Second chase of the season on 3-18-2012 takes me to TX but the original target was Kinsley, KS. This time Mike Vetter and Carl Brakke were chasing with me. It was time for Mike and I to tune in for the season. Mike and I have a great chaser relationship and we have a system where we can get things done with a nod and a glance most times, hence the need to tune in. Mike is a data head and usually rides the seat. He is great at processing information quickly and makes decisions on the fly and we trust each other completely with our roles. Plus I like to drive, I trust no one else’s driving in a storm situation except my own. Well until now but we’ll get to that later.
So we arrive at our target and gassed up ready for the chase but Mike did not like how capped the area still was and wanted to push south in to the Oklahoma panhandle. So south we went. About 50miles into OK we lost our data and virtually flying blind. Normally this would not frazzle us because we lose data all the time, but this time it was aggravating because we feared leaving our target was going to be a huge mistake. But we pushed southward deeper into OK still with no data or cell signal to even make a nowcasting call. We went into Arnett, OK thinking there had to be a signal there and there was but it was from a open router in someone’s home and we tapped in and grabbed a radar update. Storms were well underway in TX and it appeared KS was going to be a bust so we all made the call to go play these storms. The only other alternative was to lick our wounds and go home empty handed. That was not a choice neither Carl, Mike or I wanted so off we went pulling away from our hotspot we lost data again. No need for data at this point we knew our play, we just needed storms to cooperate with our plan.
We played pretty aggressive but our plan also included staying out of the chaser mess. There were plenty of other chasers on this storm. Not that I feel special or anything but I like to make different plays than everyone else. Sometimes it works sometimes not. This time it did not as we could not see the tornado near Mangum but had a spectacular view of that storm as it made its way towards Willow, OK.
This storm was absolutely beautiful and offered us a fantastic lightning show and threw a little hail at us too. We switched drivers and Crazy Carl took the wheel. We continued on this storm as it made its way north. It appeared as though it wanted to keep going and cycled a few times but ultimately died along with the sunlight.
Another cell fired near Claredon, TX and we decided to play it. We came all this way, why not. We bugged north to I40 and headed to McLean, TX to watch some awesome CG lightning. This storm was firing lightning bolts like mad and the three of us were enjoying the show. We headed back east on I40 and took the Shamrock exit heading north 83. We were just about in Wheeler, TX and BOOM lightning struck about 5-7 miles to our northeast. We all knew something got hit because we all saw a very large mushroom cloud. We knew it was not good and we had to get there and see what it was. With crazy Carl at the wheel we took the dirt floating on the road like a hovercraft. Carl did not break a sweat. That guy was as cool as a cucumber. I have now found another that I trust driving my car in a storm and most importantly, safely. We were still dealing with heavy rain and lighting, but Carl owned that dirt road, making ever so slight corrections as the car floated and wanted to go into the ditch. The closer we got we could see the glow of what we knew was a big fire. We just didn’t know what it was at this point.
Well we got on the scene of a very large fire and TX does not disappoint with big fires either. It was a crude oil transfer station that was hit and the entire facility was engulfed in flames. Crude oil is trucked into these transfer stations from the well and offloaded into the storage tanks before being trucked to the pipelines. We arrived as the first fire crews made it on scene. These guys were not prepared for this. The only fire apparatus that arrived on the scene were what appeared to be brush trucks. This fire was hot too, and we had a perfect vantage point directly across the street. We could hear additional explosions so Carl backed up slightly so we didn’t get hit by any airborne debris. You could hear the metal creaking as it melted and buckled from the high heat. There was also a tanker truck that was offloading when this explosion occurred. The fire crew rolled up next to this tanker and started hitting it with water to cool it down before it blew too. And then some bad ass jumped in the truck and pulled it out of the fire. All they could do after that was watch it burn and make sure the fire did not spread to the nearby trees and field. This thing roared on for quite some time with the occasional pop and small booms.
This chase did not disappoint at all and TX did not let us down with big things which is why I make it from SD quite a few times.
Made it 1640 miles round trip and another overnighter back to Sioux Falls. We were all late for work the next day, but any road time to or from a chase sure beats working any day.