Monday, May 26, 2008

Severe Weather Possible Memorial Day

The Storm Prediction Center shows SW MO in a slight risk for severe weather over the next two days. Make sure your NOAA All Hazards Radio is on and backed up by battery.

Well, a nice long weekend at Campbell Point at Table Rock Lake ended up being a short one. Brake light issues delayed our exit Friday night because we didn't want to get rear ended with the camper. The tornado watch and approaching severe weather ended the trip early on Sunday. So, it was a one nighter.

We no sooner pulled out of the park and the storms were approaching. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning was issued for Barry county just as we crossed into Barry from Stone. The campground is on the Stone/Barry line. We were going to take 39 up to Aurora, then 60 to 14 back to Nixa. Jenkins was in the path of the storms, which was north of us on our route, so it was 76 to 160 to get home.

All in all, it ended up being a dud day yesterday, but the ingredients were there for it to be nasty. We prefer to not be out in a camper in that mess, and to be honest, we'd prefer to not pack up wet the next day, even if it just rained. So we were glad to get home and not have to mess with it. We really know how to rough it, huh?

So I guess while we were out camping on Saturday, Oklahoma got hit pretty hard. Here's dramatic video of a tornado absolutely decimating a pig farm.

Here's more footage from the air...amazing views for sure.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Rotary Club of Nixa

Thank you to the Rotary Club of Nixa for inviting me out to speak today on storm spotting. It was a pleasure meeting the fine folks in this organization. We touched on SkyWarn, the logistics of spotting, safety, and talked about some actual tornadic events in the area.

Here is a link to the video representing the danger of being in a vehicle in a tornado in case it was hard to see on the screen.

Here is a link to the video we didn't have time to watch from January 7th, 2008. It shows the funnel cloud over James River and Kansas Expressway with audio from the SkyWarn network. In it you can hear:
  • Me give specific information as to the location of the funnel
  • Another SkyWarn spotter confirming what I was seeing
  • SkyWarn net control confirming and relaying the information to the National Weather Service
  • Warning information communicated to the spotters
Don't forget to look into a NOAA All Hazards Radio if you don't already have one. Here is a post regarding what to look for, etc. The events we talked about (and more) are documented on this site. You can visit the "Blog Archives" on the right side menu at the bottom, with information back to 2003.

Also, as a group you should kick around the idea of getting CERT training. I think it would be something your group would enjoy doing together, and provide a great base of knowledge that can benefit your family and neighbors. If it's something you want to look into, please email me and I will make sure you have all of the information you need.

Again, thank you for having me, and please don't hesitate to shoot me an email with any questions you may have.

Monday, May 19, 2008

May 10, 2008 Radar

I finally had time this weekend to grab the historical radar images from the May 10, 2008 deadly tornado in Southwest Missouri. I posted on the site in the past about the "hook echo" that appears on radar when there is a tornado. Below are the radar images from Picher, OK and Racine, MO

In this radar image you can see the storm right before the EF-4 tornado hit Picher, OK. Wind speeds were estimated at 165-175 MPH. Six people died in Picher. Shortly after this, a second tornado formed to the north of this one and merged into a mile wide tornado as it crossed into Missouri.

In this radar image you can see the mile wide EF-4 tornado has already moved through the Racine, MO area. Winds were estimated at 170 MPH, throwing cars up to a 1/2 mile. 13 people died in this area, including a firefighter/spotter who is credited with saving 3 lives.

This was a very large and devastating tornado. Because of the terrain it covered and the SE movement of the storm, it was nearly impossible for spotters that were east of it to intercept. I'll save that topic for another posting later.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Trained Spotter/Firefighter/Hero Dies

Tyler Casey, 21, passed away Monday from injuries received in the line of duty. Casey was a trained storm spotter and a volunteer firefighter. He was out there protecting people at his own cost, and in the end, he paid the ultimate price. He was a very brave man, and a hero.

On Saturday June 10th, Tyler was storm spotting for the Seneca Area Fire Protection District at Missouri Highway 43 and Iris road in Newton County when he saw the mile wide EF-4 tornado approaching. Instead of moving to safety, Casey started warning those around him, and was unable to escape the storm. He is credited with saving at least 3 lives while giving his own.

Casey leaves behind a 2 year old daughter, and an expecting fiance. Tyler, I salute you for your bravery and commitment to protecting others. Godspeed my friend.

News Story About Tyler

Severe Weather Possible Tuesday, May 13

Severe weather, including the possibility for tornadoes, is possible later today. Please monitor local conditions and prepare your NOAA All Hazard Radios.

Be safe.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

How Chasers Become The Chased - May 10, 2008

On Saturday May 10, 2008 a group of four chase vehicles went to intercept tornadic storm moving into the area. These storms were wrapped in heavy rain, which made them nearly impossible to see from the eastern side. My chase partner and I moved south out of the path of the main storm, and ended up in an area where the view to the west was completely obstructed. Then we ended up in a situation that didn't look so good when mother nature decided to introduce a second tornadic storm to the south of the first one. A third tornadic storm north of the original one also came into play. Because of this, all four chase vehicles ended up in a situation similar to the one I outlined below.

Part 1 - The Chase

Part 2 - The Chase

Part 3 - The Chase

Part 4 - The Chase

While we can't control mother nature, we can be well trained and be part of an excellent SkyWarn communications network. These two things allow us to make solid decisions to stay as safe as we can. Without both of these, May 10th could have turned into a bad deal. Thank you to the National Weather Service and the SkyWarn folks who work to get information out there, which in turn allows those of us out mobile to stay safe.

The great loss of life is very sad. Those of us who volunteer our time for the SkyWarn program do it to get information back to the NWS so the public can be warned of impending danger. While the storms that killed so many were preceeded by lead time warnings, it didn't seem to help some. It's my hope that the efforts of the volunteers who provide information back to the NWS saved some lives on May 10, 2008. If one life was saved because of the information provided, it was worth it.

My prayers to those who were not able to get to safety and were impacted by these storms.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Deadly Tornadoes - May 10, 2008

SkyWarn Audio From May 10, 2008 Courtesy of David Williams (KE7ABH)

On Saturday May 10th, 2008 large damaging tornadoes affected Northeast OK, Southeast KS and Southwest MO. A few chase vehicles left the Springfield, MO area to intercept, but in the end, the tornadoes were wrapped in rain from the east side. There was no way to safely get in behind them from the east. In the end, the chasers became the chased. Below is the chase log from myself and my chase partner.

I contacted Jeff Kerr (KC0VGC) around 13:30 to confirm he was prepared to head out due to the moderate risk for severe weather, including large tornadoes. Shortly after 16:00 I started tracking a storm that was moving across southern KS. This discreet supercell caught my attention, and was the first indication that the forecast for severe weather was going to pan out. I contacted Jeff Kerr (KC0VGC) a little later to let him know it was time to head out.

I picked Kerr up around 17:20 and we headed west toward Mt. Vernon to meet up with Brant (N0BFR), Bob (N0XJJ), Rich (KB9YZE) and Brian (KC0JYE). Before we could get to Mt. Vernon, reports started coming in from the Baxter Springs, KS area confirming tornado damage. My wife contacted her family in Baxter Springs, and they were seeking shelter in their bathroom and their house was being battered by baseball size hail. They had one baseball size hail stone go through both layers of glass and land in their laundry room, and one that went completely through their soffit.

The team quickly decided that Mt. Vernon was likely in the path of this storm, and we all moved south towards Aurora to get a southern view of the storm as it approached. Brant and Bobby headed west towards Monett, while the rest of us met up in Aurora to form a plan. Things got pretty crazy at that point.

Jim Sellars (N0UAM) contacted us to let us know this was a very dangerous storm, and it was headed in our direction. Brian broke off and headed west to meet up with Brant and Bob were redirected to head towards the Mt. Vernon area because of another tornado heading just north of there, while Jeff and I moved further south on Highway 39 with Rich. Upon reviewing our map, and the towns in the path of this storm (Neosho, Newtonia, Stark City, Purdy), we decided we were still in the path of a storm.

Unfortunately, once we moved further south on Highway 39 towards Jenkins, our view to the west was completely obstructed. We made the decision to continue south out of the storm path because we did not have a clear view. Then the sickening news, another tornadic storm was reported in Cassville (yes, a possible third tornado), and was headed towards our escape point. Three tornadoes in a small vicinity all moving east towards us...that made for an interesting scenario. (Interesting = "Great, now what?")

We were forced to make a decision with the information we had. The decision we made was to continue south until we got to Highway 248, then to head east towards Galena and on to Reeds Spring so we could get on Highway 160 with an easy north/south escape option. This was a good decision, our only real option, but a very dangerous situation. Highway 248 took us quite a bit back north before we could head east. While we were making this trip, the big storm was to our north, and another was to our west/southwest, and it was gaining on us.

As we arrived in Galena, we came to a point where we were to go right to Reeds Spring, or left to Crane. No sooner did I utter the words "we'll keep going towards Reeds Spring" when the wind suddenly shifted direction and was clearly inflow into the storm that was behind us. Now when I say the wind changed directions, I don't mean a subtle change, I mean an immediate 180 degree snap of the wind and rain started blowing toward the storm. I made a split second decision to head towards Crane in hopes the storm was still moving east or southeast.

Rain and hail started driving hard against the windshield, and for about a minute, I thought the windshield was going to break. Fortunately, I think the hail was pea to penny size tops, but with the wind, it sounded alot worse. The highway to Crane led back to the northwest. Ironically, we chose very specifically to not take TT highway east from Highway 39, but it would have been the quickest route east for us. Unfortunately, at the time we chose not to take it, we were worried about one tornado, not three. Had it been simply a decision of escape, and not better positioning, I think TT would have been a better option.

A few minutes later, the nasty reports started coming in from the Galena to Reeds Spring area. Kerr says, "I think you made the right decision back there". On our way to Crane, while Kerr and I were enjoying the break in the clouds, and our safety, we passed Rich (who had taken TT) and was now heading towards the Galena area to get in behind the storm. At this point, going back into that situation wasn't something Kerr and I wanted to do. We dealt with uncertainty for 2o or 30 minutes, and quite frankly a few moments of horror, and we were glad to be out from under that storm and in a position where we could clearly see the approaching weather.

It's very concerning when we are in bad terrain, there's a storm behind us that is tornadic, and one just to our north (which was moving east-southeast) that has already caused confirmed damage and injuries. From what I understand, all four chase vehicles were faced with this situation yesterday, and everyone stayed calm (it's a relative term, but true) and made educated decisions based on multiple information sources. Everyone made it out safe, which is the most important thing.

At the time of this posting, the report is 20 fatalities. My heart goes out to those affected by this storm.

Tornadoes Devastated OK-KS-MO Area

Multiple large tornadoes devastated the four state area on Saturday, May 10th. One tornado was reportedly 3/4 mile wide. It's going to be a sad Mother's Day on Sunday for many families, after at least 19 people are reported dead. Most of those who did not make it were in Newton County. I expect that number is going to rise as the day goes on.

The hardest hit areas were:
  • Picher, OK
  • Baxter Springs, KS
  • Racine, MO
  • Purdy, MO
  • Newtonia, MO
YouTube video, some of which was shot SW of Joplin according to the poster:

Myself and other spotters were out for this event, and I will post a chase log soon. Right now, I would just like to say my prayers go out to those affected. I'm heartbroken that this storm system has caused this much loss of life.

I'll post more later.

Severe Weather Today - Saturday 5/10

Severe weather is possible late this afternoon including the possibility of isolated tornadoes. Get your NOAA All Hazards Radio ready and stay tuned.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Amazing Tornado Footage

Footage from a CCTV camera in Leighton, AL. I believe this occurred on May 8th, 2008.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Severe Storms Possible - Wed May 7th

Severe weather is expected in the area Wednesday afternoon and evening, including the possibility of isolated tornadoes. Fire up the NOAA All Hazards Radio and stay tuned.

Be safe.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Severe Weather - Early Morning 5/2/08

Severe weather rolled through the area during the early morning hours of May 2nd, 2008. Much of the area had thunderstorm wind gusts around 60-70 MPH. The storms moved into Missouri after they dropped tornadoes in Arkansas. Six people were killed there, including a 15 year old girl when a tree fell on her home.

After moving into Missouri, power was knocked out in Ozark (Christian County), causing schools to be closed for the day. In Ava (Douglas County) straight line winds and an EF-0 tornado damaged several homes and barns as well as some buildings on the town square.

Something new we will start presenting here is audio from the Springfield area SkyWarn net. Thank you to David Williams KE7ABH for recording these, and all of the work he does for the SkyWarn group.