ETT2009 / Overview and Highlights

Extreme Tornado Tours 2009

Tour Overview and Highlights

Fellow storm chasersMontage, tour guests and guides

On my tour, there were only two other tour guests: Kasee Beard, a college student from Bay City, MI, and Blake Knapp, a graphic designer from West Chester, PA.

According to their website, ETT normally has two meteorologists guide each tour — one to drive, the other to navigate (both keeping track of the weather to see where to go and to make spur-of-the-moment decisions on which roads to take). Since there were only three guests on our tour, ETT provided only one meteorologist to guide us: Dave Holder (shown right with his Blackberry), an undergraduate meteorology student at Oklahoma University. Unfortunately, Dave was unable to get one of his final exams rescheduled, so he had to leave us for a couple of days and while he was gone we were guided by Matt Van Every (shown right holding a turtle), a graduate of OU in meteorology who is currently self-employed (in order to be able to chase more often). After spending a couple of days with us (and having some intense tornado chasing moments, as I'll describe later), Matt decided to voluntarily stay with us; so he and Dave shared guide duties for the remaining seven days of our tour.

As you can probably tell from the photos, I was definitely the "father" figure of the tour group.

Overview of the tour

During the ten day tour, we had four days of storm chasing and one day of damage survey. We had four days of sightseeing and repositioning, and one day in Kansas City dealing with Best Buy over computer issues (fortunately, that did not cause us to miss any weather).

In Adair County, MO, we came within a quarter mile of a tornado twice on 13 May (both from the same supercell). The first was about a mile southeast of Novinger as it was just beginning to wind down from its EF1 intensity. The second was about 15 minutes later and 9.75 miles to the east as the Kirksville tornado was beginning to wind down from its peak EF2-EF3 intensity. Both tornadoes were heavily rain wrapped and quite difficult to see coming.

In southwestern Nebraska, at the base of Courthouse Rock along the Oregon Trail, we experienced a 45 minute downburst with average wind speeds over 50 mph. There were several instances of hurricane force (>74 mph) winds for at least a minute, including one 15 second gust over 80 mph with an instantaneous gust of 91 mph (I'm glad I got that new hand-held anemometer!). A film crew for The Weather Channel's Storm Stories series was with us during that downburst, and our Storm Stories episode aired in prime time on 5 April 2010. Unfortunately, someone at TWC (or its parent NBC) was informed that Blake had faked a British accent throughout taping for the episode, and the scheduled repeat airing on 8 April was pulled; our episode probably won't air again until some new guy comes along someday and finds the tape sitting in a pile somewhere. Despite pulling the repeat airing, about a month later TWC sent me (and each of the rest of our tour group) a DVD of our episode, as originally promised as incentive for getting us to allow them to tag along and do interviews in the first place.

We got to spend two days with Reed Timmer and Chris Chittick of TornadoVideos.net, following their new Storm Research Vehicle (SRV) and a Discovery Channel's Storm Chasers film crew (the day of the Kirksville Tornado and the day after). We happened to meet Sean Casey and the TIV along the road in OK. We saw numerous vehicles from Vortex2 as we chased non-severe storms in NE. And (as already mentioned) we spent two days with a film crew for TWC's Storm Stories.

During the ten day tour, we covered at least 3886 miles and spent nearly 68 hours in the van, not counting any stops of longer than 3 minutes; with stops, we spent nearly 118 hours traveling from one motel to the next during those ten days.

Day Miles
in van
including stops
States In
12 May 230 04:36 10:13 MO KS
13 May 711 11:36 18:04 MO IL
14 May 191 05:52 10:35 MO IL
15 May 420 07:18 11:47 MO IL
16 May 428 06:27 12:36 MO KS OK
17 May 387 07:24 13:26 OK TX
18 May 437 07:50 13:09 TX OK KS
19 May 416 06:19 10:52 KS NE
20 May 350 05:43 10:30 NE
21 May 316 04:43 06:26 NE IA MO
10 days 3886 67:48 117:38 7 states

I had a GPS tracking key with me during the trip to record everywhere we went. I used a home-made program to convert the GPS tracks into KML files (that can be loaded in Google Earth / Maps). This animation was creating using screen captures from Google Earth showing the complete 10 day track and the track for each day.

Daily Tracks Animation


The pages for individual days of the tour are still under construction.

For now, you can peruse my Extreme Tornado Tour 09 photo album on Facebook.


2009-05-12 Day 1

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