What was so great about the month of March was the storms that were observed so early in the season, to be able to chase four storms by April was a great bonus! Normally in years past it has been until April that I have got into any stellar storms, this year was a nice exception.
On march 18th we headed to Shamrock, Tx as a staging point and we were not alone. We pulled into town and there must have been over 200 chasers! I love that moment when you pick a staging point and there are tons of chasers around (sometimes), it lets you know you weren’t alone in your judgement. Although from that point on during the actual chase I could do without some of those crazy drivers around.
We stopped at a McDonald’s (free WiFi for good radar signal) and took a look at some radar and decided what to do from there. Nothing was showing on radar but we decided to leave the crowds behind and head to Childress, Tx where I was thinking some storms might initiate. About twenty minutes into our drive near Wellington, Tx we observed a large cumulus tower forming fast and was already producing a thick anvil. its location was south of Childress, Tx. So onward we went and arrived south of Childress to meet this monster up close. It had a very large rotating wall cloud and a nice,dark, well defined rain shaft. Me and my wife pulled over on some old ranch road and watched in awe. I really felt like this beast could produce a tornado any moment, but it didn’t. My storm gut was telling me head to Hollis, Oklahoma and I Informed my wife maybe we should shoot for there, but shortly after we discussed that option I glanced at the radar and saw a huge storm developing near Knox City, Tx. Being anxious, we just drove straight to what was developing.
About thirty miles from Knox City we saw that the storm went tornado warned. Adrenaline started to pump, excitement filled the air. I told my wife “This could be it, we might see a tornado this early in the season!”. We drove through the curvy roads and hill surrounding Knox City area to try to get in position to see the rear of the storm where the potential tornado would be. As we came up on this hill and through a clearing we finally got a good glimpse of the storms structure. We could clearly identify a wall cloud rotating very rapidly. I looked over at my wife her eyes were so big, she had the look of awe, fear and respect. I kept screaming at the storm “Do it! Do it!”. It was so majestic, so violent, so graceful but a tornado was not to be.
As we get back into the truck I receive a text from my friend, Meteorologist Chris Kimble. The text stated “I hope your in Hollis, Oklahoma!” regretfully I picked up my phone, pulled up radar and saw what was very strong velocity on radar indicating a real possibility of a tornado. I kept thinking to my self that I should have trusted my gut. I should have just headed to Hollis to begin with! Turned out a tornado had been spotted and it was a storm with beautiful and epic structure.
One thing I can say is that every year I have noticed a pattern when storm chasing season begins, it’s a pattern of anticipation. Each storm chased seems a little stronger, more unique and more likely to produce a tornado until the big moment arrives. I love this build though, the hunger it brings, the climatic build to the perfect chase. It often plays like a great movie script where the best chase happens at the perfect time of the season and right when you are thinking it will not happen, it does. Even though I felt some regret, overall I felt calm and collected. I remembered that this was all part of the story of the season.
I was telling a friend just the other day that as long as I see a wall cloud on a chase, I will always be satisfied with that chase. Just seeing mother nature create such amazing storms is more than enough and I hope it always will be.