October 17, 2010, Fort Worth, Texas~
Sorry I haven't written until now; been incredibly busy, plus I spent about three days in the hospital. Had pneumonia; still feel like crap, but the antibiotics are starting to finally kick in and do their job.
A few weeks back found us in Flagstaff, Arizona. They had a severe weather setup; conditions were coming together to produce the possibility of svr wx within the general facility: cape verses the cap: the higher the cape, the more likelihood of severe storms, the higher the cap, the less likely this will occur. Wind shear turning with height. Humdity levels (higher dewpoints more conducive for severe weather to bubble up). Temperatures. Heat. The higher the temps, the more likelihood of bad weather, even though you can have tors or svr weather during cooler weather (though this isn't usually the norm).
Conditions that day were perfect. All the signs were there. Wind shear values. A higher than normal cape. High humidity levels. Warmer temperatures. Dew points running into the sixty-to-seventy degree range. A dryline/cold front/warm front combination (called a "triple point", the prime area for svr storms to explode on the warm sector of the setup). Oh, yeah, us chasers and wx forecasters were going to have a busy day ahead of us come three o'clock or later. We might as well have gotten our bodies fed and have all of our equipment ready to go ...
Sure enough, roughly around three thirty or so, the SPC (Storm Prediction Center) out of Norman, Oklahoma, issued a tor watch for the Flagstaff and surrounding area of the state of Arizona. Svr storms were more than likely, including the possibility of the big three: large hail, damaging downburst winds, and yes, even tornadoes. By now, clouds were just starting to appear; within the next hour or so, or maybe even less, they could very well go nasty on us.
We had to be ready. As soon as they popped, we had to be on the storms that would surely fire. We had a job to do: we had to alert storm spotters, law officials, and local weather offices, to inform people of the possibility of dangerous weather occuring between the hours of 3:30 to 10:30 (or even later).
Within the next several hours, we started seeing storms. Lightning flashing in the distance. Rolling thunder. Hail and rain shafts. Ugly clouds that quickly went supercellular; these storms were telling us that they meant business. They were nothing to fool around with.
The skies turned blacker and blacker, and I could only offer some quick desperate prayers heavenward, praying for people to heed the warnings and to qet to a sturdy shelter or building as quickly as possible if the bad weather descended upon them. Suddenly I heard my chase partner, Tiny Cheever (who weighs about 360 pounds; he ain't no little dude!) scream: "TORNADO!" Sure enough, there was a nice cone-shaped tor in the distance.
We quickly raced towards it and attempted to get our probe out in the field, so it could pick up the latest data, and we could then inform the NWO and the SPC and alert the public about exactly what was going on with this storm/tornado. Lightning sizzled and thunder slammed around us, and we got pelted with golf balls, but as long as we get the information out there to the public, then we were doing our job right.
Turns out that there were several tors that day. This first one was only a harbinger of things to come. No EF-5s in there, but maybe several EF-0's, maybe an EF-1, maybe an EF-2. Nothing too terribly nasty, as far as tors go, but still, tors, as a whole, are nothing to be taken lightly. Whether they are weak or not, they can still put down a lot of damage and can kill or maim people if they don't get out of its path as quickly or as soon as possible.
I would have called this latest chase a success because there were maybe one or two, maybe three deaths, and less than 100 people who were injured. There was some damage to property, but in time, it could be repaired. People could pick up the pieces and move on with their lives in a matter of a few short weeks to maybe a month or two. It wouldn't take any longer than that for life to return to normal for those most affected.
Then I got sick the night after. Developed a nasty dry cough that only got worse, as well as a pain in my chest. My wife got concerned, so she had me see the doctor, who, in kind, popped me into the hospital for a few days. Have been spending all this time since recovering and trying to get myelf in shape for the next chase, which could commence later this week, if conditions hold themselves together right.
Until then, this is Joe Dorman saying so long! Keep your nose to the grindstone, and please take the necessary precautions when severe weather threatens! It would make our jobs a lot easier!