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Roger and I have been working hard this fall along with a group of top notch researchers and meteorologists to create the first ever completely independent Open-Access e-journal for severe storms meteorology. This group is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in, and free and universal accessibility to, scientific publications. We hope to offer several new strategies for advanced publication along the lines of OPEN ACCESS journals in other fields of science:
and to enhance effectiveness and transparency of scientific quality control
Open access (OA) publishing means that the literature published online (on the Internet) is accessible free of charge for everyone and not only for the subscribers as in case of traditional publishing.
Stayed tuned for a formal announcement soon! Take a sneak peek here:
Happy New Year! EE
Filed under: Summary
SHORT: Interesting social encounters and preparation observations beforehand. Intercepted weakening west eyewall of Dennis as it moved ashore and inland, as well as the southerly flow sector near Navarre. Uploaded measured data continually throughout tropical cyclone event. Had fun and adventure. Trip was worthwhile and most entertaining despite the abject enfeebling of the storm itself before/during landfall.
LONG: Faced with the first extended shift break I’ve ever had that coincided with a Gulf coast landfall, I jumped at the opportunity. RJ Evans and I left AbNorman on Friday morning, 8 July, in his personal mobile mesonet vehicle. The journey down there was generally mundane except for two events:
1. Along I-49 near Alexandria, we stopped for a chat with a Bandito (biker gang) member, fully patched and obviously wired on *something*, an animated chap of about 48 with a Rutherford Hayes beard and a certain wild-eyed hyperactivity that bordered on manic. He asked us the story of our strange vehicle before telling us of a chain fight at the OKC Petro some years back that landed him in the jailhouse. This guy was a real piece of work, but for a little while at least, entertaining as can be.
2. Arguably, the quote of the trip came from a thickly accented Cajun trucker along I-10, who didn’t know we were listening to his CB frequency when he described us to another driver: “Dey from Oklahoma. Dey chasin’ dat ho-a-cane.” That came after a long, impromptu “Chaz and Beauregard” skit that RJ and I had ad-libbed to pass the time, and was a classic moment. If you have a CB radio and something that’s obviously a storm chase vehicle, listen to the descriptions you’ll hear sometimes. RJ has for years, and it’s hilarious.
Friday night we stayed in what once was the Hampton Inn, along I-10 near Pascagoula. Please don’t drink the water in Moss Point, Mississippi.
The next day we scouted out potential data collection locations along my initially predicted landfall zone between Ft. Walton Beach and Gulf Shores. Interestingly, the last open fuel station in Pensacola was selling “floaties” — hopefully not for use during the ho-a-cane…
Little did we know that we were across the street from our eventual setup site; though I noticed it at the time and took note. This shot, taken behind the gas station, looks out across the bay and bay bridge, with the first middle and high clouds approaching from the SE…
Notice the concrete-and-riprap structure at right, built out into the bay. It turns out to have been about 7-9 feet above sea level, a great place to be if the southerly fetch were *not* coming directly in and the eyewall winds were parallel to or off the bay shore (thereby repelling the surge).
Our primary intercept motivation was data collection and not videography of destruction; therefore we had to scout large open spaces that provided plenty of safe, unobstructed wind measurement opportunity, without trees, power lines and buildings all about, but also, away from the immediate beachfront and its storm surge and access problems. As you can imagine, this was not easy to do in the thickly forested and/or densely developed FL Panhandle. We found no such place between Pensacola and Navarre (the eventual crossing corridor of the “ah”). In fact, while we were at Navarre Beach, I recall telling RJ that I had a hunch it would come in there at Navarre, where we couldn’t find a suitable opening with an escape outlet.
Meanwhile, RJ was so upset at the malfunction of an electric window that he absolutely lost his head. Somehow, however, he was able to continue with temporary repairs despite this debilitating handicap.
The first squall was only indirectly related to the hurricane, and far removed from its circulation envelope. A SW_NE line of cumulonimbi formed over the Gulf, forward-propagating toward the NW at over 40 mph along its own outflow boundary. These storms formed along an arc-shaped boundary layer convergence zone located just outside the hurricane’s moat of subsidence. This shot looks E.
Note the patch of white light above the beach in the distance. This is an optical artifact resulting from the differential albedo of bright white beach and darker water, reflected sunlight in turn refracted to the eye (or lens) of the viewer by particulates in the boundary layer.
I shot about 20 minutes of tripodded video from the edge of the surf zone of the squall and associated arcus cloud rolling in. [No, that was *not* my video on TWC. I still don’t sell video for the same principle as always — its luring of a distinctly unstudious, greed motivated, thrillseeking element into storm chasing. Instead the very similar video on TWC was that of another chaser, who shot essentially the same time lapse from farther W at Pensacola Beach.]
The beach road actually was still closed W of Navarre Beach because of unrepaired washouts from Ivan. Believe it or not, this shot was not taken after Dennis, but one day beforehand! I easily could have passed this off as an after-Dennis shot and you likely would not have noticed.
The sand-washes across the road, the bent signs and poles, and other intermittent damage in the area were from Ivan in 2004. Mandatory evacuation orders had turned Navarre Beach into a veritable ghost town. Local law enforcement didn’t raise any objection to our presence, however, and they had no reason to. We were free to move about essentially at will.
That night we stayed at the Comfort Inn near the Pensacola naval base, one of the few open motels in Pensacola, and an edifice still sporting Ivan’s wind-prints.
The next day we loped westward to the Gulf Shores airport to set up, based on early morning guidance indicating a landfall near or just E of Mobile Bay. This was where RJ and Bob C intercepted Ivan last year! They remembered RJ (who wouldn’t?) and let us in without qualm, but we left to go back to our Pensacola open space when I noticed the radar trends of the eye lurching on a more NNW path.
Given its orientation, the Muscogee Wharf area was absolutely ideal for a direct strike, or one that would just miss us to the E (the two most likely scenarios by that time).
Here’s a dock that used to extend from the end of the man-made peninsula, until Ivan expunged it.
It had wide open, bayfront exposure; and we could relocate easily along the length of the platform to avoid having the few potential obstacles (such as those containers, some pallets or one beat up elm tree) upwind. We recorded steadily increasing sustained winds and gusts through landfall, with a peak gust of 78 mph as the eye passed only 4-5 miles to our E. Needless to say that was underwhelming, but still better than many things we could have chosen to do for the weekend. Best of all, we did get high resolution wind data uploaded for real-time and post-event use by NHC. I hear TWC also mentioned some of it on-air also.
Throughout our ~4 hours on Muscogee Wharf, the Pensacola police were curious about us, but never objected to our presence despite curfews and evac orders. In fact, we offered to give them real time wind reports any time they wanted to call us or drop by our location, and on several occasions we/they did just that. We also gave them well received advice on how to keep their cars pointed into the wind so as to not flip over if things got really intense. Law enforcement in Pensacola now has a good impression of storm chasers, I think. Lets hope it stays that way.
Several print and TV reporters came out to check us out and ask questions as well, including a particularly recognizable one during the time we were getting peak gusts in what was left of the W eyewall. You may have seen the Fox News screen capture from the other side on some storm chasing discussion boards, but this was my vantage.
Later, Geraldo called RJ to set up a stand-up interview, over which I was very reluctant at first. However, it was on the way out of town, and it did provide an hour or two of “get out and stretch” time before the long drive home. So we agreed to it. RJ warned the producer that I was a scientist who often is critical of the media, and that I would not put up with anything dumb or outlandish. It worked. Geraldo and crew were first-class professionals about it. He asked us a few reasonable questions, we gave him to-the-point answers, and the short spot seemed to go very well. That is, except for the fact that it was our ugly mugs on the air.
RJ did provide some of his video to Fox, over which I gave him some (mostly good natured) abuse. He did, however, let them use it for *free*; knowing fully well that any greed motivated video shooters who wanted to squeeze some coin from Fox that night would be SOL afterward. I thought that was funny, in an ironic way.
We saw Tim Marshall after the eyewall passed, while shooting video and stills of the westerly surge impinging upon the N side of the bay bridge area. Remember this, Tim?
Some other memorable scenes from during and after the storm include muddy breakers smashing a seawall off Santa Rosa Sound: Storm surge in the southerly-flow sector moves through the pines and into a Navarre neighborhood; an RV proves not to be seaworthy,One among many reasons I hate billboards; Cheaply assembled buildings with flimsy sheet metal facades have no place on hurricane prone coastlines.
Now you can see why we, as a mobile wind data sampling device, needed more open space than the actual eye location would provide. Too many buildings, trees, wires and other potential obstructions and hazards!
Someday, someone will get sliced and diced by the sheet metal flying off these horribly conceived and built petrol station canopies and win lots of litigation money from the architects and constructors of such garbage.
Maybe I still remain a tad jaded or too hard to impress after being royally reamed by Andrew 13 years ago in South Dade; but nothing about Dennis’ damage impressed me much — even between Navarre and Gulf Breeze where the “ah” passed. The non-vegetative damage I saw was wholly preventable, and entirely attributable to either poor preparation or lousy construction practices. Tim Marshall will be a busy man in coming months as he deals with the litigious aftermath of this one.
After the Geraldo interview we hit the road, making it back to Norman shortly after noon the next day and passing by the eventual site of Jeff Wear’s fatal crash only a few hours before it happened. My deepest condolences go to those who knew Jeff and to his family. More about that is on my BLOG…
Finally, to answer a few offline questions: Yes, the quote below from my chase partner really was spoken!
“Hey Geraldo…is there a toilet over there? My pipes are backed up, man.” – storm chase partner, 2005
SHORT: We were on the Nazareth-Tulia-Vigo Park storm from the very beginning until the “chaser pinch-off” along TX-207 at the canyon. Tornadoes seen. Seven separate mesocyclonic occlusions, most nontornadic.
LONG: Started the day in DHT and drove through dense stratus all the way down to Hereford, where we got under a precipitating turkey tower and ate some Allsups burritos for a wholesome snack. We sat at the Easter crossroads for a couple of hours with the Alnado/Christine and Fogel/Brown crews, shooting the (high theta-e) breeze & getting sunburned.
We watched towers try to fire both to our N along the differential heating boundary (along the old stratus edge) and to our S along the originaloutflow line. The image at left looks south.
Several storms went up almost at once — N of us near Bushland, NE of us near Canyon and S of us (W of Nazareth). The initial storm died and we briefly gave thought to going N along I-27 toward the AMA development. However, another cell fired near Nazareth, so we followed it ENE to Tulia. Initially high based, it developed a flat wall cloud (1) to our NW (NW of Tulia).
The big base was cause for optimism; however that wall cloud dissipated as a shower formed to its S and merged in. As we were repositioning NE, and as the shower finished merging, BOOM…suddenly (within less than 5 minutes) there appeared a very low, rotating wall cloud (2) with rapid rising motion, just a mile or to our NW. It was a spectacular and beautiful wall cloud — very low and pronounced, and close enough to fill up an entire 50 mm photographic frame of view.
A blistering barrage of CGs to our near NW and N, close to the wall cloud, sent us back into the car; though I left the camcorder outside on a tripod, aimed at the quasistationary wall cloud. [Better to zap the camcorder than the human, in the event of close strike.] The meso drifted N, the wall cloud rotating better and threatening a tornado (but not following through with the threat):
During this second (and closest) meso occlusion, a pronounced gustnado formed to our SW on the edge of RFD outflow, but the wall cloud itself gave way to a new meso to its NE (3). We repositioned and watched its similar circulation for awhile.
Meso #3 was a broader circulation which quickly handed the baton to another circulation (4), NE of Tulia and about 10 W of Vigo Park. It developed quite a long, scuddy, westward-racing tail cloud.
As we were watching this area to our NW, and talking with Bob Henson, the crews of Carsten Peter/Jon Davies and Tim Samaras/Carl Young went past us on a dirt road. The new meso can be seen cranking up, dark and ominous, in the background as the occlusion gust front from the older, closer circulation blew their dust eastward (looking N):
Shortly before or afterward (don’t recall which), we saw a brief, vertical, needle or rope funnel to the NW (no photo). This skinny little vortex was separate from the deepening occlusion process, and the same one confirmed as a brief tornado by several other chasers who were to its E or ENE. I believe that this
“wimpnado” came from the desperately clinging remnants of meso #3.
A probable multiple vortex tornado appeared in the distant NNW, beneath #4, as we were still talking to Bob. Contrast wasn’t good, but we saw fingers of cloud material orbiting around beneath the very low cloud base and either on or very near ground level, a veritable carousel of condensation filaments. This lasted 3-4 minutes, but with no debris or power flashes apparent, I can say only with about 80% certainty that this was a short-lived, probably not very intense, multivortex tornado. In any event, clearly this storm was now ingesting better boundary layer theta-e than it had as a high based struggler NW of Tulia!
Meso occlusion #5 came and went with a nearly ground scraping wall cloud almost buried in rain, and lousy contrast, but nothing confirmably tornadic. As we continued E through Vigo Park, then N, another mesocirculaton formed (6), a broad and visually intense circulation with a bowl shaped base to our WNW.
This entity yanked a clear slot around itself and rotated like mad — in nontornadic fashion — for what seemed like a very long time. We pulled up beside Rocky Rascovich and watched it for awhile, shooting tripodded video just in case…as yet another meso (7) wound up to the NW in very dark, slate-blue murk. We started to move N to get better contrast on #7, then (maybe 100 feet N of Rocky) pulled back off the road in a big damn hurry.
The reason: a tornado finally formed from #6, as that mesocirculation began shriveling. This was the same tornado seen by many others, and my estimated position of it was 3-4 N of Vigo Park.
The Vigo Park tornado popped a distant power line and posed for our tripodded camcorder and may others’ for several minutes, moving southward as the parent mesocirculation continued shrinking and apparently began to orbit the SW rim of meso #7.
Are you ready? The story of the billion-occlusion supercell isn’t over. A separate condensation funnel formed just N of where the last (southward moving) tornado had been, but still under the #6 mesocirculation remnants.
It also moved southward before turning northeastward, clearly taking a course around the center of the deeply occluding mesocirculation. At times the condensation funnel extended perhaps 4/5 to ground and clearly was *not* the same as the previous tornado, based on video review. It disappeared in the rain for a minute or two, the re-emerged as a highly tilted rope, dangling SWward before dying completely.
Meanwhile, meso #7 churned along toward the “choke point” of the only area road heading down into the canyon. In a brief burp of over-curiosity, we briefly went down the canyon road on the S side of the hook. Then with intense winds swirling from every direction below the roadside rock walls, rocks falling onto the road from same, and atomized rain both rising and sinking, we regained our sanity and bailed
back south onto the Caprock, letting the storm go.
One very fascinating aspect of the many occlusions this storm did: with each new one, the storm seemed to stall for 10-15 minutes, then move ENE again. How polite of this storm to wait until Rich/Daphne T and the other AMA storm refugees got there also. Glad they didn’t miss the best hose!
Good to see folks like Tim, Carsten, Jon, Carl, Scott FitzGerald, Bob H, Ken Dewey and the Thompson family out there. Yes, Rich got to that storm just in time to see the Vigo Park tornado, and after all the crap he’s been through this season, most definitely deserved that good break.
We tried but failed to beat an elevated, electrically explosive HP supercell to Canyon (where we stayed for the night), and almost got flooded out. But we managed to get some food and a room, and even went out to watch a midnight lightning show on the back side of the complex.