Sunday, June 1, 2014
Current time: 1:24am CDT (Monday)
Location – Sidney, Nebraska
Today’s storms are expected to be the best of the chase so far! The ingredients are mostly there. One of the issues is a high LCL (Lifted Condensation Level) which would lower our tornado chances, but there is 0-6km shear in the order of the 30s and 40s for this afternoon in Kansas according to the GFS and NAM models. Which is an ingredient missing the past 2 days. Cape is around 2000. The hodograph was going clockwise in the loop which represented backing winds. The backing winds representing cold air advection could lead to a high precipitation cell so that would work against us. When the hodograph crosses over itself that area represents no shear. This could hinder tornadic development, with the loop representing little shear at the mid-latitudes, but the parts of the hodograph that were going clockwise representing veering winds would work in favor for tornado development and shear that would cause a storm to reach super cell limits. A shortwave trough was responsible for the storms with the storms forming on a dry line (giving them some lift).
13z (7:00am MDT) – I wake up to the sound of lightening in the distance. A few minutes later, it begins to hail outside with pea sized hail (and even some marble sized hail) and heavy rain.
14z (8:00am MDT) - Forecast discussion. We decide to head to Oberlin, Kansas since they have a good road network. Storms are anticipated to form south of that according to current forecasts, but some models this morning trended the storms north into southern Nebraska and eastward so Oberlin would be a good place. The SPC has this area under a 5% chance for tornadoes. Oberlin is right on the 5% text (proving that we are basically in the dead center of the threat area!).
Approx. 14:30z (8:30am MDT) – We leave Sidney, NE West on I-80
15:40z (9:40am MDT) – We stop in Ogallala, NE for gas and change our route to avoid a severe warned cell. We determine winds to be in a Northern direction so we are still on the moist side of the dry-line (we need to get to the dry side to see some good storms).
15:53z (9:53am MDT) – We pass Bolluck, Nebraska. Our thunderstorm from this morning is to our backs. No temperatures increase or wind shift that would indicate we are leaving the boundary.
15:54z(9:54am MDT) –Winds appear to be stationary (indicated by a completely slack flag on a flag pole. Car reading temperature is now 72F, up from 64F.
15:58z (9:58am MDT) – Obs. 72F/63F
16z (10am MDT) – Severe thunderstorm warning for the cell now to our north has been cancelled.
16:14z (10:14am MDT) – Car temperature reading is 75F and winds are from the southeast.
16:25z – (10:25am MDT) - Metar report from Imperial airport: 12 knot winds due south air temperature of 75F and dew point of 63F.
16:24z – (10:24am MDT) we pass through Imperial, Kansas and make a turn west onto Route 6.
16:35z – (10:35am MDT) we head south on 61.
16:55z - We switch into Central time and turn west on Route 34 to head south.
17z (12pm CDT) – Observation 80F/65F near Benkelman, KS.
17:20 (12:20 pm CDT) – We turn east onto route 36 near Bird City, KS.
17:34z – (12:34pm CDT) Metar report from airport: 16 knots, gusts at 23 knots, temperature of 26c and dew point of 17c and direction of 220 which was from the south west.
18z (1pm CDT) – Observation 82F/68F east of Atwood on Route 36.
18:45 (1:45pm CDT) – Arrive in Oberlin, Kansas for a quick Subway lunch. We spot some fellow storm chasers here!
19:30z (2:30pm CDT) – Observation 86F/68F at park in Oberlin, Kansas.
Approx 19:45z (2:45pm CDT) – We leave Oberlin, heading south on Route 83 to move south of the impressive cell south of Atwood. At 2:27pm CDT Radar indicates a relatively strong thunderstorm south of Atwood. 61 dBZ for base reflecticity!
19:58 (2:58pm CDT) – Observe our first Mamnathus clouds of the day somewhere a bit south of Oberlin, KS on route 83.
20:22 (3:33pm CDT) – We drive through Selden, Kansas.
20:38z (3:38pm CDT) – Observation 86F/68F in … Indicating we are in the moist side of the dry line. We continue south to catch up with an impressive storm to our south. The LCLs are high so that is keeping the tornado threat down, but they are possible!
20:47 (3:47pm CDT) – Observation of 91F/61F at 2047 z.
21:08z (4:08pm CDT) – 20:58z radar scan on my Radar Scope app indicates the storm south of Russell Springs is severe warned. Vertically integrated liquid is very high at 74 kg/m^2!
21:09z (4:09pm CDT) – We make a left turn onto interstate 70 and then a head south on 23 again at the next exit.
21:13z (4:13pm CDT) – The cell south of Russell Springs is showing some signs of rotation on radar. A severe thunderstorm warning is in effect until 21z (5pm CDT) with ping pong sized hail possible and hail as high as 3.25 inches as indicated by radar. VIL of 80 kg/m^2 and base reflectivity of 74 dBZ
21:17z (4:17pm CDT) – A severe thunderstorm warning is issued just to the west of our current location just north of Gove City on 23.
21:26z (4:26pm CDT) - the 2 storms in the cell we are chasing have now combined into one with the south cell dominating.
21:43z (4:43pm CDT) – Dust is seen in the distance being kicked up from winds. We are just northeast of Healy, KS.
Approx 21:45z (4:45pm CDT) – We head east onto route 4 to stay ahead of the storm.
21:51z (4:51pm CDT) – We see rain shafts bending in different directions due to contrasting wind directions at different levels of the atmosphere below the cloud. This was very interesting!
21:57z (4:57pm CDT) – We are in the out flow of the storm with visibilities reduced due to dust.
22:14z (5:14pm CDT) – most recent radar scan now indicates a clear couplet to the storm to the east.
22:36z (5:35pm CDT) – We make a very quick stop and observe a large plume of dust crossing the road that appears to have some rotation to it. Possibly a gustnado. Not a tornado, but it certainly looks convincing. We are near Arnold and Ransom Kansas.
22:40z (5:40pm CDT) – We observe dust being kicked up from the out flow of the storm. Temperatures have dramatically decreased and visibilities as we try to move out are very low at times due to dust. Spotters have reported wind gusts of 60 miles per hour with this storm. The large amounts of dust can be a sign that it hasn’t rained in a while in this area. More dust than rain could be a sign of lower precipitation cell or a sign that the storm is dying out if there is a significant amount of out flow and the storm is not improving on radar in terms of things like base reflectivity and echo tops. While we did see some dust go up with updrafts, most of the dust was displaced from the downdraft which becomes more dominant than updrafts in weakening thunderstorms.
23:06z (6:08pm CDT) - a Haboob is seen near our current location on 4 just a few miles west of La Crosse, Kansas.
23:30z (6:30pm CDT) - We get out of the van to watch some potential rotation and lowering on the south side of the storm. The storm looks very impressive and a lot of lightening and dust. Precipitation not as significant now, but there is still quite a bit of it.
23:47 (6:47pm CDT) – Just as we are heading south on route 123 after stopping, I spot what is a definite gustnado. We stop and narrowly miss driving into the column of swirling dust. We drive through the dust settling behind the gustnado and continue south to Larned, Kansas. We turn east onto 150 to enter Larned which is a could more miles east for dinner.
00:11z (7:11pm CDT) We in Larned, Kansas for gas.
Approx 00:20 (7:20pm CDT) We feel the impacts of a quick moving storm.
Approx 00:40 (7:40pm CDT) We eat at Wendy’s.
1:23z (8:23pm CDT) We see amazing mammatus clouds outside of Pizza Hut and Wendys.in Larned Kansas.
2:05z (9:05pm CDT) We leave Lenard for Hays, Kansas taking 156 west.
Approx 2:15z (9:15pm CDT) We turn north onto route 183 and Ryan runs over and severely injures an innocent raccoon.
3:10 (10:10pm CDT) We arrive in Hays, Kansas and stay at the Super 8 for the night.
The storms today were expected to be severe and they did not disappoint (storms were the first thing I saw when I woke up!). Today taught me the lesson of how unexpected these storms can be. Although we knew there would be no hail core, we were affected by the dusty winds from the out flow boundary which was something that may have been a little bit of a surprise given the lack of observations in such a rural area and the fact that radar does not indicate those things directly. The 3 things from today that were most memorable were the early morning storms, the massive amounts of dust while chasing, and the beautiful mamanthus clouds at sunset.The dust was a very new experience for me since I had never been through a dust storm before and I only remember one thunder storm that kicked up some dust back home and it was nothing like the dust I saw from this thunderstorm. While we were in no actual danger and never saw more than drizzle until we went into town for dinner, I think I learned the lesson today that things can get bad in a split second and it is important to be far away from that danger which requires a lot of cooperation from everyone and a lot of attention for alerts and data. When we have to leave, we have to leave and find a safer position. The storm today was exciting and incredible. This storm seemed to be (at least visually) the most convincing storm that could have produced a tornado since there were a lot of rotations. If the cloud bases were lower and if the storms weren't destined to become MCS's, I think our chances for a tornado would have been significantly greater, but that was our limiting factor and it was apparent in the models and in person as the storms developed.