Dryline Chasing-What Can I Expect?

Joined
Jun 9, 2005
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336
Location
West,Tx
Since I do live in Texas and I have never been on a dryline storm, this spring(if work allows) I'm thinking about heading out to the West Texas area hoping to experience some good dry line storms. I know many on here have chased them and noted them as your favorite boundary to chase, but what exactly can I expect from a dryline storm? :D
 
Anything and everything...this past year at OU we have had a good seminar and a good master's thesis presentation on the dryline. The dryline convective initiation (CI), it seems, is highly based on convective rolls (both vertical and horizontal) that develop along the dryline. This can make the difference between CI and no CI. Past CI, it's all up to the environment.
 
Are dryline storms more dangerous to chase than any other storm?

If you consider the road system in W TX, then YES!!! :D :D

What's wrong with them? As long as your on the Caprock you have the best road systems and visibilities for chasing available anywhere on the plains. Numerous paved Farm to Market roads all going E/W N/S with compacted dirt/caliche roads just about every single mile. As long as you stay off the dirt ones when they are wet no problems.

Depending on where you have to drop off the caprock at, things get more interesting strategicaly speaking.
 
I have to disagree with that. Anyone who's chased a storm east from I-27 near Wayside, TX knows what I'm talking about. The roads just stop, and you're forced to make the decision whether or not to go north or south in a huge circle to find an east option again.

Also, you don't have to be in west Texas for a dryline storm.
 
Also, you don't have to be in west Texas for a dryline storm.

That is exactly right... SW Kansas is also incredible for dryline storms. Just ask Dave Ewoldt and a few others about May 11 this year, as an example. The road network in SW Kansas is superb... except for Clark-Comanche-Barber counties in the Gypsum Hills...
 
I totally agree with David...you cannot get better than a Caprock chase. The roads in the northern part of the Panhandle (along/north of Hwy 287/I40) were absolutely designed for chasing and the visibility is on most days superb. Chasing east or south of Lubbock is IMO a bit frustrating because the roads are not that user-friendly for chasing, and most of the area is a massive dead spot for communications. Kansas is not bad either :wink: .
Theoretically, the best storms will fire very near the dryline, and if you can get on the triple point, then life will be great. However, if you find yourself behind the dryline, don't give up on storms firing. I don't know the mechanism involved, but twice, I've seen storms fire well behind the dryline ( both days I gave up on too soon, one being this past May 11). What is going on that Mom Nature is teaching me the hard way?
Angie
 
As Kiel mentioned, you can expect pretty much every type of severe weather imaginable with a good dryline storm, but a lot of that depends on the environment. A highly unstable, weakly sheared environment (with ample precipitable water) is much more likely to produce large hail than tornadoes, but it does not rule it out. Dryline storms also do not tend to move as fast as the storms which we have been seeing lately because there tend to be weaker midlevel winds in the springtime than in the fall/winter (again, with notable exceptions). Supercells can also form very rapidly out of very ordinary cumulus, and we do not quite know what causes a storm along the dryline to become dominant among the others. That being said, a dryline storm is always intense, photogenic, and can be very rewarding.
 
I have to disagree with that. Anyone who's chased a storm east from I-27 near Wayside, TX knows what I'm talking about. The roads just stop, and you're forced to make the decision whether or not to go north or south in a huge circle to find an east option again.

Also, you don't have to be in west Texas for a dryline storm.

Thats the point I think David was making Shane. East of I-27 near Wayside you enter Palo Duro Canyon and drop off the Caprock. Anywhere From I-27 west has the best road network found anywhere in the chasing world with an almost grid-like layout to the FM roads. Also anywhere North of hwy 287 in the panhandle there are roads everywhere except near the candian river valley. West Oklahoma is also incredible for dryline chasing with tons of roads (a few more hills though than Tx.).

The best thing about dryline chasing in Tx, ok, and west Ks is most of the time the storms are isolated. You can have a line of supercells in a "string of pearls" fashion from kansas all the way down to Lubbock. And its pretty damn easy to find the dryline. its easy to feel the difference of a Td of 30 and just a few miles east a Td of 70!! I have been chasing DL storms on the west texas roads for 20yrs and wouldnt move anywhere else.
 
Let's see ... what might you expect from a good dryline storm ...

A million chasers.

If you enjoy people watching, dodging traffic and swerving to avoid camera gear in the road, then dryline storms are definitely the way to fly. Of course, these are also the most classicly-structured beautiful beasts that are something to see from nearly every angle, so you'll probably say it's worth any hassle to get there.

I'll throw in a vote for Kansas this time. Texas is terrific ... the roads aren't bad really, but they are just spaced so dang far apart. Every 10.7 miles you might find a road if you're lucky. The western plains of Oklahoma make for a beautiful storm landscape as well, so I'd recommend heading up that way when OK lights up again -
 
I have never had a problem with West TX roads, they seemed pretty decent, except for one time when the pavement just ended w/o warning somewhere - I remember the county was Yoakum between Lubbock and Denver City. Blam...road's gone. Other than that, no problemo, TX rocks. However, chasing the Permian is my least favorite, just no darn services at all out there.

My absolute favorite chase place is SW Kansas - draw a 50 mile radius around Sublette. I believe that to be some of the best chasing in the world. A bonus is those beautiful wheatfields to look at, that flat land where you can see forever, and there are good motels in Liberal and Garden City to stay in.

Oh yeah, and when you drive across the dryline, roll your windows down and feel the difference in the air, it's pretty cool.
 
The western plains of Oklahoma make for a beautiful storm landscape as well,

I agree with the comment about western Oklahoma. I would rather chase there than any other place on earth. Not just because it is close to home but because it has great MAIN road networks and it is relatively flat pending where you are. Western Oklahoma is one of the weirdest places though if you think about it. You can drive down I-40 and the terrain be totally flat then from the distance you see a lone platue in the middle of nowhere. Things that make me go Hmmmmm....

LOL we will see you here in 2020. Oklahoma tornadoes? What aare those?

Edit: Sorry about the colors but it is Christmas time.

Mick
 
Remember that dryline storms don't necessarily occur exclusively in west Texas or western Kansas. As I'm sure many of us remember, we had a very active dryline relatively far east during the "10 days of May" 2003, where the dryline made it to I35 on several big outbreak days. Of course, you'll have more 'dryline convection' days out west, but don't forget areas farther east.

It's tough to know what to expect road-wise. For example, I had always thought roads in northwestern OK were awesome... In fact, all of them I'd been on were good... before Oct 15th 2005... The roads north of Woodward are bad, and nearly impassable if they're wet. Likewise, I can't stand some of the areas of south-central Oklahoma (between I35 and Duncan), where options are more limited and there are plenty of trees and hills.

On the other hand, some of the 'notorious' areas that I've heard about I don't really think are that bad. For example, there are awesome chase areas in eastern Oklahoma. In addition, I found northeastern TX between I35 and Paris to be generally good, quite different than the horror stories of chasing in the sticks and forests. Sames goes for the far southwestern part of MO. I've chased the area south and west of Springfield several tiems, and I've found it to be generally good. The point? Don't not chase just because you've heard horror stories about the road network in a particular area. Of course, road networks don't matter if you get lucky and catch a classic supercell paralleling a nice road. You just never know what to expect...

Back to the western plains... There are plenty of voids in the road network in various places, but again, not much anyone can do about it. 8)
 
I have to disagree with that. Anyone who's chased a storm east from I-27 near Wayside, TX knows what I'm talking about. The roads just stop, and you're forced to make the decision whether or not to go north or south in a huge circle to find an east option again.

Also, you don't have to be in west Texas for a dryline storm.

Actually Shane, that part of Texas is considered Northwest Texas in the Panhandle and not really west Texas. That said, staying south of the river and on the caprock the roads are fine! That canyon will kill your chase nearly every time though.

EDIT:
I replied before I saw Jay's post. Just take a look at any decent road map or Delorme on your computer out here. The roads on the caprock are about like SW KS and Western OK. The one thing you do get out here is that up on the caprock, it's almost PERFECTLY FLAT for miles and miles and miles and almost NO TREES. But the really best thing about dryline storms out here? Take a look at my avatar! :wink:

As for Angie talking about the roads and communication east and south of Lubbock. Roads are like that west of the caprock line all the way down to I20 and cell phones work in that whole area. I have Sprint and while there are a few small holes, it's getting better and always the analog roaming works. We have Sprint all the way east from Lubbock to Dickens County, which if you have ever been down that road is about as far in the boonies you can get! Again, once you go east off the caprock, thing get much more difficult chasing wise. The tradeoff is beautiful countryside to foreground you storm pics on.
 
Does anyone have any pics of the dryline right before the storms explode? I know on visible satellite there seems to be a very definitive line between the cumulus field and clear skies. There must be a big difference in haze too if the dewpoints are that much different between the two air masses.
 
There must be a big difference in haze too if the dewpoints are that much different between the two air masses.

I don't have any images but you can bet there is a BIG difference in haze/moisture. I recall several times when I was down at the lake (with no access to data) and there was a chance of severe weather the only way I could tell that I was out of that threat was to watch the moisture (haze) push off to the east. My point is when the dryline passes you by (or you pass it by) you can tell the difference.

Mick
 
There must be a big difference in haze too if the dewpoints are that much different between the two air masses.

I don't have any images but you can bet there is a BIG difference in haze/moisture. I recall several times when I was down at the lake (with no access to data) and there was a chance of severe weather the only way I could tell that I was out of that threat was to watch the moisture (haze) push off to the east. My point is when the dryline passes you by (or you pass it by) you can tell the difference.

Mick

Hmm. I must not have good eyes. I don't think it's quite so obvious. I think many times out here in southwest KS you cannot tell visually if you are west/east of the dryline. The dryline mixes through DDC and sloshes back in the evening on a regular basis from April through June. Usually the only way I can tell where the dryline is is where the cumulus are developing (and the smell-of-money coming back into town when it sloshes back in the evening!). East of the dryline around GCK/DDC, the dewpoints are usually in the lower to mid 60s.. 70 dewpoints don't occur that often this far west... which I would think one would need to really get that "hazy" look on a routine basis. I bet it would take one heck of a sharp gradient of teens/20s dewpoints against lower 70s dewpoints to see this visual "haze" difference, but I doubt you'd see this north-south line... I dunno.. I've been out here 3 years and chased numerous dryline days, and such a thing has never been so obvious and defined as to go "whoa, I can see the dryline!".

The dryline is not a complete vertical interface either, it typically slopes to the east with height... so your surface to about 2km AGL total moisture content (i.e. precipitable water) is a little more gradual than what you might expect from looking at the surface obs. (example 14g/kg moisture may be only 200m thick just east of the surface dryline, but may be 1500m thick about 60 or 70 miles east of the surface dryline...where your real hazy conditions might become more noticeable).
 
The dryline itself is very difficult to see in the early stages of development. By far, the easiest way to locate the dryline is using the temperature/dewpoint analyses. This gives you a good idea where the dryline is located. As Mike said, it is often difficult to notice a difference when out in the air because it is a gradual change and likely still very hot. Hard to disctinguish right way. But once dewpoints drop from 85/69 at GLD to 79/10 at Limon, CO...you know where to find the dryline. Best bet is to get out in that vicinity along the interestate and watch for the line of cumulus that will form. I don't know of any better way to do it.
 
I agree with Mike in that up in KS, I have found it hard to tell by just feel or visual where the dryline was. However, down south of Amarillo, it sometimes can be quite dramatic. I find often on good storm days, it gets rather windy/dusty on the back side of the dryline in the midafternoon and muggy/hazy on the front of it.

Visually, that can be seen IF you are in the vicinity of the dryline. On days where it's really sharp and you drive through it on the surface, you often instantly know. You can feel it in your breathing, sometimes the windows might briefly fog up as the air inside equalizes with the air outside. It's not unheard of to jump 50 degrees in dewpoint within a 10 mile stretch. Not entirely common, but not unheard of. As Mike says though, where the dryline meets the surface, the moisture is rather shallow.

I remember one day back in 2000 it was clear as a bell out west and there was this cloud bank to the east. Dewpoints were very low (don't recall exactly now) west of the dryline and high to the east. We went into the low, foggy cloudbank to the east which lasted about 20 miles or so aroud Matador, TX, a supercell was already in progress to the east of that which we could see above the low clouds when we were behind the dryline (got a late start that day). This was the day Olney, TX was hit by a tornado from another storm later in the day. The dryline change was very dramatic that day.
 
Hmm. I must not have good eyes.

Guess not because there have been many of times I have seen it and, hell, I can only see out of one eye. It’s not really that hard if you are paying close attention to it instead of glaring at a computer screen. And yes it is a gradual thing it’s not like it goes from lots of moisture to dry air in a split second. I cannot see it being any different in DDC then in OUN. A dryline is a dryline, when it moves past a weather geek knows it.

Mick
 
I think identifying a dryline visually is one of the easiest things to do as far as "sky reading". In particular, dryline buldges. I'm no meteorologist, but I can tell if I'm east or west of a dryline.
 
I have one more example: May 12 2004. We were sitting in Woodward, OK. It was hot and humid, as one might expect it to be east of a dryline. After a while we began to notice, and visually see, the dryline bulge. Yes I mean the dryline bulge, we could visually see it. There was no mistaking on where the dryline was, it was passing us by. If I remember correctly we had checked the surface plots and sure enough we where right.

You see, when I first started chasing I did not have the luxury of high tech gadgets. I learned the hard way and tried to learn by reading the sky the best as I could. That proves a very valuable skill when you are stuck with no data. Granted that may be why I didn’t see much in my yearly chase carrier, but non the less I know when the dryline has passed the majority of the time.

Mick
 
Thanks for your replies, everyone. One day I will venture into Kansas but I hope this spring to pay a visit to West Texas and possibly Oklahoma. I have always heard if you want to see a mother of a storm, get on the dryline. I guess I'll either love it or be scared sh*%#less! :shock:
 
Sorry I just keep think of different ways I locate the DL visually. lol

The first way I have already mentioned. Many times whether the moisture gradients are steep or not you can visually see the moisture haze decreasing as the dryline moves of to the east (like wise when it reverts back to the west during the over night hours). This may take time but you will see it if you are watching the sky and not your computer. If you pay close attention to the sky you can tell the difference between 70 to 50 Td. If you are paying attention.

The second, which has already been mentioned I believe, is to keep an eye out on the quality of the CU field. If the CU's become smaller and smaller with time you can probably bet that the boundary is passing you by or getting close to it at least. There are other factors that play a role in that also though.

The third is to keep an eye on your wind direction. Many times (but not all of the time) you will find a well-defined wind shift occur when the dryline moves past you. For example, when you are east of the dryline you will find you will most likely have a south or, more preferably, a southeast wind. When the dryline starts to pass by, however, you will find that the winds turn to more a SW or westerly direction depending on the definition of the dryline.

Now, these three things used together are great tools to locate the dryline visually. All three of them may be there or perhaps just one, but I guaranty, at least nine times out of ten, by using those visual tools you can locate the dryline if it is passing you by.

Happy hunting when you get out and about.

That's it I am done.

Mick
 
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