The tswails.com “Into the Storm” Chase team is a seasoned group. They’ve logged the miles, suffered through torrential downpours, ducked baseball-sized hail, and faced super cells scary enough to melt your undershorts.
Despite all that, our dedicated band of merry chasers return to the hunt every year (It may help that we ride in supreme comfort thanks to the wonderful generosity of Dahl Ford).
This year we’ve tested even their stalwart spirits by doing our first all-nighter. We left at 11:00 p.m. Friday night (May 24th) and never stopped, never slept, enjoyed a lovely breakfast in Wichita, Kansas around 8:00 a.m. and was on the chase by noon.
Non-stop action. It’s what we do. It’s what we live for. It’s what rocks us.
Guymon, Oklahoma was the target. The radar was lit up with all sorts of potential threats. But as they say too much of a good thing…is well…not a good thing. The severe storms were knocking elbows and stepping on each others toes. In storm chasing one is a party…two or more is a crowd. When severe storms hang together they rob energy from one another. A lone super cell has a better chance of gathering energy from the atmosphere and staying vertical. When the dance floor gets too crowded, the storms go linear and create a messy situation. So despite the anticipated potential for the day, it was a bust.
There is no better way to heal the war wounds than to find a nice hotel, enjoy a fine meal, and partake of the hotel hot tub. Cures all kinds of ails.
Sunday turned out to be another day with big hopes and a moderate risk for tornadoes and severe weather. We found the motherload outside of Lamar, Colorado. This super cell had all the bells and whistles. Classic structure with two flat beaver tails highlighting the wall cloud, sunshine behind the cell, and lightning activity inside. All good signs. No…make that all GREAT signs. We followed that cell, along with every other chaser in the USA, for about four hours as the storm cycled and recycled. At one point, we drove around a curve and looking back there were chaser vehicles lined up like a row of ants as far as the eye could see. They were bumper to bumper.
A funnel cloud made its debut for the “Big Show” several times, but never connected with Planet Earth. So while we all had a whirl of a good time, we never actually captured the big prize. After the cell fizzled all chasers headed for town (We ended up in Burlington, Colorado). I was a bit shocked when I heard over the radio that one town was so freaked by the number of chasers in the area the town fathers were considering closing the hamlet off to us! (The nerve right?) At the rate chasers snack, eat, drink, and pick up more snacks, opening the welcome gates could have probably funded that town a new police station or something.
Each year, every chase is unique. There are like snowflakes. Some of the sad and weird things that have happened already include witnessing a young man who either fell or jumped off a overpass on interstate 80. We were just minutes behind the incident and saw his body laying on the pavement. Then the record-setting number of chasers. Literally hundreds of vehicles lined up one after another on backroads and highways. Plus long lines of chasers waiting to use service station restrooms and gas pumps. Flashback to the seventies! We even had difficulty getting updated information because the cell tower was being bombarded by so many weather enthusiasts seeking the same information! Chasers also brought out all the emergency personnel from local towns to direct traffic and intervene in car crunches. I even saw an ambulance lined up with chase vehicles watching the super cell. (Now those folks are what I call true ambulance chasers!)
But we are only a few days into our chase and there is so much more potential for the stories that will eventually become folklore and legends.