Tornado Fest 2018 - Tour 4 Prime Intensity
As 2018 Tour Season continued to prove difficult in terms of storms producing tornadoes Tour 4 - Prime Intensity was provided with some of the best chasing of the year. With 10 tornadoes observed in 3 states, several beautiful supercells and unforgettable memories made. Tour 4 stole the show.
Tour 4 began in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and started off with a bang! We in fact started this tour on the arrival day and soon as we picked up the last guest from the airport we headed north of OKC metro to a stalled outflow boundary where we anticipated the action to be.
Storms had started pretty early in the day and fast moving outflow dominant supercell rode the existing boundary and stabilized the air mass before peak heating was ever reached. We moved in on a couple of different cells that tried to develop in the wake of this early activity but failed to materialize due to the cool surface air. We thought the day was shot but kept an eye back to the west where more intense heating had taken place along the boundary. We decided to head towards Enid, Oklahoma for dinner and if anything along the destabilized area was to peak our interest we would postpone dinner. As we approached Enid a new storm cell was showing some interesting characteristic on radar. We then headed west to investigate this storm. This new cell as it came into view featured a tall robust updraft and large rain free base. The storm of the day and one of the most structured supercells of the year was developing right in front of us and gave us a show for a couple hours before moving back into more stable air. This classic supercell was tornado warned for a good portion of it's mature stage and featured several wall clouds with excellent conveyor belt motion from the tail cloud into the wall cloud. Though no tornadoes were seen this day it was incredible to stand in awe of this spectacular mothership supercell near Fairview, Oklahoma! What a way to start off Tour 4!
After the chase we celebrated our successful day in Enid for some delicious Italian food!
Looking west at the Tornado Warned Supercell near Fairview, Oklahoma.
The next day we departed Oklahoma City, but we had to stop for all you can eat ribs before our journey began! All of the guests on this tour are serious about their BBQ and getting our fix was priority! One of our guests from Germany, who has toured with us since year one, put down something in the ballpark of 20 ribs! Holy smokes! Then brought more on the road to enjoy for later! I guess you can say he is a professional in his craft!
Back on the road again, we headed west towards New Mexico where we would stay the night in anticipation for the following day chase!
Starting the day out in New Mexico, we headed to the town known for its alien and UFO crash site, Roswell, New Mexico, hoping for some UFO structured storms near the famous town heavily themed in Aliens and UFO's.
Patience was for sure required this day. After a delicious lunch, we headed just west of town to stage in a parking lot to wait on storms to initiate. Who says waiting for storms needs to be boring! We blasted the music, danced, recreated scenes from the Titanic and laughed until we could not breath!
That parking lot is full of memories now, we partied it out until show time! We even did the chicken dance. We were having so much fun another group of chasers nearby also came to investigate the fun and say hello.
Radar coverage in New Mexico isn't the best along the mountain ranges due to the obstruction of the terrain, and in this case and in so many others experience and your eyes are the best tools. Many attempts of towering cumulus persisted through the late afternoon when finally it was happening. Radar wasn't showing much but in the distance was a massive towering cumulus that had finally got the push it had needed. Off we went for a spectacular show in the mountains of New Mexico!
Getting a good view in a valley we got to witness this breathtaking supercell and followed it through its many transformations until it's death at dark.
Looking west towards the beautiful New Mexico supercell.
Another view a little later in its life as it now features beautiful mothership UFO characteristics
After dark, we were treated to lightning show I don't think any of us will ever forget! New storms had come off the foothills and into the arid desert land west of Roswell. We pulled over and watched these storms for a good while and even observed a persistent funnel cloud under one of the storms.
We retired for the night in Roswell and the next day we headed north to get ready for some action in further north along the Rocky Mountains and adjacent plains.
We noted a marginal set up in Montana and decided to add another state to the list for Tour 4. We made our way to Rapid City, South Dakota where we staged before heading north into Big Sky State.
Montana put on a good show for us in terms of beauty, but the atmosphere had other plans. We ended up on some severe warned storms but they were largely elevated. The sunset and following lightning show were worth the trip up alone! We also found some incredible ribs in Billings, Montana. Can't forget the ribs!
Now onto the meat and potatoes of this tour. Wyoming, Colorado and Oklahoma. 3 days in a row of tornadoes!!!
Departing Sidney, Nebraska we were torn between two targets. One was in Northern Colorado and the other was Cheyenne, Wyoming. As we headed west out of town storms were already developing over the Laramie Mountains in southern Wyoming. The Colorado target was blanketed in persistent cirrus cloud cover. West we went towards Cheyenne, Wyoming. Storms got an early start and chasers who had gotten there early were treated to one of the best tornado shows of the year. We made it just in time to witness the last tornado the storm would produce.
Looking due north through the rain curtains that were brought in by the wrapping RFD a large tornado hides just on the other side. NE of Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Afterwards we headed back to Sidney, Nebraska to prepare for the next day's chase.
Upon waking up the next morning and going over the forecast it seemed our best day for tornado potential for not only the tour but for the 2018 storm season was here. A large and well-defined outflow boundary left by overnight storms set the stage for what would be an incredible day of chasing in Eastern Colorado. After grabbing some food we quickly departed and got into position.
There are just certain days after chasing for many years that just grab your attention. The way the air feels, the smell in the air, the clouds racing north overhead. There is no other feeling. We arrived and we waited for the show to start. By early afternoon towering thunderheads began to reach towards the upper atmosphere. Pulled over out in the middle of nowhere on a farm road the weather radio sounds off and a tornado watch is issued. Keeping an eye on radar a storm soon began to grow and we moved into position. After a short drive we had a clear view of the base and then it happened. Tornado and Landspout Fest 2018 began. We watched the first landspout of the day and then another and another with a few tornadoes here and there. By the end of the day we had seen 8 to 9 tornadoes and landspouts. And a couple of times, two on the ground at the same time! Also a close encounter with a nice skinny elephant trunk tornado that had unfortunately impacted a house near us.
The next day would be the last and final day of Tour 4. We made the jog down to Dodge City, Kansas the night before to break up the haul from Colorado to NW Oklahoma. Our target for the last day was Buffalo, OK. A spectacular last day it was. Watching the storm of the day from its birth until death. Multiple funnel clouds and one brief small tornado. Our small towering cumulus cloud just west of Buffalo Oklahoma had turned into a respectable supercell. We were able to get right under the wall cloud and watch a funnel form almost directly overhead. Though the storm was too high based at this time due to the lack of moisture it was fun to watch the swirling airmass overhead! It was very cool!
Our storm went through many different transformations and stages, from a classic supercell, to an earth eating High Precipitation monster, to linear outflow storm mode back to classic supercell mode. After going through the small town of Waynoka, Oklahoma our storm began to take on a more supercell appearance and became inflow dominant once more. Soon a tornado warning was issued and we caught a brief glimpse of the reported tornado in Waynoka.
Sitting just south of Waynoka, Oklahoma looking NNW. Shortly after this photo, the storm was tornado warned and we witnessed the brief Waynoka, OK Tornado. Though at the time we were unsure if we had seen the tornado, reports from chasers and damage in town confirmed our observation.
After the chase, we made the drive back to Oklahoma City for a teary eyed goodbye. The tour was over once we arrived back to the hotel. 11 days of laughter, lifelong friends made, incredible chasing and memories that will be carried to the grave. The bond of this tour group was just amazing. So much so that all the members of this tour rebooked for 2019 while we were driving down the road. Now in 2019, we will all reunite once more to add to our memories, laughs, shenanigans and of course more storms. This is what it is all about.