Core-Punch Horror Stories

Getting ready for my first 'Oklahoma spring,' I was wondering if any of you have any core-punch horror stories; MONSTER hail etc.

LOL, as I write this, its flurrying here in Norman.
 
I don't seek out hail, but I did have a pretty scary core punch back when I was a newbie in 1997. I was faced with a decision to drive either due south out of Purcell on I-35, or head southwest on OK 74. I knew there was a large tornado southwest of there, but I couldn't see it because of rain. I had to decide between driving southwest towards it (hoping it might move east of my position as I did) or driving due south where I knew the tornado wasn't at (but risking it moving right at me as I drove south). I opted for plan B, and took the interstate. I drove maybe a mile south, then pulled over when I started seeing the rain clear and cloud chunks became visible. Fortunately for my inexperiencd arse, the tornado had dissipated about a half-mile west of where I was sitting, and the chunks were the leftovers. I went back a few months later and drove down the other option I'd had that day, southwest on OK 74. About a mile down that road, I came upon a 3/4 mile-wide damage path, including a house with the roof completely removed.

Congratulations on your upcoming first S Plains Spring!!!!
 
After shooting one of many supercells that developed one night over Royal NE (also met Al Moller in a cornfield that night :) the drive around there after dark was a bit weird as the warned-on storms were still out & about in full strength. It was pitch black out there and the winds were crossing directions, very weird feeling for a bit not knowing what was lurking in the dark. Have to admit there was a creep-factor that night.

One year around midnight in SW KS I stopped at a sheriff's office to look at radar. There was a line of storms training out of Dalhart, TX up to Ulysses KS. I wasn't sure whether to go on or hang back for a bit, weather started looking kind of gnarly for night travel. A few miles later, my location: Sublette. Reports started coming in..."funnels in Sublette". The CGs were some of the most extreme I have seen. Past Sublette I tried to pull over to shoot it (lightning), but telephone poles above started arcing. The sky was crazy, I got the feeling that I might be pushing it. I liberally interpreted the speed limit driving south on 83, but couldn't resist shooting lightning once I got to Liberal. A short while later in a truck stop restaurant the sheriff came in and said mobile homes were turned over in Ulysses and were laying all over the highway that I had just taken.

One freaky night in southern Kansas, 12 counties were warned on after dark. It was the blue-hour just after sunset and rain was solid while driving up I35. I saw families huddled under overpasses on the Kansas side of the turnpike, even though bridges offer zero protection. I moved up to the area of the travel plaza in Belle Plaine, but walked into an eerily empty building and said to myself "forget this...". The building was constructed of steel beams and large panes of glass. I went down a dark hallway, and suddenly found all the people. They were crammed underneath countertops and hanging onto pipes in the travel plaza bathrooms. One lady asked me if I wanted to "hide out" with them. I was pretty sure based on spotter reports that the warned-on storm near there was east of Wellington by now, so I proceeded to Wichita after a bit. The rain was beating the windshield, navigating was challenging at times. Damage to farms was reported the next day, and 30 sheep had been taken somewhere near there.

I don't like to core punch too much because of large hail. However, funky stuff often happens at night, after chasing all day and later having to drive to your destination.
 
Why to be careful...

On April 22, 2004 I decided to do some chasing in the Tulsa area. Coming from Kansas City. I arrived in Tulsa right around 3:30. Marc Grant was providing me with radar information to aid in my chase. My original intention was to get south of Tulsa by about 30 miles before the storms started firing up. Marc told me of a storm with a t-storm warning on it that I would be running into. I hit the storm with heavy rain. As I neared the back side of the storm and things started to clear I began being hit with nickle to quarter size hail. I knew I was close to the updraft at that point. As I paid at the turn-pike I could see the lowering of the updraft behind some trees. At this point I could not discern any rotation.

That was all about to change very quickly! As soon as I cleared the trees and I started looking for rotation, boy did I realize I was in trouble. The first thing I noticed was the rapidly condensating inflow into the wall cloud I was now on the underneath edge of. I pulled over immediately. I knew I was in a bad spot and had to assess my options. Turning around was not an option since I was on an interstate. Before I had time to even give much thought to options, the funnel formed underneath the wall cloud. This was all happening within 100 yards of me. Within seconds of the funnel forming it touched down in front of me. It was at this point I called 911 to let them know of the touch down.

It was a slow moving storm at right around 15mph. I still didn't know if I was in the path or not. I started shooting images through my car window while I made a decision on what to do. Luckily the tornado was moving on a diagonal to me so I wasn't going to have to hit the ditch. I got out of the car and started shooting some incredible images. I was in the wrong spot at the wrong time, but as a photographer you have to take your shots.

Once the tornado moved west of my location I drove down the highway to get some more shots from behind. After I had stopped shaking and calmed down I decided to look at the images I had just shot. Much to my displeasure and the rapid development of events. I had forgot to put a memory card in my camera...that camera came very close to be coming airborne....and not from a tornado...omg...I was soooo pissed!

I caught back up with the storm about 10 minutes later to watch it form several small and quick tornadoes. I never made it south of all the action that day...stayed north of everything...didn't want to do the core punching again that day...lol. So be careful out there!
 
Mine was during the infamous eastern New Mexico "world eater" storm of 6/4/2003. Jay Barnes and I had driven 7 hours straight from Norman and got to the New Mexico storm right at sunset. Even though our only southerly option to keep up with the storm was going to curve southwest back towards the storm's path - it was our only hope for any chance of seeing a tornado. Plus there was east option in case we needed a way out - problem was we missed that east option. Our south option eventually became blocked by an 18-wheeler strewn across the highway - so we had to sit and wait for over 15 minutes while we got bombarded by quarter to golf ball sized hail.
 
I don't have many horror stories exactly. Nothing too terrible has happened yet(as I die in 2005 doing it). I rarely have any enjoyment feelings doing it as I can't stand not being able to see and know what is going on. Punching the Olney TX storm in 2000 scared the crap out of me in the middle of a pack of NSSL probes. I never ever wanted to do it again after that little drive. The problem with it is often the duration you are stuck in it. You pretty much have to drive fast on rain slicked roads on some of the storms to actually ever get out of them. We were in that storm for what seemed like forever while the radio is constantly blaring on and on about the wedge on the ground with it. I remember getting visions in my head of the NSSL chase where that white tornado passes between the vehicles. I was like that is so about to happen but it is going to be that wedge. I remember getting myself into the problem and then wanting back out of it but no direction seemed safe in my mind at that time. My mind will still do that.

Another "fun" one was the May 10, 2003 tornadic supercell that went near Monroe City and Hannibal. The storm had just formed and was severe warned when I started to punch it going east. Well, the thing was hauling so punching it was slightly difficult. It took a long time to get out of its core. Cores basically really suck. If it is moving 45mph in a straight line getting ahead of it via its core is not going to be terribly easy. They were also really talking up the flooding potential in the area this day and the road was often in a low lying area with water right up to the shoulders. I was like, I'm going to hit a flooded area as a tornado finally gets north to this highway.

I don't always do it, sometimes it makes more sense to just back off and end the day. I tried to punch the May 29 nc KS storm this year from the north but it just didn't feel right. Lots of things were going wrong, like my gps stopped working for one as I got into it so I pulled over trying to get it to work again. The direction I had gotten from another chaser on his location and what he was seeing was switched around. 5 back to back radar attemps failed to load, and I had another chaser following me. I was so frustrated and said screw the whole rest of this day, it wasn't meant to be. This was somewhere near Belleville KS. XM sure would of helped that situation. I had only seen one grab of the storm 30-45 minutes prior to getting into it. I probably would of continued if just the GPS had been working.

It can be very rewarding though. You pop out of the thing to this amazing view often. "Going around" rarely works out. You end up wanting to drive faster anyway, may as well go on in.
 
I shall add my first and only and my last attempt at core punching! I was chasing the May 4, 2003 tornadoes throughout the Kansas City Metropolitan Area and watched the Liberty, MO tornado touch down east of the intersection of Interstate 35 and Missouri Highway 291. Of course, I did not know much about tornadoes at the time, or chasing (because it was my absolute first storm chase!). So I did something stupid and I head north on Interstate 35 for about 2 miles to US Highway 69 (the road to Excelsior Springs). Going up on US Highway 69, I was listening to spotters as they deferred the weather radio coverage on 162.55 to the spotter nets. The tornado was on the ground about 1/2 to 3/4 miles south of me as I drove northeast on US Highway 69. Yea, I drove into golf ball size hail, luckily there was no damage, and fortunately the tornado lifted before it got to the general area that I was located at. I learned a lot on that day.
 
I don’t intentionally punch hail cores. I have been overtaken many times. If I can find shelter, I will let a hail core overtake me.

Woodson, TX 2003 I was filming the base to my NW. All of a sudden a baseball shatters on the ground next to me. I hurried up to get into town to find shelter. I was lucky enough to find an old gas station awning to park under. I filmed massive quantities of 4â€￾-4.5â€￾ hail. When it was over I found several chasers that were not lucky enough to find shelter. One chaser panicked and got out of his car to hide under mesquite trees. He ended up with a broken wrist due to the hail.

June 10, after the Big Springs tornado, I was on 61 north out of Ogallala. The storm approached to fast for me to get the next good road east. I took. Packard Rd. (it looked ok on Street Atlas) It was a bit curvy, but It looked paved and safe to drive. The only other alternative was do drop south and give up on the storm. Just a few miles, the road turned to dirt. It was eroded away in spots. The storm, with baseball size hail was right behind me and it was too late to turn back now. I switched over to 4WD and kept going. At times, I had to abandon the road and drove through pasture. The core caught up with me and baseballs were falling all around me. I had such I tight grip of the steering wheel, I couldn’t film anything. I saw a house and drove up to it and asked the owners If they had room in their garage for me to take shelter. They said no, but there was a shed that I could park under just a few hundred feet down the road. I continued on, but the core was on me and visibility was so poor, I couldn’t see it. I continued on until I finally hit paved road. The total length of the gully I drove down was about 18 miles. I was lucky to come out with an intact windshield and only a couple of dents.
 
Punching the Olney TX storm in 2000 scared the crap out of me in the middle of a pack of NSSL probes

Slightly OT, but Mike, did you happen to be driving a red truck that day? If so, I was in the mesonet vehicle behind you. And if I remember correctly, Roger Hill was in the vehicle ahead of you. We were involved in a field project that year. I distinctly remember about 20 chase vehicles tearing down that narrow FM road near Seymour.

Oh yeah...and that storm was a monster. That meso was absolutely stunning.
 
Yep, that was me. I think Roger must of been behind you as I saw myself on his video(after I had pulled over he drives by...west of Olney). That was certainly an interesting first trip to TX(had, oh, 3 chases under my belt at that point is all I think, lol). It was really damn cool coming out of the precip though. Looking south to see that thing just to the south. It really upsets me I wasn't experienced enough to have captured at least some of that meso better. I remember very clearly trying to decide to take that highway south or not(out of Olney), but doing so way too late. I can still see that wall of rain flat out racing east overtaking that option. It was then an OH SH$T feeling.

Charles, you must of taken the road I almost took. There weren't many options(think I only saw that one). That is right where I finally gave up and turned around. I remember pulling over on it to use it and the shoulder to turn around on and almost sliding into a sign. It was complete snot/mud and if I didn't keep rolling I knew I'd of been stuck. So kept it rolling/sliding back onto the highway just missing the road sign. That is what really sucks about areas like the sandhills that there aren't even a lot of options to turn around on(Mustangs and shoulders don't always work out well). So you are going north with the storm moving ene at you and you're left hoping to have no traffic around to just use the highway. Sounds like it is a good thing I didn't use that road. It looked ok from the highway, but I wasn't up to finding out the hardway out there.
 
Yes, It was an interesting road. I had a professional stunt man in the car with me. And even he was impressed with my driving on the road. Too bad I didn't have video running. One passenger did have her video camera running, but not in the worst of it.
 
Core Punch Horror Story

I noticed that most of the core punch horror stories begin just like mine. My first real chase was during the spring of 1994. The last day of finals. Unfortunately our Mesoscale Meteorology exam did not conclude until 5 PM. This left us only about 2 hrs of daylight.
We intercepted a beautiful classic supercell right at sunset. It was moving SE right toward us so we decided to head south and try to flank the storm and follow it back toward Omaha. As we headed south dusk turned into night and the storm turned to the right. Suddenly we saw a white flash in front of us and a loud thud. My chase partner and I looked at each other and just then the hail core caught up to us. We pulled over as a deluge of golfball sized hail pulverised my car. We sat there stunned as the hail piled up 3 or 4 inches deep. It was a eerie experience. After the hail let up a dense fog devoloped rapidly and was being blown across the highway by a 50 mph east wind. About this time the weather radio alarm sounded, spotters reported multiple tornado touchdowns about a mile south of where we were stopped.
It was probably fortunate for us that we had stopped when the hail core caught us, rather than continuing south in the bears cage at night. That is one experience I would rather not repeat. It was an early lesson on the dangers of night chasing, or should I say, on the dangers of being chased at night.
 
Here is my horror story..... It was my first year chasing and I decided one day (I am bad with the dates) to go chasing with only one of my chase partners. Jay was at work and couldn't get off early enough to go so Bill and I headed out. We headed down towards Lubbock and caught up to a storm already in progress. It died and by that time Jay had caught up to us so I was following him to our next target. There was a monster freakin core on this storm and we were doing a pretty good job of staying ahead of it. Unfortunately we decidied to take a road that went north for about a mile. :( Big mistake. The storm was moving faster than we could and suddenly we were being pelted with softball sized hail. Jay was ahead of me and he started yelling on the radio to turn around as the hail was exploding on the road ahead of us. We got turned around and out of it, when the road turned back to the right and the core caught us again. This was the first time I had driven in severe weather and I swore the windshield was going to go. When the core finally passed us we pulled over and I was shaking. Jay thought it would be funny to record me calling my then boyfriend to tell him I had totaled his Jeep. Oops.... :oops: The cool thing about being in two vehicles that day was we were able to get two different views of the same thing. Unfortunately Bill will never be able to sell his video.......I said some things that I didn't know I knew. LOL. :D

Kanani
 
Originally posted by Kanani Foster
Here is my horror story..... It was my first year chasing and I decided one day (I am bad with the dates) to go chasing with only one of my chase partners. Jay was at work and couldn't get off early enough to go so Bill and I headed out. We headed down towards Lubbock and caught up to a storm already in progress. It died and by that time Jay had caught up to us so I was following him to our next target. There was a monster freakin core on this storm and we were doing a pretty good job of staying ahead of it. Unfortunately we decidied to take a road that went north for about a mile. :( Big mistake. The storm was moving faster than we could and suddenly we were being pelted with softball sized hail. Jay was ahead of me and he started yelling on the radio to turn around as the hail was exploding on the road ahead of us. We got turned around and out of it, when the road turned back to the right and the core caught us again. This was the first time I had driven in severe weather and I swore the windshield was going to go. When the core finally passed us we pulled over and I was shaking. Jay thought it would be funny to record me calling my then boyfriend to tell him I had totaled his Jeep. Oops.... :oops: The cool thing about being in two vehicles that day was we were able to get two different views of the same thing. Unfortunately Bill will never be able to sell his video.......I said some things that I didn't know I knew. LOL. :D

Kanani


Kanani,

My chase partner at the time was also Bill. Same Bill, funny how he can be in so many hail stories where someone's car is destroyed, but never his. He must be doing something right.
 
Must be because he doesn't chase in his car....LOL. :) Last year I got a new car and took it chasing once. Thankfully it was a bust day and nothing happened to it. I was never so happy to bust in all my life, but I had to go.

Kanani
 
That's eerie!

I don't have many horror stories exactly. Nothing too terrible has happened yet(as I die in 2005 doing it).

I never even like joking like that...I had a rather graphic dream not long back of several chasers being killed and the media went into a frenzy..including even Fox News that ran with it big time....Was that a warning, hopefully just paranoia...but it does bring up some concerns... like a certain storm chase tour company of whom I will not mention here...going OVER 80mph with a van load of people, on freshly paved, smooth, rain slick highways just to get to where the action is...

I'm afraid, it will take just one time that a chaser or chasers will be either seriously injured or killed as a direct result from poor judgement, and probably it will be due to something that could have been easily avoided, like excessive speed, standing in the middle of some highway transfixed on some wallcloud, only to be walloped by another car, or even worse, trying to get that "ultimate up close and personal video"...Even though we're already dealing with a dangerous hobby (my insurance man equivocates this with bullriding...yeehaw!!) the risks involved can be negated by using some good common sense....I pray that 2005, we'll ALL stay alive.

Rocky&family
 
Here is my horror story..... It was my first year chasing and I decided one day (I am bad with the dates) to go chasing with only one of my chase partners. Jay was at work and couldn't get off early enough to go so Bill and I headed out. We headed down towards Lubbock and caught up to a storm already in progress. It died and by that time Jay had caught up to us so I was following him to our next target. There was a monster freakin core on this storm and we were doing a pretty good job of staying ahead of it. Unfortunately we decidied to take a road that went north for about a mile. :( Big mistake. The storm was moving faster than we could and suddenly we were being pelted with softball sized hail. Jay was ahead of me and he started yelling on the radio to turn around as the hail was exploding on the road ahead of us. We got turned around and out of it, when the road turned back to the right and the core caught us again. This was the first time I had driven in severe weather and I swore the windshield was going to go. When the core finally passed us we pulled over and I was shaking. Jay thought it would be funny to record me calling my then boyfriend to tell him I had totaled his Jeep. Oops.... :oops: The cool thing about being in two vehicles that day was we were able to get two different views of the same thing. Unfortunately Bill will never be able to sell his video.......I said some things that I didn't know I knew. LOL. :D

Kanani

Lost my windshield, bug deflector and lightbar on that one. Thanks for reminding me of that one. :oops:

I said a few things on tape also but in the first part of the video after we outran the hail the first time I was laughing so hard I couldnt say much but wow.

Just remember Kanani... Babtism by fire!! :wink:
 
I'll chime in with my own story here. It's not really a core punch, but the core formed right over me and i had to punch OUT of it, not THROUGH it.

The date was June 26th, 2004. I live in a small town called Parker, and the city was celebrating it's 125th Anniversary. Carnival, street dance, all the good stuff. Anyways, just like every day I don't work, I sat looking at models, when it hit me. It's going to storm, and by God did it storm. The National Weather Service had said to expect a "20% chance of precipitation". Well, I was bored and I hate Parker, so I decided I'd go sit west of town and watch the storms form and swing through. I'm watching from CU field all the way to major storm. I was watching this one cloud that seemed to be out-growing the other few that had towers. I watched it start rain, shoot off some lightning, and I took some photos. I was doing lightning photography when I looked on the southwest edge and noticed the Rain Free Base. No rotation, no lowering. Resumed lightening photos. About 10 minutes pass, and I peek around. Rain Free Base still there, grew a little bit, small lowering in the center. No rotation, but the lowering was getting larger. This is getting interesting. I called my father, the local fire chief, and informed him of the situation. I also called Todd Heintkamp, NWS Warning Coordinator, and Tom Gillespie, Turner County Emergency Manager, (both good friends of mine) and talked about the situation. Todd said that they were watching the cell, but the radar showed low-level rotation, but very isolated and weak. Tom said he was going to position himself south of my location (he's as obsessed with storms as I am). So, I get off the phone, and by this time the Rain Free Base with very little rotation is right over me. It's starting to get a little breezy (by breezy I mean South Dakota breezy, 30-40 mph). This is not good, I say to myself. I look up and, lo and behold, a rather interesting funnel. A few curse words come out as I dash back to my car, grab the camera, and snap a shot of the funnel straight up. It hadn't touched down yet. The dumbest 3 seconds of my life. I hopped in my car and sped (and boy do i mean sped) south away from the east-northeast moving storm. Looked in the rear view mirror and was stupified by a huge dust cloud where I was just sitting not 15 seconds earlier. Dialed up 911, dialed up my father, dialed up Tom, and dialed up Todd. Got away, and sat with the Turner County Sheriff and 2 of his deputies south of town watching as one tornado and several dust swirls ripped through the county taking trees with.

Now, my story isn't the scary part. The scary part is this: When I called my dad and told him (and I quote) "Jesus Christ dad, I'm looking at another tornado coming towards town." "You gotta be sh*tting me. Serious?" "Serious as cancer." "Ok, get the hell out of there. Call me with any more updates." I was only two miles out of town, so I could hear the sirens. Now, the scary part is that this occurred in the middle of the demolition derby at the fairgrounds. That's about 2,000 people in an open grandstand build in the 1950's. All sheet metal. My mom was there, and she said they were crowded in the bathrooms litterally cheek to cheek. And there were still approximately 1,500 people outside running for any cover.

The tornado dissapated before it got to town, but still. That made me truly scared for the first time during a chase.

I talked to Todd again after the storm, and he said that they new it was going to storm, but he had talked to the SPC and they agreed that there wasn't one thing that would even remotely make them think that it was going to get that bad. Even during the warning, radar didn't indicate strong enough rotation, so I sent him my pics and he was amazed that one can form that quick and have such little rotation. Oh, and that was the first time I was the cause of a tornado warning! :)
 
May 4, 2003. After a couple years of relative chase inactivity I could not resist a short drive from Lincoln, NE to a supercell just north of town. I stayed just south of the meso proceeding eastbound on U.S. 6 toward Omaha. My normally superior navigation skills were sloppy on this day as I thought I was travelling due east. Instead I was moving northeast and simply could not resist getting up close and personal with the beast. I ended up driving under what would later become the hook. I parked and watched in awe. Then the hook slapped me silly with hail which covered the highway, sized ranging from dimes to ping-pong balls. This caught me off guard as I just drove through a precip free area. Lucky for me the monster baseball to softball sixed stuff hit to my east... A rotating curtain of rain was visibile about a half mile to my north, possibly the occlusion which coincided well with a tornado report a few miles northwest. Worst part was I was on a road where the southern option ended in a cul-de-sac.

A couple lessons learned or reitterated that day:
Plan ahead.
Know your road options
Have that escape route
Situation awareness in rapidly changing conditions.
 
My Story

It was May 30, 1998. Mark Hill and I were in southern Minnesota, somewhere west of Mankato. We didn't have to punch or chase anything, as the core of the storm was moving right at us at about 70mph. About 90 minutes earlier, this line had put down the F4 that had snockered Spencer, SD.

Well, it was now 10pm, winds blowing a good 70mph, and the rain is coming down in hailstone sized drops (we were amazed that there was no hail but anyhow), and lightning was flashing all around.

We are parked on a gravel road just the other side of a railroad embankment off the main highway trying to figure out what the hell to do next, when lightning flashes almost right overhead, and there is a bell shaped funnel cloud hanging just about over the hood of the Suburban.

Neither of us wet our pants, but it was raining real hard so God only knows what Mark did vs what happened to me. Seriously though, it was over so fast that we didn't even have time to think about the implications of "what if it had been touching down over the hood of the Suburban?"

:roll:
 
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