5/21/05 REPORTS - Central Plains / Upper MS River Valley

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I woke up this morning, looked at the surface map, and quickly become very wishy-washy about today's prospects. Nonetheless, Gabe Garfield, myself, and a couple of fellow chasers headed up to the KS/NE border. I looked at the 18z Omaha sounding (and the incredible cap), and quickly realized that we didn't want to get too far into Nebraska, given that mixing was likely to be much stronger in the non-cirrus covered areas of Kansas. We noted rapid growth of TCU line from Concordia, KS, to Hebron, NE, and northward from there. We made it to Hebron and waited for a storm to take hold. In time, by late afternoon, the TCU to the south were looking much healthier than those to the north, so we slid back south into KS. The TCU were very rock-solid much of the time, especially in KS -- quite impressive updrafts. However, it was also apparent that the storms were very high-based and struggling to persist.

We made it south to Salina and made a data-stop. AT this time, we noted decaying storms in northern Kansas (certainly confirmed what we were seeing), as well as a few cells west of Salina that looked much healthier (60-65 dbz). SPC Mesoanalysis showed parameters that were largely conducive to signficant supercells (Supercell Composite Parameter of 40 at one time, EHIs very high, 2000-4000 CAPE and 250-400 0-3km SRH, etc), though the favored area was certainly east of I-135 (east of a Salina to ICT line). We meandered south and west to see if we could get a good view of the bases, and indeed we did, though they didn't look too impressive. By a little after 8:20, it appeared that the storms weren't going to be able to tap the upper-60 - 70 Tds to the east (and the nicely juxtaposed very strong low-level shear), so we called it quits as the storms appeared to rain themselves out to the west of McPherson. Very nice sunset and lots of mammatus, however.

Eating at the local Applebees, I get a call from Aaron Kennedy notifying us of an awesome supercell to our west. Hmm. I must not have looked west very well as we drove into McPherson and into the Applebee's parking lot, or else I certainly would have seen a nice supercell I'm sure. I did see a decent updraft, but figured that storm would meet the same fate as the others that were located west of I-135. Indeed, the storm did, but not before a brief bout of intense supercell living.

Again, this event holds true of the rest of 2005. Low 70 tds would have meant less CINH (release of latent heat lower in the troposphere), a weaker cap, and much better prospects of initiation. Actually, we did have initiation in KS, but the storms just couldn't persist in the relatively dry air (50's - low 60 Tds). Things would have been very good had they been able to move into the deeper moisture and strongly-shear environment to the east. Alas, that was not to be the case.

For the record, we have had a few days this year with the relatively rare juxtaposition of strong shear in the warm sector -- 3-21, 4-25, 5-11, and 5-21 namely. But aagain, the lack of real Gulf moisture on each of those days largely precluded the development of tornadic supercells (or at least certainly to the magnitude possible if we had had more "typical" moisture profiles available). I could keep complaining about this year, but it's clearly evident that it's sucked, and largely courtesy of unclimatologically poor moisture availability. Not too often do you see 250-400 0-3km SRH aligned with 2000-4000 CAPE.
I am currently on the "mid-shift leash", so chase prospects must be within a hundred mile radius or so. I figured there might be a decent photo op with an isolated storm on the advancing front in western KS. A decently strong updraft went up near Kinsley around 6:30 to 7pm or so, but it ultimately shriveled up and died. I did notice new development in my distant northeast, and I pulled up a radar image on StormLab and noticed the stuff developing east of Great Bend near Lyons. I drove to Larned, but given all the cloud debris around, and the fact it was already 8pm, I turned around and went back home. In retrospect, I probably could have made it to the Lyons supercell for a few lightning shots and night supercell structure and then raced back home. I'm not dissapointed, though.

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Mike U
...sorry originally posted this in the talk section, should have been placed here:

Hi all,
I arrived in DFW at around 1pm yesterday afternoon, and did my best to avoid a speeding ticket as I hauled north. I ended just South of Salina around 7pm as a multi cell cluster with fairly high bases got going. As I pull off of I35 at McPherson to head East towards Lyons, they had a Drug Check... stopping ALL cars on the freeway... well my exit was just before the check, and as I pull off the offramp there are a ton off officers, watching everyone who pulls off. They follow me west, as I head towards the cell that looks most promising... 10min after following me, on go the lights!! They pull me over and are very concerned about who I am, because the plates come back as not registered (because it is a rental car!!!). Anyway, after they run a dog through (and all over my stuff) they let me go, after they ask me what I am doing out here all the way from California... I try to explain my obsession, and you know the responses / stares etc... we've all been there. The whole thing was quite humourous actually. That delay put me too far behind to get to the best spots before dark. One cell was tor warned (I believe) for a short period of time. Not totally sure because I was having probs with my scanner.

Anyway, got some nice pix of some mammatus, and a few CBs. Saw some intense CGs. Quarter size hail was reported.

By the way, I am driving a gray / silver Ford Explorer with Tex plates. So if you see me give me a wave. I am hoping I get to meet some of you during the next 10 days. Many of you have given me good tips, and I have learned alot from you all so I want to say thanks! Best of luck out there today.
Eric Collins, my friend from Florida, came in Friday night for his annual chasecaction, which is ONE WEEK each year. He and I convoyed with Kurt Hulst and Nick Grillo to Nebraska City, NE. We all knew we were dealing with a thermonuclear cap, but it was Nick's last chase day before his vacation ended and Eric only has one week, so we went. I don't care how savvy a forecaster you are, you can't ignore that type of shear and instability juxtaposed, especially in a year as lean as this one has been.

Of course unless you're not a chaser I suppose....but I digress,

We stopped at the best Western at the NE2/US75 junction and sat in their lobby all day, thanks to the wonderfully-pleasant and sweet receptionist Linda, who warmly welcomed us into their lobby, break room, and whatever else we needed. Best Western motels have clearly risen to the top of the chain pile in the chaser world, as their dependable wifi along with an uncanny generosity is unmatched. From now on I will not stop anywhere else unless a Best Western is not to be had. We sat there looking at current data all day, realizing that the cap was going to kill us. But sometimes you have to have hope, and it was cool being able to spend the afternoon with Kurt and Nick on their farewell chase (at least Nick's, Kurt may be coming back out in June). We waited until 8pm then gave up, as impending darkness signaled the end of any photogenic prize possibility.

I believe it was Gene Rhoden who said, back in 1993, "It's like the lottery. If you don't buy a ticket, you have no chance of winning."

Words to live by.
Here's a few pics we shot,storm chasers from everywhere you can imagine, and photos as we entered Hallam near sunset. Didn't want to stop in the pub, out of respect for their town still coping with the tragedy.


Got to Moville Iowa around 1pm (20 to 30 miles east of Sioux City) and with much hope pulled over at the local Conoco gas station and waited for storms to fire in the 85F+ heat for the next 7 hours...Discrete supercells were forecasted to rapidly develop between 5 and 6 pm (didnt happen). At 5pm my area was placed under a tornado watch and for the next few hours storms tried to develop but it was all in vain, this cap was a monster! Did get to meet alot of local towns people who were very nice, talked to the local cop (he was cool), and met a chaser from South Dakota (Eugene and his girlfriend) who were very nice people. At around 8 pm the tornado watch was cancelled and I headed back home on Hwy 20. I did get home just in time to eat at McDonalds (had not eaten all day!) and was able to rent a couple of videos at Family Videos before they closed for the night, so all in all the day could have been ALOT better but it could have been ALOT worse (could have gotten a speeding ticket, not met other chasers/cool people) etc. Better luck next time I guess!
Sorry to add to the confusion by posting the report in TALK also ... no one wanted to be the one to start a REPORT thread on yesterday, I guess ... lol.

I'll always chase a watch box - especially one in the home territory ... no question about it. I figure if it's good enough for the SPC, it's good enough for me. Before heading out I checked the position of the warm front and noted the intiation near Fairbury, NE. This is only a couple hours from here, so I headed west and intercepted the storm in north-central Kansas, thinking that if a bigger storm popped up in the better wind enviro to the northeast that I would at least have time to make another intercept on a cell moving S-SE. Between Seneca and Marysville I got a good look at the storm from top to bottom ... the anvil was whispy and looking like it could become orphaned, as the storm base was also chopped up and indistinguishable. It was moving further and further away from good wind, so I changed the heading and went north to Humbolt instead, then on to Auburn, hoping that the only patch of Cu in the entire sky might decide to go up. It didn't. Even with all the posts about the cap yesterday, I can't help but feel like there may have been some convergence issues as well. There were no cumulus in the sky along the boundary ... absolutely none. And the air honestly felt dry to me, and as cliche as it sounds - a person can always feel a real tornado day - the air is usually dripping with water. But this all may be an errant observation on my part - wouldn't be the first time. Came home on I-29 and saw two flashes of lightning in the storms east of KC. Also saw the beautiful sunset Dick posted above ... by the time I found a safe place to pull over and take a pic, it was too late and the sun dipped below the horizon. It's always still worth it to be on the road and bust instead of being behind a computer.

Also - thanks Shane for the point about Best Western ... I didn't know that, but now that I do I will look for them from now on. Tidbits like that end up becoming really helpful sometimes.
Man, what an exciting day! :lol: Arrived in Nebraska City after a long, arduous haul of 50 miles. Saw the sights to see.

Armadillo getting ready to drive right into an F5 (I swear, this thing reminds me of a diesel submarine):

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This man's spider sense is tingling:

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The Armadillo is truely the coolest chase vehicle yet devised by man:

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World's most expensive picnic table:

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The Rapid DOW has the world's luckiest hood ornament:

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Secret government mobile flying-saucer deployment truck:

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After a while hanging around Sapp Bros, we looked to the northwest and saw the cap break:

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No, wait, that didn't happen, though I think that's what it would've taken. But I did get to meet new people, eat an overpriced BLT, and experience the Zen that is a Nebraskan sunset. A fun way to waste a Saturday. :D
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