The Spring 1995 storm season had been a long and unusual one for me. I began chasing in March for fun and photography. Then, in mid-April I began shooting on the sequel to Chasing the Wind. Much of my time was consumed by photographing not only some incredible storms but also other chasers that would eventually appear in the documentary.
Mother Nature was very active across the Southern Plains all spring, especially in Texas. What was very strange was that she was producing dozens of supercells and few significant tornadoes for most of the season. Many supercells merely produced RITs "or radar indicated tornadoes. "By late May, I noted that there had not been much in the way of significant tornadic events or outbreaks" for traditional Tornado Alley states of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. I knew June had to bring tornadoes. But I thought that they would be in Kansas or Nebraska. I had no idea that TEXAS was about to experience a ten-day period of significant tornadoes. I was unable to make the event that occurred in the Dimmit/Friona areas on June 2. But on June 3, my wife Lorie and I rendezvoused with Alan Moller and Chuck Doswell in Lubbock to do three days of shooting for the documentary. On June 3, we followed a beast of a supercell from Turkey to Childress and experienced incredible inflow but could not confirm tornadic activity. On June 4, Sam Barricklow joined us and we watched a beautiful low-precip storm spiral up near Lamesa and spotted a brief tornado under the mesocyclone. The next day, June 5, we followed a prolific supercell from infancy, just northeast of Plainview, to tornadic maturity as it slid southeastward toward the town of South Plains. Our team saw several small tornadoes and low-contrast, often rain-wrapped larger twisters along the way. But only Al and Chuck were able to break through and see a large, high- contrast tornado within the storm complex. A few days of relative peace followed across Tornado Alley. And then, on June 8, Mother Nature went berserk!
I awakened early on June 8. The day before, my friend and fellow chaser, Herbert Fiala and I had seen something interesting in the progs. We were planning to chase West Central Kansas the next day. The next day was here but things had changed a lot over night. The early morning SELS discussion included a moderate risk for the Southern Plains and said, "parameters coming together for a severe weather episode during the next 36 hours...southeasterly H85 jet and southwesterly H5 jet becomes established by 09/00Z...suggest that supercell/tornado development is likely over parts of West Texas and Western Oklahoma. The National Weather Service in Amarillo had issued a moderate risk at 6:00 AM for their area. They mentioned that a frontal boundary had moved further south than expected and stretched from west to east across Southeastern Colorado into Southern Kansas. And, that a dryline was located from just east of Clayton to just east of Clovis. They also mentioned that neither boundary was expected to move much further and that the warm moist air mass was "waiting for a triggering mechanism to set off the thunderstorms." Their risk statement continued with, "this is a potentially dangerous situation where the main threat from these storms will be damaging winds, large hail and a few tornadoes". At 6:35 AM, Oklahoma City also issued a moderate risk saying that "the cap will continue to weaken during the day...particularly in Western Oklahoma and Western Parts of North Texas...low level wind fields are expected to shift and strengthen into a more favorable profile for tornado development".
At 7:00 AM, I plotted a surface map for the risk area. Gage, Oklahoma was reporting fair skies, SSE winds at just over 10 knots, and a temperature of 74 over 72 dewpoint. Winds across the Red River Valley and Oklahoma were backed to the SE and ESE. Winds in SW Kansas were strong out of the northeast with cool temperatures (LBL: 63, DDC: 61 and GCK: 57). Winds at Clayton and Dalhart were WNW. Winds across the Southern Plains were basically pointing toward the northeast quadrant of the Texas Panhandle. I pulled down upper wind data that showed forecasted winds at 120 FL to be southwest at 40 knots later in the day across this area; FL340 forecasted winds to be WSW at 60 knots. By 8:00 AM, I had circled the northeast Texas Panhandle as our initial target. I loaded my vehicle, departed Arlington, and headed to Norman to pick up Herbert who was staying with his wife and "Baby Wedge" at OU while in the States on his vacation from Austria.
As soon as I arrived in Norman, I briefed Herbert on the situation. His eyes began to grow brighter with anticipation. Who needs coffee with this much adrenaline? We headed west on Interstate 40 toward the Texas Panhandle. At around 3:00 PM we arrived in Shamrock and had a sandwich at Subway.