Storm Chasing

Apr 272012

Tornado Watch Likely

Brief update here.  I’ll be chasing for KOLR/KOZL in the Mobile Weather Lab today along with Meterologist Chris Smith and Richard Hahn.

Reference tornado watch about to be hoisted for a portion of Kansas.

We will leave around noon today in search of dry line supercells.  Note that we may not chase the best storm since I am somewhat tethered by any storms which could eventually roll into southwest Missouri. We’ll likely stay on the southern end of development. Even with this restriction, I have a feeling we’ll see a good storm!

We’ll be reporting in the local early newscasts and then be prepared to ride a storm or two into western Missouri before dark .

Apr 262012

SPC Forecast for Today

Too far for not enough. That’s my summation of this planned storm chase today.  The timing and distance are wrong this time around so I’ve decided to chase another day.

There will no doubt be some severe storms over the High Plains later today.  To me the tornado chances are limited. When it does increase a bit, it will be after dark.

All week, the timing of the storm coming ashore in California has been changing, arriving later and later on Thursday into the area in question.

The cap is also very strong except in limited areas near the western end of a cool front.  The dry line can also weaken the cap of course but it looks to be too far west to be effective.

I’ll let this one go and catch the next one!



Apr 252012

Significant Tornado Parameter, 10 pm Thursday

It looks like a go for a storm chase Thursday.  My concerns are still the same but I think the potential outweighs the bust factor.

The overall concern is the strength of a mid-level warm, but unstable, air layer known as the elevated mixed layer.  I’m also going to keep a close eye on the quality and depth of humidity return into the target area.

The Significant Tornado Parameter (STP) from the SREF (9z run)  for 10 pm Thursday is shown. This is of course after dark in that portion of the Great Plains.  However, the parameter is developing nicely on the 7 pm chart.  There appears to be a window for tornado development in the daylight of early evening in southwest Kansas and northwest Oklahoma.

Also shown is the significant tornado ingredients map for the same 10 pm time.

I hate to be predictible but I’ll pretty much target this area for a storm intercept, subject of course to mesoanalysis in route.

Significant Tornado Ingredients, 10 pm Thursday

SPC Outlook for Thursday


Apr 242012

Stouct Cap in Blue, Weaker Near Dry Line

The 12z model runs from this Tuesday morning are still showing a chance for severe storms on Thursday over the Great Plains but we have issues.

It’s a lead shortwave set-up coming out of the long-wave trough out west.  Adequate but not great overall shear.  A cap that will quicky snuff out any storms that do develop by just after sunset.  Modified continental polar air trying to ride north-northwestward out ahead of the short-wave.

Things to watch, even as late as Thursday morning: true cap strength, extent of humidity return, forcing and position along the dry line.

As of this writing, a so-so opportunity.  We might get away with a drive over to around Dodge City if the morning models are telling the truth.  Actually, the NAM and the SREF are hinting at possibilties even more eastward. The 18Z NAM more west now.

Time will tell!




Apr 232012

EHI 7 pm Thursday 18z NAM

I am contemplating a trip to Kansas on Thursday to chase severe storms.

This is based on the data coming in from the 12z Monday computer model runs.  Actually, Thursday and Friday look good but personally, Thursday works out better for me despite the distance.  We’re actually talking about northwest Kansas up into northeastern Colorado.  I would only as far as Kansas but it should be enough.

A strong cap of warm air will take hold over much of Texas, Oklahoma and southern Kansas on Thursday.  However, a curved area of unstable air will stretch from western Kansas northwest into Colorado.  I would target western Kansas as it stands now.

There are some issues. First, I’m somewhat dubious of the forecast values of dew points into the sixties riding NNW into this region. Lower dew points would reduce the instability.  I could handle this if the wind shear was fantastic it it too might be right on the edge.

It’s one to be watched to be sure!



Apr 162012

Twin Tornadoes North of Cherokee OK

It was the third day of an extended storm chase into the Great Plains and I have several good storms to show for it including an awesome twin tornado shot near Cherokee, Oklahoma during the last 20 minutes of the chase on Saturday.

First off, there was an incredible number of violent tornadoes in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Oklahoma on Saturday.  Thoughts and prayers go out to all affected.

I chase storms as a hobby and in an official capacity either for broadcast (KOLR/KOZL) or for education (Missouri State University).  Chasing is thrilling to be sure but I also learn more about tornadoes and supercells every time I head out.  The twin tornadoes pictured are an excellent example of how much different each tornadic storm can be.

The chase started in Kansas. We hung in east Kansas for a while on a hunch that something my fire there but abandoned this idea and started heading west in southern Kansas.  Several supercells were forming southward into Oklahoma and the plan was to catch one and then drop south to the next one, which largely worked out for us.

First Stop

The first encounter was south of Pratt, Kansas just southwest of the town of Sawyer, KS.  Radar indicated rotation with this storm and visuals confirmed the existence of a well-defined wall cloud.  The wall cloud passed just north of our position south of Sawyer.  It passed north of the town as well. We chased it north of town as it was weakening.  It looked is if a new circulation center had formed on radar but this was hard to get a visual on.  There was a tornado report on highway 54 just east of Pratt which seems to confirm this idea.

We stopped for three more supercells before dark. One was near Medicine Lodge. Once again, a clear rotation that never tightened up into a tornado.  The second storm was south into Oklahoma, it passed just northwest of Burlington on Highway 11.  We watched this for a while in the 7 o’clock hour.  It became clear that a larger storm to the south was hindering the development of this cell.

It should be noted that we were deprived of radar data at this point. 2G Verizon was the best we had which delivers images slowly!  If I had know how much larger the southern-most storm was, we would have broken off of the Burlington storm sooner!

With only about 20 minutes of daylight left we checked out the last storm. It was on the way home anyway. When we busted out of the “anvil core” heading south on highway 11, another wall cloud was visible on our right.  A family was watching this storm and said “you missed it” They were referring to a tornado which had already formed and dissipated.  I advised these folks to keep following us south as we were too close to the direct path of the storm.

Second Stop, Two Circulations

In the video, you can see a second tornado formed as we were driving south. The right twister appeared white in the sunlight.  We stopped again at the Highway 11/64 intersection just north of the Cherokee Airport.  This is where one tornado passed in front of the other (see picture)  and then became one again as it passed just northwest of this intersection.  A close-up of the ground dust and debris is included in the video too.

Finally, we took up a position in the parking lot of the airport.  The video shows this as a classic looking black tornado with a diffuse back-light made of of rain and hail providing excellent contrast even after sunset.

For those wondering, the Cherokee storm went on to produce the EF-3 monster tornado in southeastern Wichita later in the evening.

Probable Tornado Path (courtesy Disaster Mapping)

Apr 142012

SPC High RIsk Today Including Strong Tornadoes

This is the big storm outbreak day which has been talked about for a few days now.

Overall, the set up is much the same. There is an abundance of warm and moist air today.  The jet stream (up high) and low level winds will be very favorable for supercell thunderstorm development with tornadoes likely.

The Storm Prediction Center has been expanding the high risk area northward steadily. I don’t believe we’ll travel into Nebraska, favoring areas of Kansas instead.  There is some question as to the extent of supercell development more south along the dry line. I believe they will happen, it will be trying to figure out exactly where and which ones will be the strongest that will be the trick, as always!

I’ll be video streaming live today as technology permits. I’ll also be doing two live reports on the news: one on KOLR at six o’clock and then again a recap on KOZL Local news at 9 o’clock.


Apr 142012

We were very close to the Norman, OK tornado on Friday but made a wise storm chase decision which likely prevented us from a too close and possibly dangerous encounter.

The radar image shown was tweeted on Friday as we were heading south on I-35 toward the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.  The huge supercell, not yet tornadic, is plain.

I don’t like storm chasing in metropolitan areas. Too much traffic, too few quick escape routes.  As we were intercepting this storm I had two thoughts in mind 1) we will just get ahead of this by continuing south on I-35 or 2) we need to get out ahead of it by heading east on I-40.  Traffic was stop and go and close to rush hour on a Friday so we took the I-40 option.  By my calculation, this decision prevented us from crossing paths with the tornado as it crossed I-35 near Norman.  I enclosed some videos of that tornado in action.

By heading out on I-40, we were able to get ahead of the storm. After the Norman tornado, the storm disorganised somewhat.  But from our new vantage point in Tecumseh, OK, we could see good structure lots of cloud-to-ground lightning and a clear base.

A new tornado warning has eventually put out for this storm as it travelled  just to our north. We changed position to west of Tecumseh to try and improve our view.  There are a surprising number of hills and trees in the area just east of Oklahoma City which made spotting tornadoes, especially those wrapped in rain like this storm, very difficult.  Local media was reporting a tornado arounf Shawnee on I-40 but we had no few. As of this writing, the SPC has not verified this report.

We then travelled west on highway 9 to chase storm two. This took us out on th south edge of Norman, passing right by the tornado damage from earlier including wehere the tornado crossed I-35.  This second storm was dominated by cool air at the surface and wasn’t pursued further because of new storms in southwestern Oklahoma.

We had enough daylight to chase these storms but only the lead one.  Driving southwest on I-44, we cut over to Apache and then watched another tornado-warned storm take shape northwest of Boone, OK.  The backlighting was very poor because of the large area of clouds and storm to the west. If there was a tornado in there, we couldn’t see it!

We ended up back in northern Oklahoma City for the night, ready for the big day today!


Apr 132012

High Risk Area for Saturday

A high risk for severe weather and a probable tornado outbreak is forecast for an area west of the Ozarks (see included threat area map).  The greatest threat as outlined today is from north of Wichita south-southwest into Oklahoma west of Oklahoma City.  I will be staying an extra day, extending my current storm chase, to report on these storms!

I will have a live report in the 6 pm news on KOLR on Saturday which hopefully will include live streaming video. (tech willing!) Additional reports are possible on KOZL Local News at Nine and the KOLR 10 pm news as well.

The long talked-about upper level storm is providing the strongest jet stream winds to the central Great Plains on Saturday.  After days of working on this, the atmosphere will have delivered quite a bit of deep rich humidity to a long fetch of the Great Plains, providing a key ingredient for very unstable air.

This is only the second time the the Storm Prediction Center has issued a High Risk for a day in advance (what they call “day 2”). The last time was April 7th, 2006. Here are the reports of severe weather for that day.

The question naturally arises as to how far east these storms will travel and how severe they might be with regard to the Ozarks.  The upper level winds which steer these storms coupled with the still slow movement of the upper level storm generating them suggests the most violent weather will stay confined to areas of Kansas and Oklahoma.  The individual storms will probably form a line of storms which might be knocking on the doorstep of west central Missouri after midnight Saturday night.  This will be monitored carefully.

Sunday could see some severe storms in the Ozarks as the system again shifts a few hundred miles more to the east. Separate blog coming on this possibility.



Apr 132012

SPC Tornado Probability for Today

First off, some of you probably heard about the high risk of severe storms and a tornado outbreak forecast for Saturday.  This region is over central Kansas and Oklahoma and as it stands now these storms will not travel into the heart of the Ozarks later that night.  Some storms may make it to extreme western Missouri by late Saturday night and the early hours of Sunday.  I’ll blog separately about this shortly.

Second, our storm chase yesterday has a bust!  We travelled to Garden City, KS, hoping the right combination of returning deeper and better moisture and air convergence along the dry line would allow some supercells to develop.  The closest we got to a storm was a valiant attempt by the atmosphere to shoot some towering cumulus clouds up around 7:15 to 7:45 south of Garden City. That was it, barely a blip on radar before they collapsed!  We came back east and I’m writing this from our room in Pratt, Kansas.

So day two of my chase is here and the attention will focus southward into Oklahoma. Overall today, the deep wind necessary to get supercells to develop and the quality of the humidity are much better.  The biggest question is regarding how storm will get going. The dry line is a dependable feature usually (not yesterday!) but there seems to be a lack of anything strong to give it a push so to speak.  It should be interesting.  We’ll drive south into Oklahoma and adjust as necessary.

You can monitor a live video stream and GPS position at the Severe Studios Streaming Site. My name will be listed along with other chasers later today.

Of course if I see anything, tweeting is the most instantaneous method of communication.  Facebook and Google Plus will be updated later and a video will come out if there is anything worthy of recording!