No-Risk Day Chasing

It’s absolutely amazing how nature can come up with these complete and total last-minute surprises. Earlier today I left my apartment to go to the corner convenience store, and I happened to look up at the sky... It really was one of those jaw-dropping experiences where you do an involuntary double-take. Right there in the CT sky, on a brisk if humid no-risk April afternoon, looking so totally and completely out of place that my first thought inevitably was no f-ing way, it can’t possibly be... But it was: a small but very vigorous cell with a true nuclear-bomb type updraft, with rock hard convection curling back on itself and an overshooting top rising above an extremely crisp and sharp anvil. A textbook-perfect little storm! This thing was completely isolated, not part of any line or cluster, the updraft brilliantly lit by the late afternoon sun. And it shouldn’t have existed at all. I wish I had a picture - this thing would have been a storm to drool over if you saw it in May out in the panhandle, seeing it from my street in downtown New Haven today was just mind-boggling. When I first spotted it this storm had convection about as hard and as perfect as anything I’ve encountered in CT in 15 years of chasing. Unbelievable.

I expected the updraft tower to collapse immediately, but it continued to pump out rock-hard knuckling convection intermittently for the full 30 minutes I chased it. It’s true the hard anvil glaciated rather quickly, and the cell was probably not supercellular for most of its life - I saw no obvious signs of rotation, and officially the cell wasn’t even severe - but man, it sure looked sweet! Looking at the radar loop after I got back home, sure enough, you can see this one lone minor-league mini-cell suddenly blow up, briefly taking on the classic flying eagle look for a few scans before fading back into sub-severe mush as it raced out into Long Island Sound at a fast clip. The base was quite high, as you would expect with 40s dewpoints and temps around 70, but any way you slice it the crispness of the convection was nothing short of phenomenal given the environment. According to SPC mesoanalysis there was a small pocket of 1000 jkg surface CAPE in central CT right where this thing blew up, but shear was minimal, around 25 kts and backing with height. Frankly I cannot explain why this storm looked as good as it did. I didn’t check mid-level lapse rates, but I suspect there must have been some very cold dry air aloft, nothing else explains the rock-hard nature of the tower. Around here serious convection usually only happens in very moist saturated air, and is almost always obscured by a thick summer haze of dust and pollution. This updraft was something entirely different. Very pretty indeed.

A most unexpected and surprising chase, if you can call it that. Not a big prize in the grand scheme of things, but highly valued all the same if only because it was so utterly unanticipated. Ya gotta love those no-risk day chases. Anyone with a similar tale, post it here.


(Note: I didn’t quite know where to put this, it can’t go in Weather and Chasing because it’s too current, yet it seems a bit too insignificant for a Report thread. Mods feel free to move this wherever you see fit.)
 
Heh, strange I just thought about this. I was looking at a radar composite of the US and saw a little blob in NW OK. Went local and saw a nice little summers day cell in NW OK. In fact, the front edge of the anvil is making its way over Norman right now. Looking at valid RUC obs this cell formed along a triple point between dryline/stalled out front (or warm front, not sure if its advancing yet.) SPC mentioned possible elevated storms for overnight, but this cell is obviously due to daytime heating as its beginning to fade out.

EDIT: Storm just went severe warned, weird because it seems to have weakened slightly from where it was. I wonder if this caught NWS off guard? Definitely caught me off guard and it shouldnt have looking at the stalled frontal boundary + dryline + daytime heating.
 
Your scenario reminds me of an early summer no-severes-expected day a few years ago--I was driving north out of Huntsville, AL and noted an amazing cloud that, except for it's size, looked like a supercell. It was to my east, so I was seeing the back bumper, but it had a hard, east-tilted tower, not much of a cumuliform anvil that was not very elevated, but---amazingly---it appeared to have an RFD split with a flat cylindrical wall cloud on the northern flank! I hadn't heard of mini-supercells at that point (though I had watched some amazing small storms here over the years) and didn't believe that this could be of any significance beyond a brief but remarkable structure, and I drove on home.

Later I learned that the storm had caused a tornado warning to be issued over Scottsboro, about forty miles east of here! Needless to say, I installed a few new boot bruises in my own rear flank for not pursuing it.

On at least two other occasions, unwarned and unpredicted storms intercepted me in this area. One was a small cell with two wall clouds. I watched it approach with a local police officer, and we were blasted with winds as it went directly over us, showing that some invisible circulation had reached ground level. And a beautiful cheesebox wall cloud with two very clear rotational bands at the top sailed overhead one day in the fall as I was leaving a meeting--with a person along who had no stomach whatsoever for following it.

So---I no longer take no-risk-day storms for granted...
 
I don't know if I will see another day like this but April 20, 2004 I went to work that morning with "no severe weather expected today' in the outlook. And I'll tell you I truly expected the same. I distictly remember freezing my butt off at work that morning, confident that I was not going to miss anything because the weather was not condusive to severe weather. This is what later in the day provided.
Utica, Illinois
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Lo and behold that evening had in store a tornado outbreak with the unfortunate deaths of 8 people. My chaser friends still look at me with envious eyes, but I respond with luck is the residue of design. If it is spring I always have the cameras and vehicle ready to go on a moments notice.

Jerry Funfsinn
 
yesterday wouldve been a no risk chase day for NE illinois, we werent even in a slight risk when they issued the tornado watch and then the 2 supercells went up
 
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