May 6, 2015


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Wichita, KS
Springfield, IL 9:50 AM 5/5/2015
Guthrie, OK 11:58 PM 5/6/2015
Russell, KS
0 mph


Warm sector/warm front chase over central KS. Targeted Wichita area for afternoon tornadic supercells. Several rounds of storms fired and died before we could get to them, causing us to drive in circles before calling the chase a bust by mid evening.

Crew and Equipment

Chase partners: Jennifer Brindley Ubl, Phil Bates, and the TIV crew: Sean Casey, Justin Walker, Herb Stein, and Paul Borrud. Equipment: Canon 60D, Canon t2i, Canon EFS 10-22, Canon EF 50mm, Sony HDR-xr500v..




May 6 was the start of a string of days that would provide multiple tornado intercept opportunities. With the arrival of a ttrough over a moderately unstable warm sector, the stage was set. Central Kansas had our attention given the strong low level jet. Tornado probabilities extended all the way into Nebraska along the warm sector, but we were worried the warm front would be too socked in with junkvection to get photogenic tornadoes up there.
Forecast hodographs a couple days out showed huge curves indicating prime shear profiles for tornadic supercells. I couldn't help but make this Nickleback parody meme.
The start of another grand chase adventure begins with picking Brindley up from the train station in Springfield. She came in the evening of the fourth so we'd have all day to travel down to Oklahoma the following day where we were meeting up with the TIV crew, before the chasing began on the sixth.
Forecast hodographs, skew-ts, model divergence, and other meteorological details aren't the only things I consider before leaving for chase trips. This little one is now at the top of my considerations among all the other factors that go into planning for chases and how and where I position myself near severe weather. This was my first full season as both a storm chaser and a father, and the combination would present all new challenges. Saying goodbye to my daughter before I leave for a week in the Great Plains:
My job this season was to forecast and navigate for the support vehicle for Sean Casey's armored Tornado Intercept Vehicle. And here it is: The Doghouse. A Dodge Ram 2500 heavily modified to serve as a severe weather filming platform. It includes a rotating camera turret that can house a large IMAX camera and custom built hail guards for penetrating deep within supercell cores. The Doghouse was waiting to come out for the season, sitting in an overgrown lot filled with peacocks near Tulsa. Brindley and I drove the van down to pick it up, met up with Justin Walker, packed the Doghouse full of our stuff, and wired it with all of the essential gear we'd need for chasing including laptop, monitor, power inverter, data, and GPS. We left the van and jarringly loud peacocks behind, driving Doghouse down to Oklahome City to meet the rest of the crew.
It was my first time driving a vehicle that large, but I got the hang of it pretty quick. We met up with the TIV crew, including a new member: Paul Borrud, a drone pilot from Australia who would be getting aerial shots of the TIV in action.
Phil Bates also flew into Oklahoma City and would be using his new 6k Red camera to get IMAX quality shots for Sean as well. Phil had been out with us during our legendary June 16-17 run last year and had been waiting all year to join us again.

4 miles NNE of Guthrie, OK
10:15 AM
Our initial target was the Wichita area, hoping to catch storms coming off the dryline where they'd be more discrete south of the warm front activity and entering an area with some of the strongest low level shear. Headed north out of Oklahoma City up 35.
What The Duck reprising his role as turret camera operator:

Storm Initiation
7 miles N of Saint John, KS
3:27 PM
Storms were lighting up on the dryline, warm front, and out ahead in the warm sector by mid afternoon. We headed for the most promising looking one nearby.
Our initial activity died. Something was hindering the storms coming off the dryline in southwest Kansas. Meanwhile the warm front was going bonkers with tornado warnings and reports. We let our dryline junk go and started heading north for the warm front play.

1 miles N of Russell, KS
4:46 PM
We arrived north of Russell, KS only to find that the storms had congealed into one big hideous mess. The initial activity ruined the play for the storms we wound up intercepting. Meanwhile storms had fired ahead of the dryline in the warm sector by Wichita and were now also producing tornadoes.
The Wichita activity would die long before we could make it down there, and we wound up making a big loop. There were tornadoes everywhere it seemed, but we were perpetually a couple steps behind them. Adding insult to injury, discrete supercells fired across central Oklahoma. A damaging, long track tornado wound up tracking mere miles from our hotel.
We limped back to Oklahoma to get closer to the next day's target while licking our wounds from the bust chase. On the way, Doghouse started to lose power, which was the last thing we needed. The accelerator floored, it was only managing about 70 mph and slowly falling. Sean and crew would have to work on it back at the hotel to make sure we'd be able to chase the following days.


This would be one of the most frustrating chases of the year for me. Like a shark in a huge school of fish, and unable to catch a single one of them as the school circles and outmaneuvers the shark. It appeared that subsidence and lingering inhibition were killing our southwest Kansas storms. That corner of the target wound up being a huge hole in the reports during the tornado outbreak, and our giant loop that we made only kept us out of the game further. We were beat up pretty good after this chase, but it was the first day out so we'd have multiple chances for redemption. Sean and crew were also able to fix Doghouse's power issues, which may been bad diesel.

Lessons Learned

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