Friday, May 31, 2013

Day #12 (Volunteer and non-chase day): May 31, 2013
Starting point: Norman, Oklahoma
Ending point: Lincoln, Nebraska
Mileage traveled: 496 (Trip total: 5782)

We started our day off by volunteering in the Moore, Oklahoma area. We spent 3 hours cleaning debris out of a home owners hay field right outside the densely populated area of Moore. The tornado initiated a short distance from the property we helped clean up. Despite being near the beginning of the tornado there was still a large amount of debris in the field. The hay was ready to be baled and so the debris needed to be cleaned up so that process could begin. After volunteering we drove by the National Weather Center which houses research facilities for the National Severe Storms Lab, The Storm Prediction Center, and the Norman, Oklahoma National Weather Service office. We also briefly visited the University of Oklahoma's campus.

We did get north of the city before the storms started. We choose not to chase because we needed to start back towards home and chasing in urban areas is extremely dangerous. Given the destruction that has been shown on media outlets we are glad we made this decision; yes it would have been interesting to watch these storms develop but given the traffic problems that occurred in and around the city we could have potentially placed ourselves in some extreme danger. Something we wanted to avoid. Overall, it has been a very successful trip with today being only the second non-chase day for us out of 12. We have seen a lot of storms of various types and did get to see a quick spin up of a tornado in Texas.

Over the next few weeks we will be compiling more information about the storms we witnessed on the trip. These will come in recaps of the storms where we will be able to show weather maps, radar imagery, etc. along with the photos we captured. This blog will also be part of the information source for our new student group on campus called the UWW WeatherHawks. Some of the activities we have planned are bringing in guest speakers to campus and visiting local schools to talk about weather and climate related topics. There has already been some discussion from today's events to try to plan some kind of relief effort for the Oklahoma City area. When plans are finalized we will pass them along.

Just to let everyone know we are already on our way home. We are currently north of Wichita Kansas. Our thoughts go out to the Oklahoma City area right now as there are reports of multiple large tornadoes in and around the region.
So here was the surprise...I arranged to spend a few hours this morning volunteering in Moore, Oklahoma. We spent the time helping with cleanup of a a couple's hay field. The hay is ready to bale and the debris needed to be cleared so the owners did not loss the crop. It was an amazing experience and we all got a lot out of it. We found everything from very large pieces of siding and particle board to as small as checks, a marriage liscense, and wallet size pictures. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Day #11 (Chase day): May 30, 2013
Starting point: Shamrock, Texas
Ending point: Norman, Oklahoma
Mileage traveled: 417 (Trip Total: 5288)

We set out in the morning from Shamrock towards our target area of Oklahoma City. Arriving in Oklahoma City we decided to head south because of the greater cape values and upper-atmosphere support for storms. To get to our target area we drove through Moore seeing the damage of the tornado the hit the area a little over a week ago. Arriving in Purcell we headed west to intercept a thunderstorm. Approximately 18 miles outside Purcell we saw multiple areas of rotation in the storm. As we tracked the storm east towards the Purcell area a possible tornado was seen, but touchdown could not be confirmed. After the storm got east of Purcell it started to strengthen and possibly developed another tornado. Rotation was seen in the clouds, but the storm was being rain wrapped. After this storm began to weaken we decided to head back to Purcell to wait for another storm pass by so to the south so we could safely view it. Tracking resumed heading towards Pauls Valley, Oklahoma. We ended up south of Davis on the edge of the core however the rotation indicated by radar quickly weakened as we reached the storm. Moving back north to Oklahoma City more cells began to develop and quickly intensified. These storms also showed some rotation and we watched a couple of wall clouds develop. We stopped and watch the storm for approximately 10 minutes until the southern side of it began to intensify. We drove a few move miles south to get out of the path and continued to watch rotation in the storm. After the storm was east of Interstate 35 we headed towards our final destination of Norman, Oklahoma. Overall, this was an awesome day for chasing with a lot of action.

We apologize there are no pictures with this post. We probably have over 3000 pictures from the storms we saw today. However, Dr. John Frye and Ms. Alisa Hass (the ones leading the trip) have a surprise planned for the team on Friday morning. We are going to be up and on the road by 8 am; one of our earliest days of the trip so far. We also may be chasing storms tomorrow afternoon as we start heading back towards Whitewater for a Saturday arrival.

NOTE: This is Dr. Frye, yes I am keeping you followers in suspense too. I will make sure I post pictures tomorrow evening of the surprise we have in store. Those of you back home that helped set it up please no comments revealing it.
Chase Day #11: We are heading towards the Oklahoma City area today. Along the way we will decide whether to go north or south of town. Right now, we are leaning towards north.

We ask a favor for everyone who has been following the blog on a regular basis; especially school teachers. Please send us a message and let us know what school you are from and what grades you teach. You can email us at

Thank you.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day#10 (Chase day): May 29, 2013
Starting point: Amarillo, Texas
Ending point: Shamrock, Texas
Mileage Traveled: 182 (Trip Total: 4871)

The target area for the day was Shamrock, Texas. We chose this area because conditions looked to be good for the development of storms. However there was no cap in place so the storms began to develop earlier then expected. We then made our way to Childress, Texas where storms began to develop. To get get a better vanage point we dropped to the south. As the storms progressed we made our way to the north where we stayed and watched the storms pass.  After the storms passed we began to head north. On our way north we saw hail in the fields and stopped to check the size of the hail, which was golf ball sized.  We finally made our way to Shamrock, Texas where we chose to stay for the night.

Day #9 (Chase day): May 28, 2013
Starting point: Hutchinson, Kansas
Ending point: Amarillo, Texas
Mileage Traveled: 538 (Trip Total: 4689)

We started our day in Hutchinson, Kansas. There was a very large area that was under the threat of severe weather; our forecast was to head towards the Woodward, Oklahoma area. This area was selected because there was a good amount of shear along with high CAPE values in this area. CAPE is the amount of instability in the atmosphere.  There was a jet streak (fast upper level winds) that was located in this area with short wave troughs extending into this area.  A dry line was also located to the west and heading to the east. All of these ingredients set up for the formation of supercell activity.

On our drive out to Woodward we drove through Greenberg, Kansas to look at the progress that the city has made since a devastating EF5 tornado in 2007. The city had rebuilt into a green city, with wind turbines, solar panels, and new green building. In addition to the green rebuilding efforts, the city has been using green landscaping techniques to utilize reduced water consumption.

While eating lunch in Woodward, we noticed a couple cells developing to the west and northwest of town. These cells were heading on a north-northeast path and continued to build on the back side of the line of storms. We chased these cells toward Beaver, Oklahoma, as we watched the storm we could tell it was rotating and there was a tornado warning issued for this storm. As we approached the storm we saw a wall cloud that was starting to form. A wall cloud is a lowering that occurs under the thunderstorm due to the storm's rotation. This storm began to fall apart as it moved off to the northwest. We then decided to drop to the south and chase another line of supercells that began to develop. The supercells were off the the southwest of Amarillo, Texas. As we got closer to the storms we began to lose daylight, and our chasing was done for the day.

We decided to stay in Amarillo to set us up for a the next day. We were still keeping an eye on the storm that was out to the west of Amarillo. The storm was strengthening as it moved toward the city, the storm was moving slow only at about 15 mph and as it started to approach the city its speed increased to 25 to 30 mph.  We decided it was best for us to drop to the south to get a better view of the storm.  We watch the storm pass through the Amarillo area, and when the storm was all clear we headed back to our hotel for the night.

Due to the late night we had we are hanging out in Amarillo until around noon and then we will move towards the Shamrock, Texas area to wait for the storms to develop.

Picture below by Andy Courtney of one of the storms near Beaver, Oklahoma.