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May 2011

Chasecation Day 10 – So close and yet so far

Yesterday looked like a bust until storms fired just to our west as the light began to fade. While looking for a place to eat dinner, I spotted some towering cumulus clouds close by, and we raced towards them (which was about 20 miles west at the time). We ended up on a tornadic storm from it’s beginnings through its tornadic cycle(s), but the tornado(es) passed by us under the cover of darkness as we navigated in and around the Bear’s Cage.

One of us may have caught something on film or with our cameras, but it’s going to take awhile to go through the footage to try to spot the tornado during the brief moments lightning lit up the sky. I’ll get the video and photos that I took up eventually, but we must leave soon to get in position for tomorrow’s Moderate Risk, which will mean around 8-10 hours of driving today.

Although we didn’t see the tornado, someone on the back side of the cell did. Daniel Shaw got photos of a rope tornado that was actually bent back behind the Bear’s Cage… a very unusual spot for a tornado. His pictures and account of the storm is here: Daniel Shaw tornado 5/9/2011. He also has rather colorful commentary to go with the images, but I’m fairly sure his “distance to tornado” estimates were a bit off.

Chasecation Day 9 – Walking to Our Target

Well, maybe not walking to our target, but last night we got a hotel which is hopefully going to be near where the storm action is today. We plan on heading S/SW towards the SD/NE border where the warm front, dryline and approaching upper-level jet could initiate storms this afternoon.

The sky is pretty cluttered throughout the region, with sunshine starting to really heat up some areas while cloud cover holds down the temperatures near the warm front. It’s another tricky forecast, but it seems like we have a nice head start on the other chasers, much like we did yesterday. While we didn’t get yesterday’s tornado, most of the chasers that were out yesterday were more out of position than we were, which is a little silver lining to yesterday’s mostly-bust.

Coming up on the South Dakota storm last night was quite fun, as there was some nice structure to photograph before the light faded, and there was intense, constant lightning going into the late evening. Hopefully we can do better with today’s storms.

Chasecation Day 8 – The First Real Chase Day

We’re in south-central Nebraska today as it looks like there’s a few tornadoes possible in the area. The plan is to head north for 2-3 hours to get into the general target area, waiting for the weather to evolve during the day before making a decision to go into a specific area.

SPC has a nice 5% risk for tornadoes in most of Nebraska today, which in encouraging. It looks like we’ll have one or two big cells that will eventually work into a MCS this evening, which could produce a few tornadoes before dark. We’ll be looking out for the initiation of that storm/those storms around mid-afternoon.

Chasecation Day 7 – The Long Trek North

It looks like tomorrow and Monday could be severe weather producers up in the Nebraska and South Dakota, so we’ll have to make our way north from Abilene, TX today and into tomorrow. The goal for today is to get into central/northern Kansas, going as far north as possible. LCLs are a bit more favorable in the northern Risk area, which will help in getting storms rooted to the surface during the evening hours, allowing for the possibility of seeing a tornado.

Chasecation Day 6 – Get that See Text!

The original plan was to take a tour of the SPC and other places in Norman, OK before setting up for this weekend’s storm activity. However, with the See Text area added by the SPC in Texas for storms that should pop up this afternoon/evening, we have decided to head down that way to see at least some storm structure. Saturday looks like another down day until we get into the more favorable pattern next week.

Chasecation Day 5 – Down day in Oklahoma

We’re in Blackwell, OK for the time being as we wait for the storms activity to pick up this weekend. While the wait has been long, it might pay off well as the first half of next week could be one of the nicest systems to chase in 2011. A slow-moving upper-level trough will hang around the Four Corners region for several days, which will hopefully produce 3-4 consecutive days of severe weather and tornadoes over western/central TX/OK/KS. It’s a very nice setup in prime chase territory, and I would be surprised if we came out of next week without any tornadoes on film.

Today we’re going to make a visit to Wakita, OK, which was made famous after the movie Twister. Afterword, it’s back to Blackwell for another night.

Chasecation Day 4 – Recapping Yesterday’s Brush Fire

While on our way to Ellinwood, KS yesterday we spotted a sizable plume of smoke and went towards it. It turned out to be a decent brush fire, which had a couple of brief firenadoes and a good amount of visually-striking smokenadoes.

Here is a video of the brush fire and smokenadoes:

The smoke was prolific enough to show up on radar as well:

Thanks to Ian for pulling the radar loop from WUnderground. Today’s plans are still pretty much up in the air… a couple of things in mind, but nothing set in stone yet.