Tornado Alley 2019

2019-05-31. Cumuli and blue sky… Another day of repositioning and relaxing. All the driving and lack of enough sleep was exhausting. We watched the cumulus clouds and some dust devils somewhere on the fields next to Boise City, OK to finally reach our goal of the day: Lamar, CO. BJ’s Burger again? Oh yes please!

2019-05-30. Relaxing amongst snakes, lizards and roadrunners… Driving further southwest to Amarillo. Today was an off-day in order to relax and gain some strength for the second half of the trip. We met the Thüringer Storm Chaser group and meteorologists around Jens Winninghoff and Ingo Bertram again for hiking to the Lighthouse Rock in the Palo Duro State Park. On our way we saw some reptiles. On our way back to the motel in Amarillo we saw some lightnings … and a Whataburger at the end of the day. LOL.

Jens and Ingo close to the Lighthouse Rock. Can you spot them?

2019-05-28. The tornado close-up encounter… Tired but happy: 10 days of thunderstorms in a row. We decided to stay in northwest Kansas to chase the cold front cells instead of the dryline (which was located close to Wichita in the morning). In Oakley we met the Thüringer / Sachsen-Anhalt Storm Chaser group and made a photo together. Shortly after that the action began. A first supercell produced several tornadoes in the north of Hays. We took the second one in the south of WaKeeney which had a nice wall cloud. The cell ‘swallowed’ several new developments around it became tornado-warned. We watched the diffuse updraft region from a hill near Yocemento, KS but were unable to see a substantial structure. So, we decided to get back on the I70. While driving to the ramp I looked to the right and saw an allmost completely condensed tornado vortex next to us on the field shining like a sculpture made of glas against the light. I yelled: TORNADO! We jumped out of the car and took a few ‘blurry’ images as the tornadic winds reached our position about 100m in distance to the condensed vortex. That was crazy close. We fled 300m to the south passing the sheriff and some locals viewing this spectacle aswell. Then we saw the whole tornado behind us as it came closer again. We needed to flee again. At the interstate ramp we finally saw the tornado roping out on the field. It was a type II tornado which was located under the flanking line of the storm (almost “out of the blue”…). Near Hays the storm weakened and became outflow dominant. This led to a photogenic gust front. We stopped the eastward chasing and approached a last cell to our west. This one died pretty fast due to the allready consumed airmass. We finished the day with a core punch and rainbow next to the Ellis water tower. After staying in Hays overnight we had a pure driving day to Guymon, OK and Burgers at REFZ sportsbar on May 29th 2019.

German Storm Chaser convergence with Justin Wenk, Roy Rockman, Luise Finsterbusch, Jörg Ölsner, Dennis Oswald, Patrick Wagner, Christoph Geißler, Maximilian Conrad, Erik Christmann, Felix Dietzsch, Alex Thiel, Daniel Plätz, Maximilian Ziegler, Markus Weggässer, Ronny Kemmler and Marco Rank (f.t.l.t.r.)
Cleaning the lens of the 360 camera with the tornado behind me.

2019-05-27. The chasing dead… After one week of daily t-storms we were tired but another supercellular chase day was in progress. After the weird storm chaser convergence the day before we skipped the first cell coming from Denver, CO (northeastwards). Our target southwest of Holyoke, CO was perfect. The second supercell developed during the afternoon and gave us some nice views. Unluckily, the street options were quite bad. We needed to make a big turn via Yuma and Wray to follow the cell but where overtaken by the core what made it impossible to stay upfront. The nicest mood as ‘mothership’ came only 20 miles further northeastwards near Imperial. But we were lucky to get another approaching supercell during the soft light of the evening just north of Wray. On the way back to Goodland, KS we made some longtime eposure of the leaving lightning-illuminated anvils to the north. At midnight we celebrated Maximilian Ziegler’s 30th birthday.

The later ‘Imperial’ cell while crossing the street.
Mothership structure of the southern supercell near Wray, CO. (c) Dennis Oswald

2019-05-26. The BJ’s cheeseburger tornado and massive storm chaser convergence… Driving to Lamar, CO for a moderate risk chasing. While the first cells of the day were unphotogenic, clustering and hazy as the ones from the past days we made a short stop at BJ’s Burger in Lamar to buy some cheeseburger for the whole group. Shortly after we recognized a tornado sighting via Spotter Network right in the north of the town. As we left the town behind us, we witnessed the dissolving funnelcloud near Wiley. A next cell with a rotating updraft came closer and quickly became tornado-warned. Near the graveyard of McClave we found a good viewpoint on the wall cloud which was close to a touchdown. We followed an unbelievable horde of storm chasers on highway 287 and 385 until Cheyenne Wells. There we could see some pretty rapid cyclonic and anticyclonic rotating funnelclouds under the mesocyclones horseshoe. We finished the chase with a core punch of the tornado-warned supercell to reach our Motel in Goodland. At the end of the day we’d seen two storm chaser related accidents on the road. What a shame…

Rotation: anticyclonic (in the front) and cyclonic (in the back).

2019-05-25. With the sheriff on the viewpoint… Again (way too) early convection. We’re getting close to a tornado-warned supercell east of Quitaque, TX. The haze is thick. We couldn’t see structure before the thunderstorm was close as 2 miles. While waiting the sheriff came by asking us about the severe weather event approaching the town. We saw a rotating wall cloud shortly after. During our escape under tornado sirens the rotation quickly became rain-wrapped and we drove under a well-structured whale’s mouth near Turkey. Some nice moments for the cameras. We slept in Shamrock, TX again.

Dennis and I with Patrick Wagner, Daniel Plätz, Maximilian Ziegler, Maximilian Conrad and Erik Christmann at Shamrock Country Inn

2019-05-24. Water, haze and haze… On our road for thunderstorms southwest of Floydada, TX we saw early convection and clustering cells. And the sight on structure was like zero most of the time. Too much moisture. With the rain came the floodings. We could capture some adventurous footage and passed the storms to the north in order to get a good view on them from a western perspective during sunset. We were stunned by the view on mammati, lightnings, rainbows and sunset colors in Cap Rock State Park. Sleeping at Shamrock Country Inn again.

2019-05-23. In the haze of the moment… First dryline chasing today. Next to Lubbock in the south of Ralls, TX we encountered a supercell with a beautiful towering updraft and a short moment of a rapidly rotating wallcloud. We slept in Childress.

2019-05-22. Stratus and Frogs… After breakfast we started our first chase during a SPC High Risk setup in Oklahoma. We refused to chase the OKC and eastern area of the state due to floodings, trees and masses of chasers. In the evening we got a lightshow at the Elk City Lake which was “okay”. The stratus everywhere caused by the wet airmass was too bad. We slept in the beautifully managed Shamrock Country Inn.

2019-05-21. The cold core and the Germans… After an overnight stay in Lamar, CO we drove to Dodge City, KS seeing some first weak thunderstorms and meeting up with to other chase vehicles around Maximilian Conrad, Daniel Plätz, Maximilian Ziegler as well as Jens Winninghoff, Ingo Bertram and Dr. Michael Sachweh. With an evening at Applebee’s in Dodge City we shared stories about Tornado Alley and the upcoming chase days.

2019-05-20. Snow shower and thunderstorms… 11:20 am: Start at Frankfurt Airport! Tornado Alley here we come! 1:30 pm: We’ve arrived at Denver airport with 1°C and snow showers. With our first stay in Lamar, CO the temperatures climbed up to 8°C with partly dense fog during our drive in the evening.

2019-05-19. It’s May 2019 and time for Storm Chasing in the USA again! This year it will be a road trip with the German photographer, meteorologist and my friend Dennis Oswald. We’ll concentrate on photographic work and share some best-of moments here. Start date: May 20 2019! Safe this article as a bookmark or in your RSS-Feed // MR

See older tours here: 2015: From LA through the southwest into an adventure in the Great Plains

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© Marco Rank