20160517: Texas Storms

Lane and I headed out around 1700 with the goal of Junction, TX in mind. We didn’t make it as far as Junction because of traffic, but that worked out as we hit a new cell forming near Harper, TX. The cell exploded quickly and became severe quickly as well. We found a great vantage point of the structure, lightning, and what we think was at least a funnel (possibly a tornado, but the ground was obscured by trees along the horizon). We only saw rotation for a single radar sweep and then it was gone, and the video/photo suggests if it was there, it was very brief.

Afterward, we attempted to head to Kerrville to head off the line of storms approaching I-10. We didn’t make it because the rain and hail from the Harper cell, winding and flooding roads make going very slow. By the time we got north of Kerrville we were in the core of a larger cell dropping 2.5″ hail on us with accumulation on the road and hail fog dropping (along with pouring wind-driven rain) dropping visibility to 10 feet at times and extremely difficult to even see the lines on the road. It was very slow going.

Once we reached the I-10 we tried to race SE toward San Antonio to catch the line there, but again, we didn’t make it. This time because of pounding rain and winds, jack-knifed trucks, hydroplaning cars, etc. We were under the front winds for over an hour. We couldn’t get ahead of them and waiting for them would have put us in the harder rain and hail for the entire drive to San Antonio.

After reaching north San Antonio we decided to call it a night and head over to the I-35. There we ran into major flooding, vehicles stuck in the water with people trapped and water rescues occurring (one of which we had to call 911). It was slow going but we finally got clear of the heavy rain and into smoother sailing on the Interstate between New Braunfels and San Marcos. Ended the night at Denny’s at 0230 eating pancakes and french toast. Then up until 0500 trying to figure out if we actually saw a funnel or not on the Harper storm. We submitted what we had and the evidence we had to NWS San Antonio for them to determine what we may or may not have seen.

With that said… let’s get to pics and videos! As always, click on an image to see the full size.

It was pretty dark when we got to Harper. Luckily the camera increased the ambient light so we could see the structure better, but doing so makes the pictures a bit grainy:

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Lightning helped us see the structure better:

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When it got too dark for even the camera to use ambient light, we had to rely solely on lightning. We saw a lowering several times and then finally caught a wall cloud:

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The wall cloud continued to develop quickly and became this:

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Then we started to see what we thought was at least a funnel, but just could not be sure in the dark, even with the aid of lightning. It wasn’t until we got home and went through the video frame by frame that we feel we were in fact looking at a funnel and possible tornado.

There was one lightning strike that shows a funnel. However, we fully concede that this is possibly a trick of the light. But given the other frames we caught, we are including this one as well:

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Then there’s this single frame:

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Then we found five frames where it seems clear to us that there’s at least a funnel and possibly a tornado on the ground. I’ll include all five frames below and then the GIF we created with the frames where you can see rotation. I used ACDSee to lighten the frames up so their more visible.

GIFFER001

GIFFER002

GIFFER003

GIFFER004

GIFFER005

And here’s the GIF:

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Then we drove through that core with 1″ hail and head toward Kerrville. Along North Ranch Road 783 between Harper and Kerrville (about 5 miles north of I-10) we encountered hail and fog, then hail accumulation (oh, that’s why it’s suddenly foggy lol), and then increasingly larger hail up to 2.5″ with horrendous visibility.

A quick stop in Kerrville at a gas station then the long windy and rainy ride down toward San Antonio where we encountered this (luckily the lightning helped illuminate the shot):

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While heading into the north San Antonio area we passed eight fire trucks and two ambulances heading west on the I-10. Either we had just missed on helluva pileup or there was an 8 alarm fire somewhere. We never could find any news about it, though.

We gave up the chase essentially as there was no way to catch up to the line after taking so long to get from Kerrville in the pounding rain. Then we ran into flooding, floating cars, and water rescues…

This one we had to call 911 on. There were two cars stuck total and neither would roll down their windows and answer our calls. The drive of the vehicle behind this one finally got out and pushed his floating car back south until he hit concrete and then kept pushing. When the Fire Department showed up, it turned out no one was in this car and they had already abandoned it. While the firetruck was sitting there, with two cars swamped, several cars went AROUND the firetruck and tried to make it through. The Lincoln made it through the water, but stalled out less than a block after the water. The Kia Soul tried to run with a set of tires on the sidewalk, which helped mostly, but in the long run they got too much water in the engine and bogged down after they hit the edge of the flooding. People are stupid.

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Then it was zig-zagging between I-35 and the service road to avoid flooding on each. The second one we encountered had two vehicles stalled in the right two lanes of the I-35 and a vehicle stalled on the exit ramp with a Sheriff on the service road with his lights on stopping people on the service road. Traffic was not stopped on the I-35. The far left lane was passable, but was already getting water on it. Our concern, especially since the two cars on the Interstate still had people in them, was that someone was going to come barreling in and hit them.

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We passed two more water rescues happening in underpasses, but at that point kept driving instead of stopping.

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20151226: Texas Storms & Tornadoes

Lane and I chased on 12/26 and 12/27/15. We started in Waco and waited. By the time we were done chasing we were in Rowlett and then Rockwall at the Fire Station ready to assist on standby. Lane was there at that point mostly to observe, but my Navy training was ready to assist. We sat in the Rockwall Fire Station for several hours as reserve units until we decided to head back out. It took us hours to just get back to the Interstate. We tried to offer assistance in Rowlett, but they would not let us into the staging area.

We missed the Rowlett tornado by no more than 10 minutes. Had we not stopped for gas we might very well have been on the I-30 when it came through. Instead, we went through the aftermath. Cars strewn about, thrown from the overpass, buildings damaged, people walking around aimlessly, emergency crews just arriving on scene, power lines down on the Interstate.

The cell we were chasing that led us to the Rowlett was the cell that cross the I-45 into Rosser, TX. We were able to visually see a stovepipe near Rosser and reported it to the NWS. We did not think we had a visual of the tornado until we went frame-by-frame in the video and we actually got a small glimpse of it as it crossed the I-45.

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Sunrise would find more flooding in Texas as we headed toward Houston. Nothing severe popped up that afternoon, just more rain and more flooding, especially after they were forced to open the flood gates at Lake Conroe.

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BWAHAHA 3/28 – 4/3

BWAHAHA (Blair’s Week Attempts at Haha’s) 3/28 – 4/3: Okay, so this is almost a week overdue. Fuckin’ sue me, I was busy!

No funny in this paragraph today: this is a serious issue. I think it’s safe to say that the Spring Severe Storm Season (S4) has officially kicked off. While technology allows us to watch chases live in areas we do not live in or can’t get to, there *may* also be some drawbacks to that new technology. It was recently reported that residents of a town affected by severe weather could not get good cell signals because all the bandwidth was being used up. While there is no concrete evidence that chasers were using it all up, there is no doubt that there were dozens of live streaming chasers in the area and dozens more using cell networks to download radar, etc. This is an issue the storm chasing community at large is going to have to address at some point. When does streaming cross the line from safety and information into harming the community instead? When a community can no longer communicate with emergency personnel or get their own weather reports so they know when to take shelter, is that not harming rather than helping? This is likely never going to be an issue if you are chasing in large cities like Oklahoma City (unless cell towers are taken down by storms) or in areas where chasers don’t normally appear in droves (like here in Alabama). However, if you’re in little bitty Edna… maybe you should think twice about streaming until you run across something that needs to be streamed for public safety purposes (such as an active wall cloud or tornado).

OTHER STUFF:

  • When the lightning is really close and suddenly it's high noon at 2100.

    When the lightning is really close and suddenly it’s high noon at 2100.

  • Just saw my first chipmunk in the yard this season! I wonder how long before the cats kill it.
  • Experimenting with green chile meatloaf… we’ll know if I’m an idiot or genius in about an hour.
  • If you see dozens of chasers converge on your town during a storm and your tornado sirens aren’t going off, you should probably check.
  • Flying rock on the interstate hit one of my AcuRite wind cups and broke it, so the loss of balance shredded the remaining two. ‪#‎Bummed‬
  • How come they always hit my house when I'm not at my house? ‪#‎FirstWorldChaserProblems‬

    How come they always hit my house when I’m not at my house? ‪#‎FirstWorldChaserProblems‬

140 CHARACTER ASSASSINATIONS:

  • Guess I didn’t need the kleenex after all. ‪#‎TheWalkingDead‬ ‪#‎DeadBuzz‬
  • So what is Morgan, Mr “All life is precious,” thinking walking into an execution? ‪#‎TheWalkingDead‬ ‪#‎DeadBuzz‬

BWAHAHA 3/21 – 3/27

BWAHAHA (Blair’s Week Attempts at Haha’s) 3/21 – 3/27: Ah, Spring… when the bugs come out and start mating, when the birds wake you up in the morning because they’re honry and O’Dark Thirty, when the smell of freshly mowed dogshit wafts in the gentle breezes and everyone starts their sneezes. Ah… Spring.

My grass literally went from brown to needing to be mowed in a week. Not even a week after mowing my grass for the first time… freezing temps. Fuckin’ weather! At least I got to do a little bit of chasing as the cold front came through. Nothing major, just chasing cloud formations. Many people think storm chasers are about the tornadoes. Don’t get me wrong, the tornado is the icing on the cake on top of a cherry on a sundae, but we chase for the sky: the clouds, the rain, the cloud formations, the beauty, etc. I’ll chase on a partly cloud day just to watch the beauty of the tiny clouds rolling around in the sky. It’s the Troposphere that gets us excited: Tornadoes just send us over the top.

Speaking of storms, don’t forget to check out my new blog entry for this upcoming storm season: North Alabama: Are You Storm Ready?

OTHER STUFF:

  • 20150325a

    Declaring war against Sweet Gum Balls. #Napalm

  • Being a responsible pyromaniac. Sitting here with a shovel until the burn is done. Beautiful day for it.

    Being a responsible pyromaniac. Sitting here with a shovel until the burn is done. Beautiful day for it.

  • Whoever in the Aviwxchasers.Com car keeps saying “it’s large,” they remind me of the movie Popeye.

140 CHARACTER ASSASSINATIONS:

  • I will not read comments on news items about Ted Cruz. I will not read comments on news items about Ted Cruz. I will not read comments… #Cruz2016
  • Senator Ted Cruz’n for a bruz’n #Cruz2016

@MIDNIGHT #HASHTAGWARS:

  • “Take On Windows ME” by A-ha ‪#‎InternetASong‬ @midnight
  • “Ocean Blue Waffle” by ABC ‪#‎InternetASong‬ @midnight
  • “Mexican Pandora” by Wall of Voodoo ‪#‎InternetASong‬ @midnight
  • “Ride Like The Windows Explorer” by Christopher Cross ‪#‎InternetASong‬ @midnight
  • “Bette Davis iTunes” by Kim Carnes ‪#‎InternetASong‬ @midnight
  • “WWW, WWW, WWW, WWW” by Crash Test Dummies ‪#‎InternetASong‬ @midnight
  • “(Nothing But) 1800Flowers.Com” by Talking Heads ‪#‎InternetASong‬ @midnight
  • “Just A Googleo (I Ain’t Got Nobody)” by David Lee Roth ‪#‎InternetASong‬ @midnight
  • “Huffington Post Post Modern Man” by DEVO ‪#‎InternetASong‬ @midnight
  • “Doll-Dagga BuzzFeed-BuzzFeed Ziggety-Zag” by Marilyn Manson ‪#‎InternetASong‬ @midnight
  • “Amazoned and Confused” by Neil Diamon ‪#‎InternetASong‬ @midnight
  • “Instagram Club Hit (You’ll Dance to Anything)” by The Dead Milkmen ‪#‎InternetASong‬ @midnight

North Alabama: Are You Storm Ready?

NORTH ALABAMA: ARE YOU STORM READY?

AlabamaStormChasersLogo(small)A lot of people are asking if the 2015 tornado season is going to be bad since we had a bad winter. While it is true that in the past some bad winters were followed by bad tornado seasons, it is equally true that past bad winters were followed by mild tornado seasons. Just because it was a bad winter in 2010/11 and it was followed by a bad 2011 tornado season doesn’t follow that a bad winter equals a bad tornado season. That is what is called confusing correlation with causation.

What is more important is being prepared for any severe weather threat, be it an average storm season or a more active season. It does no good to only be concerned about whether or not we will have 200 tornadoes in any given year, because it only takes a single storm, single flood, or a single tornado to destroy lives and property.

You need to be prepared for extended power outages. You need to be prepared for a loss of local store services (or ones operating on cash only). You need to be prepared to stay in your home or evacuate as the circumstances dictate.

So what do you need before a storm?

  1. Make sure you have non-perishable food items. During an extended power outage, your milk and eggs are not going to do you any good once they spoil.
  2. Make sure your car’s gas tank is full in case power is out for an extended period and gas stations are shut down. You should also fill your gas cans as well. If you do not use them, then you will have the gas to keep mowing your lawns.
  3. Make sure you have an alternative way to cook food (even if you have a gas stove, because utilities may have to shut gas down if there is a problem at the source or anywhere along the lines). A camp stove or grill are great ways to cook when the power is out. If you have a charcoal grill, make sure you have a few bags of charcoal ready to go. If you have a propane grill, make sure your tank is at least 1/2 full. If you have a camp stove, make sure you have enough mini-propane tanks.
  4. Make sure you have bottled water. A half case of water (per person in the household) at a minimum should be readily available.
  5. Make sure all your electronics are fully charged. Make sure you have a supply of batteries ready to go for battery-operated electronics, flashlights, LED lights, etc. If you lose power, only use your phone for emergencies to conserve battery life. Make sure you turn off your WiFi on your phone so it does not waste battery searching for a WiFi signal. If cell service goes down, put your phone on airplane mode (or turn it off) to conserve battery and check a few times a day to see if cell signal is back. If you have an inverter for your car, that is great, but remember to start your engine and run it for a few minutes while you are using the inverter. Inverters can drain batteries quickly, especially older batteries or batteries that have been jump-started before. Keep in mind that using the inverter, and thus running the engine, is using your gas, so be mindful of how much you use it.
  6. Keep flashlights or lanterns nearby and ready to go. Make sure you have lighters/matches to light any candles or kerosene/propane lanterns you have. Make sure lighters and matches are in an easy-to-find place so you are not digging for them in the dark.
  7. You should already have a NOAA Weather Radio. If you do not have one, do yourself and your family a favor and spend the extra money next payday to buy one. The NOAA Weather Radio is an invaluable asset, especially if you cannot hear tornado sirens where you live, sirens do not wake you up when you are sleeping, or the power goes out so you cannot get Internet or TV news. The NOAA Weather Radio can SAVE YOUR LIFE!
  8. Make sure any prescription medication is easily accessible so you are not fumbling in the dark trying to find your pills. If you are running low on one and it is ready for a refill, take care of that now: not the day the storm is supposed to be on top of you.
  9. Your house should already have a first-aid kit and fire extinguisher in it. Make sure everyone knows where those are at and they are easily accessible in the dark.
  10. Do not forget about your pets: take them into account when figuring out how much bottled water you should have and make sure they have enough dog food to last for extended period with no stores being open.
  11. Talk to everyone in your household about safety and evacuation plans. Where are the safe places to hunker down within your house to ride out a storm? Where is a safe place to meet if you are separated during a storm event, evacuation, etc? If you must evacuate or leave your house because of damage, where is the nearest public evacuation center or storm shelter? Have a practice drill now and then (at least twice a year) to make sure everyone is familiar with the plan and can execute it properly.
  12. Have a “bug-out bag” ready to go. This doesn’t mean you need a prepper bag full of seeds and ammunition. It means you need the basics ready to go in case something happens (like a tree falling on your house, a lightning strike causing a house fire, or a tornado damaging your home). The bag should include things like underwear, change of clothes, toiletries, baby diapers, etc. One thing people often forget is important paperwork. Scan your important documents and put them on a small flash drive (or CD-R) that can go in your bag (marriage license/certificate, mortgage, insurance paperwork (auto, car & life), birth certificates, etc). This should be in your room where you can grab it quickly as you escape your house. Your bag should also contain some cash because an extended power outage means no credit card readers are going to be working.
  13. Make sure your ICE (In Case of Emergency) contacts are updated in your phone.
  14. Stay calm. Don’t panic. Panic leads to bad decision making. Be aware of your surroundings.

Best wishes, as always,
Blair