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Tornadoes are here...... Tornado Tim is there.
Near Porcupine South DakotaWhat an incredible chase on Sunday May 28th.  We shot great video of a storm with beautiful structure in Porcupine, South Dakota.  Winds gusted to over 70 mph and the clouds were dragging the ground.  Night came quickly and it became to dark to chase so we then shifted east to Martin South Dakota. Gusty Storm Moves in on us in splendorThinking we were leaving the storms we instead had a new storm come up on us from the southwest and we ended up with a tornado warning for our location.  We sat in downtown Martin trying to figure out if we could drop south and get out of its path, but it hit before we were able to leave. 
We were either in the tornado, or unbelievable straight line winds.  Whatever it was, Tornado Tim racked up another "too close" encounter with a tornadic storm. This was the most intense winds I have ever endured, and I was actually frightened this time, the winds were beyond belief. No wonder some buildings and trees went down from this storm. We filmed the damage around town and CNN picked up our video and played it on Monday morning.   I am glad to be alive. WOW, what a chase.
We saw our best tornado of May in Martin County Texas while French TV was filming an entire chase with Tornado Tim.
Video of the Patricia, Texas tornado below.

May 4th we did our first chase with France TV2 as a break in chase.  We had only a severe thunderstorm watch to chase, but it helped them get a feel for my style of chasing which includes asking for permission to use Wi-Fi from various motels when we need it.  Aaron started as our main Video camera guy for France TV, but on returning Thursday night he became ill and ended up in the hospital during the night.  Friday morning Aaron was in surgery having an emergency appendectomy. France TV quickly made a call and was able to procure a replacement camera man. 

Friday morning May 5th the chase started in Dallas Texas where we based for the first week of May. That morning around 9:30 am the weather data looked good for severe weather, mostly west of our location so we found ourselves traveling west on Hi-way 20 to Big Spring, Texas.  Once arriving in Big Spring around 12:30 pm a tornado watch was being discussed for the area, along with parts of New Mexico.  Then this was released: NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK  110 PM CDT FRI MAY 5 2006  THE NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER HAS ISSUED A TORNADO WATCH FOR PORTIONS OF SOUTHEAST NEW MEXICO PERMIAN BASIN AND CONCHO VALLEY OF WEST TEXAS.....

When the storms started they begin to the north and west of us in New Mexico, but I was slow to respond to the northwestern corner of the storms. I was confident the best storms would be on the south end of the building supercells. I had memorized the last weather data I read in Big Spring where we had our last Wi-Fi connection of the chase.  Moisture pools, temperature differences, wind directions, upper air patterns, and where their locations were, all of this now circulating in my mind. I absorb every little detail from the SPC Mesoscale Analysis Pages, try to burn them into my brain and then visualize that info and compare it to what I see in the atmosphere. We headed north out of Big Spring on road 87 heading to Lamesa Texas. France TV 2 had to play catch up to us traveling in their own SUV, finally they met us on 87 about 8 miles north of Big Spring.

We were introduced to their main news correspondent, and the new camera man by Stephanie who was the producer. Once we got settled and moved equipment around to accommodate the extra passenger, off we went heading north.  Our new camera man quickly began questioning us about how safe this trip was.  I said it was dangerous, but that as yet no chaser had ever been killed by a tornado.  Still very concerned he then mentioned he has 4 kids and a wife who need him back home.  "My 4 kids really need me to get home alive" he stated. Vastly different from Aaron who the night before told me however close I wanted to get he was game.  In fact Aaron was wanting a very close encounter, and no one other chaser pushes the envelope more then me, so he had the right guy. Our new cameraman was more interested in a safe trip.  He wasn't too keen on my phrase of wanting to get as close to a tornado as I can and still live to tell about it.  

As we traveled north towards Lamesa Texas I wanted one more radar report so I called a new friend of ours Michael who photographs fires in California.  He gave us one last radar report around 4pm, and it was clear there was one lonely Supercell near Seminole Texas just 24 miles east of Hobbs New Mexico. From this point on I didn't want any distractions from reading the atmosphere so for the next 4 hours would be done by my expertise with no help at all.  We did talk to a few other chasers over this time and got their feel on what was going on from their viewpoint, but it was strictly FYI for us.

So we were chasing without onboard radar, without a working ham radio, we didn't even have our NOAA Weather radio on as we usually do. Instead it was just me reading the storms and clouds purely off of my experience and instinct. So for those who think gadgets, expensive gear, radar and other electronic equipment are needed, they aren't. Much of the gear chasers are using today does not make any difference.  Learn to read the atmosphere with your own eyes.  All of my best tornadoes have been by the eye without radar and external coaching.

We headed west on 180 and quickly were able to see supercells to the north, with the one we choose right in front of us.  We raced towards the base of the storm watching it come close to producing a tornado several times as we approached it. With the direction we came in from we were on the southeast corner of the storm giving us a clear view of the wall cloud and it's attempt to tornado.  Hail begin to pound our car but we pushed on driving even faster to get underneath the now incredible looking storm. The hail on the southeast side was not as bad as the north side where Reed Timmer and other chasers we ran into lost almost all their windows to hail, with glass spraying on them inside of their the car. Reed is a great chaser and it is always sad to see other chasers cars get demolished by hail. Later we heard other chasers had lost windows to baseball size hail in this storm.  Coming in on the southeast corner allowed us to maneuver around the worst of the hail and stay in the chase keeping our windows intact.  As we got underneath the storm it was spinning so strongly we could easily see the spin with our eyes. 

I gambled on this being the best storm and ignored all the tornado warnings to our north and east other chasers had told us about, and kept on this one cell. We had also heard there were also several storms that were larger and had more purple on radar to the north, but I saw no reason to let go of this storm. Several times over the next 3 hours it looked liked it was dying, the wall cloud disappeared many times, but the inflow winds kept getting stronger, so I was not willing to give up on it. It was these strong inflow winds that kept me believing it was a very powerful supercell that wasn't done and still had enough punch to produce a tornado. Other chasers broke off and gave up on the storm but we kept believing it was the best storm around so we stayed with it.

At one point I decided to punch to core and get underneath the newest wall cloud forming. We were the only chasers there. All the other chasers were miles from the wall cloud and had either chickened out or where just not able to navigate the roads as well as we were, and weren't  able to get this close encounter.  I have been caught in the edge of a tornado before, and I was not intimidated by this very powerful storm. I wanted to be right next to this forming tornado.

French TV film Crew while chasing stormSuddenly, less than 100 yards of our vehicles a tornado spins up on the ground and we watch a spinning ball of dust pass right in front of us tearing up grass, dirt and debris.  That was close, very close.  We were in the heart of the action giving France TV2 a private show.  We watched in awe as a wide tornado was about to form all the way to the ground, but just when we thought it would complete, the entire storm made a rapid right turn to the south and the forming tornado weakened and pulled back up into the wall cloud. The storm turned from almost straight east to straight south, so now we had to again move and jockey to another point to watch the forming tornado so we drove towards Patricia, Texas. We noticed the direction it was moving was heading into a very visible pool of moisture. If you look closely, you can actually see pools of moisture just above the ground, and this pool looked dense and heavy.  All I could think was,  "fuel for the storm".

tornado forming just after 8 pm tornado forming just after 8 pm tornado forming just after 8 pm tornado forming just after 8 pm

0034Z radar as tornado storm moves onNow well over 3 1/2 hours on this storm we parked just off to the Northwest of the storm due to rain shielding much of the wall cloud.  We were southeast of Patricia, Texas.  We found a small clearing where the rain was being pushed back slightly for some reason giving us a better view of what was a quickly lowering wall cloud.

Our patience paid off as we could see a tornado now beginning to form and drop from the cloud. This was a classic tornado, forming before our very eyes.  I never tire of seeing the birth of a tornado. 

French TV who filmed the entire chase was thrilled with the results and as excited as we were to see this tornado.  I screamed with excitement and my daughter Kindra, age 13 was seeing her first birth of a classic tornado. Krystallin 18, who is a veteran at this point, also made a few cheers as it continued to strengthen even though she has seen many tornadoes before.  Here is the NWS report this F2 tornado. The total track of the tornado is estimated at nearly 12 miles and was estimated at between 200 and 300 yards wide.

Just so others know, I didn't have some expert weather guy back in some office telling me where to target, where to go, what to do. This was my chase, my predictions, my decisions alone.  Chasing can be done without all the electronic stuff, without external coaches, and it is far more rewarding when you know it was all you that bagged the big one. For me at this point, it is not just about seeing a tornado, it is about me predicting it all by myself, with no help.
Tornado Tim

The second tornado of the week was back on May 2nd.  We were parked 10 miles east of Matador, 34.00742 N 100.64174 W and the tornado sustained until 5:26pm starting at about 5:11 or just a little before.

A very weak landspout/tornado, but it was amazing to us how long it lasted, and it kept spinning up debris, at times stronger than others.  It was seen by many people in the area, but with so few roads there was no way we could get any closer to it. 

Caruthersville tornado 4-2-06
April brought multiple tornadoes including this one in Caruthersville Missouri that the Dale family saw first hand as it passed right by their home with these photos taken from their backyard. Storm chasing in 2006 was better in April than it was in May. Rated an F3 tornado this tornado caused extensive damage to the area.

Tornado Tim was interviewed on Technorama show with Chuck Tomasi and Kreg Steppe. The show can be download at: Podcast Interview

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