On a Slight risk day with low expectations, I saw my first supercells of 2017 in the Smoky Hills of central Kansas. I had been keeping an eye on this day for a while; the SPC had a Day 4 outlook for much of NE and Central KS. On April 19th, there was a 10% tornado risk in Iowa, which thankfully kept most chasers there. I targeted the Salina, Kansas area and points north and west for my chase. I wasn’t expecting too much, just hoping to see a supercell, which I thought was a pretty good bet. Around 4 pm I ventured out from Topeka as a Severe Thunderstorm Watch was issued for my target area. I filled up the gas tank in Abilene and decided to head northwards once I got to Abilene. I headed north from Salina to the Minneapolis area where I found Rock City, where many large boulders are located. Checking radar (and the sky) I headed west towards Lincoln, Kansas. A long line of storms had formed along a cold front pushing southeast, but there were supercells embedded within the line.
5:59 pm: My first good view at the storms. You can see the mesocyclone in the middle of the view.
I passed through Tescott, Kansas and found a dirt road with a good view to park on.
6:03 pm: west of Tescott along Kansas Highway 18, looking west. You can pick out the mesocyclone in the center left of the sky, and although there is a lot of scud, there might be an attempt at a wall cloud in the center. This feature did not last very long, however. Soon, the storm became outflow dominant, and produced some good shelf-type structure. There were some well-known chasers on this storm, and they had some pretty good pictures.
6:06 pm looking southwest. It was looking like this storm would turn permanently linear, so I decided to leave it.
There was a new storm developing on the end of the line west of Ellsworth, Kansas that was looking pretty good, so I doubled back to Salina and headed west on Interstate 70 to get on that supercell. Unfortunately, as I came into Salina, the old storm that I was on intensified considerably and produced a rather impressive wall cloud. It would have been a great photo opportunity, but I was already heading west on the Interstate and had no place to stop. At least I didn’t miss a tornado. I went towards Kanopolis Lake and then westward to Geneseo, but by the time I got there, the supercell had been absorbed by the line. Most of the other chasers went to Great Bend and saw a pretty impressive supercell, but that was too far for me, so I went to Ellsworth to get something to eat. As I came into town, an odd fog covered the ground, and there were piles of hail everywhere.
7:44 pm on the north side of Ellsworth. Dime and penny sized hail was everywhere. I later saw a report that there had been 1.25 inch hail in Ellsworth, but it had melted by the time I got there. I got a sandwich at Subway and headed home.
Even though there were no tornadoes, I had a pretty satisfying chase. I saw some good storms, so I’m pretty happy. My next chase will probably be sometime next week, as a very favorable pattern for tornadic activity may be in the cards.