Shane's Articles
22 May

New Mexico, ON

Posted by in 2015 Season at May 22, 2015

welcom back, Spuds!

Since my previous post, my tornado count has gone from zero to two!  Not exactly like the tornado’s you see on the tele, but still quite something to see first hand.  The first occured on chase day #9 in western Texas, NW of Fort Stockton.  As it happens we were just ahead of the whole weather network crew on this lonesome Texas road.  As they all drove by, I carried out various silly gestures to snsure that those who know who I am were indeed able to recognize me.  They seemed to have a better spot in mind so we followed them down the road a bit.  By the time we pulled in with our knock-off 747 engine fan running, all the cameras and tripods were out, with the Storm Hunters just about finished setting up for a news clip.  Managed a quick wussup and selfie with ol’ Grinter from my days at that facility on Steeles Ave in Toronto.  The name escapes me at the moment.  And all eyes went back to a very huge, very interesting storm slowly making its way towards us.  This storm moved at something under 10 kts which is quite slow and easy to stay on top of.  Lots of wierd stuff going on with this cell that I dare not risk describing in any further detail.  It was tough for me to tell where this tornado was going to take place, exactly, so it ended up being all the more experienced storm chasers yelling out “She’s on the ground!” for me to be satisfied that this was indeed my first sighting of a tornado.  This tornado happened in less than a minute.  Basically the blink of an eye in comparison to what is often shown on tv.  Once it had finished, I by chance turned my camera to snap a shot of all the other Canadian chasers lined up off the roadway.  In this photo, I managed to capture a cloud-to-ground lightning strike that was considerably closer to us than any previous strike, startling everyone back into their cars for a safer viewing.  Silly Matty G. was even standing on top of his pickup truck dressed in his favourite Tin Man outfit holding an umbrella for some reason.  This is still one of my favourite pictures yet and so far the only one I’ve added a copyright to, considering how coincidential it is.  Might get around to sending it to the weather network.

And what do you know, it was only the very next day that tornado #2 happened for me!  My collegues and I were nearly in Dallas, TX for this one.  Again, it was fairly brief but still awesome.  The area was considerably different from the previous day, with hilly terrain and tree canopy making things more difficult to see.  Internet connection was key here, radar imagery and street maps allowing us to thread the needle of all the storm cells around us.  The speed at which these things can touch down and move along the ground really came into perspective for me with this tornado.  We were so far away from the thing but it was easy to see that it would outrun anyone who is too close, whether on foot or in a moving vehicle.  We got out safe and sound with room to spare, but unfortunately the town of Mineral Wells did not.  As it happens, two tornadoes hit the area one after the other, causing damage straight through the centre of town.  We slowly moved around the area and got a pretty good view of the damage.  Thankfully noone was seriously injured.

In the mean time, not too many trees out in western Texas, but holy wildflowers!  Its as though I’m in an entirely different part of the country that sees more moderate amounts of rain year round.  Feeling pretty lucky to have timed it out like this.  Stuff was in full bloom down here that takes till July to get the same way in Southern Ontario.  Yesturday we went after another storm east of Fort Stockton.  Conditions for tornado developement were present, but not good enough to the point of producing tornado #3.  With luck, I’ll be typing all about it in my next post.

Today we ventured into New Mexico so that I could take another state off my ‘been to’ list and to enjoy the hot, dry, sunny weather..  except thats not what was waiting for us.  Suddenly I’m back home on an April-like day with fog, drizzle and a high of only 8 degrees celcius.  Lets just say it was alot easier to fall asleep in the front seat this time around.  Oh well.  My trip to see the Seguaro cacti in Arizona that I’m still in the process of dreaming up should make up for it.  At least in Roswell I finally found a touristy sowing patch to add to my cub blanket.  Once we made it to our hotel in Clovis, NM I had to go for a walk down some random bulivard close to the hotel to break away from the ever-growing truck smells.  One of the worst things about hotels in the states, and perhaps in Canada too, is that they are in no reasonable walking distance to anything remotely interesting.  I’ll probably go for a minimum 10k walk when I get back home.  I know I’ve been too physically lazy once I can feel into the inner side of my tibia bone with my fingers.

peace to my wu-nation

=> Shane


Another late night post from the Midnight Balla.  A lot of hype went in to today and for good reason.  Lots of different colours showing up on SPC’s convective outlook page, centering around the tornado prone state of Oklahoma, and on a Saturday, no less.  As we expected, the GR level 3 window lit up with more storm chaser contacts than a Cylon basestar’s full raider compliment on the Galactica’s Dradis console.  Too long a sci-fi reference?  Well too bad.  Smiley face.

Anywho, my team was well on our way southward from northern Kansas to this major event, when suddenly our vehicle began to shake rather noticeably above a certain RPM.  Quickly ruling earthquakes out as a possibility, it was determined that our muddy dirt road adventures of the previous day had thrown things out of wack with our tire alignment (I’m not the auto expert of the group either).  So we did what all Americans do on a Saturday afternoon and headed for the nearest Walmart to try and solve this problem on time before things southward start to heat up.  They fixed the shaking in due time but were unable, or perhaps unwilling to figure out the truck’s other problem involving the brakes.  Again, I don’t know enough about automotive specs to interpret it well enough, only that it was not an issue that would hinder our ability to drive safely.

With that delay, we had to quickly change plans.  GR level 3 now looked as though the Death Star launched all its Tie Fighters to converge on the rebel fleet being the Oklahoma/Texas panhandle storms.  You had to zoom in real close to be able to read everyone’s individual icon name.  So we decided to avoid that cluster f-word and head for some developing cells west of the main group.  No tornadoes this time, but lots of interesting structure none the less.  And to shed colourful light on to my initial title reference, as we rounded the back side of a storm in northern Texas, I witnessed the most rainbows I have ever seen in a 20 minute period.  This storm seemed to be the last in the overall lineup of cells so there was nothing behind it but clear skies to shed a little light on the heavy rain.  And on a more personal note, this area of the US may not have a lot of trees but with all this rain, the plant life that is present here seemed as flushed out and colourful as it could possibly get.  For example, the species of Yucca that grows here had countless creamy yellow coloured flowers on display along the roadsides.

Oklahoma got pretty crazy in the early evening hours with tornado warnings sparking up across the whole state.  We were done for the day by then either way.  Haven’t seen the final reports but hopefully no one’s been hurt.  Still no tornado for me yet, but it was a very interesting day.

Catch you later,

=> Shane

Another off day for chasing today but not a day where I could keep my eyes off the sights all around us as we ventured from Missouri to Kansas.  Yesterday we drove through the middle of Mark Twain National Forest in the late afternoon/early evening hours.  The hilly, curvy roads remind me of Old Ancaster Road back home.  Lots of Oaks, Hickories and a southeastern pine species called Shortleaf Pine.  Going from Missouri to Kansas, I observed the scenery changing from extensive hilly hardwood forests to more scattered Savannah habitat, and finally levelling off to great plains of grassland and cattle for as far as the eye could see.  By the time we entered Kansas, it had thoroughly clouded over with rain gradually intensifying to a moderate level when we finally reached Wichita.  I wont risk forecasting tonight on the count of possibly being another one of those guys who is wrong all the time so I’ll just stick with the now- and pre-casting and hope to heck I’m right.

On a serious note, I am honestly very impressed with the tree canopy cover that I have seen in the last two days going from southern Indiana through Illinois to Missouri.  Its something I would like to see a lot more of in Southern Ontario, however I’m just one guy planting stuff out there so I can’t do it all myself.  But I digress.  All chasers should take one of their off-days in an environment like this to change things up from staring at near endless agriculture all day while awaiting for the big boomers.  In my very limited time in this storm chasing experience, I am already in understanding of how stressful an experience it can be.  Success will not always be at the other end of the day.  So make sure you take a drive, or better yet, a walk in the park on an off day.  Trees, People; Community.  That’s the slogan my most recent post secondary program at Fleming College went by.  If it works for our municipal communities, perhaps the developing community of storm chasers may benefit from it as well.

Tomorrow is full of all the mysteries and excitement that storm chasing is all about.  We have no idea where we’ll be heading, aside from a morning appointment to get our truck fixed.  Ok so not really that exciting or accurate but we do know that this weekend will prove to be an interesting one for storms.  Expecting to have a lot of other chasers on the road out there so if you feel the need to chase storms, please do so in an orderly fashion.

=> Shane

11 May

2015 chasing day one

Posted by in 2015 Season at May 11, 2015

Greetings spuds!

My name is Shane and I’m joining the greasy team of mesoholics this chasing season.  I hail out of Hamilton, ON and have finished a long stretch of 8 years of post secondary studies in both meteorology and urban forestry.  I get the best of both worlds on this grand adventure because if there isn’t a storm to look at, there’s flora and insectia unknown to study along the roadways.  But if you’re looking for weather lingo/jargon, etc., from my blog posts, you’re pretty much out of luck.  Why?  In the last two or three years since I graduated from met school at York, I’ve been living away from the hardcore weather nerd scene under a rock, or perhaps, up a tree!  Maybe one day along the road I’ll be bored enough to attempt to describe thunderstorm and tornado formation with arboriculture terminology and leave you all stumped! (credit to A. KC for that one)

So today we set sail from north of Toronto around 10:00 am in the morning and ended our day in Matrinsville, IA 11 hours later.  Quite a transition in many respects.  I’ll get my tree crap out of the way by saying we went from swelling buds to trees of the same species nearly fully leafed-out.  Flowers from Malus spp., Prunus spp., Cercis canadensis and even the Robinia pseudoacacia’s had there flowers showing off to me by the end of today.  There were a few others that I couldn’t identify from the front seat of our trailblazer and i’m sure it will only get worse for me as we head further south.

So once we were across the border in Port Huron, we headed south for Indiana.  Along the way we managed to get a couple of what the others in my group deem “Accidental Intercepts”, ie thunderstorms that found us along the way to our planned destination.  We do keep a strong eye for any dangerous developments that we would need to steer clear of but this time we just found a couple cells good for the beginners such as myself.  Lots of rain washing down with some noticeable outflow wind as we first got in.  We found some interesting cloud structures that rarely make themselves appear in southern Ontario and bright and sunny skies on the other side.  All in all, a solid first day.

And lastly, if you’re in to eating roadkill, there’s enough along hwy US-24 to feed a whole village of you for several days.  Poor lil’ buggers.

Until next time,


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