Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Friday, June 20, 2014 - 3:00AM CST


30 Years of Storm Photography
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I'm making this post just to formally wrap up my 2014 Great Plains storm season. This was a rough year for storm photographers in the Plains. The traditional peak season dates did not perform, with the only truly chaseable and spectacular tornado days occuring just outside of my (and most other storm photographers') typical season cutoff date of June 15. The three-day outbreaks in Nebraska and South Dakota this week were historic and off-the-charts incredible, though they were marred by tragedy in Pilger. That down point alone is enough to quell my remorse for having not been able to photograph storms during this event, but admittedly that string of truly remarkable tornadoes is enough to make me re-evaluate my future storm season structuring.

The reason I tpyically don't cover the Plains after June 15 is that by then, in the average year, the summer ridging has taken hold. The strength of the cap is too much to allow open-warm-sector convection along the dryline, and the jet stream has usually weakened and/or moved into the Northern Plains and Canada. On June 14-17, the cap was just weak enough to allow a few isolated storms to fire in just the right spots, with the rather weak upper support countered by strong to extreme instability. It's also no small factor that I have usually spent most or all of my spring budget by the middle of June, and usually have a lot of work backed up that needs attention. Long multi-day trips to the Northern Plains are usually just out of my budget and work constraints.

Despite the sting of not chasing during such a historic tornado sequence, I am rather pleased with my season. The Midwest has provided most of my more memorable catches this year. I've seen 6 tornadoes in Missouri and Illinois, and only 3 in the Plains (Nebraska on May 11 and June 3). Living here is definitely good insurance against having zero-tornado years! So, I'll consider this a "good" season for me overall. Of course, the Midwest tornado season never really ends, so there may be some more to add on to the 2014 count before all is said and done on December 31.

Here are some stats for the 2014 spring season:

Great Plains storm photography expeditions: 3
Great Plains tornadoes: 3
Midwest tornadoes: 6 (4 spring season, 2 out-of-season in February)
Biggest/strongest tornado: Marshall, Missouri - May 10
Personal favorite storm photography day: a tie between February 20 and June 7
Tornado states: 3 (Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri)
States traveled: 6 (MO, IL, KS, NE, CO, IA)
Farthest point from home: Colorado Springs, Colorado - 861 miles

So until March of 2015, that will wrap up the 2014 Great Plains storm season blog. Thanks for tuning in, and stay tuned to the blog for more Midwest observing action!

Sorry this tornado season didn't turn out the way you wanted it to (to make it worse, the tornadoes turned tragic), but those down years happen. As I'd always say, "oh well, better luck next time". Does el nino affect tornado activity because I don't see a correlation between them. With one imminent, we'll just wait and see what happens.
- Posted by Tim

30 Years of Storm Photography
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