Friday, May 14, 2010

Old friend, first tornado, golf ball size hail, and a cow in the road

This morning I had no idea what I was in for. I woke up sluggish, and expecting a non-action packed day. But, when the Canadians told me "today was going to be a good day", I got kind of excited.

To start off my day, I put myself together enough to go to the daily weather briefing. Afterwards, I hear my name from a familar voice but I couldn't place it til I looked to see it was my friend Jess from undergrad! What the heck was she doing here?! Jess works here in Midland now for a tv station, and found out I was on Vortex2 and that we were in her town - so she came down to say hi. :) What a super-pleasant surprise!! It surprised me, because I have been gone from undergrad long enough to not expect to see these familiar faces pop out of nowhere, especially in a foreign place. People from my past have been popping out from all over the place on this project, so I should just brace myself for anything. After a brief catchup with Jess, I had to get on my way as we were being deployed earlier-than-usual today.
The past five days have been action-filled (which I will be back-blogging), but no tornadoes that I have personally seen yet. All of the other days we didn't start chasing until 3 or 4pm though, so this morning's 12:30pm target threw off of my schedule. We were going, and then we were driving and chasing the entire rest of the day.
And then, not even 15 mins into our chase, tornadoes were popping out of the mesos! The mobile mesonets were cruising down the highway at 75 to be announcing funnels on the ground. Holy crap! It was all happening so fast, and I was still trying to wake up for the day. So here it is - my first tornado! We were far away - maybe 10 miles or so? But here it is. I was taking photos while driving and the tornado was on my left, so bear with my crappy photos. These are in chronological order.
Below is a video I took.. remember, I was driving ;)

And then, it was over. We crossed back and forth over several storms today - the entire chase lasting about 5.5 hours - which is a long time to be driving through marble to golf-ball size hail, sometimes brutal winds, and low visibilities. But totally fun at the same time.

Kristin took me down a road that turned to gravel mixed with dirt. Our leader took the road so we figured it would be ok. :-) After sliding around a bit in a sketchy part of the road and encountering lots of hail, I thought I could speed up a bit, to just have a COW walk in front of me. "COW!" I yelled, as the van was stopped in time. Here is a shot of the friendly cow behind the vehicle, crossing back over to join her friends.
After our hundreds of miles of driving through severe storms, we were graced with a spectacular view of cumulonimbus mammatus clouds - my favorite!
Yeah - today ended up being a good chase day. For sure.

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