Chase Log: April 19th, 2017 Lincoln, KS Supercells

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.20170419_175939

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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March 24th, 2017 Topeka, KS area storms

My first “chase” of the season was pretty bland. Originally, I wasn’t going to bother making a post about this day, but since it’s mid-April and I still haven’t seen a decent supercell, I figure I might as well write an entry. While a couple days prior to the event, I was pretty excited, the setup looked increasingly marginal closer to game-time. Models had been showing a cold-core type setup for a few days, which is one of the best setups to chase. A cold-core setup is when the center of the upper-level low pressure and the surface low are right on top of each other, or “stacked.” This creates very high lapse-rates, the rate at which the temperature decreases with height. On March 24th, temperatures were only in the upper 50s, not usually conducive to tornadoes. However, with a cold-core setup, this is pretty good. There have even been tornadoes in some cold-core events with temperatures in the 40s. You get fast-moving, low-topped supercells that can put down really photogenic (and usually weak) tornadoes. With all that said, the wind profiles always looked pretty wonky on models with the setup, and they were even worse in observations. Expecting very little, I set out from Topeka around 4:30 pm.IMG_-omjjwd

I was initially going to target this storm and head towards Osage City, but as quickly as the storm had popped up it fell apart. I decided to head west on I-70 and see what happened as I drove.

Interestingly, as I was driving west on I-70 in far western Shawnee County, I saw a fairly decent-looking storm and updraft base to my south. It was just a small blip on the radar, but figured I should take a closer look. I got off on the nearest exit and drove on some gravel roads. I drove past an elderly couple walking down the gravel road, and thought that it was probably a good thing the tornado risk was very low that day. As I crested a bit of a hill, I stopped to try and take some pictures.IMG_okun0v

5:12 pm: I sat here for about 10 minutes, and this was probably the best the storm looked. There is a slightly lowered area where the storm is taking in air from the surface. As soon as I thought the storm might amount to something, it fell apart completely.G0010276_1490407774665_high.JPG

5:12 pm: Still-photo taken from my GoPro. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to use my GoPro much, but I’m liking what I’m seeing so far.

After the storm fell apart, I headed into Waubaunsee County and the town of Eskridge. I hoped I would be able to see some hail, as some nearby storms did produce large hail, but I missed out. I headed south of Eskridge, almost to Lyon County, and stopped on another gravel road.IMG_399jio

5:56 pm: I thought this picture was cool. A cloud trying to form into a thunderstorm. It failed pretty quickly after this picture was taken. With nothing looking remotely interesting after this, I headed for home.

I didn’t have high expectations for this day, and very little came from it, but at least I got out and saw some nice clouds. Like I said earlier, if I had chased more since then I wouldn’t even write about it, but having not chased at all into mid-April, I should get something down. Hopefully by May I will be out more.