2015 Storm Chase Season Summary

November 20th, 2015 by William Reid



The daily chase accounts have been posted, so it is happy chase season summary time!  I worked as the tour director for Tempest Tours for tours 2 through 7, which was from about April 29 through June 27.  However, I had to fly back home to California on three different occasions to work weekend shifts for my “real” job as a weather observer at Point Mugu.  Throw in a couple more days off in June during Tour 6, and I figure I was in chase mode with the tour group for about 45 days this past spring.    On about 35 of these days there was something worthwhile happening in the troposphere on the Great Plains to observe.

The weather pattern on the Great Plains during May and June of 2015 was fairly active.  Whereas many recent seasons have been plagued by drought and parched landscapes in the Southern Plains and High Plains, this spring was the opposite, as moisture was plentiful in most areas south of I-80.  Much of Texas and Oklahoma endured flooding rains in May.  The High Plains of eastern Colorado were wet and green by the end of May and through June.  The mosquitoes were very happy and quite prolific nearly everywhere we headed!  There were no prolonged “down” periods at all due to plunging cold fronts or wayward upper lows or storm-squelching upper highs.  That is always good news for a tour director, and each tour had plenty of active chase days.

Though the pattern was rather active and severe storms were not difficult to find nearly every day, the pattern was not one which promoted high-end tornado outbreaks on the Plains.  There were a handful of days with a lot of tornadoes, primarily in May, but highly photogenic, long-track and long-lived tornadic supercells were generally absent.

Personally, I had a typical chase season with regard to tornado intercepts and chase success.  I witnessed a number of great tornadoes that nearly no other chasers saw, and I missed a few that were seemingly surrounded by hundreds of chasers!  There were the usual “heartbreak” days on which I did not wind up on a storm that I could have been on, such as June 4 when we were in northwestern Kansas and not on the Simla, CO, tornado machine.  But that is always going to happen a few times when you chase for most of two months every year.  I managed to stay out of large and damaging hail again —- in 15 years of directing the tours, there have only been 3 or 4 instances in which large hail has severely damaged the vans and cracked the windshields.  As for stunning storm structure, I think the season was a bit of a dud.  Maybe I was jinxed a little on the timing of the tours and my “off” weekends.

Geographically, the chase season was interesting.  (Keep in mind that this summary applies to only May and June, and the last two days of April.)  Of course, I have a High Plains bias and I usually choose to chase on the higher terrain when there is a “coin-flip” toss between, say, eastern CO and eastern NE.  But I think I can count on one hand the number of times that I led the tour group east of  about U.S. 77 (which runs from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City to Wichita to Omaha).  Wait a sec — I reviewed my chase logs, and I can count on one FINGER the number of times that I chased east of U.S. 77, and that was a chase to western Iowa on June 24!  Also, the Northern Plains were not very active at all, at least on the days that I could chase.  I was in ND on only two days.  We chased in SD on just five days, all in western SD and all in June.  At no time did I venture into MT, MN, MO, AR, or LA.  Yes, it was a great chase season for those of us who dread the notion of chasing in the trees.  Amazingly, though I chased in TX on 9 days in May, I chased on only one day in NM  (not counting one day when we cut through southeast NM on one chase into west TX!).  When not in TX, the bulk of the chase days were in eastern CO and adjacent areas — western KS and western NE, and southeastern WY.

My tornado intercepts were in TX, NM, SD and NE.  Amazingly, I saw no tornadoes in OK or KS, or in the central/eastern portions of NE and SD.  This is the heart of tornado alley.

One other day worth noting was June 22, a down day with no storms to target.  We stayed along the SD/ND border and went out late evening to view the Northern Lights, which were forecast to be especially prominent this night.  We were NOT disappointed!

Click on the links here for the  April, May and June chases.  Below are links and images for selected individual chase days which featured a significant intercept and/or an especially pretty photographic opportunity.


May 4  Fort Stockton TX supercell  — Two supercells today:  a little LP in Loving County and an HP beast in Pecos County.


150504_9995_Mentone-TX 150504_0019_FST-TX


May 5  Luther and Ralls TX tornadoes — a huge chase day for the tour group with a close look at two tornadic supercells


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May 6  Throckmorton TX supercell — a massive, slow-moving tornadic beast narrowly missed Throckmorton at night.


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May 14  Syracuse KS LP supercell — pretty LP storm in western Kansas


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May 15  Cherry County NE tornado  — late day tornado or two over the Sand Hills of northwestern Nebraska


150515_0634cr_Gordon-NE 150515_0632_Gordon-NE



May 18  Pecos TX tornadic supercell — A developing HP beast of a supercell briefly went tornadic over the bunny rabbits of southwest TX


150518_6047b_Coyanosa 150518_0707_Coyanosa


May 24  Lamar CO supercell  — an HP supercell pummels the flat plains of southeastern CO


150524_0859_Lamar-CO 150524_0897_Holly-CO


May 26  western OK severe storms — just missed a nice tornado at Hydro but had a pretty sunset instead!


150526_6363_Calumet-OK 150526_1268_Calumet-OK


May 27  Canadian TX tornadoes — this storm had a hankering for putting down photogenic twisters


150527_1381b_Canadian 150527_6539_Canadian


May 28  Dallam County storms — active day culminating in a nice lightning show


150528_6877cr_Dalhart 150528_1425_Dalhart


May 29  Tornadic supercell in east-central NM — with a very pretty tornado near Milnesand!


150529_1535.Milnesand-NM 150529_1532b.Milnesand-NM


May 31  Kanorado supercell — almost got a tornado nearby out of this one


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June 1  Rapid City supercell — some of the nicest structure of the season


150601_6995_Rapid-City_SD 150601_1725_Rapid-City_SD


June 2  Nebraska Panhandle supercells — plenty of good stuff on this day!


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June 3  eastern WY supercell — a late day storm produced a fake-nado in the dark


150603_7165_Guernsey 150603_7134_Kimball


June 4  northwestern KS supercell — magnificent supercell and lightning display at dusk


150604_7233_Selden_KS 150604_7405_Selden_KS


June 9 northeastern CO structures — no storms = looking for old stuff


150609_2096cr_Lindon-CO 150609_2053_Last-Chance


June 11  southeastern CO supercells — a couple of beasts above great chase country!


150611_7638_Wiley_CO 150611_7668_Springfield_CO



June 16  western NE supercells — nice structure near Sutherland, and an almost tornado


150616_2300_Wallace_NE 150616_2253_Sutherland_NE


June 17  western SD supercells — very pretty storm development above spectacular chase terrain


150617_7765_Hermosa_SD 150617_2326_Oglala_SD


June 20 WY/SD/NE long-track supercell — that was moving WAY too fast


150620_7872_Chadron_NE 150620_7831_Edgemont_SD


June 21 tornadic supercell in northwestern SD — FAT CITY!


150621_2510b_Lodgepole_SD 150621_8023_Isabel_SD


June 22 Northern Lights near Lemmon, SD — one of the highlights of the chase season!


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June 23 southwestern ND storms — plus group photos!


150623_8290_Hettinger-ND 150623_2548_New-England-ND


June 24 western Iowa supercell — tornado sirens but no tornado


150624_8321_Bridgewater_IA 150624_8306_Harlan_IA


June 25 western Nebraska storms — great sunset colors


150625_8426_Bushnell_NE 150625_8380_Roscoe_NE





Posted in 2015, BEST and MOST POPULAR image compilations, Chase Season Summary | No Comments »

November 14, 2015 Abandoned aircraft on San Nicolas Island

November 14th, 2015 by William Reid



The weather on this Saturday was calm and clear and warm — kind of unusual for these parts!  I managed to make the 6-mile (or so) bike ride to “The Rock Crusher,” —- the beach on the west end of the island.  Nearby is an area reserved as the resting spots for some disabled Navy aircraft.


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Posted in 2015, Artsy, Old Stuff, San Nicolas Island | No Comments »

November 13, 2015 Local minimum temperature study

November 13th, 2015 by William Reid
The offshore wind pattern of the past few days has spread very dry air over SoCal
and has resulted in a very wide range of minimum temperatures in and around the 
San Fernando and Conejo valleys and the Santa Monica Mountains.  Santa Ana winds 
blew all night long in many locales and resulted in mild minimums, while some 
wind-protected frost pockets were calm with frigid lows.

Here are low temps for Thu and Fri morning, November 12 and 13, 2015, at selected
stations in the San Fernando Valley, primarily the western SFV.  Included are the
familiar NWS stations and some private/home Weather Underground (WU) and MADIS
stations which I consider trustworthy (at least on minimum temps!).

low temps, flatlands SFV

Thu Fri
40  48  Woodland Hills/Pierce College
36  42  western Woodland Hills WU (Woodlake and Victory)
39  58  West Hills WU (Roscoe and Woodlake)
39  44  Winnetka CW7387 (Sherman Way and Winnetka)
50  67  Chatsworth DW0345 (Plummer and De Soto)
58  65  CSU Northridge
45  49  Van Nuys AP
42  43  Van Nuys WU (Kester and Vanowen)
40  45  Burbank AP
42  44  Studio City DW6087 (Ventura and Colfax)
42  44  Encino WU (Ventura and Hayvenhurst)

low temps, hilltop stations, Santa Monica Mountains and vicinity of SFV

Thu Fri
56  63  Cheeseboro RAWS, north of Agoura, elev. 1707'
55  62  Topanga RAWS, south of Woodland Hills, elev. 1600'
55  63  Calabasas Park Belmonte WU, elev. 1438'
57  64  Malibu Hills RAWS, elev. 1575'
55  62  Porter Ranch above Northridge DW4339, elev. 1634'

low temps, valley bottoms and frost pockets, Agoura/WLV/T.O. area and Santa Monica Mountains

Thu Fri
53  66  Thousand Oaks VCAPCD (Moorpark and Avenida de las Flores, T.O. High School)
36  41  Westlake Village/Reid EW4921 (Hillcrest and Westlake)
32  39  Old Agoura WU
31  36  Agoura/Lost Hills WU
35  43  Bell Canyon WU
27  32  Lobo Canyon WU (south of WLV)
25  30  Paramount Ranch WU (south of Agoura, near Cornell and Mulholland)
30  msg Topanga DW5544
28  32  Malibu Canyon RAWS
59  67  Simi Valley VCAPCD

The low temperature differences between the area hilltops and the coldest frost pockets
 on Thu and Fri are about as large as you'll see for this region.  On Thursday, the
 coldest stations in the western San Fernando valley had mid-upper 30s, while the
 hilltops were in the mid 50s.  At the same time, the outlying frost pockets were
 in the mid 20s to low 30s.  The coldest stations are those in the well-protected
 low spots around Agoura.  The Paramount Ranch station (which had 25F on Thu) is
 located a little bit north of and slightly higher than Paramount Ranch.  The ACTUAL
 ranch may be even a little colder than this station, as it is closer to the valley
 bottom along the stream.

On Thursday night and Friday morning the wind blew without interruption through
 Chatsworth, Simi Valley, and Thousand Oaks.  Minimums were 66F to 67F at the stations
 for these places.  At the Agoura-area frost pockets, protected from the wind, lows were
 30 to 37 degrees colder!  Paramount Ranch dropped to 30F this morning, 33 degrees colder
 than the nearby hilltop stations and 37 degrees colder than Chatsworth and 36 degrees
 colder than Thousand Oaks, both of which are similar in elevation.  Malibu Canyon and
 Lobo Canyon were almost as cold on Friday morning, with 32F.

The NWS often mentions Ojai as its favorite cold spot in Ventura County.  The town
 usually has light winds during Santa Ana wind events, so the nights here are cold
 compared to the breezy areas.  The NWS Ojai station is very close to the stream
 through the valley, and is an impressive frost pocket station. It dropped to 29F
 on Thursday, but that was still warmer than some of the Agoura-area stations.  The
 other stations in the Ojai valley run several degrees warmer than the Ojai NWS station.

low temps, Ojai area
Thu Fri
29  34  Ojai NWS --- East Ojai WU elev. 773'
35  40  Ojai VCAPCD elev. 774' -- Ojai Ave WU
35  40  Ojai South Carillo Rd WU, elev. 758'
44  50  Ojai Fairview Road WU, elev. 1056'

And, the point here, is that all of these valleys have isolated frost pockets and
"cold spots" with impressively low minimums when the wind stops on clear and dry
nights.  The actual location of the weather station with regard to terrain and ground 
cover is a huge factor when it comes to how cold (or not cold) your favorite town is!


Posted in 2015, Climate, Local---Conejo Valley and San Fernando Valley area, Uncategorized | No Comments »

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