May 25th Chase Bust - MO

Yesterday was a high risk day.  Everyone gets all giddy and freakish and ready to conquer tornadoes back to back all day, and damn, I was too.

Unfortunately, it didn't happen for us.  That's okay, they can't all be winners.

We didn't get any tornadoes.  What we did get?  A bunch of crap circumstances, some near disasters, and yet an overall amazing time.  It's slightly curious that I seem to have the most fun on bust days.  (Did I just say that?)

Yeah, basically we drove over 1,000 miles for some cool black & white photos, and a bunch of funny stories.  (Chased again with Skip Talbot)

We gassed up, and there was this crazy (loco!) bird who had built her next next to one of the pumps.  I got within inches of her for several minutes.  She was brave, man.

Cruising along... cool photo of the sky.  I love twirly, swirly clouds.

Then, once again, we were dealing with CRAP for crap terrain.  Winding roads, hills, trees, trees, trees.  We initially had planned on scooting right down to the boothill in MO to get to some decent chasing grounds and the area was really supposed to light up as well.  But, SO many storms were firing off to our West, and after a hundred miles of tornado warned storms, we couldn't take it any more.  We got suckered.

Eventually, we pulled into a town that was sort of sitting on top of a hill, so were in decent position to intercept the storm... at least, from the gas station we had a fairly decent view of the cell coming our way.  It was beyond hazy, but at least we could see it.

Skip setting up the dome, of course.  (I'll have about 9,318,403 of these by the time I'm done chasing in my life.)

This man asked, "So you've got a laptop in there... do you know if there's something coming our way?   Is it supposed to hit us hard?"

At this point, the tornado sirens had been going off for several minutes, since we pulled into the town.  Skip told the gentleman that yes, he should find somewhere to hunker down because tornado warned cells were headed our way.  We mentioned a tornado report that had come in S/W of a nearby town, and he was shocked because he'd just come from that area.  So, I bring you Locals Portrait #7:

We drove west for a while, and initially wanted to head southwest to intercept a cell that looked kind of juicy.  Unfortunately, we got to the highway we wanted to take, and it was closed.  It forced us to continue heading northwest, and the road options were pretty slim pickings.  We ended up on a storm and potentially driving directly into the cell.  Instead of pulling a crazy stunt, we decided to stop and wait for it to pass us.

I really think we were close to something, and if it weren't for the damn trees we may have seen a tornado.  This is the best shot I could get with our crap visibility.

After the cell passed, we went further down the road and saw some damage.  Huge tree branch down, signs knocked over, cones and debris all in the road.  We stopped and turned around quickly to go back to try to chase the storm the other direction, assuming it was producing.

The road was long, windy and blocked with trees on both sides.  Suck, suck, suck.  This was basically our view for the entire day.

This is the first semblance of a base we were able to see all day.   Sure wish there was a tornado under there when we crested the hill.  (I look forward to a chase day when I don't have to say that.)

A bit of (probably) scud that was twisty and pointy.  I took a photo of it because I want to hold it in my arms like it was a funnel cloud.

We drove a bit further south to try to get to the west of the line of storms, and possibly see if there was something good happening on the tail end of them.  It was basically a last ditch effort to chase it.  We got into a decent bit of core (nothing too terrible, but pretty damn windy,) and there suddenly was a SEA of truckers pulling over, pulling onto the side of the highway and under the overpasses.  We got up to the exit we were going to take, and there were several semis blocking the entire exit.  Ass-hats!

Skip honked his horn and they were not moving.  He pulled up to the left of them and passed one truck.  Then, the truck in front decided to drive suddenly, and took off Skip's right mirror.

So sad.

Then, we took the exit (finally,) and went to use our planned road to cut back east, and... it was closed due to flooding.  Basically, that ended the chase for us.  We stopped a few exits up for a bathroom break, and the gas station was fully out of power, signs (big ones) on the road, debris (shopping carts) in the parking lot (with no grocery stores I could see in the area...) -- There was at the very least a whole lot of wind happening.

A few pretty sights on the drive home:


Skip and I are gabbing it up, yapping away for two hours or so, when he suddenly looks down and exclaims, "SHIT!"  I'm freaked out and ask, "What?"

"We're out of gas."


We somehow forgot to fill up when we got dinner, and the needle was on empty.  We were 9 miles from the nearest gas station, and went for it.  We made it (ecstatic that we made it, SHOCKED that we made it,) and there was a guy in his car, leaving the lot.  He got out when we pulled in and asked if we were having trouble.  Apparently, he was the manager of the gas station, they'd just resumed having power, and the registers were totally fried.  So, the pumps would not dispense gas.  COULD NOT dispense gas.

Um, holy crap.

We were under the impression at that point that we'd have to call AAA to come bail us out with some gas. We asked the guy if he knew of anyone with a can of gas anywhere, we'd be happy to pay for it, etc... he just kept repeating "I wish I could help you, I would if I could but I can't."

We got into the van and tried to figure out what to do, when he knocked on the driver's side window.  "I'll tell you what I can do, I'm going down the way to the closest gas station, my wife works there, you can follow me and I'll make sure you don't run out of gas."

Sweet relief.

We followed him up and somehow, the van made it.  Curiously, had to have been running on fumes, because it was a further 10 miles to the gas station we ended up at.  Thank goodness for that man. :)  And with that, I bring you Locals Portrait #8.

storm chasing prints