June 6, 2009

Statistics:

Initial Target: Nebraska City, NE
Departure: North Platte, NE 9:45 am
Arrival: Council Bluffs, IA 9:45 pm
Intercepts: None
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: None
Wind: Non-Severe (not measured)
Features: None
Miles: 343

Summary:

Triple point play in SE Nebraska/SW Iowa.  Targeted Nebraska City where there was a river crossing and good road options.  Met chaser convergence across river in Iowa.  Despite cumulus development and weakening cap, storms failed to fire until well after dark when the chase had been called off.  Had dinner with chasers in Omaha and split a hotel room with Brad Goddard in Council Bluffs, IA.

Crew and Equipment:

Solo chase.  Equipment:  Kenwood TH-F6A Tribander, Dell Inspiron Laptop.  Kyocera data card and router, Holux 236 GPS, Robotic camera dome with Sony XR-520V.

Details:

This was the second day in a three day plains marathon run.  Saturday had initially looked like the big day when it was still several days out on the models.  When the event arrived, however, moisture return problems as well as a stout cap, looked like the day could be a cap bust.  Despite the chances for some more upslope play out in western NE, I agreed with SPC's assessment of the tornado potential and targeted southeast Nebraska where the highest shear and instability combo would exist, south of a triple point near Omaha, and where the cap was forecast to erode by early evening.
 

I split a room with Jesse Risley, Brandon Sullivan, and Mike Brady in North Platte after Friday's chase.  We all split up after breakfast and headed towards southeast Nebraska.  After grabbing lunch and checking data in Lincoln, I decided to continue heading east towards Nebraska City.  There was a river crossing here in case the storms fired in Iowa, and good road options in Nebraska in case the chase was further west.  Gassing up in Nebraska City I had a crusty old, bearded local spot my roof mounted camera dome.  After eyeing it suspiciously for a minute he walked up to me and said in a gruff country voice, "You really think that thing is gonna save your life?"  Priceless.

 

By mid afternoon a cumulus field had developed from central Iowa southwestward into southeast Nebraska.  The cumulus were small, however, and showed little signs of growth.  It was early in the day but I feared a cap bust.  A large chaser convergence had gathered across the river in Iowa at a Wendy's.  I joined the party, with the intention of flying northward up 29 to meet storms firing on the warm front along I-80 in central Iowa.  Every car in this lot is a chase vehicle:
One of the "Outlaw Chasers" pulled up next to me:
Chad Cowan checking data in his car.  Chad was my chase partner back in 2008, and it was nice seeing him again for the first time this year.
I announced early on to the group that it was a cap bust.  We sat there the rest of the day, despite several urges I had to run north towards the warm front.  The RUC showed the cap filling back in after 7 pm.  This elevated layer of warm air was preventing storms from firing, and with it back in place, even if they did fire, they would fire above it.  The resulting storms would be elevated and incapable of producing tornadoes as they would not be drawing their inflow from the surface.  7 pm came and went with no storms firing and we all decided it was a confirmed cap bust.  Scott Bennett recommended a barbeque place in Omaha where we could eat dinner.  The company of a chaser convergence, telling stories around a great dinner, made for a good time.  
Brad Goddard, a chaser I met that day, and I decided to get a room in Council Bluffs, IA.  With the prospects looking good for a chase close by in southeast IA, we ended the day upbeat despite the bust.
Conclusion:

First official cap bust of the year.  Storms did wind up firing but well after midnight.  Adam Lucio and Danny Neal were in the room next to ours and were woken up by some other chasers staying in the hotel, scrambling to run out and chase the storms in the dark.  The storms never woke me, but I knew they must have been elevated hailers so I didn't care.  The place to be, of course, was out in western Nebraska, where the upslope flow did result in daytime initiation with a tornadic supercell blowing up in northwest Nebraska.  The few chasers that stayed out in this area came back with great structure shots.

On a much sadder note, I learned this day that one of my chase partners I had known since 2005, Fabian Guerra, was tragically killed in an auto accident the night before.  He was traveling through Iowa on his way to pick up chase partners for today's chase when a deer ran out in front of his car.  He swerved to miss it, and hit a truck.  Fabian and I shared many good times, chasing from Wisconsin all the way to Kansas, getting stuck in the mud, and bagging a big tornado.  He was an enthusiastic chaser and it was devastating to hear the news.  Fabian leaves behind his wife and two children.  He and his family will be in my prayers.

 

Lessons Learned:

  • Chasing Iowa results in a bust.
  • Good company eases the trauma of busting.