Saturday, May 31, 2008

Missouri Lightning

DAY 6 MAY 30, 2008

I had SUCH a rough time waking up this morning. I guess that is what I get for staying up late and going to bed at 5 in the morning, heh. Last night Ben, Jack, Ron and I were reviewing the tornado video that Ben had took. It shows up quite nicely. Apparently the dark feature we saw under the wall cloud to the right may have been the Kearney tornado because the tornado was reported to be around that area in that time frame. When I first saw it, it did have a smooth tornado-like edge, but got obscured by the wrapping core. Never did see the power flahses though. The small tornado on the left was very likely a satellite tornado. We picked up a copy of the Omaha World-Herald newspaper because it had an article on the Kearney tornadoes. Yeah, it sounds like there were a few.

We met Cheryl Chang from Florida and had a chat about the storm on Thursday and then departed from Kearney, NE and decided to head towards western Missouri and eastern Kansas for later today. Just east of Kearney, we saw moderate tornado damage, with some buildings blown apart and irrigation systems tipped right over. That tornado definitely seemed to have lasted a while, and judging from the damage path, it was decently wide. We are glad that no one was injured or killed!

We stopped in Lincoln, NE to grab some snacks. The roads in that town were so messed up, we kept running into dead ends. And then we found a store to grab some snacks. Ron wanted to pick up some rice crispy squares but the clerk had obviously no clue what they were. "I think I've seen those before...." Ummm okay, never mind! Ron said the food cans had dust on them. Talk about rat infested or what. We then took a break at Wilderness Park to stretch our legs. We were planning on staying for a couple hours, so Pam decided to go for a long walk. The rest of us basically stayed at the van. Jack and Ben were trying to upload video to WKBW Channel 7 Buffalo of the tornadoes we saw yesterday.

A tornado watch had gone up for the risk area and SPC was extending the moderate risk further southwest. Perfect! Ok Pam time to leave! Where the heck is she? Crap. We had to find her in that thick forest. The trails were muddy and one trail had big branches going across it. The other trail had poison ivy. Oh wonderful, I thought. It took a while to get Pam (Ben and Jack had the idea to call her Blackberry because she did take it with her). Pam finally came out of the woods. I took a leak behind a big gravel pile. Talk about one giant litterbox!

We had to travel to Missouri because the setup was looking better throughout the day. It was going to be a late evening and night chase this time. Ron expected the storms to fire right along the slow moving cold front, with the storms starting off in the northeast and then firing along down the line into southeast Kansas. We were going to aim in between the slight and moderate risk areas.

At 6:02 CDT, we entered Kansas City, MO. A few TCU were starting to form. Tornado watch boxes were going up from Illinois and extending soutwestward towards our target. It was going to get interesting. A convergence area of TCU was developing along the boundary just south of Kansas City. We planned to get into the area and just wait for things to explode.

We headed south on I71. The TCU was going up very nice along the boundary, forming turkey towers. The winds were blowing from the south and temps were in the 90s. Very good so far. Ron loaded a surface winds map on Baron... they were looking very promising. We stopped in Harrisonville for a quick bite to eat at 6:50. As we were eating, we watched the towers along the boundary fire up... what great updraft motion! As we stopped for gas, we watched as the updrafts were beginning to corkscrew... what a great sign!

Time for intercept... at 7:50 we continued south on I71. We could see the boundary just explode all the way along. Ron got an updated map and noticed a dryline bulge in southeastern Kansas. We were eventually going to work our way down there.

As we neared the boundary and developing storms, I noticed the bases were elevated... not a good sign for tornadic activity. High bases have a hard time producing. Nonetheless, the towers were just amazing to see. They were rock hard, there were mammatus under the anvils and some of the updrafts were corkscrewing a bit. Plus, the sun was setting which casted beautiful orangey pink hues on the towers. According to Ron, the storm we were going to intercept was 55,000 feet tall. Man I wish they were not elevated because they had so much potential!

We continued straight south towards one of the storms that went up ahead. Heavy rain soon engulfed us and we continued south to get ahead of the storm. When it finally cleared, we turned west and then went on some back dirt roads. We saw some chasers taking shots of the storm, so we continued to go down further away from them as to not interfere with what they were doing. We wanted to get lightning and we didn't want other vehicles around us. When we got out to set up, lightning bugs (how appropriate!) were flying in the fields. It was pretty neat. Most of the lightning was in-cloud with a few nice CGs. I snapped a few images and only one of them came out good. A bit of a wall cloud was forming and a long inflow tail formed, with strikes coming out the bottom of it. The other chasers eventually came up to us and said hi, but I was too busy shooting lightning shots to chat with them (no idea who they are). They left, and we hung around for a little big longer. It started to rain so we decided to play another area of the storms to get another lightning spot. We pulled onto a back road just on the outskirts of Lamar, MO to take more lightning shots. This time I managed to grab a few nice ones with a water tower in the foreground. The storms were weakening and getting further away, so we decided to stay in Lamar for the night at a Super 8.

Tomorrow we will be heading to Oklahoma.

Kearney, NE tornadoes

DAY 5 MAY 29, 2008

We left Delhart, Texas in the morning and headed north towards south central Nebraska to chase the moderate risk area. Indices were quite high and seemed favorable for tornadic supercells. At least that is what we were hoping for. It was going to be a typical get up and go haul. The warm sector was heating up nicely, with southeast backing winds increasing in speed throughout the day. We had to be on I80 by around the dinner hour near Kearney, NE.

On our way up, we passed through Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was hit by the first EF 5 tornado last May. It was quite eerie since there were still a lot of scars leftover. However, they were making good progress of rebuilding their town despite what had happened. That town just amazes me because of their sense of community pulling together after a disaster. The people there seem to have so much hope for a brighter, greener future.

A nice cumulus field was setting up in western Nebraska, with towers starting to build up along boundaries that were taking place. So far things looked really good. By mid afternoon, a supercell was starting to develop and track eastward. That was going to be the first major storm of the day. Ron mentioned that SPC had put out a high risk. Oh boy here we go... I can see it now, a bowing segment with clocking forward motion speeds. High risk days seem to do that to us. We were still hoping that the developing supercell over western NE would stay isolated.

As we kept tracking north, the supercell had formed a hook. I was able to get mobile internet working on my laptop, and came across a picture of a nice wall cloud that a chaser took 20 minutes ago. We were going to be in for something good today! We could already see another storm just to our west starting to go up, with mammatus under the anvil.

We crossed the NE state border and headed slightly north. The supercell that we were targeting was finally coming into view. Wow what a nice stack of plates developing! We saw a small funnel cloud. We cut eastward to get ahead of the storm and managed to find some back roads to get into position with a good road network. We saw a few chasers on the road but it was not very crowded, which was nice. Strong inflow started to kick up dust into the storm. Wow! By now, the stack of plates was starting to look really dramatic. The Baron was picking up several rotation couplets on the storm, and we could see a wall cloud and a couple other areas of rotation. When we were south of Kearney between I80 and hwy 34 on 690 Q Road approx. 3 miles northwest of Minden, NE, we saw a dark solid looking feature underneath the wall cloud. According to the Baron, this storm was cranking. What the heck is that? Tornado? It took on kind of a wedge-like appearance. Ben and Pam then pointed out a definite tornado just to the left of this interesting feature. I looked to my left and saw a light tan colored condensed funnel halfway to the ground with a debris swirl underneath it. That at least makes 3 for us this week so far! Woo hoo! I grabbed one photo of it while Ben rolled video before it quickly dissipated. By now we lost sight of the dark unknown feature because it became rain-wrapped. We were facing north towards Kearney and it all happened around 5:32 CDT.

After that excitement, we turned left on another back road to watch an area of rotation. It was pretty neat watching it spin and a clear slot was overhead. We watched this for a little bit before continuing back north to I80. By now the storm was crapping out and picking up forward motion speed. A typical high risk setup. We headed east to try to catch up again but gave up and turned around and headed into Kearney to fill up with gas. We had trouble finding a gas station that had power. Driving through town, we saw large trees uprooted and slight structural damage. Some windows were blown right out and shingles peeled off roofs. We finally found a gas station that was opened and filled up. We then decided to take a look around at some of the damage. Some of the tree damage was just incredible. One particular tree that was beside a sidewalk got uprooted and lifted up a few of the sidewalk blocks with it. Some other trees fell right beside homes just barely missing it. Roof shingles were blown off with some parts of roofs totally stripped of shingles. Some metal posts were bent, signs damaged. The people in town were walking around and seemed to be ok. We didn't find anyone that needed emergency help which was a good thing. Some of the damage was facing in one direction while the rest of it was facing another direction, which suggested possible tornadic activity.

Later on, we heard that some people, including chasers saw power flashes while the storm was happening and it was confirmed that a tornado was definitely in town. We think that the dark feature we saw under the wall cloud could have been the tornado. We decided to grab a bite to eat at USA Steak Buffet. During dinner, I happened to look out the window and see beautiful sunset lit mammatus. I went outside to grab some photos. After dinner, we sat in the parking lot during twilight to look at the mammatus as it got dark. Definitely the best mammatus I have ever seen. My photos came out quite nice, with lots of color and dramatic appearance.

Tomorrow we plan to make our way towards Oklahoma if no storms are expected. A great day, despite missing the Kansas tornado fest.

Hailer in New Mexico

DAY 4 MAY 28, 2008

Well, I kinda regret not getting to bed earlier. I had a lot of blogging to do to get caught up, so I didn't get to bed till around 5 am. Thank goodness we got to sleep in today! Hell, I don't need no stinkin' sleep anyway.

Anyway, managed to finally wake up and went online to check models for Friday's forecast. So far it looks very interesting in Nebraska. Models were hinting at an isolated tornadic supercell. But that's tomorrow... today we need to worry about the 5% tornado risk for eastern New Mexico. Prior to leaving the motel, Geoff, Drew, my sister and I were playing a game of bouncy ball catch in the parking. It would bounce off their vehicle. I wonder if Spotter Network would take a report of bouncy ball hail?

We left around lunch time, and headed west on hwy 287. Shortly after 12:30, the overcast sky finally started to break up into a nice cumulus field to our north. We stopped in Amarillo for lunch at the Big Texan and visted the Cadillac Ranch. We then continued west towards New Mexico. On the way we saw nice big transverse rolls.

Boundaries were setting up New Mexico. At 4:29 MDT we saw a developing supercell west of San Miguet, so we decided to target west northwest of Santa Rosa, or southeast of Santa Fe. The Baron was already picking up rotation couplets and a boundary heading westward was expected to intersect the storm. As we were heading west on I40, two supercells were now developed, one to the north of the highway and the other to the south. We planned to take hwy 84 because it was the best road option to go north. There aren't many road options in New Mexico, so this was going to be tricky to intercept. A tornado warning was issued for the first storm, which was moving northeast at 39 mph.

At 5:13, the north storm went east of hwy 84, so we had to turn around and go find a road further east. By now the southern storm was weakening while the northern storm was still cranking. The couplets were getting stronger as the storm was tracking east and it slightly slowed down a bit to 30 mph.

We finally found a road option to go north on hwy 129. At 5:46, a new tornado warning went up. It was difficult to really see the storm from a distance because of the hills and mesas. We encountered heavy rain and saw a small beaver tail ahead. We then turned left on some back road and pulled over to watch the storm. A brief wall cloud formed but fell apart. We had to turn south once again to get out of the approaching rain and hail core, but it almost caught up to us. A few powerful CGs struck some of the hills. We had some small pea sized hail but then heard two loud thuds on top of the van. That was the sound of golfball sized hail. That's okay, it's not like we actually own the vehicle anyway! Just hope they don't question Jack when he returns the van back to Buffalo, with the sandblasted windshield and headlights and two new hail dents on the roof.

We finally got ahead of the core and had enough time to watch an area of rotating scud, but we had to get ahead of it again since the core was catching up. We stopped briefly to take pictures of the heavy core, but then the core finally overtook us. The core was wrapping around with the storm's rotation. At 6:49, we turned around once again to check out the storm behind our current storm. We didn't see much else, other than another developing wall cloud and some outflow features. A couple of chasers passed us quickly... no idea who they are, but the white van was tailgating the other guy ahead of him. Crazy, but whatever floats their boat I guess. The storm was no longer doing much else, and we said goodbye to Geoff and Drew. Glad to have made a couple of new friends on the trip as they are cool guys.

We decided to start working our way east back up to the Oklahoma panhandle. We went to a small convenience store to take a bathroom break. We got back on the interstate and saw a small compact wall cloud directly ahead of us. Ron wanted to get a shot of it but a light post was in the way. By the time the viewing cleared, the wall cloud had fallen apart. On our way, we were keeping up with the storm. We found a gas station and filled up with gas. Lots of lightning and heavy rain. We did get some pea sized hail mixed in there as well. The storm was starting to bow out. We stayed the night in Delhart, TX at the Comfort Inn. Tomorrow we were to get up early and haul north in time for a potential tornado fest in Nebraska and Kansas.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Structure and Mammatus

DAY 3 MAY 27, 2008

Ron asked me the other day, "What is luck?". I didn't have an answer. He said, "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." I would have to agree with him on that one. It really does apply to chasing, and yesterday proved it.

Our second night was a much better sleep... when we stayed in St. Louis the first night, we had constant loud thunderstorms go through the area in the early morning hours. It kept waking me up. It was great to hear thunder but when you are running on a 4 hour sleep, you want to get as much sleep as you can in order to function for a chase day. Of course it is pretty ironic coming from me, as I am typing this log at 3 am Wednesday morning. Sleep? I don't need no stinkin' sleep.

Anyway, today was looking like another risk of storms, although not as big as yesterday's event. At around 10 am, we all gathered. We saw the Cloud 9 Tours group and George Kourounis came by to say hi. I also got to meet Charles Edwards for the first time. After chatting for a bit, we decided to take off and pick up Pam and Ben at the Dennys restaurant where we were supposed to meet up at. We let them finish up. We figured the rest of us would get something to eat in Oklahoma City. Ron wanted to get further southwest than originally planned. In the meantime, we had apples and bars to tie us over until then. Ron was having some issues with the mobile internet so Jack sat in the back to work on his laptop to get it to run faster, while I helped Ron with navigating.

Today we were looking at a cold front set up, with a large outflow boundary from the previous storm activity in Kansas and Missouri. SPC highlighted southwestern Oklahoma and the eastern Texas panhandle area for a 5% chance of tornadoes with a slight risk of severe storms. We ate a quick lunch at a Sonic just outside of Oklahoma City and met up with Jeff and Drew in Lawton. It was a bit hard to find them at first because we really didn't know where they were in related to the highway. We met up with them in a Ramada Inn parking lot near the highway. We watched a bunch of prairie dogs run about in a grassy area beside the inn and had a quick restroom break. I loaded a satellite loop and saw numerous boundaries setting up and colliding in our target area already. I had a feeling we were going to be running a bit behind. The SPC issued a mesoscale discussion for Childress, Texas, Jackson and Harmon counties in Oklahoma. By mid afternoon, storms were already firing up along the outflow boundary near the area and we had to get over there quickly.

We pulled into an Allsups in Frederick, Oklahoma to fill up on gas (and for myself, an Allsups Beef and Bean burrito) at 4:30. As we continued westward, the storm came into view. It almost had a bell appearance to it and I could see a bit of beaver tail pointing into the core. I could tell that this storm would possibly put on a structure show. We then took hwy 5 to get closer to the storm. We saw a chase tour group and some other chasers, but not near as many as yesterday. As we neared it, Ron pointed out a small funnel cloud, which I didn't see at first. It never amounted to anything.

The structure started to take on a nice smooth rounded appearance, so we pulled off the hwy to grab some shots. It looked like the RFD was coming in, but I didn't like the winds blowing away from the storm... a bad sign that this storm would become outflow dominant. The RFD did kick up some dust in a field. We continued toward it for a bit, got into some rain, then we turned around to get ahead of the storm. As we were doing so, dust started to get picked up in the fields and a gustnado formed to our right. It was beginning to remind me of the haboob that Scott, Ron and I were on back in 2006 in Colorado/Kansas.

As we got ahead of it, we found another spot to pull over to get some more photos. We watched an area of rising scud, which I thought was going to be our wall cloud, but alas it broke apart. There was just not enough inflow happening here. I saw no feeder bands and we realized this storm was not going to do much else but rain itself out.

Ron decided that we abandon this storm and try a newer storm located just northwest of Vernon, Texas. We took hwy 91 and followed it towards a small town called Chillicothe.

We didn't see any structure to this storm... it was basically "crapvection" rainstorms. I am sure the plains would love to see more rain... some areas have been flooded and are still very saturated from the previous storm systems. There has been a lot of activity within a week and yesterday created a lot of rain which triggered flash flood warnings in parts of Kansas.

We decided to give up. We found a spot near the railroad crossing in Chillicothe to wait for Jeff and Drew to catch up to us, then we booked rooms at a Quality Inn in Childress. As we were unloading the van, mammatus was overhead and the sun was just getting ready to set. We put our stuff in our rooms, got out our cameras and tripods and headed just on the outskirts of town to photograph nice sunset lit mammatus. Nothing like a peaceful way to end the day. We then went for dinner at Pizza Hut.

Tomorrow, Ron is looking at eastern New Mexico. So far the SPC day 1 outlook has a slight risk.

An Ozsome Experience in Kansas

DAY 2 MAY 26, 2008

Today we were going to play the triple point and dryline bulge in central Kansas south of I70 and west of I35. Ron favored this area due to convergence and an outflow boundary tracking southwest from the night's storms in Missouri, with good low level shear, instibility and moisture.

We left St. Louis in the morning and headed west on I70 towards the Salina-Wichita, Kansas area. The SPC had issued a moderate risk with a 10% chance of tornadoes. On our way west, we saw signs of horizontal vorticity - transverse rolls. Accas could also be seen in some spots, noting signs of instability. Finally at around 2:03 pm CDT, a tornado watch had gone up for south central Kansas into the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.

We pulled into a service station somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Kansas and met up with a film crew, Jeff and Drew, doing a documentary on lightning. Ron knew the guys from previous filming in the past, and we were going to help them get into position for a good filming shoot. It was still overcast in this area due to the storms in Missouri and the winds were a bit on the cool side as well, with wind gusts clocking at about 15 knots. Temperate and dewpoint were about mid 70s over mid 60s so that wasn't too bad of a sign.

We all continued west on I70. Fellow chaser Fred Plowman waved at us as he passed by. A storm began to develop south of Wichita, but we decided to not play it because it was still a bit early and east for the real action. We were hoping that the storm would create an outflow boundary/feeder band for the storm we would plan to intercept later on. We stopped at a Subway in Wichita and watched the storm to our south. It did exactly what we thought it would do, create an outflow boundary and feeder band for our storm later on. It was all pointing in a good direction, so we had our sign of good inflow.

At around 4 pm, Ron wanted to head slightly west of Wichita towards the Pratt/Greensburg area. Ron went on mobile internet to get a satellite feed. It showed two boundaries going to collide into each other in our target area. A storm was also going up to our southwest, and around 5:15, a tornado warning was issued. As was got closer to this new storm, the one south of Wichita was finally dying and the flanking line on our supercell was getting bigger... the outflow from the Wichita storm was feeding into this new supercell. We filled up with gas and went on our way. The film crew wanted to get a shot of the beginning of the storm through a line of trees, so we eventually found a spot on a dirt off the interstate. Jeff and Drew got their video, so we continued on our way towards the storm.

As we neared the storm, we got into a rain and hail mix around 6:09. The hail was about 1 to 1.5 inches in size. It looked like our storm was going to become of the high precipation type. On our way west on hwy 54/400 we saw a long armada of the DOW truck, mobile mesonet vehicles, chasers and possibly local folk driving away from the storm. We were wondering why, but that didn't stop us from going inside. If we wanted tornadoes, we had to get closer than that to see them in this HP mess. A bit dangerous? Yeah, but with all the rain, any tornadoes that would form would likely be weak and brief. Ron knew what he was doing.

We pulled off the hwy onto a dirt road. Jack seemed to have a little bit of trouble handling the wheels at first due to the slipperyness of the "road" but soon managed to gain better control. It was a rental van afterall, so he was still learning the ropes. Hmmm, a rental van you say? I wonder how much we can get away with before the insurance nails us? Off to our right, I saw a large hail/rain core in the distance with a slight greenish tinge. Realizing we were not seeing much in this area, we went north again back to hwy 54. By now we were just southwest of Pratt. Ron decided to stop on another dirt road to get some photo opportunities of the giant core. What strong inflow this thing was sucking in! We watched it for a bit before I yelled for everyone to get into the van - I could literally watch as the core rapidly approached us down the road! Pam sure has interesting ways to get inside a vehicle quickly, practically falling backwards into her seat in the back of the van, while dragging her feet across one of the middle seats. Well, whatever works I guess, LOL.

Jack drove onto hwy 281, where we quickly got into very torrential rain and hail, with almost zero visibility. For a few seconds I thought to myself that a tornado would be on the other side of the precip, and then the precip actually did clear. Then what happens? Well, a small tornado touched down in a field to our left, crossed the road in front of us and went into the grassy field on our right all in a matter of several seconds. It was approximately 50 to 100 feet away! I saw it spin in the grass field, so I quickly rolled down the window to get a better view since it wasn't raining anymore. A howling/hissing noise could be heard! I was actually hearing my first tornado! I managed to grab one good shot of it. The tornado was semi transparent but it was very evident tornadic circulation was there as we could see it partially. Everything was moving so fast. Normally, we don't recommend to intercept tornadoes this way most of the time because you really don't know how big it could get.

After that exciting but brief encounter, Ron logged the tornado into Spotter Network. We went on another dirt road to get off the interstate to watch another area of the storm. About 10 mintes later, I saw a lowering just to our north that looked like it was trying to form a wall cloud and rotate. A piece of scud curled like a wave quickly. I watched the area for several minutes before deciding that it didn't seem to be doing much. We continued up the road, and pulled over again. At around 7:18, Jack noted a funnel cloud right above us, but I couldn't see it from my vantage point. Basically right after that, a circulation of dirt and tumbleeds among other things came wooshing at us - and quickly! Winds went in one direction before suddenly changing directions! Then it stopped. At first I thought we were getting hit with RFD but RFD winds do not behave like that. Ron has always told me on our chases to keep an eye on any sudden change in wind direction... well this was definitely one of those times! Pam and Rita saw this circulation continue briefly behind us into a field before dissipating. Ummm, did a tornado just form on top of us? It sure looked like that given how the debris looked when we were in it and Jack's funnel cloud proved it afterall. After gaining my senses back, I realized it was indeed a tornado. Well. That was the first time I've ever been directly hit by a tornado! I've heard of other chaser stories of similar encounters in the past... again not something you really want to mess with. It was sure a big surprise for us, and it just goes to show you anything can happen on chases. The tornado actually did sandblast the windshield and headlights. It also left small chips and a small crack in the windshield from the debris. Ron estimated it had winds close to a F1 rating. He also reported this tornado into Spotter Network.

Well, we just got down to the alley and already have two tornadoes to account for. We decided to call it a day and book rooms at a Motel 6 in Wichita for the night. We ate dinner at an Ihop but the service was very slow. Rita, Pam and I were getting giddy. I rolled a drinking straw wrapper up into a tiny ball and flung it with my fingers. It hit a waiter as he walked by and we bursted out laughing. I was laughing so hard that apparently I didn't notice that I somehow managed to get my drinking straw from my drink stuck in my hair dripping chocolate milk on my shoulder! When I saw it at first I wondered what the heck was this? And soon we bursted out laughing again. Why do these things happen to me? Sigh. All in all, a great day. Tomorrow we are headed south.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Quick update for May 26

Just a brief update on our chase on May 26th - I will complete a full log on Tuesday because I am tired and it is getting late.

Couple of close calls in Kansas today. Ron, Jack, company and I observed two brief weak tornadoes on Monday around the dinner hour near Pratt, KS. We were driving in a very heavy rain/hail mix - vis was almost 0 at this point. Things cleared and a brief semi-transparent tornado formed approx 50 to 100 ft away from us and crossed the road in front us and went into a grass field on our right. I rolled down the window to grab this shot quickly... we could hear a classic howling/hissing noise from it!

About 10 to 15 minutes later, we were on a dirt road and Jack pointed up and said there was a funnel right above us. Then I saw a circulation of dirt and tumbleweeds come right at us... it passed directly over us! Winds shifted directions very quickly which suggested that the funnel Jack saw was indeed a weak tornado. It continued for a few seconds later behind us. No one is hurt and it was a weak tornado, with winds of F0 to F1.

Gang is staying in Wichita KS tonight and maybe heading to OK tomorrow. Cloud 9 Tours is at our motel, so maybe we will get to see George Kourounis.

Monday, May 26, 2008

May 25 2008

DAY 1 MAY 25, 2008

Well, today was going to be another day we would depart for tornado alley. This year, it was Ron Gravelle, Jack Kertzie, Ben Fuller, Pam Gregory, my sister Rita and I. It was going to be Rita's first tornado alley chase trip.

We left Ron's shortly after 8 am and were on our way south through Detroit, towards St. Louis, Missouri where we would spend our first night.

We, of course, had to have our omens on the way down, a yearly tradition. This time, I spotted 3 dust devils in a field on our right. Near Indianapolis, we stopped for a Chinese buffet dinner, "Chow-chow" as Ron calls it. Rita had the best fortune cookie fortune, which unfortunately I forget what it said at the moment, but it was another one of those omens. On our way west through Illinois, tornadic storms were firing up in Iowa, and another storm to our southwest. The anvil blow off on that storm was quite long, approximately 100 miles away. I noted a small patch of mammatus.

We couldn't intercept those today if we were going to want to get into position in central Kansas tomorrow. SPC has a moderate risk highlighted for central Kansas, with a 45% hatched area. Supercells along an MCS were expected to form, along with the possibility of strong tornadoes. We are hoping that the dryline will bulge out and interact with the outflow boundaries from tonight's system, near the triple point tomorrow. Low level shear would be present in the warm moist airmass.

As we approached St. Louis, storms were firing up to our north, south and west. Rita wanted to get a picture of the St. Louis arc, so Ron pulled over off the interstate to stop for pictures. Rita did manage to get her first lightning shots, hand held mind you, but nonetheless it was a lightning shot. We continued on to our hotel as the squall line neared us. Soon enough the rain came down really heavy. We had a few close CG strikes.

Trying to navigate in a big city is quite hard to do with all the highways and offramps... plus they don't warn you ahead of time which exit we needed to take to get to another interstate. It just gets confusing sometimes, and we would end up going on the interstate the other way, so I had to keep changing the route plan. We finally pulled in at the Quality Inn close to 11 pm CDT. Tomorrow we are headed towards Salina, Kansas.

Sorry that the APRS has stopped working since leaving Detroit... I don't know what happened but I will let Ron and Jack know tomorrow morning.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chasecation '08

Looks like we may be in for some storms during the first few days of our trip. So far so good. We will depart this Sunday morning. You can track us here.

I will try to update this blog at the end of each day.