then one of the people I was chasing with getting sick, calling the chase early when we easily could have seen the last two tornadoes just minutes away. The Imperial NE amazing structured cell was just missed stopping for fuel.

I tried the Panhandle when the trough setup for most of a week, and every single day seemed to be the same mess of crapvection or messy hodos. As with the last few years, seems there is almost never perfect timing of ingredients, and there is never enough cap either, leading to low contrast, tightly packed crap cells with ugly rain wrapped junk I could care less about.

Another issue this year, it is plainly obvious there are WAY more people doing this than last year or two. Just as with national parks, 14ers, etc. instagram and facebook have destroyed something else. The unecessary drama and behavior out there is ridiculous- including from many veterans who are often revealed to be arrogant and unpleasant people. The amount of people out with zero knowledge or respect is very high. After this season I feel burned out just as I did with landscape photography when every lazy person imaginable bought a camera and started showing up to state and national parks in such numbers that there is really no experience left. All the constant posting of locations ensured those places died by crowd, and now all the social media personalities, the SPC colors, and even forums do the same to point every simple mind to every target area. From there they just follow the dots like a rolling circus.

Next season I will be shooting only timelapse from afar and will possibly never chase in TX and OK again since I have not once seen a photogenic tornado in either (out of 8 seasons), and only a bit of good structure. I plan to avoid anything enhanced or higher as well- it just brings out all the crowds and wrong. If the northern plains ever returns to having weather, I may like to shift up there.

I'm a data driven person, but anecdotally I have seen colorful sunsets here in CO dwindle massively in frequency, there is grey clouds almost every day against the mountains, tons of people have echoed memories to me of the now absent ebb and flow of afternoon storms in this area, winters are colder for longer. My (completely unsubstantiated by data other than experience) opinion is that the jet stream stagnates too often the last couple years for good dynamic weather and climate change of one variety or another is down trending what we consider quality severe weather over the plains.

Here were the "highlights" of a season I can mostly say good riddance to. Bring on monsoon lightning I guess.
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Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
Staff member
Oct 7, 2008
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Westminster, CO
www.meteor.iastate.edu
Headline w/tagline:
2019: 2018 except for some cockteasing from 17 - 28 May, and without the photogenic WY/CO/MT stuff

I have seen one birdfart from 10 miles away near DIA this year and that's it. Hardly have seen any structure. Was in proximity to numerous tight couplets on 7 May but couldn't see a damn thing due to rain.

Best structure shot was from the backside of a newly formed storm over the CO-NE border that crapped out within 30 minutes on 17 May.

Best overall shot was stopping off of I-76 in CO after an elevated supercell had dropped golf-ball and larger hail on the road.

2019 - another shit year, IMO
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
Another terrible year for me. I am in a multi-year slump. Hard to read the posts above where chasers are unhappy yet have multiple tornados to my ZERO. My last tornados were 2016 Dodge City. Granted, a couple lean years in there, but still...

After several years with at least a little flexibility in when to schedule my chase vacation, this one was pretty much set in stone. I couldn’t start until after May 22, so planned to start my two weeks on Memorial Day Weekend. Initially it felt good to have the trip set for better or for worse and not have to agonize over the models and decide when to leave. But then when the hyped-up pattern and full 8-day SPC risk areas popped up, I was completely demoralized to have to miss most of it. McCook and Mangum were before I got out there. To try to catch as much of the favorable pattern as I could, I left home Wednesday night May 22, instead of waiting for the weekend. Having left work a couple days earlier than planned, it was left undiscussed whether I would need to be back exactly two weeks later, or could instead treat those first two days as “extra” and still be away the two full calendar weeks after Memorial Day Weekend. I figured I would play it by ear and try to stay longer if warranted; if it worked out, it would potentially be my longest or second longest trip in my 20+ years of chase vacations.

We chased six straight days from May 23 through May 28. Screwed up on each of the good days. Some bother me more than others. May 23, targeted dryline near Plainview and missed TX panhandle tornado - I can live with that one, but still frustrating that a cold front turned out to be the better target... May 26, ready to blow off the whole thing, missed early tornado in Lamar while jerking around, but don’t think we missed much there and at least got on the main storm of the day (Eads). May 27, took too long to switch from the northern storm to the storm that would become the Imperial storm, picked it up at Holyoke but had to follow from behind, inching behind the hail and stopping each time it got too big, then just when we were south of the storm the RFD kicked in and pulled hail back across the road; finally got into the SE quadrant at Imperial but a lot of effort for nothing, couldn’t safely go north from there to stay with the meso, no escape route. But at least the chase was somewhat exciting. May 28 hurt the most - blew off metro area chasing near KC, targeted Salina, thought initial development near Hays/Russell was too far west and didn’t take it seriously, went after it when it was too late to get Waldo/Tipton.

Then four days of nothing, spent time in Wichita by myself while my chase partner went home to take care of business so that he could come back and extend the chase vacation with me. On Sunday June 2 we made the trip all the way to southeast NM to see some photogenic but generally unimpressive storms near sunset. The next morning we decided it wasn’t worth sticking around, as I had work issues beckoning that would make it impossible to stay as long as I thought I might be able to. Didn’t think NM looked that great for June 3 / 4 but we probably missed a photogenic supercell or two; maybe could have gotten the Hope or Alamogordo NM tornados on Tuesday June 4. Oh well.

Only saving grace is that everyone agrees the hyped up pattern of a lifetime was a disappointment overall. But while others made lemonade out of lemons, I got a mouthful of lemon peels.

Remember even one good day can make a season, so if you got even one of the better events this year be happy.
 
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Jun 16, 2015
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quincyvagell.com
This year had a lot of opportunities, but so much junk. Tornado counts up compared to previous years. Tons of ENH/MDT events that underperformed.

There was no room for error. Most seasons are forgiving with some events. Aside from May 17 and 28, the obvious target generally busted or was so low contrast that you couldn’t see much of anything anyway.

I can’t recall a season with so many events that were just garbage, unless you got very lucky. I forgot that I missed the Canadian (TX) wedge too because I didn’t want to wander around an HP mess with chaser convergence galore.

I mentioned seven tornadoes, but keep in mind that I chased 35 events. No good tornado photos to show for that, despite chasing non-stop through all of the peak stretches. I’m not the best forecaster or chaser, but when you chase that often, it’s hard to not be disappointed. Two tornadoes were briefly photogenic, two were mostly blocked by trees, two were barely visible unless you squinted at post-processed photos and one was a mesoscale accident from a multicell.

My biggest disappointment is having no quality chases in the central/northern High Plains. That’s usually where I shine. I probably won’t get out for any later this summer unless the planets align. I’ll hope for a few one-off events in the panhandle or Kansas.
 
Nov 18, 2006
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Chicago, IL
For me I will call this a par, average season. It wasn't all bad, but it wasn't all great. The "dream pattern" definitely salvaged it for me. 2019 started off just as slow and aggravating as the past few years for me. I bought my new chase vehicle at the end of March, just to have a 17yr old not paying attention blow through a stop sign and T-bone me ONLY 8 DAYS AFTER BUYING IT causing over $9000 damage and taking over a month to fix. So having my new chase ride stripped away from me right away was a kick in the pants. I opted not to take a rental because I wanted the day to day cash payout instead. Turns out April was a wash anyways so I guess I made the right call.

I had to miss the first really active Apr 30 - May 7th stretch due to important business obligations in IL. Sometimes that's just life. I can deal with not seeing everything, but its harder when you're sitting on a goose egg watching your feed blow up daily with awesome catches. I finally returned to the plains to guide tours just in time for the pattern to completely shut down for a week. Is this really happening? Going into Mid May feeling goose egged (ok, I saw a 4 second scuddy tornado in Lousianna but still) is not a good feeling.

Finally the "dream pattern" arrived and things turned around. Nabbed 14 tornadoes during that stretch. Went against the CAMs and chose SW KS dryline target for the 17th and caught that crazy tornado-fest to kick it off. After that we caught the monster that dropped tornadoes from Picher, OK to Golden City, MO on the 22nd. It was eery tracking it through Joplin with sirens blaring on their anniversary. We whiffed on that stupid Canadian TX tornado the next day by playing the storm to the south. Oops. Can't win em all. Things got annoyingly grungy the following days but we concluded with a major victory on May 28th with Waldo/Tipton. That would've been a top 3 storm if it wasn't moving so fast and promptly died after tornado-ing for *only* 45 minutes or so. It was doing crazy things I haven't seen since Bowdle 2010. That event was the year maker for me.

June has been a dud tornado-wise, but I've made up for by stepping up my photo game and nabbed a career best lightning shot. I plan to expand more into this realm in the future. I really do enjoy it and its a great compliment to storm chasing. So many amazing things to see out there.

I am guiding 1 more 10 day tour in July, and hopefully the north plains/midwest deliver. Then my season is done minus the random pop up event. I share everyone's disdain for the fact we're still chasing in OK/TX at the end of June. Its good for the budget, but the S plains are so grossly overrated. It's no surprise my best catches of the year are once again north of I-70. I would also like a season where good things are more spread out. I miss when March April and June, in addition to 1 active stretch in May, would deliver quality tors.
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Nov 13, 2017
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The "poor me" sentiment is strong in this thread.

My plains season was fine. For the amount I put into it, it's definitely less than what I wanted or expected - certainly not a legendary year - but I'm not going to complain about the most active pattern of the last decade. It was an unforgiving pattern and you had to not only forecast properly but also chase properly to get anything. There were no secondaries aside from the first couple of big days in early to mid May, which sucked, but I had never seen a pattern with even a fraction as much potential as this one had. 12 straight chase days is something I'll probably not see again for a long time. We should all remember that when we're moaning all winter long about how the cold sucks and nothing is happening.

I'm likely done traveling beyond my typical 6 hour radius, so unless something is so slam dunk that I'm willing to screw up the rest of my life to chase it (like Canada in a few days... lol), I'll be local the remainder of the year. Doesn't mean I'm done. 2018 gave me over a dozen tornadoes after this time of year.

Some stats:

Miles: ~12,000
Chase days: 17
States chased: 10
Tornadoes: 10
Best chase: 5/28, Waldo/Tipton KS
Worst chase: 5/23, Booker/Canadian TX
Best structure: 5/16, Wright WY

A not-so-brief summary:

I chased a few local days in April, marginal but fun to see convection again. Got a tornado on 4/30 in Illinois. I left for the plains on May 15, driving 12 hours to Rapid City and chasing Wyoming the next day with some epic, albeit short-lived, structure in the mountains. I chased McCook and saw it but screwed myself by punching one cycle too early on the Kansas side, despite knowing well that the best potential was across the Nebraska line. I was playing catch up the rest of the day. I saw the most well photographed shelf cloud in history the day following, and chased whatever happened on the 19th (don't even remember) leading up to the most slam dunk event I've ever seen. Which... well, you know. Missed a tornado in Texas because of the haze even though I was in the notch, got ahead in the canyon and saw two brief tornadoes. Stayed ahead, saw Mangum at a distance, got caught in the convergence. That story. Chased cold core on the 21st, missed warm front tornadoes. That's not how cold core is supposed to work, but that's okay, weird things happen sometimes and you can't kick yourself too hard. Spent a few days in the panhandle region, culminating in the 23rd, where I forecasted, targeted, and chased everything right but managed to avoid at least two wedges like my life depended on it. That one hurt. Avoided the 15% hatched risk in the floodwaters and subsidence-busted near Chickasha the following day, but adjusted north toward Guthrie onto a storm that produced at least once west of Tulsa at and after sundown. That put my tornado count at 6 but none of them were that exciting.

On the 25th, I got my first taste of SE Colorado on a storm that tried so hard to produce as it neared the Kansas line but just couldn't do it before an ugly left split from the south cut it off. For some reason there were a couple of cold air funnels as I bailed on the storm around Johnson City - maybe tornadoes? Don't know. Stayed in the area for the 26th and spent well over an hour in the cage of the slow moving storm everyone was on in Colorado. The convergence wasn't as bad as it was made out to be and that turned out to be a lot of fun despite the storm drawing in stabilized surface air and failing to produce its obvious potential. Not kicking myself over missing either storm in New Mexico. All those guys deserve congratulations for getting it. Gambled on lost on the 27th. I cap busted in Texas while you all were getting the structure of a lifetime.

So why not gamble again the next day? The 28th was going to be my last day as the pattern looked to be drying up and my girlfriend and wallet were both running thin on patience with me. I wasn't feeling the urban HP chasing vibe despite initially targeting Lawrence, so I decisively headed west toward Russell. As the storm went up off the triple point it was only visible on satellite, but I shortly got a glimpse of a trio of pileus caps and a landspout at very long range. When I got to the storm, the entire updraft column was spinning. I got within a mile before the Waldo showed itself early in its multivortex wedge state. I stayed between a third- and half-mile of it for as long as the nonexistent roads would let me before I ran out of trustworthy options and slid to the south where I continued shooting stills of the stovepipe and the epic ropeout, which featured twins and potentially triplets, but I only noticed two in person. I got stuck in the mud just short of my next paved highway, but I was cut off by the storm anyway. I watched another poorly contrasted tornado to my northeast that turned out to be Tipton on foot from the top of a hill while kind of freaking out because there were more tornado-warned storms to my west en route to the same boundary that lingered over my head, and I was helplessly stuck. All turned out well. Drove home ready to sleep in my own bed again.

Some takeaways:

• The convergence is here to stay, and will probably get worse yet. Get used to it or stay home.
• Enjoy the marginal stuff. Those epic shelf clouds, cool structure days, and lightning storms aren't as exciting as a photogenic tornado family, but we shouldn't take them for granted because they might not happen again any time soon. The lightning in particular was abysmal this year. It's been a long time since I've had a good, late evening anvil crawler show.
• The SPC is very good at what they do. They're gonna catch your "sleeper" target more often than not and send a hundred SPC chasers screaming in your direction. We shouldn't complain about it. It's a good thing.

DSC_1487.JPG5-18-19-OK-Shelf-1.jpg5-26-19-CO-Horseshoe.jpg5-16-19-WY-Supercell-3.jpg5-17-19-McCook-Tornado-2.jpg5-29-19-Waldo-7.jpg5-29-19-Waldo-3.jpg
 
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James K

EF1
Mar 26, 2019
88
32
6
Colorado
Dave C said:
I'm a data driven person, but anecdotally I have seen colorful sunsets here in CO dwindle massively in frequency, there is grey clouds almost every day against the mountains, tons of people have echoed memories to me of the now absent ebb and flow of afternoon storms in this area, winters are colder for longer.
I can't say on the sunsets, but winters lasting later into spring sure seems to be a thing I've noticed...
 
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Reactions: Andy Wehrle
Mar 2, 2004
2,261
257
11
Wichita, KS
www.facebook.com
Was thinking about this on my drive home yesterday while keeping pace with a lone supercell along I-70 in Kansas. How does this year pan out for me? It's definitely not my worst, but it's no where near the best. What it lacks is that one day that makes a season, something I kinda live by in terms of what I think makes a good season. I have no one single tornado day I can point back to and be like, "yes, that was the day". But I kept my "seeing a tornado every year since 2003 streak alive", which is kinda cool. I do have two memorable tornadoes on the year.

May 6, 2019 north of Lewis, Kansas... I snagged a photo (not a video still) of a lightning illuminated tornado with an impressive debris cloud on a 1/2-second handheld exposure after I was taking lightning pictures and a cone suddenly showed up. That was a first for me, and the photo was pretty badass.




May 26, 2019 near Sheridan Lake, Colorado... I had high hopes for this day, and as a whole it didn't pan out. I pretty much straddled the CO/KS border all day, trying to get on storms in Colorado and follow them into Kansas. None really produced. Eventually I got in with the conga line near Cheyenne Wells as the parade of chasers was coming north on US-385. Given the storm we were all on was moving into colder air, I opted to head south as I was going to position on the storms in southwest Kansas. Enroute, within 30 minutes of every chasers in the free world having gone through that area, I dumb-lucked into an impressive tornado crossing US-385. I ran with this as I am the likely the ONLY chaser, if not the only PERSON, in the world to have seen this. A feat in this day in age which I imagine is nearly impossible.



Those were two of only five tornadoes I can lay claim to, all of them in the month of May. Both the two above were not the most impressive of tornadoes, but each having a very unique story and bragging rights made them pretty special in an otherwise lower-end year for me.

Outside of tornadoes, I snagged one of my best storm/lightning photos ever. That came on the same night a couple hours before the Lewis tornado I photographed above. This was a stationary storm that I think I watched in nearly the same area for almost five hours (it ultimately produced the nighttime tornado). It was one of my first photos to go viral.



June started slow, mostly due to the amount of work I was covering, thus my time to get out was limited. But mid-June, I freed up and showed off why I am nicknamed "Hailboy". In the last 8 days, I have been in the midst of three very impressive hailers, two here in Kansas and one here in Colorado.

Speaking of Colorado, I made it a point in my second year here in Kansas to take some time off to enjoy non-work chasing, and I was able to get a few days in back in my Meteorological home with my good friend, Ed. The June 20 chase was pretty low-key, but offered up another one of my favorite photos of the year, this actually being pulled from video timelapse I was shooting of my Nikon near Last Chance.



The following day included one of the more incredible "almost tornado" intercepts of my career when we were basically on the back edge of a very intense area of rotation coming out of Elbert, Colorado. Had it produced, we would've had a front row-center seat to an incredibly high contrast tornado. It did not produce, but that 30 minutes included some amazing experiences, including watching RFD destroy trees up the road in front of us. Later that day on that storm, we got into the core near Matheson and got pummeled by hail up to 2-inches with baseballs not too far north of us. My trip home from Colorado yesterday included a perfectly routed supercell along I-70 from eastern Colorado all the way to I-135 that I was able to keep up with, stopping numerous times to photograph, before eventually getting cored in Ellsworth under the cover of a carport with more 2-inch hail coming down. The spikey hail in Lindsborg where I ended my chase was also pretty damn cool.



The season to this point (as of yesterday) has included a total of 22 chase events mixed between work outings, serious chases, and general storm tracking. I've seen 5 tornadoes and documented hail as big as 2.25" measured. Most of my time has been here in Kansas as work would obviously dictate, and I sat out several higher end chases for a variety of reasons. The biggest screw up day was by far May 28th as I let work dictate too much my target for the day, a lesson learned.

As for miles, I am sitting on 7,808 to this point, one of my lowest season miles to this point in quite some time. Living here in Kansas, and working for a Kansas-based station keep me close, and that's definitely good for avoiding burn out. I definitely find that I like being home more and not being on the road for weeks on end. It does make for later nights than one would think as I am constantly driving home as opposed to staying out, but it's nice to sleep in my own bed. For my career, I am currently at 377,611 miles.

I will remember a lot of things about this season, most of which cannot be documented in video or photos. I have two very unique tornadoes to brag about this year, and I got more than my share of hail, shot a ton of video that has been all over TV, and have gotten better with my photos, and have a few amazing shots I am particularly proud of. What this season lacked for me, again was the "one tornado that makes a season" (a Bowdle, Bennington, Aurora, Canton, etc). Also lacked that one good evening of lightning photography as most of the storms I chased didn't offer and the really good ones seemed to be on days I wasn't out.

Fortunately, my season is likely not over, living in Kansas has its perks. But the brunt of it certainly is, and the question remains whether I will go my first season under 10K miles since the early 2000s. I am mostly content with this season, and getting a chance to free-style chase in Colorado last weekend on my own without the obligations that come with a paycheck, did wonders for my storm chasing soul. I will definitely be building in such time off in the future as the mid/late June chasing is a nice way to end a stressful season.

Grateful as always that I get to do this with the regularity that I can, and certainly more so that I get to be at home in my own bed most nights during the thick of the season. I do hope that we get a return to a more traditional season here next year. This year did seem very grungy, not as photogenic, and kinda oddly paced. There was a ton of flooding and rain, and it really added an extra layer of difficulty to getting good imagery. That I do wish would've improved, was the quality of storms as a whole. But I think I managed to make pretty good from what I was offered, so I will take it and run.
 
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Matt Salo

EF1
Feb 22, 2015
51
36
11
Minneapolis, MN
Well, after 2018's big fat zero! I can't complain at all.

2019 so far:

8 tornadoes.
6 chase days, out of 13 total days on the road.
6451 total miles.
States chased in: 4
States visited/driven through: 7
Hilton Honors points earned: 18,236
Whataburger visits: ZERO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (barf!)
Big Texan visits: 1
F-bomb's dropped: infinite
Incoming phone calls (non-chase related) while on a tornado: TOO DAMN MANY!! Leave me alone!


Some highlights:





Below is a frame grab from my dashcam of the initial touchdown of the Golden City MO EF3 (5/22/19) from just WSW of it.
18875
 
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Jan 7, 2006
505
432
21
31
Norman, OK
www.skyinmotion.com
Pretty awful. Misery loves company, so this thread has been a delight so far!

Back when I started chasing in the mid-late 2000s, the first few years were very active by our recent (dwindling) standards, and I misplayed most of the big days. My feeling as those seasons ended unredeemed would often be something close to despair, depending on just how poor my success ratio had been on the quality events. But then things got better, and I never had any reason to end the season miserable during the stretch from 2010-2016; my success ratio on the events I really cared about each year was always at least respectable, if often unimpressive.

Then 2017-2018 were largely crap, and while that's always frustrating, you just keep your head up and assume climo will bring you better odds soon. But this year was a full-force regression into the despair I'd naively hoped to have left behind for good: lots of opportunities, several truly high-quality events for the taking on the Plains, but very little to show for it. Coming on the heels of two dead years, and considering persistent hemispheric pattern problems that have plagued us in the mean for ~8 years now, makes this in some ways more painful than even my first few years. As the 10-month clock starts ticking on even getting another shot, that little voice whispering "this was THE year, now prepare for two more consecutive 2018s!" is hard to shut out.

Tornado days:
May 17 - Minneola (missed the first one; didn't get as close to the 2nd at dusk as I should've; decent view of the first after-dark cycle, but eh)
May 20 - Mangum (saw from 2-3 mi. range, but stuck in massive convergence and couldn't get out of vehicle to shoot stills)
June 8 - Winona (anticyclonic truncated cone; half a notch above "bird fart" tier)

In terms of quality tornado days, none really. May 17 and 20 are both borderline, where quality tornadoes were observed under significantly compromised circumstances.

Work obligations in May meant I usually couldn't head out until late on weekdays. Climo says it's wise to expect this to result in *some* grief; yet, it also says leaving at ~4pm from OUN should still net you a decent share of the good events that time of year (e.g., most top-tier Plains tornadic storms in May tend to occur between about 6:00-8:30pm, and lots of those should technically be within range). Not this year. On practically every tornado setup within a 200-mi. radius of here, the supercells of significance were raging by 2-3pm; sometimes 11am or noon, even. By 5-6pm, the show was usually over. There have been other seasons I've chased with a persistent tendency for minimal capping and early CI (especially 2009 and 2015), but nothing quite like this. Even more hilarious, weekend setups were simply useless through almost the entire month, often consisting of MCS-drenched sloppy seconds. Again, I can't think of another year I've chased where this was so consistently true, given a generally active pattern. In summary, my May weekday constraint was clearly more punishing this year than climo would suggest, and then I failed to capitalize on a handful of high-difficulty weekend opportunities. That old "nothing can go right this year" preemptive dread set in early, and only proved more bafflingly true day after day.

For the second consecutive year, I was able to chase almost anything in June, and *zero* quality/obvious tornado setups presented themselves in the southern and central Plains (by obvious, I don't mean outbreaks; locally-focused triple point or OFB plays with most of the requisite ingredients would suffice). So I went all-in and chased a lot of marginal setups, playing the numbers game. Other than brief spinups on the Russell Springs storm, they didn't deliver, mostly due to glaringly obvious issues. Even so, I would've expected a reasonable chance for at least one fortuitous mesoscale accident in that stretch, but got zero. This June, like many of late, was simply dreadful if you were focused on Plains tornadoes; there's really no getting around it.

Now, for the one bright spot: this was a decent-to-good structure year for me. I had very little of that the previous few years, and had overhauled my camera gear this past off-season, so that was a huge consolation prize. There were at least 5 days I got stills I was actually excited to process, a far cry from 2017 or 2018. I wouldn't say any of the supercell updraft structure I saw was exceptionally amazing, but some of it was really good and occurred in conjunction with favorable lighting, CGs, nice foregrounds, etc. If I didn't love still photography, this year would've driven me mad and I might've had to quit chasing. As it stands, it still wasn't too far from that. For the first time since 2009, I'm going into the summer feeling like I'd be happier if I could just wave a wand and make myself forget it's possible to drive around looking for photogenic tornadoes (as if). There's always next year, but a decade removed from what I'd consider the last persistently active S/C Plains spring with quality tornadoes spread around the season and geographically, that reassurance doesn't have the same gravity it once did.

My worst ever? Close, depending on the criteria. Certainly there have been seasons I saw even less, like 2017-18. Certainly there were seasons that the sum total of big tornado days I missed/blew was even larger, like 2007-08. In this case, I missed almost everything, and the only consolation is that I don't consider it to have been a spectacular/decadal chase season overall. Active in May with several really good days, sure. But 2004 or 2010 this was not, as I think the tenor of this thread so far attests to.
 
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Jun 14, 2009
328
154
11
Altoona, Iowa
toddrector.com
Despite being an epic year based on tornado numbers alone, my personal chase season is easy to summarize:

* Grungy fognadoes with a dose of HP.
* Tornado in Illinois but I am driving and there is no place to pull over and fuuuuuu... Gone.
* Beautiful cell one minute from producing when WTF HP RAIN CURTAIN I HATE EVERYTHING OMG HAIL (Tulia, TX)
* Why is my AC stuck on and I can't put heat on my windshield to clear off the condensation? I AM BLIIIIND! ($450 repair)
* F**CKING TEXAS MUDDY ROAD ^*@())))$&&&&@ MOTHER F&*@@ GODDA** HEEEEEELPPPP MEEEE #TOW
* Water pump failure. $2200 because I have a chain-driven pump nested deeeep inside the engine... Yay.
* Hey look! The entire population of Oklahoma has decided to join us on HWY 27....

At least gas prices are decent compared to previous years (2015 comes to mind)

This has NOT been my best year.
 

Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
Staff member
Oct 7, 2008
2,986
1,498
21
Westminster, CO
www.meteor.iastate.edu
I'm gonna argue that once the final numbers come in, May 2019 will turn out to be only a somewhat above average month for tornadoes. I think the huge counts that had been initially reported were severely inflated by multi-reporting (i.e., more than one spotter reporting the same tornado).

Take 17 May as an example: currently, the SPC site shows 39 filtered (53 unfiltered) tornado reports. But I could only find damage surveys for 16 tornadoes between LBF, GLD, & DDC (I checked ICT and AMA, but it doesn't appear any tornadoes entered their CWAs). I suspect this is fairly typical of bigger days on the Plains and thus represents a decent representative sample to go on. So that's a ratio of 41% (30%) for filtered (unfiltered) "efficiency" for reports-to-tornadoes. That 500+ tornado count in May could very well slip down towards 200 or even below after all the surveys are done given how many people reported on many of them. Average May tornadoes are ~130, with a max of 244 (this is only through 2010).

So I don't feel May 2019 was epically busy at all. What may have made it feel that way was that about 85% of the season was compressed into an 11-day stretch, which is an unsettling trend I have noticed over the past several years now.
 
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B. Dean Berry

Moderator
May 25, 2014
260
66
11
I was not able to get out to the Plains this year, and hearing from everyone else, that's probably a good thing. Money wasn't good, and neither was help with childcare, so I just couldn't make a hole in the schedule.

On top of that, my wife fell and broke her ankle two weeks ago, and I'm here at home helping her while holding back a 4-year-old, so the rest of my entire season (local/Atlantic) is probably burned as well.

I guess there's always 2020?