Friday, April 03, 2009

2009 Storm Chase IV Brief - March 23rd

*Click on any images for a larger view.
*Parenthetical times (4:25) denote a corresponding time in the accompanying video.

We woke up in Russell, Kansas (Thanks again to Verne Carlson for quartering us at Carlson Chase Base: Russell). The southerlies had been howling all night long and the morning was no exception. It was chilly, but moisture/wind chilly, not inverted dry chilly like Denver. The clouds outside were unreal and looked very turbulent. We hoped this was a good sign for the day. (0:01)

We wanted ample time to set up for the day, so we were soon on the road after a brief stop at McDonald's. Southbound out of Russell, we saw what could have been a good omen for the day: a horseshoe vortex

Our trip south to Medicine Lodge, which would be our target, was hampered only by high winds and the occasional renegade antenna, which Michael was repairing in the photo below.

From Medicine Lodge, we watched as cumulus struggled to develop. Just as soon as something would develop, it would quickly roll over and die. We had a couple "false starts" as this action happened. We stopped for a while southeast of Medicine Lodge and Verne flew his streaming model plane. (2:00)

Our next stop was north of Attica where we watched storms begin to fire. (time lapse at 2:59) We stayed here for quite a while, dodging sprinkles and dealing with the insane wind.

Kendell scans the western horizon.

Finally, a storm formed and headed right toward us. We were quick to intercept, but it was rather high based and not even really hailing yet. I only have one shot of the storm:

The popular decision was to leave this storm and head south to Oklahoma were more storms were firing. I wasn't in agreement with this decision, but I'm glad that's what we ended up doing. (time lapse of departing storm at 3:13)

So, we headed south. And it looked unstable ...

Finally, we crossed the Oklahoma border south of Caldwell, Kansas and we had us a storm. It wasn't even warned at this point (though I'd wager if it were in Colorado, it would already be tornado-warned). We decided to move east and south to get in better position. The roads sucked, however, being made out of large, sharp rocks as best I could tell. Finally, we were a good position to observe and saw an amazing sight. (3:27) I was in video mode for the next hour so and didn't get many stills. From a distance, they looked like twin funnels, but it is possible that it was just scud.

We repositioned again, further south as the storm approached and found ourselves almost directly under the wall cloud. (5:19) The base was pretty high, but there was some wicked rotation to it. Eventually, the RFD bulged out and was saw a nice gustnado. (7:11) I was trying to video this when Michael backed into me with the car. I shouldn't have been standing there!

Our train of vehicles (Michael, Kendell & myself; Verne; and The O'Keeffes) departed at this point (suddenly awash in other chasers) and headed straight east to I-35. We turned north to make some time on the storm which seemed to be picking up speed. (7:31).

After a brief trip into the edge of the core, we turned east onto US 166 and suddenly found ourselves in perfect position. (0:09 - second video) We stopped on a dirt road south of Ashton, Kansas and watched a nice wall cloud form up. (1:04) After sitting there for a while and filming, we continued east. Road options were tough and the storm was moving fast. We missed a paved road that would take us through Geuda Springs and subsequently over the Arkansas River and got stuck with the Arkansas City route. To our north, and incredible wall cloud was rotating rapidly. (4:09) At this point, there were tornado reports and the storm was FINALLY tornado-warned. We couldn't see the spin-ups as we had trees in the way, however.

We kind of lost it behind the trees and turned north on dirt to get a better view. It was there that we saw a nice cone funnel. But again, we couldn't really see the ground. (4:50).

When we got back on the highway so we could outflank it, the dust in the inflow was intense. We could hardly see it anymore. Then ... we got slowed down in Arkansas City. On the east side of town, we could now see the meso and it was pretty impressive. (5:07)

We had a pretty clear view from here and continued north. The wall cloud came into view again and we all thought it was a huge tornado. (5:20) As we got closer, though, we were less convinced. (5:40)

We missed a road due to me not paying attention and the general consensus was to head south and intercept the next storm in line. So, we fueled up in Arkansas City and headed south on US 77.

Near the state line, we stopped to look back at the storm we left. It was still looking pretty powerful.

But ... there was plenty of new convection happening down south. So, we drove east of Newkirk and got kind of hung up along Kaw Lake where the surrounding hills and hollows are rather jungle-esque. We did find a nice hill top to sit on for the next storm to move over. It wasn't quite as intense but it was still beautiful. (5:51)

After experiencing the outside of the core, we headed back to US 77 so we could blast south and intercept a newly warned cell southwest of Stillwater, Oklahoma. We ran into the O'Keeffes and also experienced a brief hail storm from a developing cell while in Ponca City.

As we continued south, the storm in front of us was absolutely gorgeous in the evening light.

Interesting cloud formations ...

We really weren't looking for tornadoes at this point. We were looking for big hail. On the radar, the indicators were showing 3.5" stones. We wanted some of that! ... so we punched. (7:03)

We saw maybe 1.25" max in the core ... less than expected. It was interesting to smell the shredded trees. The odor was very profound. We also saw a burnt-out car on the side of the road that was still smoking. There were emergency vehicles nearby as well. Not sure what happened there!

Once out of the core, we continued east and then north again, back into it but only saw rain. We stopped in the hail swath and goofed around for a while. It was cold when we got there, but the south winds immediately kicked up and it got very warm, very fast. That was kind of cool.

We were pretty tired at that point and the storms seemed to be winding down, so we left and headed back to Russell. We did get to drive through the squall line induced by the cold front overtaking the dryline north of Wichita. It was brief, but fun.

Eventually, we made it back to Russell where we talked to Tony a bit before hitting the sack. (We drove back to Denver in a caravan the next morning)

Chase stats:
Documented Tornadoes: 0
Largest Hail: 1.25"
Purposeful Storm Intercepts: 4
Mileage: 1610
Chase Partners: Michael Carlson, Kendell LaRoche



Terry said...

Good Deal, Dann. Nice catch.

Dann Cianca said...

Thanks Terry!!