Skysculptures in Tornado Alley – the 2015 stormchase season

As the day for our departure from HillsboroChaseBase approaches I find my mind ambling back through the past 6 months experiencing the weather of the USA….over the amazing, the wonderful, the weird, the fun and the not so wonderful times we have had……fortunately the latter constitutes a very small proportion….but more on that some other time. We’ve wandered from the Gulf of Mexico with its surfing pelicans all the way up to North Dakota and from the Mexican border where we had our passports checked twice up to Iowa and all the states in between. We spent so much time on the road this year that Choice Hotels has elevated our status to “Platinum”!

If you take the last 6 chase seasons that we have spent wandering the Plains and the Midwest of America (2009-2014 incl) and lump all the events from those years into one year, 2015 still eclipses them even though it has been nicknamed “The Year of the HP Supercell” by many. We have had days JC59214a copywith storms spawning multiple tornadoes, stunning skysculptures both by day and by night, explored fascinating triple boundary interactions. While stationary the Traverse has bounced up and down on the spot in 90+mph winds (no other cars to be seen in either direction on I90 in South Dakota), we’ve been pummelled by softball sized hail hurled at us by 80mph RFD winds for 40 seconds which took our windscreen out (well, we did need a good reason to replace it – it was already cracked), we’ve driven through so many 10 seconds spinups and little vortices that we’ve lost count.  We’ve surfed up and down through the waters covering the highways of the Texas Panhandle and we’ve watched our street turn into a river when 1.52″/38mm fell in 23 minutes. We had to replace lots of electronic gear when ChaseBase got zapped by lightning just 30 minutes after we walked out the door one day…and the bolt came from a nondescript little 30,000′ embedded junkie storm…not even a 60,000′ monster….and we saw it flash in our rear vision mirror but didn’t know where it had struck till we got back a few days later..J44588a copy

As well as being the year of the HP supercell, some days we could have called it the year of the “10 second” tornado – one day SW of Dighton, KS a beautiful white tornado touched down briefly sucking water up from the fields and disappeared just a few seconds later…..if we hadn’t been taking photos of the funnel at the time we wouldn’t have even seen it!!

We’ve crossed Missouri off our chase list in June (in wet years at least) after a nasty scritching and scratching encounter with tiny little beasties we had never met before…the dreaded chigger (the nymph of a red mite), whose ‘bite’ seems to be 1,000 times worse than that of a mosquito….I counted at least 35 bites on one leg!!! One way to stop the itch is clear nail varnish or Chigarid…stops it instantly…but there are some places you just can’t put that stuff, so you have to resort to roll on deoderant or calamine lotion for those more ‘delicate’ spots….

43,000 miles later the Chevy Traverse is ready for a rest….and we are ready to head across the hemispheres to the cold and the misty and the drizzly and sleety world of Trentham up in the hills of Victoria….to put our feet up for a few minutes and look back over the photos and the video of our season, some of which we haven’t had the chance to see yet. Time to say goodbye for a few months to all of the wonderful people we have met in our travels across the Plains…to those who have shown us such wonderful hospitality, to those who have extended their friendship to a couple of wandering Aussies. We’re looking forward to our trip back to the other Oz…but we’re sad to be leaving….

We’ll be back next year in time for ChaserCon in January!!!



In the words of J K Rowling..... ” I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself. ” if you enjoy what I write, I'm delighted...if you don't...then I'm delighted..... I'm a retired business manager chasing storms and weather in Australia and the USA, photographing anything that takes my eye, and catching up on my reading from the last 23 years. I've finally got the chance to share my thoughts with the world.
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