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2011 Chasecation

5/8/11 Storm Pictures

Needed a bit more rest than I thought, heh. Pictures and video will slowly be rolling in as I process stuff.

Meanwhile, below is a distance shot of the SD supercell that produced a tornado before we got to it on 5/8/11. The sun was setting, and the overshooting top actually cast a shadow on the higher clouds.

More pictures coming…

Chasecation Day 13 – Going home

It’s a long trek back to Maryland, but we’re going to make the ~900 mile trip from St. Clair, Missouri today no matter how long it takes. We decided to check out some storms in Missouri, and we saw tons of lightning, nickel-sized hail and strong winds. The storms formed into a MCS and made driving to the hotel quite interesting last night.

Time to go home and get some rest.

Chasecation Day 12 – Tails Between our Legs

Yesterday was a complete and total bust for everyone… including us, the SPC, and about 100+ chasers that spent the day waiting for something that didn’t happen. The midday convection maintained itself in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas and actually got re-invigorated during the afternoon as it slowly crept eastward. Those storms killed the return flow of moisture and instability to the dryline, so the atmosphere was not able to recover enough behind the midday storms to produce what was supposed to be a tornado outbreak in central Kansas and Oklahoma. Instead, we watched in horror as yet another promising Cu field failed to produce.

On top of that, the car is having issues, making it nearly impossible to drive. It could/should be an easy fix, as it appears that a $20 part is all we need to get the car running smoothly again. The problem is, being an older Subaru, the part we need is in Wichita, and we’re not in Wichita. If the problem extends beyond this failed part, it’s basically time to head home (though we’re close to heading home anyway, now it’s just a question if we come back in the Subaru or in a rental).

11 days and 0 tornadoes, though we were within a half-mile of a tornado that mocked us under the cover of darkness. Despite all the hardships, I can’t wait for May 2012 to roll around so I can get back out here and do it right.

Chasecation Day 11 – The Day of Reckoning

Well folks, today is the day. It’s what we’ve been waiting for the whole trip. There is a fairly significant chance for tornadoes today in Kansas and Oklahoma, and we’ve positioned ourselves quite well for the possibility of two or more intercepts as two rounds of storms, one in the early afternoon and one in the early evening, are expected in central Kansas.

Anticipation is high as we make the morning forecast, which will determine where we want to set up for the two rounds of storms. We’ll likely stick to Kansas today, but northern Oklahoma’s also in the picture.

Here’s the breakdown of my odds that I made up for seeing…

One tornado: 98%
Two tornadoes: 60%
Three tornadoes: 20%
Four or more tornadoes: 5%

Let’s see what verifies!

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.