May 24, 2008

Statistics:

Initial Target: Grand Island, NE
Departure: Norton, KS 12:30 pm
Arrival: Salina, KS 2:30 am
Intercepts: Norfolk, NE
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: None
Wind: Non-Severe (not measured)
Features: RFB, Wall Cloud
Miles: 658

Summary:

Third day of plains trip.  Best shear shifted to north, so targeted dryline in eastern Nebraska.  Left Russel at noon with Nick and Chad, and Adam and Matt caravanning.  Waited around York for supercell development, while mediocre line went up to our north.  Finally intercepted Tail-End-Charlie, sub severe cell and followed it up to Norfolk, noting ow topped LP structure, a wall cloud like lowering and brilliant rainbows.

Crew and Equipment:

Chase team included Chad Cowan and Nick Lockwood with Adam Lucio and Matt Fischer caravanning.  Equipment: TH-F6A Tribander, and GPS/Cell Phone equipped laptop.  Photography by Skip Talbot.

Details:

As the surface low pressure weakened, our tornado chances dropped off a bit on this day, and the upper level winds looked like they were shifting north so the group decided to head into Nebraska where we believed we'd have the best shear and instability combo on the dryline.
The motel we spent that night at in Russel had caged monkeys in the back.  We weren't allowed to photograph them though because then the place would be considered a zoo and have to follow extra regulations.  They had a half dozen macaques in a pen behind the motel with tire swings that several of them were swinging from.  Nick survived his night at the monkey infested motel:
After grabbing a bite from the A&W, Chad, Adam, Matt and I agreed that the best target would be southeastern Nebraska along the dryline where we'd have the best shear and instability combo.  We headed north from Salina, KS towards York, NE.  We stopped at a hotel in York to get data and wait for decent initiation.  A rather weak looking line had already fired to our north and we were hoping it would fill in to the south and intensify where we would then play Tail-End-Charlie.  However, we got anxious and headed down 80 toward Grand Island, stopping short near the dryline to watching bubbling towers crap out.
Several weak showers went up in the area but they soon deteriorated.  Cumulus going overhead:
It became apparent that we were going to have to play the storms in the line to the north, so we booked up there before they got to far from us.  We were surprised to see some high contrast LP, yet weak low topped structure when we caught up with the end of the line.  We pulled off a rest area for some pictures where we had a rain free base (RFB) and some picturesque sunbeams.
A chaser was already parked at the rest area and he came out to chat with us.  It was veteran chaser and NWS forecaster Al Pietrycha.  It was great being able to chat with such a knowledgeable chaser about the setup.  Flooded picnic area:
Interesting spiraling, yet low topped sub-severe storm:
We left Al at the rest area and our caravan continued north to keep up with the storm.
We got under the RFB several miles south of Norfolk and pulled off for some pretty pictures.
Wild flowers and RFB:
The storm passed overhead with some rain and the sun right behind it.  A brilliant rainbow formed behind us.  Rainbow chaser Matt Fischer:
Looking north at the weak storm's core:
Following the storm up to Norfolk we noticed a lowering near the precipitation core, which was probably a weak wall cloud.
Looking northwest at low topped storm tower, with lowering embedded in precipitation and rain free base to the left:
Nick drove us through the core of the storm where we briefly got some small hail.  On the back end of it, we stopped in Norfolk for some gas where another brilliant rainbow formed:
Enroute to intercept the wall cloud we noticed tour groups and the TIV bailing on the storm and heading south.  There was nothing else in the state left to chase so we were baffled as to why they were bailing, especially with what seemed like development under the base.  After gassing though, we had fallen far enough behind the storm, and it was moving into an environment that would promote its death, so we decided to also bail to the south.  SPC mentioned that initiation was still possible to the south.  Back end of our storm looking southeast:
We stopped for some pretty pictures of our storm as it slipped away to the northeast in the twilight.
Southern initiation never occured and we stopped for dinner in Columbus at a pizza joint.  We had a terrible finding any place open at 9 pm on Saturday night, and the pizza place didn't even take credit card.  That's the rural plains for you though.

Nick insisted that he got back that night to get some work done.  Chad and I, not wanting to miss the next day's setup, found a bus out of Salina, KS leaving at 3 am direct to St. Louis, where Nick's folks could pick him up.  We spent the next several hours driving back down to Kansas, where Nick made the bus with about a half hour to spare.  We said our farewells to Nick, and crashed at a nearby hotel where Howie Bluestein's doppler radar truck was parked.

 
Conclusion:

The Nebraska storms struggled to get through a cap, and just couldn't take off.  Meanwhile, Oklahoma went nuts where storms fired on an outflow boundary forming huge supercells with tornadoes.  None of us saw that coming.  Our lack of severe weather on this day made this chase a bust despite the very picturesque storms we did catch.

 

Lessons Learned:

  • Carefully consider all targets, and don't get suckered into SPC's area of highest tornado probabilities.