Tornado Alley trip – Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas
I was hoping to make an update sooner. We have found storms 6 days in a row, so we are very happy about that, but it has not left us with much spare time to edit pictures or do any writing.
Saturday, Day 4
We left Cheyenne Wyoming Saturday morning to set up at our target just West of Wiggins Colorado. A storm formed and produced a rotating wall cloud (precursor to tornado) I set up the live stream and it looked like we may stream the birth of a tornado. We tracked this storm through some interesting windy roads. We saw more rotation. It got wet and messy, and a large rain wrapped multi vortex tornado was reported one mile from our target. We had a decision to make at this point. Should we check out 2 storms to our East (which did not look like they would produce much on radar, they were linear when we looked) or should we get a head start on our drive for the storms the next day? We chose to get a head start.
A short time later we got out to shoot a massive shelf cloud that was in behind an old barn. Long story short, Kyle said “that looks like a tornado way over there” I said “check Twitter”…. yup, the Wray tornado, 40 miles away and visible.
This is what it looked like to us (picture by Kyle)
Sean Schofer took many pictures and videos, below are 2 of them, shared with permission by Sean.
That is the tornado of my dreams, over an open field, pretty, and full of dust.
I was able to take quite a few pictures of abandoned buildings with great storm structure behind them, looking forward to editing them when I get home.
Later that night we set up and were doing night lightning shots and touched base with Sean.
We met up for supper, and then for a few sociables in his room. When we got to the hotel, they were out of rooms. They had an unoccupied room but it was reserved with a group that just showed up. As it turns out, Sean reserved it for us when he realized it was the only room left. Those dang Canadians are so nice and thoughtful! (I have also picked up a bit of an accent, and Kyle is saying Y’all)
Sean and Curtis showed us their videos and pictures from the day including a very cool 360 degree video. Dr.Reed Timmer and his wife Maria (Fox News) gave us a private viewing of their footage, as they were trying to upload a couple of them. Seeing all the videos and hearing their first hand accounts and thoughts really took the sting out of not seeing them ourselves. I own all of Reed’s videos, his book, watched every episode of “Storm Chasers”… he is the Elvis of storm chasing, so hanging out and sharing stories over beers was very cool. It was the first time I had met Maria and she is very nice and down to earth (not all TV personalities from New York drink beer out of a can in a motel room i’m guessing). We also talked about rattlesnakes and photography, so pretty awesome end of the day for me I’d say.
Sunday, Day 5
Feeling pretty good, those American gas station beers were only 3.2%
Quick photo before we left.
We headed for Southern Kansas. The models shifted slightly during our drive and we continued south into Oklahoma, passing the Dow fleet (Doppler on Wheels) and NSW crews. We stopped at an intersection to wait for initiation, and an 80 year old couple drove over to us with their golf cart to tell us where their tornado shelter was if we wanted to use it. They shared a lot of history and some anecdotal information about weather that I doubt you find in books, i visited with them for an hour.
Then storms fired up. While parked, photographing the storm, the Extreme Tornado Tours vans passed our location honking hello thanks to their guide Braydon Morisseau who recognized the storm truck. The storms split, we picked one of the splits and live streamed a rotating wall cloud that looked close to producing right in front of us. We played leap frog with the DOW trucks staying ahead of the storm until it split again. We pulled up to Braydon and crew and had a bit of a visit.
We left the storm and drove into Wakita, cranking “Humans Beings” from the movie Twister. A local and his daughter (who was an extra in Twister) stopped to say hi, and then showed us where Aunt Meg’s house stood. It was kitty corner to where he lived. The movie bought him a new house so they could tear his down and turn it into rubble for the movie.
We decided to spend the night in Enid. Sean messaged us and we stopped for some wings at a place he knew was good. Braydon and the ETT tour were also staying in town – Sean asked them to reserve a room for us at their discounted group rate. This was to be Sean’s last day chasing in Tornado Alley (well kind of… more later) and it made us feel really good to know he was looking out for us. He knew this was our first trip down here, it has been a dream of both Kyle and me for a very long time, and he definitely helped to make it awesome.
Braydon, Sean, Curtis, Kyle, Ashleigh, Nick (owner of ETT, has a cabin in Manitoba) and I (6,5 Canadians) showed Kevin and Joseph from ETT how it was done in Canada, and we drank beer in the parking lot of the motel until 3:00 am. Ashleigh and Kevin recited lines from Twister, perfectly, in unison (kind of creepy haha). After a few more beer, we designed some upgrades and improvements for my storm truck…
Monday – Day 6
Sean and Curtis traveled back to Saskatchewan. We saw pictures Sean posted of a Tornado he found along the way in Nebraska. He said they saw some storms fire just a few hours away from where they were so they went after them and they tornado’d. How awesome is that. Tornado Wizard!!
We decided to avoid Eastern Oklahoma, and chose a target with better chase terrain…
to be continued…