Storm Chase Log: "LP Delight" 5/7/13 & 5/8/13-SW Kansas 979 Miles
Storm chaser frustration was mounting. The storm season continued to limp along at this point. Another modest chase set up presented itself on the models. Many ingredients were missing as was the case with each storm chase up until this point in the season. Tornadoes were well under average for the season and were approaching historic low numbers for May. These are the hardest times as a storm chaser. You know you have to get out and chase a lot in times like this, but the motivation is hard to muster. Even more difficult are systems that do evolve in slow patterns. These systems are not likely to produce tornadoes but will give some much needed opportunities for structure and lightning photography. Never the less, I motivated my self to get out and chase as there was enough in place to score a few supercells. This storm system had many issues. Lack of moisture, lack of upper level support were among the items that would likely reduce the tornado potential. With that being said, there was enough shear and CAPE in place to possibly create some picturesque high based supercells. Boy was I happy I made the effort to get out and see what I could find.
I left departed Pueblo West on the morning of 5/7. Models were indicating a disturbance ejecting from the four corners region on 5/8, but enough juice was available for storms to get going on 5/7. My first target would be the Garden City Kansas area, where a dry line was in place with a small amount of upper level support moving into the area by 7pm that evening. I arrived in Garden City and a few small cells had already developed to my North and South.
I waited for a few hours as these cells popped up and died. I knew eventually a few cells would become the dominate storms and I could make my pick. Just as I anticipated, a few cells to the North and a few cells to the South began to strengthen. Arggg!! Always a tough decision when this happens. Cells to the North were near a boundary and cells to the South were in going to be "tail end Charlies". These are both situations that could create a beautiful storm. After much debate I made my move and went after the Southern cells thinking that the Northern cells would cross the boundary and weaken. I make a lot of decisions based on my gut feeling and what I see visually. The storms to the North looked weak with fuzzy anvils. The storms to my South had crisp updrafts and were growing fast. I made my way towards a group of cells near Minneola Kansas.
As I got closer, making my through Dodge City, I could see my target storms were getting stronger. I had a beautiful view coming in from the NE towards the SW side of the storm. I wanted to get close enough to view the towering updrafts and have a nice vantage point to set up a time lapse.
I arrived to a beautiful storm with crisp updrafts and I had a great vantage point from the Western side of the cell. I knew that this storm was not likely to produce a tornado but it did give a good effort a few times. I captured some great images as I moved directly under the base of the storm. I watched as the storm tried to generate rotation a few times but in the end it would just be a structure day. This was more than I expected and I was very happy with what I captured. The storms to my North did develop a more visually appealing structure but in the end I made a good decision.
As my storm was weakening I noticed an amazing anvil developing to my South. I decided to give a go for some sunset shots on the bask side of this Southern storm. This storm was weak but amazing coupled with the sunset. In storm chasing you have to go the extra mile. I ended up driving all the way down into Oklahoma but it was well worth it for the photos I was awarded with. I made my way to Woodward to stay for the night and prepare for day two.
Day 2 of my chase trip was set to be even better than day 1 as the environment was more conducive to severe weather. I started in Woodward Oklahoma and began to review the day ahead. More instability, moisture and lift was set up to provide enough to get severe weather started. The best target looked to be along a warm front that would be just to the NE of the triple point in SW Kansas. There was a lack of upper air support for this system but I was expecting some beautiful structure shots. I got what I expected and more!
I moved North towards Greensburg Kansas as my initial starting point. I always like to visit Greensburg when I am in the area. It amazes me how this town was able to rebuild after being destroyed by an EF-5 tornado in 2007. I grabbed some lunch in Greensburg and awaited the first cells to develop.
Cumulus towers began to go up along the dry line near Canadian Texas and I had a feeling these would evolve into the storms I was looking for today. This was another difficult day to forecast as there were several targets. One being my location along the warm front. The others being the dry line in Oklahoma and NW Texas. A number of chasers chose the Southern option but there were also several of us in Kansas. It turns out I made the correct decision on this day.
I moved SW to intercept the towers I could now see visually moving into the panhandle of Oklahoma. I arrived in Buffalo Oklahoma just as storms were beginning to intensify. Some larger storms had formed and were already severe warned further South and a number of chasers moved in that direction. I held my ground and I could see a cell that had developed a nice base to my SW. I parked and waited for this cell to intensify and move in my direction. I knew that if this cell could latch on to the warm front it could be the storm of the day.
I was treated to a storm chasers dream (outside of a tornado). A beautiful low precipitation supercell developed right before my eyes. The storm meandered to the NE but basically remained stationary for about an hour. It strengthened over time and I was able to get an incredible time lapse of its evolution. A storm chasing group arrived on the scene about 20 minutes after I did, but up until this point...it was me and the storm.
Low precipitation supercells are a photographers dream. Due to a lower amount of moisture and lack of rain, the entire updraft of the spinning meso cyclone is visual. This creates an impressive scene.
I sat and watched this LP beauty move slowly towards Ashland Kansas and closer to the warm front. When and if a storm has a chance to latch on to a warm front, it develops a greater ability to strengthen and possibly create a tornado. I did not anticipate a tornado but I had a feeling this storm could get quite strong if it attached to the warm front. It did just that and began to intensify creating a nice base and wall cloud as it it moved NE.
The storm continued to march to the North East with a nice structure to it. As it neared Cold water Kansas it did get some good hail in its precipitation core as it became more stationary. I moved to the Southern side of the storm to avoid hail damage to the rental car. There was some decent rotation on the back side as it tried to create a few funnel clouds. As the storm became outflow dominate it blew a massive dust cloud out of the back side and over my position. The scene was very impressive with dirt swirls all along the edge of the storm.
Eventually, the storm became outflow dominate and I knew it was time to make my way back home. What a great couple of days! I had not anticipated much from this chase and was treated to some incredible photo opportunities. On my way home I noticed a strong storm developing to the SE of Dodge City Kansas. It is always nice to get an extra storm on the way home. This storm was really cranking. It had a beautiful shelf cloud and was coming directly at me. I underestimated its strength a little as it passed over me with some intense dry down bursts. I passed several downed big rigs and stopped to help a driver get out of overturned truck. Straight line wind damage is often underestimated and can cause quite a bit of damage. Thankfully it did not appear as though anyone was injured.
I arrived home to my family and hopes that the tornado season would finally arrive in full force eventually. In the mean time I will continue to CHASE WITH PASSION!