Friday, June 10, 2016

Dodge City, KS Tornadoes - 5/24/2016

After the Spearman tornadoes on the 22nd, we had a bust day on the 23rd. Bit south into the eastern Texas panhandle instead of sticking with our initial target of Woodward, OK, and missed a couple nice tornadoes up there. Did hit a nice supercell dying off right at sunset, and Mike got a nice
lightning shot with his new camera


Ended up in Garden City, KS for the night, wanting to be north far enough to play Colorado the next day if the setup warranted. Two target day, with an outflow boundary/dryline intersection in SW Kansas and the DCVZ looking to blow up with 3k cape nosing into Denver. Decided on the OFB, and moved south just across the border into Oklahoma. As the target became better defined, Mike and I drifted north, and got on a nice supercell from the towering cumulus stage. 

We got under the updraft base as it consolidated into one dominant updraft. Was very high-based at this point, and didn't expect much to happen for awhile. We were very surprised when it went tornado warned. 

Within about 20 minutes, though, the base lowered dramatically, inflow started picking up, and it was pretty obvious it would be tornado time in a few minutes. 

Absolutely stunning, in the best chase terrain in the country. A few minutes later, a large cone funnel developed on the left side, and the first tornado touched down. 

This tornado would've made most chase days by itself, but it wasn't even close to being the most impressive this storm would produce. It lifted briefly as it ingested another area of circulation, then planted again as an incredible stout stovepipe. 

At this point, total insanity began. Multiple times with 2 tornadoes on the ground at the same time. 

Mike got this shot of me...intermittent vortices to the right, beautiful cone to the left. Absolute dream storm. 

At some point, I may try to salvage some of the video we shot after this, but it was all shot while driving and navigating around both Dodge City and the storm chaser traffic on highway 283, so it's pretty shaky. Several more tornadoes touched down, though, including one very large one to the northwest of Dodge City. It's still unbelievable looking back over the footage and realizing it actually happened...just a spectacular, slow moving cyclical tornadic supercell rooting on an outflow boundary and taking advantage of the added vorticity. Here's the footage!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Spearman, TX Tornadoes - May 22, 2016

Finally getting around to chase logs for the last week of May...pretty incredible. Finally seeing the record El Nino reverse, and great tornado events on the Plains have returned.

Met Mike Brady in STL around 7:15 the night before, drove to Norman, arriving at about 3 AM, and stayed at Brandon Sullivan's place to catch a few hours of sleep. Left Norman about 8 AM, grabbed Braum's (important) for lunch, and continued to the big Love's truck stop 27 miles east of Amarillo. 

As we had driven out, the target area had become more clearly defined. A dryline was sharpening up in far west Texas, with deep 70's dews and high instability ahead of it. Forcing mechanisms were poorly defined, as would be the case all week, with subtle shortwaves embedded in broad SWerly flow. As we sat at the Love's, we watched the dryline sharpen to the west, and convective initiation occurring to our north and south. The north storm looked better, and would keep us in play for the later show on the dryline, so we went up to take a look. 

The north storm looked like ass. High-based, struggling, etc. We thought about blasting south to what now looked like much better storms in a better environment, and even left the north storm for about 10 minutes, but ultimately decided to stick with it after noticing a small wall cloud and RFD clear slot wrapping around. The storm cycled 2 or 3 times, with decent rotation, but nothing really impressive. 

About this time, we noticed 5-6 updrafts blowing up to the south, and realized that we'd have to wait through some inflow-region cell mergers. We got east, out ahead of the storm, and waited for about an hour or two for these to complete, noting penny sized hail in one of the updrafts as it was ingested into the main storm. After the cell mergers were complete, we headed back west, and saw a nice base with a developing wall cloud. We got west towards it, found a gravel road south that wasn't too washed out, and parked to watch it. Inflow quickly picked up to the 40+ mph range, and I tweeted a pic to the Amarillo NWS office. 

A couple minutes later, Mike yelled something, and I looked up. A poorly-defined stovepipe tornado had emerged from the rain behind this wall cloud. I tweeted another report to Amarillo as Mike filmed, all while the first wall cloud we had noticed ramped up. 

Within a couple minutes, there were two tornadoes on the ground, the new wall cloud continuing to organize and drop intermittent tornadoes as the ongoing main tornado started to rope out spectacularly. 

After this tornado dissipated, we headed north and east to stay ahead of the RFD surge now cutting around the second, now primary mesocyclone. It continued to drop small, intermittent tornadoes, but as we headed east the largest tornado formed. 

Grainy shot as we were still driving, but seconds later we pulled off into a gravel lot on the north side of Texas highway 281, pulling in next to Tony Laubach. Here, we watched the entire meso plant as a large, dusty wedge between 1-2 miles north of the highway. 

At times when the wedge wasn't fully condensated, smaller subvortices would form inside the parent circulation.

As the RFD precip swung around towards us, we kept heading east. The tornado recondensated nicely several times during this period, once fairly close to us as a classic cone. 

All told, including a couple of satellites, probably 4-5 tornadoes in about a 45 minute span from this supercell. Incredible start to the trip, scoring my first really photogenic Texas tornadoes and we headed to Amarillo for the night to stage for the next day.