May 23, 2019


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Pampa, TX
Tulsa, OK 9:04 AM 5/23/2019
Amarillo, TX 9:14 PM 5/23/2019
Borger, TX; Canadian, TX
0 mph
Gust Front


Upslope/dryline play on TX Caprock. Targeted Pampa for afternoon to evening tornadic supercells. Intercepted HP hailer near Borger before retargeting tornadic cell west of Canadian. Noted HP gust fronts but rain wrapping and position did not allow views of tornadoes.

Crew and Equipment

Chase partners: Jennifer Brindley Ubl. Equipment: Sony AX100, Samsung S9.




From my morning storm chasing forecast email list:

"Day 1 Today: Base camp on 40 between Amarillo and Shamrock, or camp in Pampa or Canadian. Another very volatile setup. Cap looks wide open per lid strength. Instead cloud cover over the Texas Panhandle may act like the cap in delaying initiation, which is good. Rapid clearing is already evident behind the morning clouds, however, so look for fairly early initiation where we're getting the strongest heating and cumulus development atop the Caprock. West of Amarillo and south by early to mid afternoon. The environment is not primed for tornadoes until 5pm ish or so and it peaks around 7pm. So wait for your monster hailer to track a bit east into the soupy tropical airmass and when that low level jet starts to kick. HRRR consistently showing a "goldilocks" solution with a supercell tracking right up through Pampa and Canadian in the early evening. STP off the charts, if it's surface based and discrete, and that storm materailizes, it will likely be tornadic. Look further south toward Lubbock if you want a Tail End Charlie away from the hordes. Watch out for the boundary. It's being reinforced by ongoing storms in Kansas and the northern parts of the Panhandles. Don't let it undercut your storm or you'll be watching a shelf cloud come cruising in from the northwest and making a mad dash south for the Lubbock area storms."

Misty Start
2 miles E of Groom, TX
1:47 PM
Excessive moisture on the Caprock with dews at or above 70 F and a wide open cap made for a misty morning and early afternoon with overcast skies. With any heating applied to moisture at that elevation, however the atmosphere would become explosively unstable.

Waiting and Watching
Panhandle, TX
3:12 PM
We grabbed Subway in Panhandle, TX and watched a mama bird struggle against the strong southerly surface winds, hovering and flying backwards even before landing to feed her young. The wind howled through the powerlines, and the grey skies gave the chase a rather ominous feel.

Awaiting Initiation
White Deer, TX
3:58 PM
By midafternoon the sun was peeking out and the Caprock was rapidly destabilizing. We got out of town and setup to catch initiation.

Ready for the Chase
White Deer, TX
3:59 PM
The first storm we hopped on was an HP hailer. We chased it as best we could with the limited roads, but eventually let it go to catch new initiation coming up from the south.
With the copious moisture and lack of capping, the dryline was just unzipping with big HP storms. Running north toward our east option as a gnarly green gust front approaches:

Tornado out of Reach
14 miles W of Glazier, TX
7:01 PM
We sat immediately downstream of and waited for a tornado warned supercell. We could see no structure as it approached through the murk and rain wrapping. Given the large amount of chasers and limited chasers, we decided to bail east southeast a couple of miles and get out of the way instead of risking getting run over. We sat to the east looking west, straining through the rain of the RFD to see anything, but it was futile. Tornado reports started to come in and I knew we were missing the show. I wanted to punch the core, stick my nose in there, and see if we could get a view. A few chasers near us tried. But Brindley wasn't feeling well, and was in no mood for a risky core punch of the Bear's Cage. She said no, and that she was done, so we called the chase and headed into Amarillo for the night. We found a super funky place for dinner on a far end of the town that was half Thai half Mexicon, but the food was good.
Facebook post a couple weeks after the event:

“I knew there was a big tornado in there. I couldn’t see it, but I pointed the camera over there anyway. Seven hundred and fifty miles from home, a couple thousand miles on the odometer for the trip, and in the last three miles I was cut off from the object of my desire by a curtain of rain. I sat on the side of Highway 83 dejected. I wanted to get in there and see it. I thought, “Maybe we could step west a couple miles and stick our nose in the notch and then step back out if things get dicey.” “Maybe we could just punch this rain curtain. There’s probably clear air on the other side before the tornado.” My chase partner wasn’t having it though. It was too dangerous and we’d probably see shit anyway. I knew she was right, and yet I still wanted to try. Maybe I would have tried like a fool if I were alone. Brindley said no though, and that was the end of that. We called the chase and made for Amarillo.

The night before we had also struck out. We patiently held our ground in Fort Scott, Kansas all day while northeast Oklahoma lit up with tornado reports. The ball was finally handed to us by evening with tornadic supercells going up overhead and all around us. We fumbled it. Picked the wrong storm, the wrong approach, and then we were cut off again. Mere miles from a tornado emergency, and we had no clean intercept and were aborting the chase. I stood at a gas pump in Miami, Oklahoma feeling dejected, knowing we had missed the show. I stared at the ground as a large vehicle pulled up to the pump on the other side. Through my peripheral vision there was still no mistaking it. It was the Dominator. Normally it would be fun to say hi, hang out for a bit, and snap some pictures, but that was absolutely the last thing I wanted to see in that moment. I hid behind the pump as the gas station was flooded with the entire entourage and curious onlookers. The jig was soon up, however, and I was spotted. Like the “Hide the Pain Harold” meme, I nodded and forced a smile as Reed excitedly described all of the tornadoes of the day and their meteorological intricacies.

I was bitter. You need only look at the photo in my previous post to know how ridiculous that is. We had seen that glorious tornado just days earlier. I’m so fortunate to even be out there at all, fortunate to have such friends like Brindley. I knew that and knew we had plenty more opportunities to come. I told myself I wasn’t going to jeopardize them by taking needless risks, driving on sketchy roads, or let my attitude ruin the trip. That kept me from burning out or getting too frustrated.

I got to talk to friends about Canadian. Friends who had punched the core and went in through the notch. “I was ready to die” one of them confided to us when he realized he had gotten too close and was in the path of a fast moving wedge. Another friend thought he and everyone in his vehicle were going to be rolled as they punched the core and kissed the edge of the rain wrapped tornado. Five days after Canadian, two vans filled with chasers were indeed rolled after they drove through the hook of an HP supercell and were impacted by a rain wrapped tornado southwest of Lawrence, Kansas. Twelve people went to the hospital.

Sitting here and reflecting on Canadian, the stories, and the Lawrence incident makes me take a step back. I’m still going to be bummed when I miss a tornado. But I don’t have to take anymore unnecessary risks, punch the RFD of an HP, or drive into situations where I don’t have a confident visual. I don’t have to push the limits for “fear of missing out”. There are too many awesome chases and experiences yet to come. I wouldn’t jeopardize them simply for what’s going to be a count padder tornado, garbage low contrast video, and empty bragging rights: “I was there, on that tornado”. So what. I write these thoughts down for my own growth. But maybe you can benefit from them too. There’s nothing new here really. We’ve known for decades that you don’t punch the hook of an HP. You don’t enter the Bear’s Cage unless you want to meet the Bear. And on these storms, high precipitation supercells with multi-mile circulations, it’s no longer a Bear’s Cage. You’re swimming in a shark tank with murky water.

It’s ok to let the storm go.”


This was day four of missing tornado shots for us. The Canadian storm went on to produce a string of fairly visible tornadoes after we left it early because Brindley wasn't feeling well. I was feeling pretty low at this point, but trying to remind myself that we had an incredible chase right off the bat, and there were still plenty more opportunities to come.

Lessons Learned

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