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.

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