Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008: central Kansas

We started the morning in Omaha, and I had a message from Jen, the Free Press reporter from our 2006 trip. On our way south, I called her back and did a brief interview with her about this year's chasing and the previous night's tornadoes (which had sadly killed 4).

Anyhow, our thought was that we would stop in Topeka, KS for lunch and a data stop. We did that (lunch was, for me, an awesome sub and for CB a wrap from Jersey Mike's) and determined that our destination would be near Wichita.

Now, on the way, CB kept on looking at the city of El Dorado, west of Wichita, and singing "El Doradoooooo", trying to sing to the tune of Canyonero, the Simpsons SUV. Anyhow, after a while we both took it as a sign that, instead of Wichita, we should head to El Dorado.

We got to the toll booth at the turnoff from the turnpike when who should call, but Paul Sirvatka. He asked where we were and after about a minute of perusing data (he was actually already in the CoD lab), he stated confidently that we were in the right place.


We went into town and pulled up to the side of a Best Western. As soon as we puled in, a RADAR on the flatbed of a truck pulled in. It had University of Maryland painted on it.

We checked tonnes of data and decided that Paul was right. There was a northeast-southwest convergence line or stalled front just north of us; where we were there was a south breeze, temperatures in the low 30s and dewpoints in the low 20s. It was juicy.

We went to get some snacks and drinks, as we knew that we wouldn't be eating for quite a while. While waiting for CB I talked to a couple of the guys with the RADAR.

We left town and went just a little bit north, in order to watch the goings-on at the convergence line. This is an example of the towers that were going up and quickly fuzzing out on us.

So we waited and waited, although not for too long; soon enough one of the towers went higher than the other and was much MUCH broader than the others. It was seriously ingesting the good air.

We decided that we needed to go after this storm, which we did. As we approached it, the weatheradio went off. Tornado warning, Doppler-based, for this storm. SWEET!

So we caught up to it and saw a lazily-rotating wall cloud. And we kept on it. And on it. And on it. At one point, I can say, I was puzzled as to why it wasn't producing. To wit:

And then:

Shortly after this picture we passed by lots of other chasers, like cloud 9 and Roger Edwards. I really wish we could have stopped to talk to him, but we were in chase mode.

Wxdog called, asking us where we were. He told us that the storm we were on was one of 2 really good ones, based on RADAR. Again, of course, we were chasing blind (although I'll say a bit more about this later). Big hook, he said.

Anyhow, this storm hit the mess of construction that is the Turnpike interchange near Emporia, so our road options were all of a sudden cut off. D'oh!

We went into Emporia to get a data feed, and the RADAR shot made my jaw drop.

We couldn't catch the storm we had been on, but that was okay--I mean, just look at the hook on the storm south and west of Emporia.

We blasted south and this is what we got:

It was weakly rotating, but the heavy precipitation (yes, more HP supercells) was obscuring the wall cloud. This one went east and the precipitation from the next one caught us, so we dropped south. Saw the same thing there. It was starting to get dark and the storms were looking very HP, so I suggested we get a room in Emporia. Just after I said that, the weatheradio buzzed again. Tornado warning, for the storm just southwest of us. Okay, well, apparently I can't really call them properly. :P

We caught that storm and it was dark and impossible to take pictures; there was lots of neat outflowy stuff and maybe a wall cloud, but the storm wasn't going to produce.

We drove back to Emporia in the pouring rain, and CB got us a discount on the room. And I quote, "because she's awesome". I'm serious.

So that was the end of our 2-day central and southern plains chase.

I want to muse on why the storms didn't produce tornadoes that we saw; there were a few reports that afternoon, but way fewer than there would have been, due to the fact that just about every chaser on the planet was there.

I think, after much rumination, that the lack of low-level shear (something we knew would happen; in fact, I hadn├Ęt even expected such awesome supercells) was the main limiting factor to the storms. The low-level shear wasn't enough to keep the outflow or HP cores of the storms from disrupting the inflow for long enough for tornadoes to happen. That's my opinion, anyhow.

The only other thing I can think of about this trip right now is this: I don't want to chase the USA without in-car RADAR. Although we hit the exact right spots (in my opinion) by going visual, I would like to have had the extra assurance of the RADAR imagery to confirm that we were on the right storms. There is a bit of a debate going on at Stormtrack right now, though, that maybe in-car RADAR might not be the best thing, as it creates complacency that you can get closer to the storm without being in danger. Of course, this is leading to some problems because the RADAR imagery is usually at least 5 minutes old, and if the update doesn't happen as expected and you don't recognize it, you could be in danger. If you're not looking out the window, which is apparently what has been happening from time to time.

Rant off.

It was a great chase. Thanks to Wxdog for capturing some information and for some nowcasting suport; to JJH for the same, and to CB for being a good chase partner, even though the music on my iPod might not be to your liking.


At 7:09 AM, Anonymous wxman said...

That chase story was fun to read on..The pictures were great i love that dark wall of cloud rotating..very attractive to look at..though no tornado touchdown pictures ..still that was a great chase for you guys..:)


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