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Most Intense storm chasing moments...

Alright, now that some of you have posted your most humorous and odd storm chasing adventures, maybe you could post some of your most intensestorm chasing moments, whether it be punching the core of a tornado warned storm to find it was more than you bargained for, or dodging a lightning bolt by a couple hundred feet, or even avoiding a major colision on the open road of the great plains. I have a story or two. I will post them as time permits and after someone gets the ball rolling on this thread.
 
Saw my first tornados on May 11, 2000 near Dunkerton Iowa.

As we were wrapping up the day completely exhausted (tornados still radar indicated very near to the south) we hit a deer (in complete darkness) in our van which caused the front bumper to cut into the left front tire, preventing our escape to Dubuque. The van would not move forward.

People were yelling at others to take cover in the ditch, lightning was all around, deer blood all over the front, winds were strong and wx radio alarms were going off like crazy.....it was nuts! My dad actually ended up getting a sledge hammer out of the back and he beat the front bumper until it let loose of the tire. Luckily the tire wasn't flat.

Then......we hauled ass to Dubuque!
 
I think being held up for an eternity by one-lane road construction - in the potential path of a confirmed rain-wrapped wedge a couple miles away - was a little unnerving (Hill City on June 9). I was ready to drive around the barricades, more out of appalled frustration than fear though.
 
May 12, 2004 when we made our southward dash and realized we were a bit too close. I don't think there was anyone behind me as I recall glancing to check while I was humping Amos' bumper on our way south. In any case, it remains my most exciting chasing moment of my rather young career.

040512f-5.jpg


Not too far behind that was the core punch of October 19, 2005; easily one of the most intense cores I've ever experienced. Only thing that saved me from ultimately having to change my shorts was the fact that I knew there was no tornado awaiting us on the other side.

051019v.jpg
 
Holy hell Brian! That's a crazy story! Very intense. I could almost hear the roaring of the tornado myself, and I've never even been close enough to hear the roar of a tornado, although I imagine it is a discomforting sound. Thanks for the link.
 
Here's a couple...

One intense experience occurred in 1998, while driving up the Kansas Turnpike toward Wichita. Twelve counties were warned on, and people were under every overpass. Night had fallen and the rain was pounding really hard. Near as the spotters could make out in almost zero vis, a twister was reported in Wellington and Bell Plaine. I went into the Kansas Information Center on I35. The place was deserted, but I knew that the twister had already passed east based on spotter reports – whatever they could make out in the dark. I entered the building and walked down a dark hallway. I found all the people, they were holding onto pipes under the counters in the restrooms. They asked me if I wanted to “hide out†with them. After observing what the building was made out of—steel trusses and plate glass, I said “No thank you†and opted for constant monitoring of the situation instead. I ended up in Wichita.

Intense experience number two…a gnarly night chase from Johnson to Ulysses Kansas. I love lightning, but this was something of Thor having a tantrum. CGs were pounding right outside the car, and I pulled over briefly, only to observe telephone lines near Sublette crackling and popping overhead. Yikes. Later, when I got to a truck stop in Liberal, the sheriff walked into the cafe and said that trailer homes in Ulysses had overturned and were lying upside-down in the highway. They had been flipped onto Highway 160 just after I passed by there. I was trying to negotiate a line training out of Dalhart TX (I had stopped at the sheriff’s office in Johnson for a look at radar). Looking back, with the lightning, the flooding, and reports of funnels near Sublette, that night jaunt to Liberal on the open prairie might not have been the wisest move. However, I did get in about 4 hours of lightning photography and lit-up shelf clouds.

People often ask me if I’ve ever had any close calls with lightning. I had two experiences when I was first learning in the mid 90s. One happened in Fort Bowie, Arizona on a primitive road near the Chiricahua Natl Monument in the far SE corner of the state. I was inspecting an unbelievably huge grasshopper (it was almost as long as my sunglasses) and taking its picture. A CG struck very nearby in the daytime. Lightning can look deceptively tame in the daylight, but it is no less dangerous. The other time was on the Fourth of July. I believe it was in 1997. I was in Marana, Arizona north of Tucson. A storm in the Central Deserts erupted but then died down all of a sudden. Disappointed, I thought it was game over, wrote it off and started shooting the desert sun setting over distant mountains. All of a sudden THWACK a huge feather bolt cascaded over my head. You never saw me move so fast in all your life! Then the storms kicked up their heels in a serious way, pelting the desert with CGs and weird looking spider-web air strikes overhead. My heart was pumping fast, as I finished the chase and ended somewhere hear "A" Mountain in Tucson. Moral of these two stories…my lightning close calls happened both times when I was focusing on something else. I have heard the Tohono O’Odham Indians of Southern Arizona say that when you walk through the desert, don’t be looking up and around at the scenery…look at your feet and where you are walking. I adapted that to a rule of my own, when you’re chasing…don’t get distracted by the scenery…always keep your eyes on your storm, until its absolute last breath.

A couple other intense experiences…I had a CG hit a transformer at close range in Scottsdale…causing one bright green explosion! That was very intense. Another time (and I won’t elaborate because I promised him I would never write about it) a Del City 5/3/99 tornado survivor told me his incredible stories. All I can tell you from this is whatever you do, never take your loved ones for granted.

Here’s a memorable moment I’ll never forget, my first-time meeting with a very happy Al Moller…in a cornfield under this…in Royal, Nebraska. Happy chasing :)
LLRoyalNE.jpg
 
Originally posted by Tony Laubach
May 12, 2004 when we made our southward dash and realized we were a bit too close. I don't think there was anyone behind me as I recall glancing to check while I was humping Amos' bumper on our way south. In any case, it remains my most exciting chasing moment of my rather young career.

I know I was behind ya. But in my friend Davids Car as he was driving.

I would have to say when I was chasing on May 22nd in Eastern Nebraska. I left Michigan really early and I could not make it to the Hallam Supercell in time so I opted to head for the Supercell west of Blair. I obeserved a few well defined wall clouds and I was watching a channel that I could barley get from Omaha show a hook echo on this storm. This was before I had a laptop with GPS and my XM WX. I was doing well staying a head of it. Until I missed my southern escape route. I had just crossed a small bridge when all of a sudden dust swirled in front of me and it was too late to stop and I drove right through it. I really don’t know what it was maybe a gustnado. But after I went threw it the people behind me were no longer there. I didn’t know what to think. I wound up back in the west side of Blair where I knew I needed to find shelter because I was pretty much screwed. Since there was construction on the main route through Blair, I opted for a gas station. It started to hail pretty good with inch to golf . It then subsided and I thought that it was safe to try and get south now so it was pouring rain and I just exited the gas station drive way when all of a sudden I saw huge splashes in the streams running in the gutters. Then I heard a thud and another thud. Well my hail turned from 1 -2 inches in to baseballs. So I quick turned around and got my spot back under the canopy. Seconds later another car comes in and his whole windshield is smashed out. By this time the canopy was full of cars. Thank God I only got a few dents from that. Later after that core had passed through I finally went south through Omaha. The Hallam supercell was still going so I headed south on 1-29 I wanted to intercept it as it entered Iowa. It was pretty much dark by this time and it was lining out. I was hearing reports of 90MPH wind and still tornado warnings all over the place. I got south of it all. And tried to get some lightning shots. Any way I decided that I needed to head back up to I-80 to head east for the next day. on the way back up in a stretch of 2 miles there were 5-7 Semi's over turned on both north and south bound I-29 and what looked to be a roof of a house sitting on the south bound side of the highway. If had not went any south further I would of probably seen the semis overturned and that would of been freaky.
 
Not too sure of my most intense moment...

<img src=http://midwestchase.com/5-12-05-7.jpg><img src=http://midwestchase.com/5-12-05-8.jpg>

5-12-2005... This day was very fun... Several tornadoes in the TX panhandle, including this sweet, close barrell right here. It seemed like the thing swung around the meso and was heading directly east at us... LOL... So, we both hauled it out of there and bolted east. When I look back at it, we could have stayed there and let the tornado barely miss us :lol: ... But, it was kind of worrying at the time :D

<img src=http://midwestchase.com/6-12-05-10.jpg>

Another intense day... Over a half dozen tornadoes from one cyclic supercell in northwest TX on 6-12-2005, including this close sequence right here. In addition, a couple hours after this... I almost got struck by lightning (not too sure how close the bolt was, but it was DAMN close) as I setted up my tripod.

<img src=http://www.midwestchase.com/july4_03-1.jpg>

This was probably one of my funnest chases ever (back in summer 2003)... I get up in the morning... Only to see incredible CAPEs of >4000 j/kg (and 70-75 sfc Tds) all over southern MI -- with a big squall moving over the Lake. Incredible Derecho day... I chased the storm when it got into DOWNTOWN (this is 7 Mile Rd. here, LOL) and was throwing good >70 mph wind gusts at me. Loads of dust, dirt and occasional debries being flung at the car... It kind of worried me at times :)

<img src=http://www.midwestchase.com/july4_03-2.jpg>

The thing looked AWESOME as it was pulling up a ton of true, Detroit dirt (LOL)... It was incredibley cool!

Additionally, while I didn't get the strike on film (only on a still -- which is basically just a huge, white blur) -- I was shooting lightning from a distant cluster of supercells on 9-24-05 near Tecumseh, MI and the closest bolt I ever seen struck. The thunder was virtually instant... I practically fell to the ground... I felt the shock through my entire body. One of the craziest things that I have ever felt...
 
Hmm, only one comes to mid, that was quite scary in my mind/eyes. I was out photographing a Thunderstorms Gustfront on the leading edge of it, right after it became outflow dominant. There was crashes of thunder in the air, but they sounded farther away, so I didn't think I should be worried at all. I was standing there, in quite a melancholic state, from the deprival of storm evolution with the cell that I was trying to document, My spirits quickly were rendered into an unacceptable state. A lightning CG strike hit the grass field in front of me, by about 50-70 feet, and horrified me, my face was strickn with the utter most anticipation for death to come....I was alright though....the shelf cloud passed right over my head, as I stood there in shock/horror from what had just happened...

Here was the gustfront/shelf cloud.

gustfront2320ay.jpg
 
I'll sign on with Susan's Royal supercell from 6/3/00: that was the first supercell I ever caught on my first chase trip and first actual chase day, so it was very intense for me. At the time of Susan's photograph I was likely due south of the meso and thus unable to look notchward for the tornado (reported as rainwrapped on SPC). I had bumped into the DuPage group earlier in Verdigre before the storm mothershipped.
 
Curiosity has convinced me to post this. Jimmy, Kurt and Tony, can you give me an estimate as to what was the closest the actual tornado got to you/your car?
 
Originally posted by Susan Strom
You were on that Joe? How funny, small world.

Small world, big storm. :)

Big enough to accommodate multiple approaches, I guess. I stayed south hoping for rear flank cycling supercells (like I'd read about!).

There was also the intense drive to Norfolk to stay the night; a nighttime tornado did drop from a flanking supe and it more or less followed HWY 275 down to Meadow Grove. I didn't see it, but with all the lightning someone did.

http://www.spc.noaa.gov/climo/reports/000603_rpts.html

Anyway, if you saw a white Intrepid that day, that was me :)
 
Two events come to mind:

May 15, 2003: We were chasing in the TX Panhandle (who wasn't? :lol: ) We had teamed up with some other chasers earlier in the day. The cap didnt break till later in the evening and we started getting on some storms. Eventually we got onto a storm near the TX PH/OK border. This was after nightfall, and we were with more exprienced chasers so we tried to get into an area where we could view a tornado. Soon we got into a 50-60mph inflow jet and dust storm. A few days later I found out we were less than a couple miles from a mile wide wedge.

May 22, 2005: This was a late night storm chase. At approximately 11pm, I was watching some radar images and saw storms blowing up to the east of ICT (Wichita). We decided to go watch the storms and do lighting photography. As we headed east, storms began blowing up all around us. Several times during the night we got into hail core as storms continued to explode. Largest hail we got in was baseball. We got dents all over our truck, but looking back at it, we find it to be an awesome experience.
 
Anyone that's seen my website has heard of this one. Aaron Kennedy and I, our freshman year OU, along with our other roommate, were chasing a low-toppep LP near Granite, OK, on May 5, 2001. We're cruising along on a highway, when all of a sudden another chaser runs a stop sign and almost t-bone's us on Aaron's side of the car. He only missed us by a couple of inches.

You can't see the incident on the video, but Aaron's reaction is priceless. This ranks right up there as probably the most intense/funniest moment ever for me.

Language is NSFW: http://ww2.convectionconnection.com:8080/w...5/nearwreck.avi

Second most extreme moment: Driving through the hail blender in North Texas on April 5, 2003. I fell asleep at some point and woke up to the sound of hail pounding my car. I had just got my car back from the shop after getting a new hood from where I rear-ended someone.

http://ww2.convectionconnection.com:8080/w...03/april_5.html
 
Mark that down as one of the several times some one else has almost given me a horrible end to a chase day. My excited response was due to the fact I was busy looking out the side of the car at the supercell... I turned around at the last second to see the person pulling out.

#1 intense moment came on a gentleman's chase to see severe convection in W. OK (the date escapes me). It was about 10pm and pitch black out. We were cresting a hill on HWY9 when a large pickup truck passed another oncoming vehicle AT THE CREST OF THE HILL. I had to swerve half way off the road to avoid the collision. The weird thing was we didn't realize what had happened till a few minutes later. I'm fully convinced if I was a second or two late with the reaction I wouldn't be around.... an at least 130mph combined head on collion Pickup vs Saturn usually has a bad outcome...

Aaron
 
May 5, 2002. Power poles snapping, flying through the air, smashing into our truck, being pushed across dry pavement like we're on ice, back wheels coming off the ground in a 125mph gust, you know the usual...
 
Shane Adams wrote:
Eventually we got onto a storm near the TX PH/OK border

Shane, I tried to post a story about this last night, but for some reason it wouldn't post and I ended up losing it after writing the story for about an hour. I'm pretty sure that we were on the same storm. Was that the storm that flipped several semis along the interstate near Lela, TX? We also had a close encounter with that storm. It was an hour or so past dark and the only thing you could see was the lowest could base ever on the horizon and a constant strobe of lightning. We were watching the storm near some other chasers. The chasers finally pulled out and went over a hill in the distance. We decided to follow after a few minutes and as we got to the base of the hill the same chasers came over the top of the hill flashing us and honking their horn. We turned around immediately. The inflow from the storm alone was doing damage to weak structures and trees. We passed a billboard that had been fully intact before the storm and it was entirely blown out. Anyway, we headed east fast and pulled in behind the storm chasers at a truck stop in shamrock, TX. They were all taking cover in the bathroom and assured me that the tornado, which they had seen not more than a mile away when they drove over the hill was heading for Shamrock. We were way to interested in seeing the tornado, and we figured if debris started flying we could get in fast enough that we would be alright. Well to make a long story short, the storm ended up pulling northeast, but not before we got a quick silouhette of a tornado in front of a lightning flash. I think you might have intercepted it near the OK/TX border Shane, because according to reports, that tornado was up to 2 miles wide at times and caused F-2 damage near Wheeler, TX. Not sure, but if that was the same storm... I know what you mean... It was pretty intense!
 
Originally posted by Marc Austin


Shane, I tried to post a story about this last night, but for some reason it wouldn't post and I ended up losing it after writing the story for about an hour. I'm pretty sure that we were on the same storm. Was that the storm that flipped several semis along the interstate near Lela, TX? We also had a close encounter with that storm. It was an hour or so past dark and the only thing you could see was the lowest could base ever on the horizon and a constant strobe of lightning. We were watching the storm near some other chasers. The chasers finally pulled out and went over a hill in the distance. We decided to follow after a few minutes and as we got to the base of the hill the same chasers came over the top of the hill flashing us and honking their horn. We turned around immediately. The inflow from the storm alone was doing damage to weak structures and trees. We passed a billboard that had been fully intact before the storm and it was entirely blown out. Anyway, we headed east fast and pulled in behind the storm chasers at a truck stop in shamrock, TX. They were all taking cover in the bathroom and assured me that the tornado, which they had seen not more than a mile away when they drove over the hill was heading for Shamrock. We were way to interested in seeing the tornado, and we figured if debris started flying we could get in fast enough that we would be alright. Well to make a long story short, the storm ended up pulling northeast, but not before we got a quick silouhette of a tornado in front of a lightning flash. I think you might have intercepted it near the OK/TX border Shane, because according to reports, that tornado was up to 2 miles wide at times and caused F-2 damage near Wheeler, TX. Not sure, but if that was the same storm... I know what you mean... It was pretty intense!


I think you're talking about May 15, 2003. Our storm was May 5, 2002, and our intercept happened well into the Texas panhandle, east of the caprock near a town called Lesley. However I did once encounter a large tornado that flipped some vehicles on I-40 near Lela, TX...but that was back on June 11, 1997.
 
Sorry Shane, I meant to address Chris Haye's post

Chris Hayes wrote:

[/quote]May 15, 2003: We were chasing in the TX Panhandle (who wasn't? ) We had teamed up with some other chasers earlier in the day. The cap didnt break till later in the evening and we started getting on some storms. Eventually we got onto a storm near the TX PH/OK border. This was after nightfall, and we were with more exprienced chasers so we tried to get into an area where we could view a tornado. Soon we got into a 50-60mph inflow jet and dust storm. A few days later I found out we were less than a couple miles from a mile wide wedge.


my reply was this:

I tried to post a story about this last night, but for some reason it wouldn't post and I ended up losing it after writing the story for about an hour. I'm pretty sure that we were on the same storm. Was that the storm that flipped several semis along the interstate near Lela, TX? We also had a close encounter with that storm. It was an hour or so past dark and the only thing you could see was the lowest could base ever on the horizon and a constant strobe of lightning. We were watching the storm near some other chasers. The chasers finally pulled out and went over a hill in the distance. We decided to follow after a few minutes and as we got to the base of the hill the same chasers came over the top of the hill flashing us and honking their horn. We turned around immediately. The inflow from the storm alone was doing damage to weak structures and trees. We passed a billboard that had been fully intact before the storm and it was entirely blown out. Anyway, we headed east fast and pulled in behind the storm chasers at a truck stop in shamrock, TX. They were all taking cover in the bathroom and assured me that the tornado, which they had seen not more than a mile away when they drove over the hill was heading for Shamrock. We were way to interested in seeing the tornado, and we figured if debris started flying we could get in fast enough that we would be alright. Well to make a long story short, the storm ended up pulling northeast, but not before we got a quick silouhette of a tornado in front of a lightning flash. I think you might have intercepted it near the OK/TX border Shane, because according to reports, that tornado was up to 2 miles wide at times and caused F-2 damage near Wheeler, TX. Not sure, but if that was the same storm... I know what you mean... It was pretty intense!

Chris, I think you were on this same storm.
 
Sorry Shane, I meant to address Chris Haye's post

Chris Hayes wrote:

May 15, 2003: We were chasing in the TX Panhandle (who wasn't? ) We had teamed up with some other chasers earlier in the day. The cap didnt break till later in the evening and we started getting on some storms. Eventually we got onto a storm near the TX PH/OK border. This was after nightfall, and we were with more exprienced chasers so we tried to get into an area where we could view a tornado. Soon we got into a 50-60mph inflow jet and dust storm. A few days later I found out we were less than a couple miles from a mile wide wedge.

my reply was this:

I tried to post a story about this last night, but for some reason it wouldn't post and I ended up losing it after writing the story for about an hour. I'm pretty sure that we were on the same storm. Was that the storm that flipped several semis along the interstate near Lela, TX? We also had a close encounter with that storm. It was an hour or so past dark and the only thing you could see was the lowest could base ever on the horizon and a constant strobe of lightning. We were watching the storm near some other chasers. The chasers finally pulled out and went over a hill in the distance. We decided to follow after a few minutes and as we got to the base of the hill the same chasers came over the top of the hill flashing us and honking their horn. We turned around immediately. The inflow from the storm alone was doing damage to weak structures and trees. We passed a billboard that had been fully intact before the storm and it was entirely blown out. Anyway, we headed east fast and pulled in behind the storm chasers at a truck stop in shamrock, TX. They were all taking cover in the bathroom and assured me that the tornado, which they had seen not more than a mile away when they drove over the hill was heading for Shamrock. We were way to interested in seeing the tornado, and we figured if debris started flying we could get in fast enough that we would be alright. Well to make a long story short, the storm ended up pulling northeast, but not before we got a quick silouhette of a tornado in front of a lightning flash. I think you might have intercepted it near the OK/TX border Shane, because according to reports, that tornado was up to 2 miles wide at times and caused F-2 damage near Wheeler, TX. Not sure, but if that was the same storm... I know what you mean... It was pretty intense!

Chris, I think you were on this same storm.
 
Mine would probably be May 27, 2000... Not a tornadic situation but 100-110 mph straight-line winds! That was south of Meade, KS.

Amos has pictures of this on his website. You might remember that storm, Amos. A bunch of us were on the east side of it and we got too mesmerized by it and had to get to shelter. The shelter wound up being a huge pile of gravel. Needless to say we not only had the winds but gravel and glass fragments as the back windshield blew out.
 
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