May 16th, Elmer OK

Initial Target: Texas panhandle
Starting From: Fort Morgan, CO
Ending: Altoona, IA
Overnight Stay: Blackwell, OK
Storm Intercepts: yes?

Features: Bleah. Crappy visibility.
States: Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma,Texas
Miles: 1588

Summary: Long trip; total fail

This is day two of a multi-day chase, but geographically dispersed because day one was in the Nebraska panhandle and day two looked to be somewhere in the Texas panhandle. I camped out for the night in Fort Morgan, Colorado, knowing I had a 600-ish mile drive the next morning. Yay.

Before sunrise, I took a look at the most current SPC and began my journey south and east. As the sun broke over the horizon in front of me, the Rocky Mountains in my rear-view mirror lit up. Beautiful and majestic.

I saw a crop duster laying down fertilizer in the still morning air, and I stopped for a few minutes to shoot some pics (pic 1). The crop duster saw me and said hello with a few puffs of smoke. I waved a quick goodbye and continued toward Texas.

Eastern Colorado has a beauty of its own, and unlike some states (NEBRASKA) the long drive seemed shorter because of the scenery. I crossed over into Kansas and headed south. I was in a bit of a time crunch, but luckily the highways were free and clear. Although I had blue skies overhead, there was ongoing convection off to my East, creating an outflow boundary south and east, which essentially moved my target south and east.  I stopped in Liberal, KS to recheck weather data, as clear skies began to be replaced by agitated cumulus – a good sign. SPC had a HUGE area tagged “Moderate Risk” – most of Kansas and Oklahoma.

Lack of atmospheric capping was a serious factor today, and storms were already beginning to fire south of the Red River down by Quanah, TX (NO! NOT QUANAH! – see my May 8th 2015 chase). I stopped to gas up in Canadian, TX just as a cell went tornado warned. I thought because of storm motion that if I followed US83 south, I would cut myself off and end up on the backside of this system. Due to several factors (flooding potential, terrain, cell coverage, bridge options on the Red River) I decided no matter what, I needed to get into Oklahoma before I cut south. US60 it was. There was a lot of low stratus, making it difficult to see distant cells. I was also in periodic heavy rain with very low ceilings. I hate chasing this region due to quick flooding (again, please see my entry from May 8th) so I was a little shy about heading into this low-visibility mess. Thanks to the great shear there were several radar-indicated mesocyclones embedded in this line and I was a bit nervous about my position relative to them. I still needed to get farther east and south. I was less than 25 miles from Elmer OK when multiple tornado reports lit up my feed. I could see a classic hook on radar, and it looked like every chaser in the country was on this cell. I saw several pics on social media, but what they are seeing (defined wall, defined inflow band, wedge tornado) was the opposite of what I was in (gray soupy fog).

Then the *other* reports started coming in – Chaser friends on Facebook/Twitter were reporting extremely large hail taking out their windshields. Chris Heater, Adam Lucio, The Iowa Storm Chasing Network guys… Whoa…

Already spooked because of my previous week’s chase (hail damage, cracked windshield), I decided to err on the side of caution and NOT chase this cell, even though I had driven 500 miles and was within 20 miles of it. Nope. Not gonna.

I stopped in a gas station parking lot and watched the carnage unfold on social media. Watching radar, I saw the transponder signal of my friend Andrew from Peoria Illinois – he was nearby and did not appear to be actively chasing. We texted back and forth and he had come to the same conclusion I did – not a storm we wanted to chase. He had broken off his chase and was also heading home. Point: Mother Nature.

Not long after this event, the entire line fired along the cold front, with a significant squall over 100 miles in length. I decided to get a hotel room in Blackwell, OK, minutes before it went overhead and just as darkness fell. What a day. Time for some rest.

This log reflects total mileage from my morning in Fort Morgan CO, to my home in Altoona, IA.