Day 12 and 13
The 23rd was another totally down day, where we checked vehicles, ate some good food, and watched some totally mindless flicks (that were totally hilarious).
After a night of forecasting on the 23rd, we decided to take a trek northwest into Woodward OK on the 24th, as our forecasters determined that a combination of moderately high CAPE, low LIs and good helicity, as well as adequate diurnal heating and the approaching front made it a good bet.
We had just gotten settled in to the hotel, when a few cells started popping up near Amarillo TX, and in a matter of minutes, one shot to 50,000 feet. We went mobile in moments, and took off to Texas.
There were cells popping up all over in the TX panhandle, and a number looked tempting, but we chose one tracking through Pampa. It seemed the most organized of the three big ones we could go for, and looked to be developing a classic footed wall cloud.
To get to the point of the storm we wanted to, we had to punch in a little close to the hail shaft, but a slight risk in the afternoon light seemed better than being in a potential larger risk after dusk.
This storm was a lot larger than the one we caught in Arkansas on Monday, and though quite impressive, not as well-lit or easy to chase. It was a high precipitation supercell, as opposed to Monday's low precipitation supercell. It was a tough one to chase safely, as it grew increasingly difficult to locate and identify the various parts of the storm. We found that the radar on McWAR worked really well in this type of storm, and we were able to navigate around questionable areas of these storms with a measure of security absent in previous years, even while blinded by torrential rain. We were able to resolve hooks, mesocyclones, and other significant features... and being able to navigate through and around the cell cores was critical for our safe passage. Despite all the severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado warnings, there were no reported tornadoes (as of our current knowledge).
It's important to mention that as lovely and straight and view-filled as this area is, it is of paramount importance that before you take off on one of these terrific roads after a storm, you keep constantly aware of available crossroads. A crossroad may well become an escape route, and we are always cautious that where ever we go... or stop... is close to good roads that offer north, south, east, and west escape routes. Also, some of these attractive little "Bob's Road" byways are very enticing. They seem to go places the good roads don't, and are awfully attractive when you're looking for a quick way Northeast, for example, and all the major roads go N-S or E-W. HOWEVER, rain can quickly turn these roads into mud wallows. BEWARE.
We had all looked forward on the 25 to a lot of chasing....we were right in the center of a moderate risk zone. However, the cloud cover didn't burn off, and we didn't get the heating the day needed to generate storms. Late that night, though, the area was drenched with about 3 inches of rain in storms moving in from the Texas panhandle.
Chris, Brian, and Bill Tabor had been grabbing data all day with an eye on the 26th, and it looked much better. All of the indicators were there, and SPC had once again issued a moderate risk for the Woodward area. Our guys, after looking at helicity values, and doing a skew T felt that the best area would be more towards NE Kansas, and it was a good call. Just as we were getting in to the NE quadrant of Kansas, cells started popping up everywhere. The cell we committed went large, and rotation was detected both visually and on radar. At one point, the wall cloud seemed to have a funnel that touched ground briefly, but we would all be reluctant to call it a tornado as we were far off and no debris could was detected.
It was, however, a huge beautiful storm that repaid us for a brief hail shower with a magnificent double rainbow.
We then targeted another more promising cell headed toward the KC area, but that got snuffed out real quickly when we hit construction on I-35. We had a great day, though, and saw lots of action. Being so close to KC, we decided to stop for one good last meal together before people started taking off for there individual ways home. We stopped at Bryants Barbecue in KC, and had a delicious meal in this legendary smoke house.
Parting has always been rugged for me. Fortunately, there was so much luggage to divide up I didn't have a long time to think about it. There were hugs and handshakes, and people took off for home. It had been a grand two weeks, with a cornucopia of severe weather events, and we were delighted with the things we had shared. Possibly only one visible tornado, a few rain shrouded ones...nothing to give our press people the dramatic footage they had hoped for, but to a bunch of weather geeks and road gypsies like us, we would have to call this one of our better years.
Brian, Geoff, Bill, Jill, Steve and Nancy are now headed back to Wichita, to drop off people for their various flights. It's late, we're going to blast thru all the way to Wichita. ETA, around 2am.
Barry Bradley was ready for bed when he got caught in this morning's storm.
A Kanas Highway Patrol trooper was at the rest area and told Bradley the storm was going to get worse. Bradley decided to head for emporia in his Peterbilt truck, pulling a trailer loaded with 49,000 pounds of weight Along the way, Bradley saw two overturned tractor trailers. One at the 111 milepost was laid over, another at the 108 was on the southbound side against the concrete barriers.
From Emporia along I-35 was the main track of the core of the storm. The NWS issued a tornado warning for southern Lyon County at 12:34. At 12:40, a Kansas State trooper reported a tornado on the ground at the turnpike SW of Emporia, moving NE."
The contents of the last remaining fleet vehicle of MESO chase 2000 had pulled over under an overpass for Geoff Mackley to film the overturned truck at the 111 milepost that had barreled by us just moments before (at which time Brian prophesied that it would probably flip), and to take shelter from a rapidly intensifying storm. As the winds instensified. Brian and Nancy discussed the source of these winds, which totally rocked the van, as possible inflow/outflow or straight line winds. Bill broke in on the walkie that he had detected rotation on radar, and it look like a tvs....right next to I 35.
It was all over in about 20 minutes. We continued on to El Dorado, noticing sign near where we took shelter to be bent and twisted. Whatever doubt that existed that we had just driven into a tornado was dispelled this am by an official logging of the storm as birthing one tornado at approximately the time we were there.
Nancy, Steve and Geoff slowed at the spot on the road that we had waited. Not 100 feet from where we were, large trees had been uprooted, and there was slight scouring of the ground. 100 feet from the underpass. 100 feet.
I questioned a spotter in the rest area this am who was out there in the soup with us, and he also called in the funnel, which he described as "Skipping...t ouching down, then rising up then touching down." This morning, the paper had pics of the damage.
We pulled into a run down hotel at about 2am. Were we shaken? Frightened? Only by the bugs abiding in the last untaken rooms in Kansas. We were ecstatic.
Also, film footage showing the strange lowering of the wall cloud that seemed to touch the ground in a funnel shape was on TV tonight....it is being debated whether it was a low wall cloud or a tornado. Final analysis is forthcoming.
Eric flew out at 4, Brian and Jill are in Wichita, and Geoff, Steve and I are here in KC. Eric did a final interview with me wherein I described the wonderful people on MESO, and how bright, talented, special, and professional you all are. Unfortunately, right about that time, the interview was interupted by horns honking and DUELING BANJOS blasting from the parking lot....
Grizz, I have your pills...sorry, I'll ship them off. Someone has my cell phone battery and automobile charger cord. I found Brians power invertor under the seat in the van, and a tin of chaw in the map pocket.
It was wonderful chasing with you all. My sides hurt from laughing. I can't wait till next year. Love you all, but I have a 5 a.m. wake up call....