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.

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