Created by Christophe Asselin. EPISODE 8 : BURN OUT Let’s go for the month of June. Storms tend to shift to the north at this time of year. It felt like a quite difficult week ahead with the models showing less dynamic paterns. It might be harder to get tornado setups so we had to make the best out of every opportunity. We decided to go for northern Nebraska maybe even South Dakota. That’s an area we already knew near the Black Hills, which usually help storms to grow in the Rapid City area. So it became our target. June 1st wasn’t very promising Maybe a few storms to see but without any severe event. Seemed like a good opportunity to make a detour by the “Badlands” where we’d already been with Tony and where we had already enjoyed the sceneries. It was beautiful for sure but the storm which had formed over the Black Hills wouldn’t want to move to the east. It stayed stationnary. We had to get closer quickly or we might miss the whole show. As we arrived on a crest we realized that storm was getting REAL. It could even drop a tornado. Entering the rapid city metro, we could see how well organized was the storm so it was about time to find a good place to stop. What’s up with the dancing Chris ? Well, we’re under heavy attack from an army of mosquitoes! I’ve never seen that before. Hundreds of bugs biting us everywhere. It’s nonsense! I have bites all over my legs. Look at Tony’s trousers! In a few seconds we were literally overwhelmed by mosquitoes. And that’s an understatement. Vince, why are you running around? That’s dreadful! In less than a minute, we’re bitten by 10 mosquitoes! None of us was able to film correctly as we had to fight mosquitoes every 5 seconds. They’re biting my face, I’m gonna swell tomorrow! In the end, we might have blurry footage because we couldn’t use our gear properly. Vince wanted to talk to me outside! As if I was pleased to chit-chat in the middle of mosquitoes! It was so horrendous that we eventually had to get inside the car which kind of ruined the fun but at least we had a nice supercell which was better that one could hope for that day. 10 more bites! Fortunately, our cameras are working by themselves! From the hill, we could watch lightning striking right in front of us. With increasing sunset colors. We tried to have fun until the evening but the storm decided to weaken. It lost its organization, quite fast by the way. We arrived a bit late on that supercell. We shouldn’t have expect it to come towards us because it was stubborn and stayed over the black hills. June 2nd, 2015 WE MEET ANOTHER FRENCH TEAM Those are high altitude clouds. We can see it clearly. And it looks like cumulus are gathering there… There was definitely some potential that day but we still needed a spark to fire things up! * singing a Johnny Hallyday song about sparks * It seems like there’s more moisture to the right… If you see a viewpoint you can stop because it looks better by the minute. It looks kind of weak though. The base is quite interesting but… but there’s not so much convection going on. Yes, not a very neat tower. Especially up there, where you can see it collapsed… There’s something missing. We felt that the beginning of June wasn’t very vigorous. Let’s call that a tiny base! Yes, I think that’s appropriate. We had to go through several days where the storms wouldn’t fire up despite what models had forecasted. It meant waiting during long hours in the car, under the sun… It was quite challenging for our mental health. It’s only 6:30PM! No… 7:30PM! It’s only 7:30PM! As the hours went by and the sunset got closer we started to doubt it would eventually fire up. It doesn’t smell good! I can sense the hotel coming! Well, tomorrow is an other day! JUNE 3rd 2015. There’s an other cell growing to the south-west! Sure, it’s at a very early stage! How lovely are those birds flying in the wind… Huge tornado… … in a chinese province. – Where?
– In a chinese province! Ah! Our target is not good then. The more days getting by, the worse the setups are. If we could end the journey on a good chase, that’d be great! This chase is depressing. I wan’t to go home! And, downloading! Well, the radar update is not very encouraging. Maybe we should start driving towards Cheyenne… Not to sound overly optimistic but… cumulus clouds are quite compact there! And it does look good! However, when things suddenly blow up at the end of the day it can immediately lead to nice supercells. We had a few that gave us nice shows! That day, at about 7PM… the storm rapidly strengthened and went from a classic mode to a kind of LP supercell without so much rain. Unfortunately, that’s the type of day when you can only enjoy the storm with daylight during one hour or so and then the night arrives. And it wasn’t a very electrical storm anyway… I’m not sure it will be able to drop a tornado! But what we see was unhoped for! Yep, remember one hour ago! At least we had nice landscapes to put in our photos but the storm was definitely lacking something to go crazy. So we were left disappointed and we decided to change strategy for the day after, June 4th. I personnaly encouraged the team to leave those areas near the mountains that didn’t work well for us. JUNE 4th 2015. I think it will start late, like yesterday. At least we can feel the moisture! I think it got carried away! What is that parameter ? Significant tornado! So it tells us exactly where the tornado is going to be! It’s maxed-out for here! The CAPE values were insane nearing 6000 to 6500 j/kg. Everything seemed favorable to severe storms except maybe the famous spark needed for the storms to initiate. It will have to seriously break the cap! Strong updrafts needed! Still there was this thermal inversion preventing storms to form. That inversion inhibited convection during the afternoon hours. There were a few cumulus cloud trying but it was far from becoming the huge storm we were waiting for. Dewpoints of 71°F (21,6°C)! We’ve seen worse before! It’s not the lack of moisture, only convective inhibition. It only needs to break the cap. We could see on the radar storms going crazy in Colorado 300 miles away from us. So we crossed our fingers and hoped for the inhibition to dissapear in the evening. I think it’s the week too many… We did nothing this week. I’m about to lose the computer. I’m about to lose my phone and we lost the tablet. It’s the end of things. Game Over. * french untranslatable joke * However, by some miracle, the cape eventually broke at the end of the afternoon. Storms immediately fired up. Severeal supercells formed far away to our west. Let’s get back to chase mode! We had to go there fast! It’d better stay alive and strong until we got there! It’s not over guys, we’re back in the game! The potential was so strong that the storms rapidly became very pleasing! I’ve just seen lightning guys! – Really?
– Yep, under the base, over there! I feel like this cluster could give something too. After all, our attention was caught by an other storm more to the north-west. We aimed at this new target couldn’t wait to be there seeing that storm which was really looking good! It comes so close to the ground. It’s scratching the ground! The most impressive was lightning coming from the anvil and striking in front of the storm. It’s going to be the hardest part : going through the town at 30 mph. Should I stop for gas? Oh yeah, that’s a monster! That’s insane! We’re gonna make so many lightning pictures! Holy cow! – I have to find a road!
– There’s an antenna ahead. Yeah, but I don’t have any road until… Don’t go too far or the first base is going to hide the other one! I know but I have to reach that road at least! We arrived a bit late to the party but we would be able to enjoy its last hours of magnificence. It still had a wall cloud and was shaped like a spinning-top. This field looked nice. Let’s do that! You’re free to go! Let’s keep cool, let’s keep cool! We had 1 or 2 lightning strikes on each photo. We had plenty of time since the supercell was barely moving. After a while, being quite satisfied with our pictures we decided to get closer. I knew it would strike close as I had a headache! Anvil-to-ground lightning was striking all around us every 3 or 4 seconds. We litteraly feasted that night. We were having so much fun! Unfortunately, we quickly fell back to earth as we realized that a gigantic supercell generated dozen of tornadoes 200 miles to the west, in Colorado. – I don’t want to show you the pictures of the Colorado tornado… I’d rather not… It was a major hard blow. We discovered pictures and videos on the Internet from all the wonders that our colleagues managed to witness. That’s part of the chase, you can’t be at two different places. This was definitely a hammer blow anyway. Yep, it’s part of the game… Obviously we were a bit sad but we had managed to see a beautiful electric supercell and that was a good catch we needed to rely on. The trip wasn’t over, we still had one day of chasing left. We wanted to make up for this half fail and the potential was still very good for the Colorado / Kansas border. JUNE 5th 2015 The plan is to drive to Limon in Colorado. And we’re VERY motivated! After what happened yesterday, we have to take our revenge. We’re a bit exhausted but we all want to make a good last chase. That day started very early. We filled the gas tank up in Limon grabbed some lunch in a hurry and we immediately could see a cell forming on the radar which initiated on the mountains and was shifting towards the plains. This cell is only 20 minutes old and is already tornado warned. We were 30 minutes away from it so we had to rush west and catch it. We quickly realized we were not the only ones to be outrun. The race to the Denver area had started. Everybody’s late! Even the TIV! I think you can match their speed. People on the road must be so worried “What are those weird vehicles passing us, honey?” We drove as fast as we reasonnably could to get to that storm which was undoubtedly healthy. What, today ?? South of Denver. Really? There’s no official report. We were caught by surprise at that time. It was only 12:30PM and the storm had already generated a tornado. It really strengthened on its south edge! I think that’s what we can see here, we’re not so far anymore. It’s going to drop again I think. Take a right as soon as you can. We could see a large wall cloud forming, the base being already very close to the ground. We can see the clear slot there! It’s really lowering! We were really confident at that time! It was getting really close to the ground. There was a strong rotation and a very engaging atmosphere overall. The rain is coming though. We’re gonna need to shift north. Let’s move? Yeah, I think we should move before it drops. Look how close it is to the right! Keep an eye on it Julien! We tried to keep up with it while other chasers were converging as well. Still pulling towards the ground! Keep going just a little. It looks like it’s not so organized anymore. Yep, to the eyes anyway. That’s what I meant! The wall-cloud kind of disintegrated and the overall structure was not so good anymore. A new rotation appeared more to the south. We had to be full on for the last chase so we immediately took off to the south. Some new cells are forming near Limon… That’s not good! While these Denver area supercells were quite nice they wouldn’t drop a tornado. We thought maybe the warm and moist airmass was more to the east and that we should think about driving back to Limon. I think we need to go now. Without overthinking. Yes, that’s probably the best we can do. Let’s do that then? Yep, because I can’t see any rotation now… We had to go through the storm so that we could reach the interstate but that’s never easy to leave a supercell as it could still give something good 30 minutes later. Ahead of us was a convective wall with already beautiful cumulonimbus emerging from it. Arriving in Limon, time was to make a decision : On one hand we could keep driving on the interstate to pass these new storms and get ahead of them or we could chose to not go to far away from the northern cells which still showed strong rotation and drive north instead. I think we should go north. You’d like to stay behind these cells, to their west? Yes, because it leave us the option to reach this northern area I think the one supercell we just left might do something later… That decision might have been a bit hasty but we decided to go north to keep our 2 options available. That was probably the turning point of the day but not in a good way unfortunately. I feel like we’re a bit too far to the west… We won’t see anything from here… The northern storm did get tornado warned rapidly but we quickly understood that the warm inflow was really more east and that this storm would have a hard time resisting to the new storms to the east. In the meantine, we realized there was no immediate road option to go east. It’s gonna be a pain… We had to make a big detour which put us really behind those storms that were already getting very strong. Our non-choice let to a bad choice… We thought we were missing the show again as we were late to everything since the morning. By a twist of fate, we arrived in the city of Last Chance where we needed to make the good decision for once. Let’s go east then. We really need to get back to the inflow side. The choice was obvious now we could only drive east fast to try and get ahead of these storms while getting around them by the north, which is obviously a bad strategy but that was our only option left. Are we gonna drive in heavy rain all the way? There’s a corridor… But we’re gonna have quite a lot of rain anyway. Seeing the velocity scan, I think there’s a tornado on the ground. Come on! We can do this! Let’s get this tornado! The tension was tangible in the car. Vincent wanted us to go south as soon as we could. I’m not sure we’ll be able to get ahead. There’s all the hail core to go through. Wait, wait… Anyway, we can try an approach and then drive back to the north. I don’t know what it’s gonna do next… Maybe a new rotation here, see? In any case, we have the time to get in front of it. Shit, wasn’t it our south road? I think it was… Try it! We eventually reached this road heading south so we took it, timidly. Yeah but look… it’s about to cross the road. It accelerated I think. There wasn’t enough energy in the team! We were still a bit late. We could be trapped in the rain as the tornado was approaching the road. I think we’d better get really in front of the supercell… It’s already on the road anyway. We decided to play it safe and not driving down that road hoping for better options more to the east. To think that it’s only 3 miles away! It’s so frustrating. And one more time, the roads are to blame! We thought we might find another road further east to get south while being in front of the storm. You never know, maybe one of those small roads is paved. Yea, drive, I’m gonna look for roads. Take a look at Google Maps maybe… I did that already… Yep, Vince has been checking for a while and it looks like we only have dirts. Come on!! We need to do this, we’re not far!! If I look closely, the sky is darker just to the right. We might see it at every moment now. Move on, move on! If there’s a road to try, this is the one! Slow down to take a look… There are some chasers on it… … but they’re all stopped. Slow down and try it anyway. – What should I do…
– Try! Drive for a few yards and see how it goes. We only had dirt roads that were quite wet since it had rained for 30 minutes already and they had became very muddy. I have a good feeling with this road. We can’t really afford to get stuck in mud in front of a large tornado. I know Chris but it’s only sand here, not really mud. Come on, go! That’s ok, I have a good feel. Rain is not so important… It’s a thin curtain. We have to try! Considering what’s going to impact it from the south, it will soon be over. I’d say we only have 5 minutes left to see it. So we tried… but we felt like the car wasn’t reacting great and that we might end up stuck if we kept going which could be very problematic with a potential tornado on the way. It’s sliding… It’s hopeless. Ok, drop it… drop it… Even with a 4WD, dirt roads are rapidly impracticable. The car was sliding left and right constantly. F*** it, we can’t have good roads! F***** %$”#! We knew we were probably missing a very important event a few miles to the south. The timing was so close! But the chase is all about timing and that bad decision we made in Limon made us late by 5 minutes. 5 KILOMETERS TO THE SOUTH F***, F***, F***… We should have tried that one road going south earlier. It was our only window. It doesn’t look dead on radar yet. The storm could reorganize indeed even if it had weakened a bit. We repositionned further east to let it come to us. We finally got to a paved road this time allowing us to drive south. There’s some kind of base in front of us – That would be the new rotation Vince ?
– Yes, it is. Come on! And no rain anymore to the south! We had a much clearer view on the new bases that could spin and speaking of that, there was an interesting one to our right. A little further… That’s good. The base is looking great! Please, please! We regained hope at that time as the base was getting more defined and inflow winds picked up a little. Rain was gone. Maybe we could get a surge of pride from the storm. I think the main circulation is to the right. It’s going to happen there. Can you see that low cloud moving very fast? Yes, it’s going to wrap behind this house. It could happen fast! We might need to take the car! Yes, ok! – We drive north right?
– Yes, north! We can see the rotation there. The rotation is just there! Come on, please, give it to me! Conditions were still not very good. Still quite a lot of rain around that storm preventing us to get a good view but we tried to keep the faith. Are you sure the rotation isn’t there instead? Well, look to your left but I can see something to the right too. I think it’s wrapping a bit more to the north. It’s just above us actually. It is to our right now. Pull over when you can. I think you’ll be able to stop here! Yep, It’s spinning for sure. The rotation seems to be over there and the RFD is on this side, pushing hard It’s definitely trying! We’re gonna have to move soon! Yes, RFD incoming! The fact is we still have a view over the meso from here and I think there’s no road going east. There’s one further away but we’ll be north again. We can see the dancing rain curtains, that’s usually a good sign! It’s tightening up but doesn’t want to drop down. But we could see that storm was getting away from us, again and that the rain got in the way, again. We’re losing sight, f***… So, we lost sight of the structure and it looked on radar that storms were spreading over a large area. Making it more difficult to get anything from those supercells. It started to feel like the end of the chase… without any success for our last day. That must be the worst chase I ever made. I just wanna cry… The chase ended that way… Under the rain… with a pale grey sky. It was just like the day : morose. Like our minds at the end of the day. That was a big disappointment for the team We knew we had handled poorly this last chase missing a large tornado because of that. We wanted to finish on a grand finale but it was the total opposite. That did really put us down in the dumps. I feel so bad about myself… We tried to recover a bit mentally after that tough day. We could feel the end of the journey was difficult for everyone No energy left at all in the team. I wouldn’t say it had been the week too many because we had a few beautiful surprises. But that’s true we could feel disappointment growing in the team with every passing day. That’s with a heavy heart we took the road towards Dallas as we had about a 12 hours drive to the airport. If we take a step back and take a look at the 4 weeks of chasing we can definitely say we had yet another amazing experience with previously unseen events like nocturnal tornadoes or incredible accumulations of hail. THIS IS WAR! What a monster guys! It’s beautiful behind us! That’s probably the year we got the most days with thunderstorms. We managed to get under dozens of tornado warned supercells dozens of meso circulations. These low hanging spinning base that can lead to a tornado at anytime. It’s happening! It’s coming down guys! I think we’ve been a bit unlucky because these circulations rarely finalized. Damn! It doesn’t want to drop! That’s hilarious! 2 inches! Let’s go! 2 years ago, I had the chance to live an intense adventure where we had everything perfectly. Violent tornadoes… Beautiful and “easy to approach” tornadoes… That’s the best tornado I’ve ever seen! This year was different. We got almost only HP supercells a lot of missing roads which showed me that Tornado Alley is not that simple! Look at the radar! The rotation is the other way! What is happening Chris? We’re very late! Fu**** S***! Debris, debris! Look out Vince! We know the tornado is never easy feat and we also know we must never quit. It’s spinning very fast to the left, look! Look, there’s a funnel there! – Isn’t that a funnel?
– Yep, absolutely! Tornado on the left! Do you see this guys? That’s amazing! Rolling! But I can’t remember after that… Did we arrive on another cell? We’re getting old! We’ve seen some nice things even if it didn’t give a tornado. Oh f***. As far as I’m concerned, I wanted us to go as there was no reason for it to… Now you can see that a tornado is coming! We’re going to be blown away! We were in a completely deserted area… and there were kids crying everywhere There were flying kids as well that we tried to catch with a net. * the guy is just going to mispronounce and mix two words together * Oh ok, I understand now! The bag was pressing the seat heater button. This explains why my ass is on fire for a moment. * Funny things in french are not always easily translatable, sorry about that! * * Hope you’re having a good time anyway! * What’s this spot on my screen? There’s a crushed mosquito on my lens! Wait, I’ve been troubled by something but it’s just an automatic lawnmower! I can’t stand american motors anymore… Go electric guys! – What did you just say Chris?
– Proves my point! The storm wasn’t moving at all so we figured it was planning a trick! What did you say about train directions? We were getting close from our target where there already was a storm It was… very very isolated. Long live America! Soon on Chroniques Chaotiques : the Tornado Alley in 4K! Please share and subscribe if you like!