June 16, 2011: Oshkosh, Nebraska Supercell

June 16, 2011 Convective Outlook

We began our day in Colby, Kansas, often referred to as the Oasis of the Plains. With the only Starbucks between Denver and Salina, Kansas, we made sure we topped up before leaving town! The most important part of a storm chaser’s morning is coffee after all.

A warm front was moving through the Nebraska Panhandle and had limited moisture behind it. Despite the large slight risk area issued by the Storm Prediction Center, this boundary seemed to be the best focal point for today’s storms.

Another problem the day we faced today was surface heating. Most of the region was cloudy and littered with reminments from the previous day’s storms. Without good surface heating, getting a storm to get beyond  severe seemed unlikely.

We drove to Goodland, then north towards Nebraska. A line of storms was already in-progress near the Interstate-80 corridor. Once those storms passed the area and begin to die, they kicked an outflow boundary back to the southwest. That boundary began the new focus for storm development as it would help create additional lift.

At 6:35 pm, a storm to our west went severe and it looked nice! Tornado probabilites were low, but this storm was a photographer’s dream! We photographed lightning as it moved over open wheat fields.

May 29, 2011: Cawker City, Kansas Supercell Hail Storm

May 29 2011 Convective Outlook

The Storm Prediction Center issued a slight risk in western Oklahoma on May 29, 2011. After looking at numerical model data, we picked a target area well outside of the slight risk area. The day brought us to Cawker City, Kansas.

Anytime we pick a target area outside of an SPC risk area, our customers get concerned. Today was no different. As it turned out, SPC received no reports of severe weather in the slight risk area along the dryline and we ended up with rotating thunderstorms that produced golfball-sized hail.

At one point, we had a nice supercell with a distinctive lowering. As a result, it tried hard to produce a tornado but never did.

To sum up the mesoanalysis, there was a surface low over southeastern Colorado. A southern low-level jet of about 10 knots was over much of central and eastern Kansas. A dryline was in-place near just west of the I-35 corridor and a surface warm front was pushing north from near Interstate-70.

Backed Surface winds were turning sharply east near Salina. As a result, there were two possibilities, either the dryline or the convergence zone northeast of the low. We picked the convergence zone. With limited heating along the dryline, it didn’t seem like a good option.

All of the day’s reported tornadoes were well outside of Tornado Alley. Three in Michigan and another in Pennsylvania. The only storm in Oklahoma was right on the Texas State Line in the corner of the Oklahoma Panhandle. North-central Kansas, however, had the largest hail in the area, so by that measure, we made the right decision.

That all said, good results come to those who do their own forecasting and who don’t pay too much attention to bullseye maps.

May 24, 2011: El Reno, Oklahoma Tornado

May 24, 2011 Convective Outlook
May 24, 2011 Convective Outlook

It’s never a good day when tornadoes happen so close to the Oklahoma City metro area and today was one of those days. And May 24th brought a High Risk across the region as issued by the Storm Prediction Center.

A dryline punching into central Oklahoma along with rich boundary layer moisture across the region was sure to bring supercells to central Oklahoma, and that it did.

As expected, storms exploded across western to central Oklahoma and tornado reports were coming on many of these storms. We had set up initially just west of El Reno. We watched as a small cumulus cloud rapidly developed into one of the monstrous supercells that Oklahoma is known for.

It didn’t take long and we had our first tornado of the day. Due to the high precipitation mode of today’s storms, the tornadoes we saw were not easily photographed.

We followed the storm, taking a path to avoid heavy traffic in the Oklahoma City metro area to Piedmont, Oklahoma and then to the east to Stillwater.

Once the line of storms crossed Interstate-35, they began to move into Osage County, which is one of the most difficult areas of Oklahoma to chase storms in due to hilly terrain and trees. Because of the area the storms were moving into as daylight was becoming short, we let them go.

We prefer to chase storms over open country and never like chasing close to Oklahoma City. Unfortunately, there was extensive damage along Interstate-40 near El Reno and to many other areas of Oklahoma today.