Missed tornadoes and storms

Jan 7, 2006
546
575
21
USA
www.skyinmotion.com
Tony, I think your feelings regarding March 28 are largely justified. I was an undergrad at OU then, and thankfully didn't have any critical commitments that day. However, those a year ahead of me weren't so lucky. They had a big dynamics exam from like 3-5 PM that afternoon. This course being arguably the most core of the core curriculum at OU, and the exam counting for ~30% of your grade, there was absolutely no way out. Pretty much all the chasers in that class sped out after it was over and missed everything in the Panhandle by an hour. It was crushing to the point of tears in some cases, and both then and now, I understand why.

"Historic" is an understatement for that outbreak. Everything about it, meteorologically, screamed "once-a-century event." To get a bent back dryline with half a dozen sigtor-producing discrete storms in the prime High Plains chase territory of TX/OK/KS/NE... that's something we currently haven't seen at all in almost a decade, and this was MARCH! Most years, even setups four weeks later into the season are just desperation plays that we chase due to SDS, and certainly the occasional banner days are in crappy terrain near I-35. It's somehow been 13 years, but it still amazes me every time I think about how exceptional that setup was. March 13, 1990, was of course a comparable or even more impressive outbreak, but also much farther east and likely with faster storm motions -- the kinds of drawbacks you'd expect in March.

The other thing about March 28: it looked good a week out, it looked great 4-5 days out, and it just kept looking great from there. Excitement built and built, then you went out, chased, and basically were guaranteed to see a quality tornado on any storm. Again, something that's so many tiers above the experience of chasing in recent years as to seem quaint now. There would be more setups somewhat in that vein later that spring, and again in 2008, but none that seemed to go quite as smoothly at every tick on the forecast-to-chase timeline as March 28.

With all that being said: in hindsight, I wouldn't despair so much over missing the chase itself. I think any of us who have been at this awhile come to realize the finesse days like Dodge City, Campo, or last week's MN storm provide the top-tier chase experiences, relative to most synoptic outbreaks. For me, especially with 2007 being my first serious chase season, it was the broader experience of watching the event unfold that cemented its legendary status. I think newer chasers have largely missed out on the slow-burning high of watching synoptically evident Plains setups evolve from the medium range to go-time (without dramatically underperforming), instead becoming acclimated to a "never stop chasing" climate where you go out 30 days per spring, each one offering that low-single-digit percentage hope of a Campo or Dalton MN. In summary, March 28 to me is the poster child for a different, and largely preferable, era in chasing.
 
Jan 7, 2006
546
575
21
USA
www.skyinmotion.com
The idea of misses one least regrets is an interesting one, too. For me, it has to be failing to get a good view of El Reno 2013, despite being in the field that day. Even aside from the tragedies tied to that storm, I find it's simply the most overrated and over-hyped storm in recent memory, from a chaser's point of view. It would have been nice to view the wedge from the N to NE along I-40 as Gene Moore and a handful of others did, but the fact that I failed to do so doesn't even begin to register on my list of chasing regrets.

Really, almost anything that terrorizes densely populated areas is hard for me to regret missing, even though it's precisely those storms which capture public attention and therefore you're constantly reminded for years afterwards. I missed Joplin, Shawnee, and Moore, in addition to El Reno. Of those, only Shawnee really stings in hindsight, and it's still not that high on my list of regrets. In the case of Moore, it would've been fairly spectacular to see either at the very beginning in Newcastle or at the end along Sooner Rd., but a large percentage of the chase experience over the duration of that storm consisted of panic, chaos, dodging wrong-way drivers, partial rain-wrapping, and the debris visually overshadowing the view of the tornado itself.

It took a couple years of chasing for me to decouple my valuation of a storm as a chaser from the storm's impacts, public visibility, EF ratings, and all of that. But anymore, I honestly see a negative correlation between those two attributes of storms, and missing a newsworthy tornado simply doesn't bother me in and of itself.