Your Biggest 'OH MY GOD' experience

  • Thread starter Mike Hollingshead
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Mike Hollingshead

What is your most amazing chasing experience, or one that left you pinching yourself the most during it? I asked myself this a few times lately and have been meaning to post the question and figure it out myself. I chase for those moments where you can't believe they sky is doing what it is doing. Thinking back over this I have a good deal of things that would rank up there. That meteor shower late in the year several years back(01'ish) ranked way up there on the 'cool' factor. Both the extreme geomagnetic storms I've seen in the last year are there as well. At the time I figured the first one in November 2004 was the most amazing 'sky' experience I ever had.

If I had to pick one chase that the 'pinch me I'm dreaming' fit to the most it'd be the July 26, 2002 Falls City Nebraska Supercell experience. Now that I ponder back a bit the June 6 sky near Yankton SD that same year was perhaps the coolest experience to date. There was nothing severe about anything on that either. It was just the colors and contrast being so amazing. First it was a simply incredible double hail-bow that I royally messed up on with the wide angle on the video camera. It was incredibly strong and colorful, contrasted against pure white that seemed to dance in and out of the double bows(if it was even hail it was likely pea sized at the it was able to blow around a good bit...whatever it was). Then the sun did the work on the amazing mammatus field. This experience is why I finally purchased a still camera for chasing. I was a tad upset that all I had from it was video. I can clearly remember Steve Peterson saying, "you need a still camera for things like that"...or something to that effect. So this is why I had a still cam July 26(first chase with one actually), which was sort of a good thing, even if I didn't know what I was doing with it.

So, the July 26, 02 storm still takes the cake for most amazing experience. It was an interesting storm too. It was just a high based storm on a warmfront(maybe TP). It then got a big block of scud under it from its own cooled air to the north. It really anchored as it did this. Not long after this it got a long tail cloud and a whole lot of structure(very very clear structure for eastern NE). Then came cg after cg.



I was just north of its track and was getting more and more in the vault. So as it slowly moved east there were a few hair-raising crack(pause)boom'ers. Gotta love those.


Then the meso started to move overhead and just to the south of me...well overhead basically. The sun began working on this scene and well, it was just amazing to take it all in.


As the scene kept changing with the storm moving overhead the cgs kept a coming, some extremely close. The crack from this one was pretty instantaneous, as were some earlier ones that likely came from the anvil as it approached. Temps just south of this boundary were right at 100 in some places. North of it was cool and grungy(mid-70s I believe).


As it got east a bit more this huge detached funnel forms arcing around the back of the updraft.


East a bit more(the storm...I never move this whole time) and a very nice rainbow forms behind the sunlit meso and above/behind this cemetary I was sitting by. It all just makes a person wonder about things...or it did for me that day.

Just minutes before dropping south, before all this happened I was sitting in elevated crap-o-fun just north of this boundary. I was depressed with the whole year and this chase day. I was on the phone talking about how much I loved being a chaser, lol. I was seriously not happy, but was still laughing about it. Then I dropped south, this unfolded and I watched it all from one spot. It seemed like it knew I was watching as it did everything just right for the lighting I was having at this and that time. I mean it formed right there, did all that till it was just passed me, and then elevated and died big time. If any of it means anything I think it is that stuff WILL pay off if you have a little faith even when you think it is toast. Well, if one does it on a enough days anyway, it sort of has to. For me it always seems to do it when I'm down a whole lot on what has been happening. Like when I REALLY want to throw in the towel(though I'm so hopelessly a chaser, even after many days in a row of things sucking).

I seem to get into a habbit of screwing up a bunch of the earlier days in the year. May 3, 4, 6, and 8th 2003 only to finally 'win' the 10th. It really sucks to see everyone and their dog scoring on outbreaks and you "keep on keeping on", lol. May 3rd I opted to not chase in NE and Steve Peterson nabs several tubes out west from some looooong lived supercells that went up early. Then bust while an outbreak unfolds May 4th(was at the TP). May 6 was a big day that busted basically, but chased and didn't see much. May 8th looks just like May 4th and what do I do, bust at the TP again while everyone and their dog sees large violent tornadoes. Then more chasers getting more tornadoes May 9th. By then I'm soooooooooooooooo sick of not getting mine and half sick of the trying part. Then May 10th is another big big setup and a high risk. After racing after junk a good part of the afternoon I was completely ready to give up on it. I let the junk move past me and pondered calling it. I mean I was so sick of screwing up days and not seeing much. But for whatever reason I sucked it up and kept at it and THEN it paid off. LOL, then comes June 21, 22, 23 and 24. 21, 22, and 23 were all HELL days from driving, screwing up, and having to work early the next mornings on top of it. So what do I do the 24th, I let up on trying and boy did that bite me in the A$$(a "little" outbreak in se SD, right up the road).

Alright, I'm really rambling now. I love talking about things about chasing and how things seem to work out and not work out. My goal when I go out on any chase is to try and see that sky that makes you feel giddy and wonder if you're dreaming. So, what is your chase that you feel was most like this?
May 29 2004 I've never seen inflow that powerful before, Mike your shots on that sunlit meso are incredible truly a rare event where the sun is angled in just the right spot for that amazing contrast right place, right time, good shooting.
May 29, 2004 (SC KS storm) as the new meso/tornado (officially tornado #3 on that day) was forming above my chase party head's and we didn't notice because we were watching the first (officially the 2nd) tornado and joking's pretty funny on video, because in the top right corner you can see the bowl shape of the meso and at one point I reposition the camera and you can see a good pronounced lowering. :roll: All-time bonehead play I've ever had :roll:

A close second is sliding on hail on a jammed I-40 in EC OK on Mar 21, 2005.
My most memorable 'OMG' Moments:

*The Falls City/Mound City storms in July, 02 that Mike mentioned were also amazing to me, though my position wasn't as prime as Mike's and didn't get anywhere near the photos he did that day. What ended up being unique for me was the fact that we ended up in between the mesos on both cells, one on each side of the Missouri River, and it was amazing to see two wild, rotating updrafts ... one to my left and one to my right.

*August 16, 2002 in Yankton, SD was also a very cool supercell to watch with some beautiful light tricks on the west side at sunset.

*The enormous carousel-meso and satellite tornado on the Jamestown storm on the May 29, '04 that began its dance a few minutes before the wedge and anticyclonic tornadoes.

*The early meso on what became the historic Hallam supercell on 5/22/04 while it was just south of Bruning, Nebraska ... it was truly amazing to stand there watching that crazy rotation. This was one of those storms that overpowered me completely ... it was overwhelming.

*June 4, 2005 - the OMG factor didn't come from structure on this day ... since the structure was pretty much in the toilet. What led to OMG was the fact that we could not believe what had been such a cruddy looking storm was suddenly producing the coolest and most perfect tornado I've ever seen.

Later on in another tornadic supercell over St. Joseph, Missouri, the lightning was pounding the ground around the meso so hard and so frequently that it was like a scene out of War of the Worlds. Another OMG moment for me.
Although May 29, 2004 was a very big day, the OMG moment so far was 08-07-04 south of Wellington, Ks.

Tornado Reports (in CSV format)
Time Location County State Lat Lon Comments
0030 3 S WELLINGTON SUMNER KS 3723 9740 (ICT)
0037 1 E OXFORD SUMNER KS 3727 9715 (ICT)
0049 3 S WELLINGTON SUMNER KS 3723 9740 (ICT)

I was south of the first two tornadoes and have both on video. The kicker was the one that formed about 200 yards to the due west of me that I wasn't watching! I just happened to look over in that direction, and saw the dust swirl on the ground in a plowed field. I looked up to make sure I wasn't seeing what I was seeing and sure enough, there was a small funnel in the clouds over head. There were about 6 other vehicles at this intersection watching the tornado to the north (F-2 later determined) and no one saw this one until I honked and took off down a side road.

Yeah, I was coughing up some upholestry after that one. More than likely, it was a very short lived F-0, but I wasn't sticking around to find out! I have no with to be a TIV!!!! It certainly pays to keep your head on a swivel when playing the boundry areas.
Several 'holy crap' moments:

29 May 2004
Note the first tornado in the background and cyclonic circulation in the foreground.... oh by the way, this is going on to our east:

5 June 2005
A perfect chase... a short distance, a tornado intercept, and a great CG shot too boot:

12 June 2005
No pictures, but a CG struck a field within 200 yards of us. I never would of known how far away it was except for the dust it kicked up from the ground!!! I didn't feel any tingles, but it raised the hair on my friend's arm.

"Pinch me, I'm dreaming" moment?

Hands down 8/18/05. Tornado coming toward my neighborhood, debris flying over my house and landing in the yard, I just about lost it and started shouting at the sky. WHOA! TORNADO! DEBRIS!!! WHOAAAA!!!!

Sky looked like this:

6-13-04 was a nice warm front day with a beautifully isolated and violent tornadic supercell that ripped throughout central MI through the early afternoon into the evening. I got onto the storm in the Bay City-Midland area and just let the whole thing over take me... The massively rotating wall cloud/RFD pushed overhead and was quite an expierence. Some pics from the event:

6-12-05 was a just wild expierence... Over a half dozen different tornadoes, and all shapes and varities -- even twins! A dryline intersected a OFB producing a cluster of supercells, the southern (or "middle" one) immediately became violent and dropped it's first tornado by the time I intercepted it. About a half dozen followed in just 2 hours or so, and happened to be one of the sweetest chasing expierences of my life. Some pics from this sweet event:
Hi everyone,

**gg** what should I answer...I think the whole 2004 storm season, when chased storms the first time in my life with a very good friend from Norman, OK. I will never forget

1.) the friendliness of the American people I met ( although I never really
met one of you guys:( )

2.) the 12th may/29th may and 22th June 2004

12 th May:

I saw my first tornado in Harper County, Kansas ( the night time tornado ). I never saw such an huge complex of storms in reality and the strength of such a system. You have to understand...: me, a Germany boy, who lives in a town, which has more cows than people, never really saw REAL storms. I mean, we have a few svr. wx in my region for a few times in the year, but nothing compared to this I saw on this day. And then...the tornado. I will never forget when we came out of the rain next to Harper and I saw the whole skyline with deep and dark clouds and I/we knew that somewhere there was a tornado ( at last this was reported by the radio man:) ). And I looked around, saw nothing, only something like a tree in the distance...but no tornado. After at least 30 seconds a pretty bright flash occured and I saw my first tornado( the thick line I though it would be a tree...:)...only for a few seconds, but I saw for which I live my life. And I never thought that my first tornado in my life would be such a beautiful tornado ( a photo on my page ).
But I think I talk to people who really had the same feelings:)

29th may:

Yep..what should I say... my first high risk event ( one day after watching "The day after tomorrow:)" )..the massive inflow, the huge circulation and the wet RFD we saw next to Geary...words can't describe this. And like Melissa said: a tornado production like a production line.

22th June:

The intense hailstorm in Amarillo, TX. Impressive wall cloud and the biggest hailstones I ever saw. ..also a few spin ups in the field next to us:) A very impressive storm system.

I really hope I can come back as soon as possible for chasing some more storms!Here the link for the few photos...ATM I have no more informations on my page and it's written in German but I will change this when I have time!

Best wishes,


PS: I would be interested in one thing. On the 12th may 2004 tornado day direct after the last tornado we met some chasers who parked on a dirt road...I talked to some of you and maybe you can remember me ( I was the guy who cried that there was another tornado in the distance, although it only was a tree **gg**---> I know, me and trees ).

And a few minutes later we stopped at a gas station and I made this photo of one of you guys:


I would be very interested who chased with this car...the first time I really could see with which cars you hunt storms :lol:
This close one after 8 hours of chasing:


This one because this lightning bolt stretched out across an entire mountain range and shot out from miles away:


This one because something huge and furry landed on my arm:


and this one because I had been trying for this shot for 3 years and it finally happened for me last year:


Other moments on video would include Royal NE and Muskogee, OK.
The biggest OMG? Hmmm If I don’t count my first trip to Night Trips here in OKC when I was 21 and it had to be weather related it would be the following in this order.

May 12 2005 South Plains
October 9 2001 Elk City/Foss Lake
June 4 2005 SC KS.

May 12 2005
A chase I will never forget with a large close up tornado and monster hail. Man my heart was racing 90 to nothing it was that intense. Although the actual hail and tornado were very very very scary I think the scariest part of the chase was the ride back to Childress Tx. It was dark, raining so hard you could barely see the road, and on top of all that a tornado warning very close to where we where at. YA!

October 9 2001
The most fantastic tornado I have ever seen. It was an absolutely stunning demonstration of a vortex. Plus it was my first every tornado on film.

June 4 2005
Chad Lawson, Shane Adams, and myself in Chad’s car and Jo Radel and Angie Norris in Angie’s car. It was getting dark all of us (Chad, Shane, and myself) where very frustrated at the days outcome so we had completely threw in the towel. We where sitting at a gas station just east of Eureka KS just waiting for the cell to the west of us pass us by before we headed home. From out of the gray we see a lowering. None of us could determine if there was rotation but we could see it changing shapes rather quickly. As the lowering started cross hwy 54 it began to thin out and form into a tornado. It very well may have been a tornado the whole time though. But what makes this chase an “OMGâ€￾ moment is the fact that not but five minutes prior we had given up. Luck of the draw.

I would be very interested who chased with this car...the first time I really could see with which cars you hunt storms :lol:
That vehicle belongs to RJ Evans

And the guy with his back to the camera and his hand in his pocket is Bobby Prentice. Great guy! :D

Three OMG moments come to mind...
November 10, 2002
Actually started out that day in middle TN, but things just didn't feel right, so I turned around and went back home. The Mossy Grove tornado happened about half an hour after I got home, another smaller tornado about 10 miles away about two hours later, and then...
Warning came out at 10:20pm for "tornado on the ground, spotter indicated, 8 miles west of Oak Ridge moving east at 60mph. Residents of Claxton take cover now". Well, I lived right in the middle of Claxton, so what did I do? That's right, grabbed the camera and yelled at my kid..."if you want to see a tornado, get your a** outside right now!" Eight minutes later, thanks to the lightning, got a wedge on vid.
May 29, 2004
Tornadofeast in after the other, every size and shape from a quick little rope to start the afternoon, to the incredible merry-go-round, to two white "ghosts" right before we lost daylight. I still can't stop smiling when I remember that day.
June 4, 2005
Heheheh....thought Mickey might mention the turkey :wink: .
Even better for me than the 2 tornadoes we got was what happened while we were repositioning. We were leaving some little lake, busting you-know-what to get out of the way of the quickly approaching line, when there was an explosion right outside my car. Didn't even see the bolt that almost got Jo and me until we watched the vid...heard it and felt it, though :shock: 8) :D
Most intense moment for me June 30th this year after being in MN the night before.

Darin Brunin and I had little sleep and decided what the heck on a 2 percent day, and targeted SE KS. We observe a nice shelf east of Overbrook , get blasted for awhile till we hit Lyndon KS, where we hear of a tornado warning in coffey county IIRC. So we haul arse towards it, find ourselves under the rotation and behind some highway patrol cars near Beto's Junction, and watch it go outflow dominant as it passes by. We meet up with Eric B' Hymer shortly after, and hear of a new cell to our west near Matfield Green. Our nowcasters guided us to the right storm :).

We see a base and a wall cloud starting to form near madison. We head west of Madison, where wall cloud is now in clear sight, rotating slightly. The cell makes a right turn, so we head south to watch this thing rotate like crazy, (Eric calls it in, it's now tornado warned) stopping shortly to take pictures feeling nickels hit our back. We continue to drive south, as the wall is now directly to our south and less than one mile away. Behind us is the core from hell, and we can't stay ahead of the storm, thanks to the poor road network, and get SLAMMED. After gripping the steering wheel, and trying to drive through 60-70 mph winds and some small hail we make it out.
End of part 1.

Thanks to a bridge being repaired we cant get south, so we must go back north and east to catch the tornado-warned cell. After navigating through the infamous flint hill road network, we are now on the NW side of the storm. Quick gas fill up at Yates center. (LOL, storm was passed, and they sounded the tornado sirens AFTER it was gone) Hearing reports of funnel clouds, frustrated, we make it to Buffalo, where Mike Johnston informs us would be a good spot to be. So we head south of there and head east with Eric in front. He calls it a day, we core punch it to the east and now south heading to parsons trying to stay away from the baseball hail being reported. At this time we are about 5 miles north of parsons when we hear of a half mile wide tornado on the ground 4 miles north east of parsons. Very low visibility so i head east on some dirt road, then south again, towards mccune? Can't remember the town east of parsons. It's now dark and the tornado is on the ground somewhere a mile or two in front of us (from reports). That's when the hail begins, nothing big, then bigger, then it just pours golfball-tennisball size hail with winds I couldn't measure but would estimate >70 mph. This lasts for an eternity.

We head back to parsons. Try to head home, where we get blasted by an MCS near Eerie. I have never been sick of storms, but that day, I could have cared less. Awesome lightning show on the way home.

Most intense moment and most frustrating moment for me. I think SPC has 8 tornadoes that touched down that day into missouri (tornado warned through 8 plus counties, IIRC) from that storm, and we were there from the beginning, just couldn't get ahead of it. *sigh* 2005 for me.
May 29th of 2004 is by far the most memorable chase ever. Ken Johnson and I saw estimated 4 or so tornadoes that day!


On May 4, 2003 I was caught behind the tornadic supercell SW of Springfield Missouri. I was about 10 miles West of it and had a perfect view of the incredibly corkscrewed updraft that went all the way up to 55,000-60,000. I have never seen an updraft that was barberpoled all the way up to the over shooting top. It was definitely one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. When I caught back up to the storm I had to punch the core while driving through Springfield. The tornado sirens were whaling and there were leaves and trash raining down that had been sucked up into the storm by the violent long track tornado the storm had produced. I will never forget that day.
I think I would put in my entire 2005 chase season that just got better and better. I was able to capture 18 tornadoes all within about 75 miles or so of Lubbock and only two long distance trips that for all intents and purposes were busts.

I can't remember a year in the past where I was able to get so many, PHOTOGENICALLY AWESOME tornadoes this close to home in one season. By the middle of June I felt like I wasn't going to be able to out on a storm here WITHOUT seeing a tornado.

What made it even more awesome was the fact that the rest of tornado alley was quite poor for tornadoes climatologically. My avatar is just one of those catches this year out here.

Certainly didn't hurt any either that the first year I started chasing for the local station we had such a great season locally as well.

Throw in that I chased my first hurricane this year which was awesome besides the trashed video camera.

Yeah, this season was an "oh my god" season for me.
In chronological order:

April 6, 2001:
--My first chase. Unknowningly being chased by a funnel cloud, and remarking that I was hungry and wanted someone to pass the Fritos. "Food must come first." "OMG Moment #1" because I was such an idiot.

May 5, 2001:
--Not getting the $170 speeding ticket that my friends did, while they got the tornado instead of me.
--Nearly getting broadsided by another chaser not watching the road. This is the infamous "I'll give you one guess as to their gender and the color of their hair" quote. You can see that video on my website.

April 5, 2003:
--Lots of big hail. On a brand new hood that I had just put on my 6 month old car after rear-ending someone two weeks earlier.

May 29, 2004:
--3.5 years of chasing, and 60 chases later. I finally see my first tornado and break my streak of unsuccess. Pretty much all of my chases since then, have been awesome. I may not have scored the 'nader, but I've been in the right area.

May 13, 2005:
--Chasing a tornadic HP supercell near Haskell, TX, instead of going to my commencement at OU...and nearly missing the after-party with lots of drunken friends at my apartment.

May 14, 2005:
--While not officially chase related, it is meteorology related. I grauduated with my B.S. in Meteorology from OU.