Monday, May 26, 2008


Frustrating and tiring way to end a chase. We left Pratt around 4 after an OFB hit the town from the convection to the east. Towers going up in Kiowa County. Took some nice back roads and watched two towers for a while. Very few road options and when one finally got its act together we were a little late getting in front of it near Greensburg. We were going to head east on 54 but the prospects of monster hail told me to go back south before going east. Reports of windshield losses confirmed that choice. Unfortunately, it cost a lot of time in that part of Kansas. We eventually caught the storm as it was going into Pratt. Must have missed Rich Thompson's tornado by two miles through the rain. We drove through the RFD as we headed east on 54. We were at the place where the other tornado reports came from and cannot verify anything. Just nothing appeared. It did look like there *may* have been some lowering just to our north. We worked to get in front of it before Turon but it was clearly throwing out cold air and we gave up on it because we needed gas in Kingman and then started heading home.

We have had some good successes this week but were incredibly unlucky. When we had great storms it would produce a good tornado (Bison gustnado yesterday was far from the storms updraft, BTW) We showed up a few minutes late after trying hard for 90 minutes. Oy! I guess we could call wrapping rain curtains a tornado, but the RFD does that a I will say that we didn't see a tornado.

Todays storms blew up too fast all over the place. For the amount of mid-level lapse rates, convection didnt seem to explode much. Even this storm had problems staying independent as new updrafts kept feeding it from the south rather than become one continuous updraft.

Oh more trip in 18 days.

Paul and Matt

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Another Day - Highest Hopes Yet

Well, after not going south when we should have and watching a bust unfold in southern NE, we are looking for redemption tomorrow while staying in Omaha.

I am not buying the solution for tomorrow that Iowa will have the best potential. Low-level winds veers quite a bit with the overall cyclone along the US/Canada border. This is similar to today where westerly momentum overwhelmed the whole cyclone. (With the exception of south toward to OK) I fear the same thing tomorrow across IA and perhaps NE. I am not sure about MN.WI where flow will cross the warm front. To be honest, I will not chase western WI.

However, northern Kansas (west to Oakley-ish if you believe the WRF or more toward Hays with the GFS) looks ready to be lit up. And perhaps the most scary tornadoes yet. A strong influx of moisture with very deep moisture still in place over OK should allow a rapid increase of deeper moisture into northern Kansas tomorrow. Ahead of the next big trough out west (another good day Monday looks to be in the offing) pressures should fall in CO and the winds and dryline should respond in kind. Strong southerly 850 wind should be underneath good southwesterly flow. I like the convergence along the stalled out front. The WRF has consistently hinted at a vort max with sufficient UVV's to prime the atmosphere. As opposed to todays horrible overforecast of CAPE, tomorrow's values of 2-3K look promising, just not sure how tight it will tuck up against the front/dryline.

Forecast hodographs are downright scary at 3Z as greater than 50 kt winds in the llnj materialize. Take a look at the forecast soundings at CNK.

Either way, I believe we will have to cruise further west than we had anticipated. Until we analyze, I am not sure where...somewhere N-Central KS.


Friday, May 23, 2008

A Good Start

A good day yesterday for sure. Nothing photogenic but we saw between 4 or 5 tornadoes
Very exciting at times and we all had a good time. I will post more when we have time but right now we are chasing a lot. Several days more of good chase potential. Today is very impressive.

We are headed toward DDC currently and will favor south toward the bigger CAPE and decent shear (but better storm motions). Am concerned about the extensive cool air north and the water soaked roads in the same area that got hit yesterday. 80% of the roads we were on yesterday were dirt. Much north of I-70 will be brutal to be on today if they are not paved.

We also like the high CAPE as per other posts. Current p-falls are not as impressive as yesterday at this time and would favor a little more time before the show begins. I am sure that capping will not be an issue today and would suspect storms will fire all the way down to the Red River as opposed to yesterday's I-40 cut-off. Mid-level lapse rates are a little less than yesterday with cooler 700mb temps invading the region. Storms would spin quickly today north but I am a little concerned about the effect of the cool air. Unless recovery occurs, storms may become big rain bombs quickly.

NE would be interesting if you dont mind cool temps. Very cold 500mb temps (-17) will keep storms going. Model forecasts show rapid destabilization and I am unsure of how much. However, dynamically speaking, this area is impressive. If CAPES > 1000 J/kg are realized, there will be spinners there.

Water vapor imagery hints at some UVVs spreading toward the TX panhandle now and should approach SW KS by 20-21 Z. The one model parameter I found interesting was a more SSWly 850 wind in sw KS giving decent 0-1 SRH and a better chance for storms to move more east. SR surface flow will be pretty decent there.

BTW A supercell hit our hotel last night around 5 AM. A close lightning strike was followed by a crashing thunder which woke me and was then followed by a 15 minute fire drill at the hotel. Everyone looked scruffy in their pj's!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What We Have Waited For

Today was fun even though not a great chase. Started out by touring the CHILL-CSU radar (thanks to Eric Nelson) and that was very cool. Will have pictures for my classes in the future. Afterward headed to Cheyenne WY to await storms that came off the mountains or formed in better air to the east. We waited while storms formed in NE CO. I was glad for the forecasting we did in saying that all of CO would be good and that the TX/OK panhandle would have a chance but remain capped.

Stormed were big windbags!! We struggled in the wind for several hours with east winds gusting over 40mph for a long time. Some good lightning but not good for picture taking. We killed several hundred tumbleweeds! For those who know what I mean I am sure you are laughing in understanding.

Tomorrow looks like a big tornado day. I am sure there will be at least a 15% hatched tornado area on the day one. Significant shear and supercells will be abundant from Kansas to OK with the area we will probably target near the warm front dry line intersection and then stair step down the dry line. Strongly backed flow in the warm sector should allow for may storms with a severe threat. We just hope we do not make mistakes and run into bad luck.

But spring is finally here. And should stay put for the next several days. I am looking forward to the chase now!


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

And now the chase begins

We are in Colorado Springs today and this should be the last day of only marginal thunderstorm activity. We will be heading to the Garden of the Gods for sight-seeing...maybe a good Mexican place for lunch. If there are thunderstorms they should be in the favored terrain of the Palmer Divide or *maybe* even the Denver Cyclone region. We are watching more closely tomorrow.

AS flow starts to improve, thunderstorms are likely in the area indicated by the slight risk on Day 2 from SPC. This area will almost certainly see storms but the stroms will have mid-level flow from the south or even SSE and that will make chasing a little more difficult. I do not like some of the shear profiles with those storms, especially if they form in roadless regions. ON the other hand, shear profiles look very good down the dryline in SE CO, even OK and TX PH. This area will be strongly capped but also in closer proximity to better moisture that should be making its way north tomorrow. I have a feeling about SE CO tomorrow but we will wait and see how things pan out. We will stay somewhere near or just north of Denver to put ourselves in decent position.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A New Experience in Weather

For the years we have been chasing we have often talked about bad patterns and death ridges. We have seen eastern troughs shut down the Gulf and bring cooler temperatures to the plains. I thought we had seen it all but quite frankly, this takes the cake!

I remember some cut-off lows in the Southwest slowly make its way to the east and we have waited eagerly for that flow to make it over the mountains. Going into New Mexico and chasing the western fringes of the Caprock. But what do you do now?

All I can say is that the solutions to this situation from a model perspective tell me how far we have to go to understand meteorological forecasting. I have NO IDEA how the funky omega-type block gets the patterns it does (especially on the op ECMWF solution) and then as the GFS points out go to the little ribbon of a mid-level jet before flow decreases so much. At least the one thing we DO KNOW is it won't look like it is progged to look.

So for the week...because we are out here...Palmer Divide tomorrow to see some convection perhaps...Wednesday, NE panhandle (small area but looks nice...) and then for the next few days, we hope that some shear gets juxtaposed over some CAPE *somewhere* over the high plains. It is what it is...let's find the needle!


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Trying Times

We went to Jess n' Jim's tonight. That was good. Tomorrow we head to Colorado Springs and we will watch a ball game at the Rockies Game. We are not messing with the stuff in MO tomorrow. I am just not impressed enough to squander time there. For Tuesday, we will be hoping for some convection off the Palmer Divide. Not high expectations...just convection.

Then all eyes will turn to the dang closed low in the SW. What an annoying pattern. Weather sucks this year and it doesn't look to be getting better. We are still hopeful of a few good storms if we can get moisture underneath better flow aloft. Not looking at a large area, but then again, a storm or two is all we need. So look for small areas of concern both Wednesday and Thursday unless some things change for the better.

So we will stay hopeful and not expect outbreaks of severe. Once again, 2008 is too weird.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Start of Trip 2

Funny, but here goes the roller coaster. Terrible-GREAT-Horrible. I know this feeling all too well. But let's look at some positives.

1. By Wednesday the Gulf of Mexico should be wide open. Moisture will head north and stay around for quite some time. I think we can pretty much rely on a good stream of moisture throughout the central US.

2. There is lower pressure out west and higher pressure somewhat east. Low-level winds should be moderately southerly without a strong crashing cold front. After all we have seen this year, this ain't bad.

3. Given the surface winds backing, shear should be pretty decent for rotating storms.

4. It is May and things are quiet now. How often have there been 10 days of no severe in the US in mid May? Climatology (FWIW) is on our side.


1. Model solutions are constantly changing. So what else is new. We are still at 4-7 days out for most of the excitement. How often do good patterns turn sour and bad set-ups improve? The only thing I know is that good patterns staying good throughout several days is a rare event in my book.

2. Locations of storms may not be the best for the southern plains hopefuls. I want them across SRN NE to TX as much as the next person, but if one is able to expand one's territory, there are still several good plays in the upcoming week (potentially). The further north, the weaker the cap. Dakotas and MN look like they could light up a bit. And trust me, this area is DUE (of course I am Cubs fan and have been DUE for a heckuva long time.) Nonetheless, if one can be flexible in where they are looking, there should still be good storms somewhere!

3. Details are always uncertain and gas prices are high!

So here is to following tea leaves...I would suggest starting in Kearney and hoping good storms form within 500 miles! I will talk to you all next week when the moisture is back.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Earle in Review

For a review see

And for more pictures and video see this directory

Friday, May 2, 2008


So after a horrible day, we set out at 9AM to go into eastern AR. Crap...a tornado watch is already in effect. 9 in the morning. How can we deal with this. So difficult to deal with ongoing, we dont need something that is already severe.

Well at least it was just west of Little Rock. Although we were 4 hours short of Little Rock...if we didnt have bad traffic.

Kent and Jim did a great job of driving...quickly...and before we knew it we were in Little Rock. We had a superfast gas stop and lunch in the van (10 minutes) and were on the road again. We had to get to eastern AR to get our of the hills. Nice tornado-warned storms were just to our east. Unfortunately they were moving at 45 mph to the north east. How do you chase those?

Well we got through the line and decided to intercept a storm to our southwest. It was flat, but there were so many trees. We could barely see anything at all. How frustrating.

Now there were many showers and storms to its southeast. But as the storm continued, clearer conditions ensued. So we stayed with it. I must say that the storm never looked like it had really tight rotation. At least not on radar.

I told my partner Mike and said "How 'bout a nice straw....anything small."

As we saw the storm, we said "That is where the tornado should be" 20 seconds later, we saw the tornado. It was distant and low contrast as we moved in closer. I called 911 and reported the storm southwest of Earle, AR. We continued traveling northward and were noting power flashes. The tornado had a large cone appearance. It looked violent. I will be interested to see what the survey says. We will see it tomorrow as we plan on looking at the damage.

The storm headed right toward Earle. Power flashes and debris was lofted. The tornado looked not unlike the May 3, Moore OK tornado. As it entered town, we heard a very loud roar. Loudest one I ever heard. We think the tornado hit just north of the main section of town,

We were afraid to go into Earle as there was reduced video possibilities. Tons of wall cloud rotation continued.Once the tornado cleared the road we were on we loaded the van and continued. We had to cut through town and saw some apparent RFD damage. We headed on a road that continued to the north and east and ran into two police whose car had apparently flipped over. They were badly shaken but fine. A handicapped man had his home destroyed and we are not sure of his condition. We continued following the storm and saw it for much longer time. It finally roped out and lifted.

As we were watching the storm, we got out of the van to photograph. Laura Heiden received a severe shock from an induced charge from a very nearby (about 100 yards) lightning strike. She was shaken but fine. Other students said they could smell a burning.

Very scary for sure.

The tornado was on the ground for at least 30 minutes. No reason to believe it was more than one tornado. We watched it the whole time.

Wow. Great day. Headed into TN and got in the hook of a tornado warned storm. We punched it though....too hard. It died as we got there. Ended up having great steaks at Abes in Dyersburg, TN.

Overall...this day saved our chase!

Bust Day May 1

It is only fair that I would have to publish this blog on a bust day. Granted, it is a day late, but for all who were sad I didn't post enough, well tough. I worked my butt off all day and the last thing I need to do is type up a post of how we screwed up.

I work 16 hour days and cannot spend more time than I have to write a review.

I wish some of you would know the feeling of leading 16 people on a trip to see storms and realize that you screwed up. Then I got back at the hotel in Joplin at 1 AM and was pretty frickin tired.

Blogging is not what i had in mind...sleep is what I needed.

Especially when I had to get up at 9 to chase again.

So we blew it. Initiation was the problem. We knew that cap eradication was not the problem. Mesoanalysis had 0 CIN for sb and ml values. But still, nothing was erupting. Just no convergence. Parcel theory only goes so far in explaining things.

We said Still water...early in the day. We did analysis on the road and though...Stillwater. We we IN Stillwater. Agh! But there was nothing starting. I let everyone else who told me there would be no storms...convince me that daylight storms were impossible. Except in KS. I didnt think so but was so afraid, I left our forecast area. Storms started to develop in KS and I could get there. So we went. Saw a crappy little line. It looked really ugly and we knew it had no possibility. Matt called and told us we needed to go back to OK where we had just been.


Right where we were.

But we went and made it there after sunset. We were within a few miles of this tornadic supercell. We came over a hill and it died. Completely and within a few minutes. We missed it.

Went to Joplin and were depressed. At least there was a hope for tomorrow.