June 7, 2009

Statistics:

Initial Target: Holton, KS
Departure: Council Bluffs, IA 12:00 pm
Arrival: Westchester, IL 3:45 am June 8
Intercepts: Pawnee City, NE, Amity, MO
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: Significant Severe (3.50 inches estimated)
Wind: Non-Severe (not measured)
Features: None
Miles: 815

Summary:

Triple point play on KS/NE/MO border.  Targeted Holton, KS for best instability shear combination.  Rendezvoused with several chasers in target city before splitting up to intercept cells firing to north.  Intercepted tornado warned storm near Pawnee City, NE noting wall cloud but little rotation.  Followed storm until southern cell in KS became dominant.  Crossed river into Missouri for intercept, noting hail over 3 inches laying on ground.  Intercepted outflow dominant storm near Amity, MO noting gust front and scud.  Watched rainbow and sunset before core punching through half inch hail to head back home.

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:

Sunday, the final chase in a three day marathon run to the plains looked like it would have the highest tornado potential.  After intercepting on Friday, however, this chase would simply be icing on the cake as I would be going home happy regardless of a score.  A stationary front was forecast to extend from central Iowa down through Kansas with a surface low in northeast KS and a 500 mb shortwave coming in from the west.  The target was northeast Kansas, just southeast of the surface low where low level winds would be backed along with a strong instability/shear combo.
 

Brad Goddard, Danny Neal, Adam Lucio and I had breakfast at a Perkins in Council Bluffs where we had spent the night after Saturday's chase.  We all caravanned down to our target city of Holton, KS and stopped at Taco Bell where we were joined by Chad Cowan, Mark Sefried, Andrew Pritchard, Scott Weberpal and others.  While we waited for initiation, an old beater that was half wrecked and painted up like it was entered in a demolition derby pulled up and drove through the drive through.  The kid driving this piece of junk then proceeded to drive through the drive through another twenty times stopping each time to talk to the girl taking orders.  Andrew shot video of him each time he went by, and Adam put an empty mountain dew bottle with the cap on in his path hoping he would drive over it so the "cap would break."  At least it was an hour of entertainment while we waited.  He did indeed strike the bottle, breaking the cap.  We had initiation soon afterwards.

 

The cap finally broke, but well north on the Kansas/Nebraska border.  I ran up 75 for the intercept.  Two cells had fired, and the northern one became dominant.  I crossed the border and ran west past Pawnee City where the base came into view.  The cell was tornado warned and had a wall cloud by the time I intercepted.  Looking southwest at the wall cloud:
Reed Timmer's crew setup behind me down the road a ways.  The armored, red vehicle in the center is designed to core punch a tornado:
Scott Weberpal pulled up behind me and we watched the base approach with little activity.  Another chaser raced past me and warned me there was baseball sized hail in the core.  Not wanting to sample that, I moved east up the road a few miles to keep ahead of the storm.  A tail cloud soon formed on the wall cloud, but there was not much in the way of rotation.
I continued east ahead of the storm and got out ahead of it by a few miles to get a look at the structure.  Looking northwest at the updraft tower with wall cloud underneath:
I caught the next north road option and got back under the base.  The base of the storm still had decent structure but it looked like it wasn't going to produce.  Meanwhile the southern cell of the two that had originally fired became dominant.  Brad Goddard caught up with me and followed as I made plans to intercept the southern cell.
The storms were quickly approaching the Missouri River and I had to get to a crossing to intercept the southern cell in northwest Missouri.  Looking back west as I left the now dieing updraft tower that I had been chasing:
I wound up in a huge line of chasers, all taking the same river crossing to get to the same storm.  We came in from behind the storm and found ourselves in the wake of the southeast moving storm.  Driving through the town of Rulo, I saw huge hail stones laying on the ground.  I didn't have time to stop and measure them as I was trying to get to the storm, but those who did measured stones over 3.5 inches in diameter: the largest hail I had ever seen.  The road options in Missouri are not the best and I wound up dropping south on 29 to get ahead of the storm, and by the time I went in for the intercept, it had become an outflow dominant mess.  I let the gust front pass overhead.  The sun quickly came out behind it and created a brilliant double rainbow.  Brad and I shot a few pictures of it before we called it a chase and split up.
Looking south as the storm passes:

I headed to 35 to start making my way home and wound up core punching the storm in the process.  I hit a barrage of half inch hail that covered the road white.  After that it was smooth sailing all the way back to Westchester where I got in a quarter before four in the morning.

 
Conclusion:

Not a bad chase.  I got some good structure and saw the largest hail that I had ever seen.  The double rainbow Brad and I witnessed was also one of the best I had seen.  There were only sporadic tornado reports for the day despite the higher probabilities that were issued.  A report came in from the southern cell in northwest Missouri before I intercepted it, but I could not find any good pictures of it.  A few more reports came in including damage on this storm well after dark.  I wasn't about to chase this storm into the darkness through the squirrelly roads of Missouri, however.  All in all it was a great run out to the plains as Friday's chase made the trip.

 

Lessons Learned:

  • Its difficult chasing storms across the Missouri River into northwest Missouri.