WKU Storm Chase Day 5

We woke up this morning in Garden City, Kansas to what seemed like the best chasing opportunity of the trip thus far. We had to get a move on as we had a decent distance to cover so we had a mobile FD in the van as we drove east.  Large hail and even tornadogenesis are possible in eastern/northeastern Kansas but should fairly quickly merge into a messy HP mesoscale convective system. The window (both spatially and temporally) to catch these discrete cells is very small so we have to be in the right place at the right time. A logistical concern that we have is chaser convergence; it’s been a slow season, it’s the weekend, and we are near a couple different large population centers. My initial lunch target is Salina, KS and we stopped at the famous Cozy burgers, a storm chase favorite!


After lunch we became torn over whether to go north where it looked best on satellite with spreading mid-level winds, or go southeast where the best surface observations are located. Our plan is to closely watch data and models for an hour and then decide. Based on model output, the northern target area has initiation around 3pm and the southeastern target area has initiation around 5pm and waiting for an hour gives us a better idea of what is going to happen and allows us adequate time to reach either area.  We talk ourselves out of the northern play and begin driving south towards the El Dorado / Newton area. There is already a decent looking storm down there and the surface observations are much better. Oddly enough there is an Undular bore sweeping in that will hopefully stall and act as a boundary for storms to fire and ride along. It could also sweep in too fast and kill storm chances. Up north we were worried that the cold front would arrive too quickly and undercut storms and make them elevated and weak.

We got on and tried to follow multiple storms but as soon as we got on them and they started to look good & became sever e warned, they would fizzle out. Everywhere busted, no storms could survive and sustain themselves for more than a few radar scans. The only plus side to this was that no forecast was right and just about all chasers had a bust day. The exception being the few who stayed down near Fairview, where a tornado warned supercell eventually formed a few hours later. This was pretty frustrating but busts are a good learning experience. I think the storms kept dying because there was virtually no shear in the area and thus couldn’t sustain themselves for very long. Like everybody else, we called it quits and headed back to Wichita and enjoyed a good dinner and some beer with good company. It could’ve been worse!

-Thomas Giebel

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