A Storm Chasers’ Christmas

Tonight was one of those nights where the only thing that passes through your head is the old adage, “careful what you wish for.”  While sitting at my computer in McKinney, Texas this evening, I left a status message on my Facebook saying I was waiting for the weather to turn bad and was hoping for a December chase.  Well I got my wish.  Around 0630 UTC (10:30pm CST for you non-radio operators out there), my wife and I were headed home when the National Weather Service in Fort Worth stated that a tornado was developing in the central part of Grayson County.  The storm was headed away from us at about forty miles per hour, but we were already headed toward home and decided we would see if we could provide any eyes on the storm.  We could see the eerie blue-green flashes that give away a tornado’s position on the ground.  We could hear our fellow spotters in the Denison area report the debris (later we would find out that the Coleman Coolers plant was hit).  The entire area of interest was rain-wrapped by the time we hit the Collin-Grayson line the storm was crossing the Red River.  No sooner had we turned Guardian 1 (my chase truck) south, when the radio came alive with reports of a developing tornado over Allen, Texas.  We booked it south headed for a better angle on the storm as it moved toward the southeastern edge of McKinney.  We had a good view of the wall cloud as we entered the northern edge of town.  We turned east on US 380 and stared into the teeth of a huge lowering with pronounced rotation.  Night chasing is always hairy.  You have to position yourself based on the features you can capture in the intermittent flashes of lighting.  During this race eastward, my mother calls and wants to know where Sara (my wife and chase partner) and I are.  We tell her we are in McKinney and she says that the news is reporting the circulation over the Princeton area. As we headed east the NCS (Net Control Station or station in charge of the SKYWARN net) was asking for people to look to the northeast of McKinney near Blue Ridge and Westminster.  As my wife and I are looking we saw not one but two wall clouds.  We turned north on Texas highway 5 and raced toward home.  By this time the storm is starting to dissipate and weaken.  As we are driving toward home the NWS decides that the storm has weakened enough to drop the tornado warning, but wants us to watch for a bit longer.  Finally the storms moved into Fannin County and my wife and I came home.  As I am writing this the wind is howling outside, but below severe levels.  We are still under a severe thunderstorm watch until 0900 UTC (3am CST) and the county just northeast of us is under tornado watch until 1200 UTC (6am CST).  I guess a storm chaser couldn’t ask for a better Christmas present than a chase in December.

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~ by Phoenix on December 9, 2008.

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