04/05/05 REPORTS: Central/Southern Plains

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Peggy and I chased in central KS near the dryline on 04-05-05. We saw a
briefly organized base on a cell near Chase, KS and then met up with Jon
Davies and Jim Reed on the road around 4:30 and had a fun dinner in
McPherson, KS. After dinner we headed East on I-70, intercepted the severe line near Abilene, KS and saw some great hail and lightning just after sunset. All in all a nice chase for the first one of the year!

Photos and chase log posted at:

Good luck!
Gene Moore and I decided to target North Texas for supercells, and hopeful tornadoes. Neither of us
had any interest in driving all the way to western KS for landspout cold core torns; and whereas
Eastern Oklahoma did have a number of features of interest (Tulsa was mentioned) we weren't too
happy that the RUC was showing the 60s dewpoints mostly ending south of the Red. Now it is true that
the focus, of the PVA was headed for northeastern OK, and the 850mb and surface winds even appeared
to have slightly more potential to be backed a bit more. However there was progged a 250mb jet to
come into north TX placing the area mostly east of a N/S line through the DFW area in the left exit
region. Also, some models / times showed that there might be non-veered 850mb and surface winds
south of the Red briefly or at least (keyword: hopefully) in this north TX area. Actually I didn't
have a lot of faith in those winds necessarily materializing but, I felt with the lower dewpoints
north it wasn't necessarily much better. Also I checked a number of forecast parameters (craven,
sigtor, sup comp, etc) using different model input and it indicated that east TX had some real
potential for severe. My general idea for the day was to perhaps start near Ardmore and work south
ahead of the dryline as it developed later into the day working into east TX where better helicity
was a possibility. Near 0Z I wondered if Paris had a shot again, or possibly an area due south of
Paris and southeast of DFW where most of the 250mb influence would be. Of course, as it turned out
the surface and 850mb winds never really materialized the way we wanted. The 250mb jet did do its
thing and created at least one big storm south of DFW but that occurred late in the day.

As I understand it, all things being considered (drive time, etc) Gene pretty much agreed with my
assessment. We headed north in plenty of time before the dryline fired, and parked on the north side
of McKinney where we obtained oodles of free broadband to monitor the situation. It was a really
nice sunny day with fairly low cumulus scattered about - fodder as storm food. The expected cold
core stuff started fairly early in western KS. We watched as the dryline began to fire in southern
OK and eventually the Ardmore area fired. One of those storms showed some pretty good rotation - I
think it was the Ardmore storm. However we decided to stick with our forecast. Reminds me of the old
issue in the movie 'Top Gun' - Cruise always repeats "You never leave your wing man". In my mind
that is synonymous with the phrase/ concept "You never leave your forecast area". Finally the area
on the Red fired, and then storms just to the west of McKinney, and also north of there - somewhat
southwest of Sherman. I was all 'teched' out with my new Gateway notebook, and making my 2nd working
run with Wxworx.

I might add that morning, I finally pulled out some velcro and got some straps and ingenuity going
and finally organized some of the equipment / wire mess in the right seat area of my Tahoe. Those
who have chased with me before can attest that it is often like a bird's nest spaghetti tangle of
wires and equipment haphazardly strewn about. Gene's been after me for years about organizing this.
I was very hyped that I finally did something about it. Everything had a place and I even labeled
wires. Organization! Wow! What a concept!

As our storm was firing up, we headed north on hwy 75 toward Sherman. Already the storm was draped
somewhat across the hwy oriented somewhat WSW/ENE. As we approached Wxworx was working flawlessly
displaying all it's products, and showing our position utilizing input from GPSgate. Wxworx began to
announce something like "Warning, you are approaching a Strong storm, please be careful". Or
something like that. After it went off a few times we cut the volume as it was getting monotonous.
We decided they needed to let us customize it to say different things each time, and things like
"You are approaching a dangerous storm, please get your tripods, and cameras ready".

We sailed on up with Gene monitoring SA2005. I remarked how already the area to our west and
northwest (the lowered base area near the inflow region) had began to have some precip falling and
would be over town soon. This is where the largest hail would be falling. Gene was going to have me
exit and take an east road soon, but guess we were distracted looking at stuff. At the last moment
we realized that we had just passed our turn. Next stop storm core directly ahead - LOL! That was
probably fine with me as I wanted to see what the storm had going. We continued north and almost
immediately found out as winds picked up and buckets of rain were falling. We were being constantly
pelted with pea to nickel size hail, and the roads and gullies were flooding. For awhile it seemed
like it was getting worse. I figured this was a quickly maturing storm that would go supercell, and
might start dropping baseballs any time. Well, that and I thought possibly it already was but we
just weren't quite yet in the worst part of the core. Gene continued to give directions as I drove
crisscross through the residential streets of the southeast side of Sherman. It was actually kind of
funny and entertaining. However I figured losing the front windshield this early on would certainly
be a detriment to chasing the rest of the day so I wanted to avoid that if possible. And that of
course is the downside of core punching. It can be good to get you somewhere fast because of the
direct route, but it can also slow your forward speed because of conditions. If you lose a window
you have that to deal with, plus there isn't much visibility so you don't know what is going on with
your storm. We finally broke out to the east and raced away from the hail core, which was now to our
west, and southwest. We were headed east on hwy 56 and almost immediately saw a sign that said "Road
Closed Ahead - Bridge Out". "Huh"? Major road out as we are trying to stay out of the core. This was
a bit interesting also because of course we targeted this cell for it's tornado potential - at least
that is what we had hoped. That means that we being further east would now be very close to any
developing tornado that might develop to our southwest but we could be pinned against the bridge. We
looked for other roads, but in our haste they all looked small and of questionable value for our
purposes. There was no close by eastbound roads we could see. Rather than waiting and getting
pummeled by whatever this storm could next manifest we decided to return west instead. Knowing what
lay in the very dark area to our SW and WSW I 'boogied' west. Back in Sherman it was clearing, but
water was still flowing down the roads. Looks like that town can flood easily.

We got back on 75 and started south but realized there was an even heavier core ahead to our south
and southeast. We pulled over and took some time to assess the storm situation and our location
versus that of our target. We decided to go south for another east road (hopefully without a closed
road). Of course, there was construction going on all over this part of Hwy 75. I exited to the
access road to outsmart the construction managers who had turned 75 into a single lane, which was
backing up traffic. This was a great plan until I ran into the dead end due to construction. Ok,
well we used SA some more to navigate around - went here and then there trying to get an east road
option. Finally we managed an east road option off of the eastern side access road. The road was
called Akers Rd. We could see pools of pea sized hail in places along the way.

This is where it gets interesting again as we were using Wxworx combined with Street Atlas 2005 for
navigation. Now let me say this about Wxworx. So far, I really love it. This is my second chase this
season using it and on both chases I never needed to make a cellphone connection for data. Between
Wxworx and free wifi - that's all I needed and I suspect all I will mostly ever need. However Gene
and I found out that it isn't always that accurate and that can present some problems if you choose
to use it as a core punch tool. Previously on the eastern side of Sherman it had been saying we
should be almost out of the rain and hail but it was still very persistently heavy. Now as we
continued east on Akers trying to get into position for the potentially developing tornadic portion
of the storm we began to enter the other core. We thought we were taking a trip through the 'Red'
area on the radar and trying to miss most of the 'Purple'. It seemed that most of the rain must
still be elevated and perhaps the radar was showing very heavy rain overhead but we found out
otherwise. Turns out rather than almost being out of this rain through a light area, instead we were
entering a very strong area - most likely purple. We were somewhat incredulous trying to figure out
why we kept getting hard rain, and hail. It just kept getting darker, and darker, and darker. I
decided it must be a time offset and that the storm was probably about 5 miles or so further along
in it's storm motion than showing on radar. So, rather than us about to exit the core we actually
were about to enter it! That's an important lesson for using this as a tool in tight situations. I
think the images may be as old as 10 minutes. I'm thinking perhaps there is a lag between real world
measurement and the time the NWS signal actually arrives and gets processed to display by Wxworx -
say up to 6 minutes. Next there is the amount of time the image is stale or since the last radar
download and update - up to another 6 minutes. If you consider 10 minutes with a storm moving at
30mph, ten minutes is 1/6 of an hour and 1/6 of 30miles would be 5 miles. Perhaps the storm is
moving 40 or 45mph. That means that the radar you are navigating by may be offset in the direction
of storm movement and propagation by 5 miles or maybe even more. To be safe and not punch a core or
drive into a possible tornado you need to factor this in and give it that much space for error - in
my opinion. I'd love to hear from the rest of you on this topic, and your opinion about the accuracy
of wxworx for navigation.

As Gene and I began to see the sky lightening to the east, Gene took note of very active CG strikes
to our south. The implication was this was a tornadic area nearing us. As we emerged to the east
(just west of the town of Luella) we could look back and see a very large wallcloud lowering veiled
in precipitation to our southwest (out the right rear of the vehicle). It was a bit hard to judge
distance as we were under the anvil making it dark, and the precip was a complication. I'd say it
was about 2 to 3 miles distant. Sam, I saw your images of the same storm I believe from the south.
What we saw looked nothing like that as your images don't show a lowered wallcloud area like this. I
think you were either further south of this occurred further east of your earlier position. Anyway,
for a few moments there was concern for having speed and roads for outrunning what was potentially
developing; however this turned out to be no issue as we broke southeast on hwy 11 toward the town
of White Mound. We continued on toward Whitewright trying to get a good observation area. Somewhere
along the way it was decided that it appeared at this point too outflow dominant to be a good
target. We began to head for the storm nearing Paris. Somewhere along the way Wxworx flagged it as
tornadically warned. We continued from Gober along FM68 to hwy 34 and then north to Honey Grove.
There we caught hwy 82 on to Paris. Ah, if we could have just stayed on hwy 56/82 all along we would
have had the position and visibility we desired. That bridge which was out had cost us. By the time
we got to Paris the warning was somewhat stale, and I figured any possible tornadoes were long gone.

We worked our way through town and exited to the east. The area which wxworx indicated as a
mesocyclone was now still fairly far out ahead of us to the northeast. The area appeared to have the
look of cold outflow. However we continued to watch and for a few brief moments an area of
circulation had a clearly defined wide cone shaped funnel halfway to the ground. We started to get
out our cameras for a shot, and then it started to dissipate. We blew it off. It was getting late
and more cores / storms approaching to our south and west. We were pretty much out of daylight to

>From here on our way back from Paris to Sulpher Springs along hwy 19 the cores continued to descend
on us. According to Wxworx we were just outside of the rain area, but reality showed we were still
in the storm and the heavier stuff was just to our west. I hurried to try and beat the worst of it
but we still hit a lot of heavy rain. As we were approaching Sulpher Springs Gene recanted an old
tale of his Sulphur Springs nemesis tornado which almost ate him long ago as he emerged west from
the core over town. This is a fairly hair raising story if you ever hear it from him. I took the
loop around to the east of town and as I neared the south end of the loop and the south road option
I thought I saw a ground flash of bluish green amid all the constant CG and inter-cloud lightning
occurring to the SSW of town or directly to our SW. This is also the area where Wxworx was showing
meso's or whatever those whirly areas of rotation indicate. Heading south on 154 due south of town
was interesting again as the area out the front right of the vehicle appeared to have a large
bulbous lowering very close that was constantly illuminated with lightning. Winds were shifting
directions and I remember a hat or paper plate near the ground on the road lofting straight up into
the trees above. These were odd winds indeed. As we continued south the lowered area neared the road
and we were almost under it, but directly to its side as we passed it finally. I had to go around a
lot of slow moving vehicles doing 40 to 45mph that seemed stunned by all the weather activity.

The rest of the trip home to Austin was uneventful - except I was so tired trying to stay awake. We
watched the storm on Wxworx south of DFW that appeared so large and should have been feeding on that
250mb jet and the highest Capes of the day.

All in all this was a fun and enjoyable chase. We didn't score a tube, but then again no one I am
aware of did except the low dewpoint landspout chasers and that's a whole other deal. I have my
doubts about Bartlesville as reports have whatever it was as rain-wrapped. However that location is
near our secondary target of Tulsa which I remember models showing having some slightly backed
surface winds so there is that. It was a good day to drive around in core's and play with the new
toys and see what they can do. Not a bust as we caught supercells with wind, rain, hail cores,
funnel clouds, wallclouds, lightning, etc. Hopefully the next system will be a little cleaner
though. I think had we had the backed surface and 850mb winds or a good boundary to work with we
could have seen large tornadoes.
Rather than having to chase this system into East TX as I had with the previous two dryline events, I was blessed with watching it all coalesce directly overhead from the Vines H.S. parking lot in Plano starting at 4:15 pm after work.
Within the first 1/2 hour, an impressive anvil took shape overhead as dark clouds attempted to coalesce below. After about 25 minutes, and suddenly in about a 10 minute span, lower level clouds gathered, thickened and coalesced while tops began to ascend. Our first prec. was pea hail rather than rain, and curiously with almost no lightning.
Eventually this was replaced with bursts of gigantic raindrops.
The NWS called a warning on this "storm" all the way from Irving to north of Plano, a distance of about 40 miles.
Aware of the tornado watch and visually seeing the spectacular shear to the cloud directions with height, I kept close eye for anything lowering and rotating, and was well positioned immediately south of the line of separate developing cells.
Only once and briefly, rotation appeared within 1.5 miles to my north, as clouds lowered there and briefly spun cyclonically in slow motion.
The cloud structures and contrasts were most thrilling with black clouds against deep blue sky, and later various layers of massive white and gray cauliflower converging directly overhead.
The storm that developed overhead pressed into the north with a profoundly beautiful tower that I would estimate was 45K feet, which dwarfed all the other spectacular thunderheads and anvils that converged upon the departing storm. Though it did not have the knuckle-like hardness of especially powerful supercells, it was still spectacular, cauliflowery and had a massive wall of hail virgae drooping down from about 4/5 of the way to it's top.
About 6 pm, I persued another warned storm that hit Dallas with golfball hail and was moving NE to pass just E. of my location. Curiously, once again, despite the charcoal gray sky within 5 miles of me there was only one discharge of visible lightning. I arrived in Garland just after the storm passed, to find the ground peppered with hailstones up to 1/2 dollar size.
I learned how hail is like snow; no two stones alike and patterns varied in the stones from spray paint-like cream balls, to cat's eye marbles to agates.
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