As we make our way into the beginning of 2014, I thought I'd take a look back at the 2013 storm season and everything that happened in a very eventful and tragic year as seen through my eyes.
2013 started off very slowly as far as the storm season was concerned. There were a handful of days in the month of March that promised severe weather but for the most part it held off. For my part, I chased in North Central Texas on March 8th, and then the Texas Panhandle on March 9th. Both days held little promise of anything more than decent sized hail and they both lived up to their expectations. April brought a bit more activity, taking me to Northern Colorado for a beautiful supercell that wouldn't have an equal the rest of the season in its structure. I stayed the night in Goodland, KS that night at a toasty 73 degrees only to wake up to 26 degree temps and freezing rain due to a cold front that rushed though faster than expected. I spent a good portion of the next day rushing back south to Oklahoma trying to beat the cold front for the next days chase and winning only by about two hours, and ultimately losing because the cap wouldn't break storms loose in Southwest Oklahoma.
A little over a week later I found myself back in Southwest Oklahoma again, this time for a moderate risk setup that had outbreak potential. After chasing a northern cell, I finally dropped south and chased a storm that had quite a bit of rotation and stayed tornado warned for most of its life, but at the end of the day there were no tornadoes produced. I did manage to capture one image that has become one of my most popular photos:
Another month went by with really no opportunity for storm chasing other than a few marginal setups that yielded a few nice photos but nothing more. Then came Mid-May.
The first day of the turn of storm season happened in Central Kansas on May 18th. It was not a particularly impressive setup but chasers (including me) were all itching for something to chase by this time and the hunger was palpable. It was delayed by a stubborn cap and made more than a few people think about their decision to stay put or head north or south. Staying put would be the winning decision this day. It ultimately produced four beautiful tornadoes in the middle of nowhere and provided one of the best tornado photo opportunities since Campo, CO.
The next day brought another opportunity, this time it was in a couple of different places: Southern Kansas and Central Oklahoma. I chose Southern Kansas and came away with a beautiful if not artistic rope tornado.
And then there was May 20th. The day an EF-5 tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma that I wrote about in this blog article. Seeing it from birth and moving through the populated area will always be one of the toughest things I've seen.
The next week also provided fireworks. I chased up to Salina, KS only to pick the wrong day to chase Salina, KS. The setup the day before on May 27th held promise for severe weather, and ultimately it did happen but no tornadoes. The next day was the big day though, as what is now known as the "Bennington Tornado" touched down for a good hour and didn't really move the whole time. I regret missing this event.
May 31st, El Reno, Oklahoma. Possibly the most historic day in storm chasing history. I started out chasing this event, starting in El Reno only to end up heading back east to move my family out of the way since it was on a direct path towards my home. It produced the widest tornado on record at 2.6 miles, and killed three highly regarded storm chasers: Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and Carl Young. The news was shocking the day I heard it on the Sunday after, and still hasn't really sunk in fully. The chasing world was and still is devastated and will be felt for a long time to come.
Finally, the season came to a close with a late November setup that warranted a "high risk" to be issued in the Midwest. Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan were in the cross-hairs of fast moving storms (60 mph!) with tremendous shear making anything that developed a destructive machine. Washington, IL took the brunt of the hit that day and is still recovering from the storm.
Overall, it was a year of extremes that etched itself not only the the history books, but in the heart.
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