Sunday, June 05, 2005

June 1-2 log

On Wednesday, we knew the day was going to be down, so we took our time traveling to the north from our motel in Plainview. We were originally targeting NE Colorado, but we wanted to stay a bit farther south in case the SW Kansas area went up. So we got an early motel room in Garden City, did laundry, and relaxed.

The next day was very confusing. SPC put out a large 15% tornado risk for the entire western KS and eastern CO- but I could see from the data that there was a stout cap forecast in KS, and an 18Z sounding in DDC confirmed it. So we started out towards the west, with the intention of chasing somewhere west of Burlington. However, just in case the cap in the area we were leaving broke, we took a stop for data in Syracuse, in the far western portion of KS. It was at that point that we saw strong cumulus towers about 50 miles to the SE. We waffled a bit, and then made the call to go back SE. A short time later, as we approached Hugoton, KS, we heard a severe thunderstorm warning for a cell just off to the south, then a tornado warning was issued. Great! We thought, in this very unstable environment, if a storm is able to break the cap, then tornadoes are a good possibility. We approached the town, and could see a nice updraft and base. We drove through some 1" hail, and decided we had time for a gas stop. Then we went out of town on an east road to watch the storm. But a nasty surprise awaited us as the storm came into view to the north- the cell had a very small high base, and was shrinking rapidly. I got off a couple of photos, and called DDC NWS to let them know the storm was dying a rapid death. However, they continued the tornado warning for 20 more minutes, I guess they did not believe me. Anyway, in about 15 minutes, the storm was completely gone. And we could see that the cap was really taking hold, possibly because the cirrus from an approaching southern stream disturbance was suppressing the heating.

So we then decided to make a mad dash for Colorado, but knew that sunset was approaching fast. We heard about tornadoes already occurring along the interstate, and we thought we might be able to just catch a cell at dark near Burlington. These hopes were soon dashed, though, as we were stopped for speeding in Kit Carson county, (78 in a 65 zone), but the sheriff was very nice and we got off with a warning. As it turned out the supercells had been undercut with outflow already, and the tornadic show was over, and besides it was getting quite dark. As we stopped to shoot lightning, we ran into Dave Gold and company, and found out that the tornadoes we missed were brief and/or rain wrapped, but there was some awesome HP structure, which would have been nice to witness.

It was then time to get Betsy back to Denver for her flight back to Atlanta the next morning. On the way, though, we were treated to a view of a small nicely sculpted bell shaped supercell, illuminated by frequent lightning. Tried to get photos, but the strong northerly wind prevented setting up the tripod without the camera shaking. I did get a bit of decent video.

Then it was off to the motel near the DEN airport.

Matt (photos later)

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