Up close: West Texas storm chase intercepts tornado

West Texas Storm Chase 1

The KLTV Mobile StormTracker chase vehicle is equipped with a Davis weather station, National Weather Service radar, wireless high-speed internet, and a half-dozen cameras.

Chasing funnel clouds through the rolling hills of Rusk County to being pummeled with hail on the interstate in Harrison County, the KLTV Mobile StormTracker vehicle has already been put through the gauntlet. Wanting to test some modifications to the camera system on the chase vehicle, Meteorologist Grant Dade and I set out to track storms in West Texas.

Our journey began Thursday, May 23 with live reports on Good Morning East Texas as we drove toward Wichita Falls. Grant and I explained to viewers that the conditions were ripe for development to our west later that afternoon.

After several hours behind the wheel, we came to a stop in an area known as the Caprock, separating the high plains of the Texas panhandle. Watching radar in the vehicle, Grant let me know the chase was on. At more than two-thousand feet in elevation, we found a lookout northeast of Lubbock that was the perfect perch for watching the skies. Almost immediately, a thunderstorm caught Grant’s attention. Winds were whipping as we set up video and still cameras in the vehicle to capture bolts of lightning, flashing in the distance. Continue reading

Storm chase heads straight into path of destructive East Texas tornado

Waskom Tornado 1

The Mobile StormTracker chase vehicle endured a beating from hail & heavy rain before tracking a tornado’s path through Harrison County.

The threat of severe weather was looming and I got the call from KLTV 7 meteorologist Grant Dade that our latest chase was hours away. After filling up the Mobile StormTracker chase vehicle, Grant spent some time checking models, radar and forecast discussions to pinpoint the ideal place to watch storms fire up.

An impressive wall cloud moved through Marshall, signaling the prime time to move east. With his eye on live radar data, Grant warned that we were about to drive into some strong weather along Interstate 20; he was right. In all of our previous chases with me at wheel, this was certainly becoming the most nerve-wracking. Continue reading

Texas lands massive piece of Space Shuttle history

An artist’s rendering of the completed Shuttle Carrier Aircraft exhibit at Space Center Houston.

Space Center Houston is adding a “jumbo” piece of space history to its already impressive fleet of retired spacecraft and aerospace vehicles.

Thursday, NASA announced the transfer of ownership of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, or SCA, to the official visitor’s center of the Johnson Space Center.

The SCA, one of two modified Boeing 747 jumbo jets, were used to ferry NASA’s fleet of Space Shuttles from coast to coast, beginning in 1977. Space Center Houston’s SCA flew under the tail designation “SCA-905” and was decommissioned in 2012 after the retirement of the Shuttle fleet.

Space Center Houston plans to mount a full-size replica of the Space Shuttle atop the SCA in flight configuration, as part of a 12-million dollar educational complex. According to a news release, “The Shuttle and 747 Carrier will give visitors the world’s first and only all-access pass to an authentic and realistic journey through the inside of the  Shuttle Carrier Aircraft as well as an unforgettable experience aboard the full-scale, Shuttle model.” Continue reading