WKU Storm Chase Day 12

This is the final day of our storm chase trip for 2021. We started in Lubbock, TX this morning. This would be our last forecast discussion of the trip. We began the discussion at 10:30 that morning with two possible targets available. We had two possible targets again today, but had to commit to one since they were pretty far apart from each other. The first is in south eastern New Mexico, and the second target is near Midland, Texas.

Our forecasters going over the final forecast discussion on May 29, 2021 in Lubbock, Texas.

The Atmospheric Setup

The ingredients for the atmospheric setup today was not entirely spatially coherent. It was difficult to pick a target because of this fact. The upper-level 500mb support was weak in most areas of the south central US, but it was sufficient for severe weather after 18Z, only producing winds at around 30 knots. The available CAPE and moisture in the region were not problematic, but there was a significant lack of wind shear in the lowest 1km, and the method of initiation was different for both targets. In New Mexico a dry line would be the main forcing mechanism, but storm motion suggested that storms would move with the dryline and become linear rather than move off the line. The second target near Midland, Texas had a zone of weak surface wind convergence, which suggested a good boundary for storms to track along with areas of localized vorticity. In the end we chose to chase the Midland, Texas target in hopes for more discrete super cell structure.

The Chase

We did not have a long drive today. Our target area was only 2 hours away and once we got there we had some time to play with. We ended up in a park south of Midland, and we spent some time throwing a football. We watched growing cumulus clouds for a good portion of the afternoon, and by 5:30 we were hitting the road to chase storms. A land spout was spotted south east of Monahans, Texas. This land spout was on the ground for over 5 minutes and was very well defined. This was occurring as storm cells merged into a single storm.

The land spout we located south east of Monahans, Texas
Base reflectivity of storms after they merged. This storm produced the land spout.

Once the land spout was over we dropped south to observe a developing super cell to the north west. We stopped at the end of a dirt road to view a spectacular supercell structure. We watched two very high based low precipitation super cells pass over us. It created an amazing view and we stayed there until there was no light left to view the storms. Once our chase day came to an end we headed back to Monahans, Texas. The trip home now begins and we will be back in Bowling Green by Sunday night.

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WKU Storm Chase Day 11

We woke up in McPherson, KS after a long day of chasing. On this day we had a forecast discussion in the van after we looked around at some damage from strong winds, hail and flooding from the night before. There were two possible targets for the day: eastern Oklahoma or the Texas Panhandle.

Wind damage and residual flooding from storms the previous night just south of McPherson, KS.

The Atmospheric Setup

The upper level support is most present over the east-central Texas Panhandle and into central and eastern Oklahoma, but there is a large area of sufficient upper level support. The theta-e advection is more sufficient in eastern Oklahoma yet there are still some larger values into the Texas Panhandle. The theta-e values within the target areas are adequate for providing moisture and surface lifting. The CAPE is also very sufficient through the target areas with some CIN being present in the southern Texas Panhandle which could limit some convection in that area.

Choosing a Target

The target areas were very similar in their atmospheric setups. The soundings and hodographs looked better in Oklahoma, but the capping in Texas would have more potential for discrete supercells instead of the linear storm mode expected in Oklahoma. The next chase day would most likely be in western Texas based on the guidance from the morning model runs. Taking all of this into consideration as well as road networks and terrain, we decided to target the southeastern Texas Panhandle near Paducah.

The Chase

We had a long drive to get in position for the day so we opted for a quick subway lunch in the car. Once we were in position we saw some storms trying to form with some skinny updrafts but nothing was able to intensify enough to become a supercell.

A skinny updraft near Paducah, TX.

Near the end of the day we found a storm to watch while the sun was setting. There were many photo opportunities of the storm structure and plenty of flies to go around.

After a long day of driving we arrived in Lubbock, TX and ate at Triple J Chophouse & Brew Co. We then headed to the hotel to prepare for our last day of chasing!

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WKU Storm Chase Day 10: 05/26/201

Day 10 of the 2021 WKU Storm Chase was nothing short of exciting to say the least! We had a
pretty solid forecast and not very far to travel from Sterling, CO.

The Atmospheric Setup

We started by looking at the 500 mb winds to gauge our upper level support. Wind speeds of at least 30 kts were found over Nebraska and Kansas with pockets of at least 40 kts in Nebraska. As we looked through the day into our target time of 21Z – 00Z, we saw an axis of 60° dewpoints advect into southern and western Nebraska, and 70° dewpoints advect into southeastern Kansas.

The axis of higher dewpoints into western Nebraska and further south into southeastern Kansas is an interesting feature. It shows us that convergence is taking place there!

A similar pattern was found on the surface Theta-E map. This told us moisture wouldn’t be a problem! Plus, moisture can also serve as a source of lift at the surface. Speaking of which, we had a few features boundary features that would help to provide lift. The surface map showed a stationary boundary over central Kansas, a cold front drifting through Nebraska, and a dryline along the Texas-New Mexico border.

Us making our forecast that morning in Sterling. Here we are discussing the dryline bulge on the theta-e map.

CAPE was also sufficient across the most northeast corner of Colorado (where we were) into southern and western Nebraska and across the majority of Kansas, with values upwards of 4500 J/kg in western Kansas. Comparing convection allowing models (CAM’s), there was much disagreement between timing of initiation, storm mode (cells versus a line), and where things would first initiate. This made a target location tough, but we agreed that Western Kansas had the best overall ingredients, so that’s where we headed.

The Chase

We set off from our home of Sterling, CO and headed to Goodland, KS, an about 160 mile, 2.5 hour drive. We left around 11 AM MT, and around 1 PM MT in Goodland, KS we made an extremely quick Subway stop for lunch, because storms were already initiating along a moisture boundary near Hays, KS! We raced to intercept it, all while storms were beginning to fire all around it. When we finally were in striking distance, we caught a glimpse of a skinny tornado just before it disappeared behind a new cell. Tornado #1 of the day!

A very faint tornado can be seen on the ground here. It was soon hidden by some rain in front of it.

Radar was showing this cell develop cuplet after cuplet, indicating that the storm was constantly rotating and redeveloping, even with other cells developing all around it. We followed it along and made some stops along the way to take some pretty picturesque photos! At one stop, radar velocity showed a tightening cuplet, and right before our eyes, we watched a skinny funnel develop, barely touch the ground, and then dissipate. (Almost) tornado #2 of the day!

This funnel almost made it to the ground!

After leaving to get ahead of the storm once again, we got some good visibility and were able to see some textbook supercell structure!

Classic supercell structure near Claflin, KS!

We spent all of our chase riding along this cell all the way to near McPherson, KS where it began to “gust out” around 8 PM CT. We decided to just stay in McPherson for the night and made it to town just before some heavy rain and hail passed just to the south of the hotel. While we didn’t experience much hail, the city of Hays, KS saw some hail around 2″ in size!

After a long chase day, we were happy to get back to the hotel. We were ready to get some rest and get ready for another big chase day the next day!

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Storm Chase Day 9

A lack of upper level support left us without a target, so we used the day to travel in preparation for tomorrow. We woke up in Liberal, KS and headed for what is quickly becoming a new home in Sterling, CO. Along the way we stopped at Mount Sunflower, the highest point in Kansas!

We continued on stopping in Garden City to eat a Subway lunch. When we reached Liberal a few hours later we dropped our bags off at the hotel before heading to the Parts and Labor Brewing Company for dinner. Once again service was as wonderful as the food! We finished the night relaxing in the hotel’s hot tub and swimming pool.

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Storm Chase 2021 Day 6

Today had a very similar set up to yesterday. It featured a NE oriented boundary draped across northeast CO. There is racing Northerly flow at 500mb showing up on the models that could potentially throw the storms over the boundary into the cold air (again like yesterday). However, if a storm can latch onto and ride the boundary, well get a great storm. Holding position at our hotel in Sterling. We stopped for lunch at the same Mexican restaurant ate at in 2019 for the Imperial, NE mothership. Right after we left, a North moving supercell became tornadic on the NW quadrant of the storm near Brush, CO.

We couldn’t make it in time due to weird transient storm motions (NW and then SE side would flip back and fourth on which would rotate. It eventually crossed over into the cold sector so it no longer had a good energy source. We bailed South to Limon to get on a tornado producing storm in a more linear type mode coming due North. Made it in time to see some lowering/a wall cloud along with some dust swirls on the ground. The storm featured outflow turning to inflow and back. After we left the storm, we had dinner and spent the night in Sidney, NE.

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Storm Chase 2021 Day 8

Yesterday, we woke up in Colby, Kansas after a long day of chasing. Luckily we didn’t have to drive too far to get to our target.

The Setup

The SPC Day 1 Outlook for May 24, 2021.

Yesterday, there was a upper level low pressure system in southwestern Canada with a positively tilted trough axis just west of the four corners region. The 500 mb jet streak was over the northwestern corner of Kansas, Nebraska, and up through the Dakotas. There was a surface low in the southeastern corner of Colorado with a stationary front draping across the northwestern corner of Kansas. This stationary front was the main forcer for the day. High amounts of moisture and CAPE advected into the northwestern corner of Kansas. Since the lift, moisture, instability, and shear were present in western Kansas, that was our target region.

SPC mesoscale discussion for May 24, 2021.

The Chase

We left Colby, Kansas at 11:30 to get lunch at Jimmy Johns. We then headed south towards Leoti, Kansas. Storms started initiating around 1 pm around Tribune, Kansas.

RadarScope composite radar around 1:30 pm.

This storm developed into a supercell and became severe and tornado warned multiple times in its lifespan and stayed nearly stationary.

We chased this storm until 5:30 pm then went to go chase another developing supercell near Deerfield, Kansas. This supercell also was severe and tornado warned in its lifetime.

This supercell was very gorgeous and moved slowly to the southeast. We chased this storm until the sun set and watched some lightning as we drove to our hotel in Liberal, Kansas.

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Storm Chase 2021: Day 7

We woke up in Sidney, Nebraska to begin the morning and held our daily forecast discussion in the lobby of the hotel. We had some people staying in the hotel ask questions before and after the discussion as well. Our drive wasn’t long, but we knew we needed to get south for storm initiation.

Atmospheric Setup

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma outlined an enhanced risk (3 out of 5) over the Panhandle of Nebraska and the western half of South Dakota. A large slight risk (2 out of 5) was placed throughout the High Plains Region down through the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas.

Storm Prediction Center Risk Outlook

At 500 millibars (about 18,000 feet above ground level), winds were about 55-60 knots, and met criteria for severe weather. 30-40 knots is the ideal value to begin looking for severe weather. CAPE values, or instability were about 2000 joules/kilogram and were also supportive of allowing any convection to initiate. The main issue with the setup in South Dakota, was that most of the storms would be heading north into the boundary and at a very fast rate (almost too quick to successfully chase), and once they hit the boundary, we knew they would not last much longer.

At the surface

Two areas of low pressure were found over both northern and southern Colorado. A stationary boundary was draped across Nebraska and down through the Wyoming/Colorado state line. A cold front was located over the Denver Metropolitan area. As the day progressed, the cold front became stationary and moved eastward with time. Dewpoints throughout the day were in the mid to upper 50’s and some even reached the lower 60’s, which is sufficient for this location for severe weather.

09z Surface Observations Map

Target Area

Considering the main risk of storms were located in South Dakota, we decided that the atmosphere did not look the best, and we decided to stay on the south side of the boundary, so we headed towards Limon, Colorado. Just north of Limon, a storm began wrapping around and eventually went tornado warned. Because the storms were fast movers, we had to move quick, and only had a few minutes to Rain-X the windows, gas up, and get moving again.

Funnel cloud near Eckley, Colorado.

We continued to follow this storm for several miles, and even saw a brief funnel before it dissipated near Akron, Colorado. We continued to follow this storm northeast to Sterling, CO where we decided to abandon that storm to head south again for the next cluster of storms. We picked up a cell near Yuma, Colorado, and followed that storm cell to Wray, Colorado. By this time, the sun had set, and we began to head to head towards Colby, Kansas, for a good nights sleep to prepare for the next day ahead.

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Storm Chase 2021: Day 5

This morning we woke up in Chadron, Nebraska to a cool yet humid morning. We traveled a couple of hours to Sidney, NE.

Atmospheric Setup

The SPC Day 1 Outlook gave a slight risk for severe weather from southeastern South Dakota down into northeastern Colorado.

SPC Outlook

Upper level winds showed the best areas of divergence and high winds over the panhandle of Nebraska.

Pivotal 500 mb model

At the lower level, warmer temperatures advected in by southerly winds. The highest values continued to remain over the panhandle of Nebraska. These higher values could help in increasing instability and lift. This is also where the cold front can be seen drapping down across the corner of the Dakotas.

Pivotal 850 mb model

Surface dewpoints were sufficient across the panhandle offering additional moisture support for storm formation.

Pivotal surface dew point

Modeled reflectivity helped to give an idea where rain and storms may initiate.

Pivotal modeled reflectivity

Additionally, the modeled composite reflectivity, UH>75 m^2s^2 helped in us eyeing where severe storms may occur.

Pivotal composite reflectivity

All in all ingredients looked to best line up across the southern Nebraska panhandle, so we chose to drive to Sidney.

The Drive

The drive was a fairly short one taking only about three hours during which we stopped in Alliance to pick up our friend Joe Sullivan. While there we stopped at Carhenge a famous roadside attraction using old cars modeled to look like Stonehenge.

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Group photo at Carhenge!

From there we stopped at the Subway in Alliance for a wonderful lunch. For such a large order, the staff did a fantastic job getting everyone’s sandwiches made quickly and efficiently.

We continued on to Sidney where we stopped at a park for a little fun while waiting for storms to initiate. Within a very short time of being there one of our footballs got stuck and then the other as it was used to try and dislodge the first.

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Whoops!

We still had a ton of fun talking, playing, and watching the radar. We even got to speak to a very intelligent young man who wanted to know more about the meteorology program! Unfortunately any storms moved northerly away from us and into a less favorable environment.

After a while we loaded up and headed down to Sterling, CO to watch a final, weak storm before eating and hitting the hay. The storm had beautiful structure and lightning.

Lightning

We went on to Parts & Labor Brewing for dinner. The staff was incredibly friendly and the food was tasty and filling! Afterwards we all crashed at the hotel to prepare for another day!

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Storm Chase 2021: Day 4!

We woke up in Loveland, CO this morning and held our morning forecast discussion in the hotel lobby. The drive wasn’t expected to be too long, which was a big change of pace for the group!

Atmospheric Setup

The SPC Convective Outlook outlined a Slight Risk (2/5) for severe weather along eastern Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado along with western North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

At the surface, there was a low pressure center over northeast Colorado with a stationary boundary extending northeastward across Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota. As the day progressed, a dry line developed just to the east of the Rockies. Since we were at a higher elevation, dew points in the low-50s were sufficient for some storm development.

Upper level support was lacking over the Plains due to a strong and large ridge over the eastern half of the United States, which kept a trough in the far western part of the country. There was a small pocket of approximately 45 knot shear in fear eastern Wyoming, which is the area we made our target for the day.

Target Area/The Drive

Our target area was southeast Wyoming, so we headed north from Loveland, CO to Douglas, WY. We stopped for a quick lunch at The Depot in Douglas and then hung out in a park while we waited for storms to develop.

Our route from Loveland, CO to Douglas, WY.
Tossing a football and frisbee!

The Chase

As storms started to develop, we encountered small hail in Douglas. We then headed southeast and encountered more hail in Torrington, WY.

Small hail in Douglas, WY.

We then made our way to the small town of Lingle, WY where we hung out and waited for more storms to develop. While there, we tossed a football and frisbee again. Our location was between two cells, which ended up being quite beautiful! We ended the day in Chadron, Nebraska and had dinner at The Ridge!

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Storm Chase 2021: Day 3!

The Day 3 reap of our storm chase trip is mostly a quiet one. A lot of discussion in the morning led to the decision of traveling north for the day to set up for Thursday and Friday of the trip.

We started our day in Amarillo, TX with a little bit of a lengthy forecast discussion. Today was looking to be a long travel day, so once we concluded our 9:30 AM discussion it was time to hit the road and set up for the next couple of days.

Atmospheric Setup

The ingredients needed for severe convective storms were somewhat lacking on this day as far as our possible chase targets were concerned. The SPC had outlined a large marginal area which encompassed Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The closed low that was present in the region had begun to get absorbed back into the main jet circulation. This resulted in weak upper level support. The wind speeds at 500mb in the panhandle of Texas did not exceed 30kts. The environment in eastern Oklahoma appeared to be slightly better with values upper level wind speeds approaching 50kts. Warm moist air was continuing to be advected into the region, so dew points and moisture and instability was not an issue for the most part.

Target Discussion

With the atmosphere not looking very impressive for this day we opted not to chase in favor of being set up for the next trough expected to deepen into the western parts of the United States. We discussed possible chase targets near Oklahoma City, but shear values remained very low and the storm mode was expected to be a clustered mess of sub-severe storms. Ultimately decided to head north to Loveland, Colorado to prepare for the next couple days of chasing for the developing low over western Montana and northern Idaho.

Surface to 500mb bulk shear at 21Z on May 19, 2021 to indicate possible clustered storm modes due to lack of strong shear.

The Drive

Once we left Amarillo, Texas as began making out way north to Loveland, Colorado. We took a quick stop in Dumas Texas to grab lunch at Los Potrillos, which is a place we have visited more than once on storm chase. After lunch we continued northward passing through New Mexico and getting a fantastic view of the Rocky Mountains as we crossed the Colorado/New Mexico boarder. The total drive from Amarillo to Loveland was approximately 8 hours for us, and we were relived to see the hotel once we arrived in Loveland.

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