The day started with a 6 AM wake up call at our hotel in Amarillo. It is very quiet. Very quiet, indeed.
The morning round of storms has already started to our north.
My first look at the SPC Convective Outlook is very scary:
An outbreak of strong tornadoes and severe thunderstorms is expected
today across parts of the southern and central Plains. In addition,
many of the storms will have very large hail and wind damage. The
severe threat will be concentrated from west Texas and the Texas
Panhandle eastward across Oklahoma, Kansas into western Missouri and
western Arkansas. Additional severe storms with wind damage and hail
will be possible this afternoon from southeast New York into
southern and central New England.
...Tornado Outbreak Expected Across the Southern Plains Today Into Tonight
Graphically, we see these:
Today appears to be a historic tornado outbreak in the making, and here we are ready to jump into it.
Our day really started with Chinese lunch at Golden Palace, a place with over 100 items of high-quality Mandarin and Cantonese appetizers, soups, entrees and (American-style) desserts.
After lunch and a quick fuel stop, we visited the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. If you go, allow up to two hours to walk through the amazing exhibits, pictured below.
After the museum visit, we went to the Oklahoma National Memorial (“the bombing memorial”). Although it is a somber place with moving tributes to those lost, it also holds a message of hope and recovery. Photos are below.
We met up with most of the tour group and walked up to Charleston’s for dinner. Simon and I split a Kale-Quinoa salad, which was still an overwhelming amount of food, even split in half.
Then, we returned to the hotel, where I spent the balance of the evening charging devices, uploading photos, and (finally) sleeping.
First, drove from the motel in Bolingbrook into the Loop of Chicago. After an unplanned orbit of Lower Wacker Drive, we got into our parking garage and walked to breakfest. I had a tasty apple-walnut oatmeal and my first-ever (and probably last-ever) keto coffee.
Then, we walked across the street and went up to the 103rd story attractions of the [former] Sears Tower (a/k/a the Willis Tower).
The views were spectacular, but when I stepped out onto The Ledge, I got dizzy and withdrew immediately. My #FearOfHeights kicked in hard. After a moment of calming down, I backed into my slot in the transparent box so high above the street and we were able to get a few pictures.
Looking out in each of the four compass point directions, we took in the amazing views. The multiple shades of view on Lake Michigan, looking to the north, was astonishingly beautiful!
Along the Way: Fill-Up Philip
After of hour of “103” time was up, we returned to the car, headed west on Madison Street, and took I-94 and I-55 southwest, departing Chicago.
A few hours later, we stopped at Dwight, Illinois for lunch. We had a classic American cuisine lunch (burgers, BLT sandwiches, hot soup), then visited the 1950s-vintage gas station across the street.
One Tall Tomb
Next stop was the Lincoln Tomb (the actual final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of his four sons. The route to the monument took us through some pretty unassuming side streets (and I was beginning to the the GPS had misguided us). The tomb is topped off with an imposing obelisk and has many beautiful statues of Lincoln, depicting the various stages of is life from young adult to the final year of his presidency.
Quarter of the Way ‘Round the World
Continuing southwestward, I pulled the van to the shoulder for our ‘mystery stop’. I must have given half a dozen hints where we were going, what it was about, etc. We got WAY past twenty questions, but my guests finally figured it out without me telling them outright. Here we are after arriving.
After many more hours of driving, we arrived at our dinner destination in Versailles — pronounced ‘ver-Sails’ — in Missouri. Thanks to a cable between the van’s CarPlay port and my iPhone acting up, I had to rely on my guests’ phones for navigation. (Excellent job adapting to the situation, gang! I am in your debt.) Fortunately, we never got off the desired route, arriving at around 9pm. We met Kathy’s stepdaughter, Allison, at a local microbrewery and restaurant call The Bee’s Knees. Other than a brief whiff of the beer, I abstained (as I was driving). On the other hand, I enjoyed a generous portion of the delicious varieties of thin crust pizza. It was a good thing we were driving; I could barely walk after the meal.
One Last Push
In a final push to our goal of Springfield, Missouri, I drove us on MO 5 toward Lebanon, Missouri and I-44. The winding road, hilly terrain, and stretches of re-paving activy along the way made for a challenging drive, but we arrived safe and sound at Springfield around midnight. Four sleepy travelers went to sleep about 30 minutes later for some very solid and well-earned rest.
I have lots of stuff on my mind. House stuff. Packing stuff. Car stuff — OK, that’s 100% finished, actually. But I won’t have a peaceful departure until the pre-vacation ‘to-do’ list reaches zero items pending. (That’s just how I’m wired in my brain, folks.)
The last 48 hours before ‘launch’ are always a bit anxious for me: what will I forget. One year I forgot to put the water heater in VACATION mode, but I’ve never made a serious error like leaving the stove on.
Last night, I taught a 3-hour class on using GRlevel3 and CR2Analyst programs for weather awareness during emergency management agency (EMA) operations. Not bad to handle this on 4 hours sleep!
Today, I’m drinking lots of caffeine and thinking about the last three items on my to do list:
Purchase a wireless shutter control for my Nikon D7000 DSLR camera
Pack my clothing (photographing the contents of the bag as I go)
Adapt the bucket handling my roof leakage to send water to my bathtub while I’m on vacation (‘flood and mold avoidance’).
There are little ‘nice to have’ items I’d like to finish before the trip, but if they don’t get done, the trip will still be pleasant and relaxing.
The truth is that I’m a bit distracted today. The SPC Day 1 outlook showed a MODERATE RISK blob over the Texas Panhandle, one of my most favorite places to chase. It was accompanied by a 10% TORNADO RISK blob. Those who can chase today should be richly rewarded!
While I’m not superstitious, it’s sometimes fun to consider whether or not sighting the weather radar-themed UHAUL truck is a good omen.
11:45 AM – Depart from I-355, entering I-55 southbound. Drove through a brief call shower.
12:28 PM – Passed by Dwight, Illinois. Just saw a northbound Amtrak train heading to Chicago. Feels very like in my childhood memory of travel between Rockford and Monmouth, Illinois. The family used to travel US 34. We used to see many trains along that route. (Sorry, no picture, as I am in traffic.)
Traffic has slowed to a crawl. Seems there is some roadwork or a police action of a head up ahead.
“Work zone speed limit 55 mph.” (Actual speed 24, but it has been 10 mph for the last 10 minutes. Do the math!) And there they are: those people who see the merge signs for the last 2 miles and wait to the last minute to join traffic because they think that the rest of us are stupid and will let them in. And it only takes one generous person to make them right. Now four lanes have become two lanes, one northbound one southbound. The southbound lanes of I-55 or being revealed re-built. (76.3 miles into the trip)
12:49 PM – Left the construction zone at exit 201, Continuing south on I 55. Detour signs indicating the delay was about 13 minutes with results. That feels about right. (Around Pontiac, Illinois)
1:03 PM – South of Pontiac, Illinois. It is wonderfully flat and open near here. This is prime central Illinois chase country. You can see all the way to the Verizon in almost every direction. And the landscape is almost completely free of distractions, except for the occasional microwave, cellular, or radio tower. There are power lines in the distance. A few scattered trees, I’m really not much here. Basically a blank canvas on which to paint a memory. (Tried to take a picture here, it was cut in half the long horizontal. What’s up with that?) I have moved far enough south that I have left the 60°F weather in Chicago and I’m surrounded by 80°F temperatures.
1:36PM – stopped at rest area south of Bloomington-Normal, to stretch my legs, visit the restroom, and grab a light snack. Leving the Illinois pollination exhibit behind, By-bye busy little bee!
1:48 PM – Departed rest stop. Continuing south to St. Louis
2:02 PM – Passing the NWS weather radar at Lincoln Illinois (KILX). It is approximately the midpoint between Chicago and St. Louis along interstate 55.
2:24 PM – travel note: 555 mile post 104 is the location of a rest area on the southbound traffic. This is a little closer to the midpoint of the Chicago St. Louis leg of the journey.
3:24 PM – Just outside St. Louis. Traffic has crawled to a near halt due to construction. We are
grinding along and about 20 miles an hour. Looks like the right lane is closed ahead. We are just south of Worden.
3:37 PM – Exited the construction zone. Very lucky to only have two delays in Illinois. On certain past trips I had 50 miles of construction; this time wasn’t so bad.
4:10 PM – Welcome to Missouri. Took I-255 across to I_44 and beyond. Definitely better than going downtown during rush hour. Temperature here is 91°F. It is like summer! I am loving every minute of it.
5:40 PM- fuel/bathroom/food stop at Roll, Missouri.
8:08 PM – Arrived at Motel 6 North, Springfield, Missouri. Feeling tired but very happy. So THIS is what vacation feels like, I had almost forgotten! Unpacked the van then went to sleep (gently). Zzzzzzz.
TODAY’S ROUTE: 499.3 miles as shown below (map courtesy of DeLorme Street Atlas 2014):
My name is Lisa Beal. I’ll be touring with Tempest for my 15th trip this year. Where has the time gone!
I’m nearing retirement, but still have plenty of energy for storm days. I’ll need it: I usually carry a hefty assortment of gadgets, earning the name Gadget Girl on tours past.
I live in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and I work as an IT middleware engineer (that means I make big servers go, go, go). Like my buddy, Owen, I’m tied to a keyboard most of my waking hours — and sometimes those hours run really long. To maintain my sanity, I will NOT be answering calls from work on vacation. Would you?
My typical chase-cation starts with a drive to Oklahoma city, usually with a stopover near friends on the way. And I take about 3 days to get home afterwards, if severe weather is around for chasing. I have a dedicated chase vehicle (“Gadgetmobile II“, as the first one was gracefully retired in 2007), and like chase in groups, with a friend or two, or solo. “Gadgetmobile III” is coming soon, probably at the end of the model year (and, yes, I’m leaning toward SUV for the next one).
I’ll be arriving in Oklahoma City on the Saturday evening before the trip so if anyone is wanting to explore locally, let me know!Usually, I make a trip to WalMart on the Sunday before departure, and it is pretty usual to have 2-3 others with me for that store run. let me know if you need to do that.
Text me … to connect for that store run, a lunch or dinner on Sunday, etc. I welcome the company.
II cannot say enough good things about the Tempest crew, especially Bill Reid. He is the storm whisperer, and has put me in front of at least 30 of the tornadoes I’ve seen, among the 50 total I’ve seen. Bill is also an excellent photographer. Don’t be shy if you need camera advice. His his very solid advice.
I will be blogging each evening (or early the next morning) after each chase day. Look for updates at http://www.underthethunder.org/blog/2018/05/
(once I set it up, in the next few days) . I’ll also be posting (after the fact) to Facebook &/or Twitter. I’m user polarpal99 on both.
Thunder and lightning are at my door. Nothing severe here, but I feel like I’m being teased. Note: the two odd-shaped polygons in the center circle are the city limits for Naperville, Illinois (where I volunteer for the emergency management agency’s weather desk) and neighboring Bolingbrook, where I live.
I’m going through my pre-vacation checklist. I just finished one deceptively small item: cleaning my Nikon camera lenses, a two-hour job, thanks to not doing it in a very long time. Beats having dirty lenses!!
Here’s what’ was left of a much longer list when I started my work day:
Re-check with Tempest office – confirm all paperwork, T-shirt size (medium) etc. in good order. Let them know I am driving down, not flying – Thu
Respond to introductions (email) once they arrive – Wed
Computer and media checks:
Test laptop – done
Test 3 TB hard drive – done
Format memory cards (an evening’s work) – Thu
Prepare vacation task list for work – Thu
Clean and check all Nikon lenses and camera – done
Utilities, etc. in VACATION mode – by departure date
08:15 – As I’m toweling down from my shower, I get a call from Danny: briefing over. I had written 08:30 down. Oh, crap! “Run, Forrest, run!”
08:30 – Depart Plainview, heading north to Kansas.
10:22 – Continue north from Amarillo,TX, after a stop for bathrooms and a McDonald’s run.
11:00 – stopped at (adjacent) Walmart and Verizon stores in Dumas, TX. Dang! They do not carry the myCharge device I wanted to buy. Jenna is getting good use out of mine, but I still need one, too. I’ll try to find one later.
11:40 – Angled northeast toward Guymon, OK on US54.
12:06 – Cross into Oklahoma at
13:30 – Lunch at the Subway in Hugoton, KS
14:00 – Continue north on KS25 through Ulysses, KS. Developing storms are building to our north.
15:00? – pit stop at Lakin, KS
16:05 – Headed north from Scott City, KS
16:15 – east on KS4 toward Healey
1745 – Heading south towards Dighton on KS23, we briefly encounter quarter-sized hail. (I submitted an mPing report.)
1806. – Charged east of Leighton toward Ness City. Trying to get ahead of our hailer.
______ – We catch a photogenic storm. Many photos, which Jim Reed will critique for me.
23:00 – Arrive At Dodge City Days Inn. A neighbor is engaged in a knock-down, drAgged-out argument; the hallways look like something from The. Brady Bunch era. Wow!
23:30 – We grab dinner at Applebee’s, then turn in for the night.