May 23, 2011 Meno Oklahoma Supercell Then Mammatus

Basically on this day it was like nature decided to take a day off from causing so much death and destruction, a much more typical chase day. The day prior the Joplin Missouri tornado happened. I let that storm go 10 miles west of the city, as it was always a pretty junky storm, cold outflow and messy. But a small storm hails on me south of Columbus KS, the moment it fired basically. That storm, just south of the mess, would move right into and ahead of the mess and produce the Joplin tornado. No regrets for not seeing that tornado for obvious reasons. All these chase years now and me seeing any damage is next to nil. For one, it's not the norm at all and secondly, for whatever reason, I am just never on anything happening to tear through population centers like that. People probably see this happen then think badly on chasers wanting to see storms(not that people are even thinking about chasers though). It is a subject maybe hard to explain for them then. People enjoy fireworks, which are big explosions, yet they obviously don't enjoy seeing people blown up by bombs. Some just enjoy guns to shoot at things, but doubtful they like seeing people shot by them. Storms aren't terribly different and the fact man didn't make them really doesn't change anything. They are still amazing for those same types of reasons and can be bad when they turn truly violent and people are in the way, which is happening to a crazy level this year.

The 22nd had the Joplin killer tornado and the 24th had more killer tornadoes in Oklahoma where I was still chasing. I saw mostly nothing either day. After a while of this, chase days that turn deadly and me always being elsewhere, one starts to wonder a bit. I have no idea how I'd even respond to seeing such a thing or think later about chasing. A chaser who is a doctor was first on scene, having been chasing the Joplin storm. He put his medic cap on that whole evening into the night. He was chasing again by the 24th, 2 days later, maybe the next day. Many a chaser have gone through all that and continued to chase storms. I never know if one should feel guilty doing so or not, seems you shouldn't yet such a bad deal when tornadoes like that happen. If I put myself into any of the victim's family's shoes, I think I'd truly hate and despise storms and not be a chaser anymore. But I think eventually I would return to chasing storms. There are plenty of parallels out there to consider.

Anyway, onto this chase day, one producing no death and destruction and instead visual splendor, at least later on behind the storms. The above shot was in western OK somewhere. Storm on the dryline/outflow boundary intersection starting to get going. It was nw of Meno somewhere. A cloud to ground bolt started this fire rapidly. It was pretty damn close to the highway, which it may not seem in this ultrawide angle shot.

Fast forward a lot. There were two storms of interest now and the one, south of the one I was on, went tornado warned and looked slightly better on radar. I'd flown east to dive south for it, but stopped and watched the original one to the west. Visually it kept talking to me. I'm also learning that trying harder and racing everywhere else, pays off less than it should. The original one talked me into driving back west for it and blowing off the one just south of it. It struggled again for a bit after I got back closer to it, then it did this over Meno. She started to really crank around, with this really long eastern inflow band coming west into it. Oh yeah this was the craziest chase day, I chase OK, heart of the season, good looking day, and I might have seen 5 chasers. That is a feat now. This is because everyone was on this as I went east, and were diving south for the other as I was coming back west for this one. The south one produces a missable tornado(meaning I couldn't care less missing it) and then dies as it moves up towards this one. It had a cell coming up and hitting it too, before that. This thing turns right hard, gets a hook and a tvs in it, about the time it was going to get hit. All right on top of me.

It's now just east of me and big hail should be hitting any moment now. It looked damn cool if you could see further up and all the way around. Big bowl with hail dump in the middle of the storm. You can make out what is left of the inflow band going down over that highway to the east.

TVS on it now in that hook, as it really wrapped up. 2+ inch stones hitting now. Looking southeast. I go east with this best I could(lots of wind and lots of hail). I then remember the Joplin storm interaction the day before, from the worst spot, right in the middle of the thing. That southern cell's core was flying north on the east side of this one and I kept thinking, great, this is going to do what happened the day before. Course you then can't even pull new radar data either. Hate those sorta moments, where you just all around want back out of there but not sure which way is even best to try right then.

I get out of it for the most part and have a decision. There was now a supercell firing well south, to the south of I40. That was an option, a couple hour option. The other was that I noticed how many storms were firing off in this general area now. Anytime you can get many storms repeatedly firing in one location, you stand a good chance at a great mammatus display on the backside of them. The problem with chasing mammatus displays is, soooooo often you also have cold outflow spreading behind the storm and forming low clouds. Nothing more annoying than early signs there are great mammatus, hidden in crappy early contrast, then as you see them better later, you get clouded out.

I've learned to hate trying harder by racing further in hopes. Like would be the case if I raced south of I40 from there. You end up anxious the whole time, which sucks by itself. You can also count on dealing with one billion chasers. If the storm dies or wasn't worth it, you are that much more unhappy you tried. And this is generally my experience. I did it the day before and wound up in crazy trees and hills se of Tulsa while the storm I skipped(they were barely blips just firing then) produces a tornado near Grove, which I'd gone through. And instead of seeing that I was further south, in the craziest of no view areas, starting to hope my storm did die....so that I wouldn't in the damn trees with it. It did die. Couldn't believe how bad that area was south of Kansas, Oklahoma(Kansas is the town). Not the area to deal with a supercell capable of producing a tornado. I probably raced on this crazy twisting road with ZERO view for 15 miles and no change, then had to zoom back out, fearing what my storm was capable of doing to me in there. Drop yourself in the Amazon Rainforest and you probably have a better view out. This was practically in nw Arkansas. Anyway that was my reward for skipping the first storm west of Grove as I thought it was too near the mess to end up good.

The mammatus chase idea easily won me over, even if it was only 5:30 lol. I'd taken the less difficult route so far this day and it was paying off(always rather see a decent storm than a dinky thing I could call a tornado). It would continue on the mammatus chase. And best of all, no racing around and no chasers. Well that was second best of all I guess, an insane show lasting for hours was best.

It was frustrating for a good while, because the sun angle was so high yet and I could see them, but with poor contrast.

Sun still too high. Get down sun!

Still too high.

Getting better! Those things looked like upside down instability waves.

Ahhhhh. Now we are talking, lighting getting much better as the sun lowers.

Look how big that one is, with a damn hole/pouch in it. Like the wave deal on that one came around and closed that off. Or it "tore" there. You couldn't help but look at it and wish you could sit up there in it. Bet the view was amazing from there.

Eerie sagging marks in that left deal. It's really cool how these things can look flat out blurry. That whole left side is in focus just like the right, obviously. I was live view focusing on stuff before doing these to make sure.

Mr pouch again. Surely there was an elf or fairy or something in there. If I could have gotten up there to it, for sure I'd have been greeted by the world's largest wasp.

Obviously there a big elves sitting above that.

Some of the pouches looked like popping balloons or bags tearing.

Big ol worm. Or an intestine.

So glad I went mammatus chasing. You do have to chase them too, kept moving east and south a bit making sure to stay under the best area. You could see the towers popping to the sw and want to be under the middle of where their anvil was tracking.

Alien egg sacks, some breaking open.

Gotta love later lighting.

The sun set a while ago, the dynamic range just wants to blow out the sky out there.

Pretty sure these would be the best mammatus display I've seen. And for that they made my 3 day chase trip somewhat worth it, having blown the day before and the day after. Then again it'd be hard to convince me to drive 1600 miles and spend that and motel money to see them. For sure better than not having made the choice to go for mammatus. I never really understood why so few will do this, head behind storms on purpose when it seems it may be providing the best show.