April 10, 2019


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Salina, KS
Springfield, IL 7:04 PM 4/9/2019
Lincoln, NE 7:59 AM 4/11/2019
Glen Elder, KS
0 mph
Updraft Tower, Anvil, Mammatus


High shear, low instability warm front setup in northern Kansas. Targeted Salina for late afternoon supercells. Intercepted updraft bases northwest of Salina and had view of backend of a likely supercell by evening, but storms failed to organize further and we failed to get under the dominant storm's base. Car stalled after calling chase.

Crew and Equipment

Chase partners: David Oxley. Equipment: Sony AX100, Canon 60D, Samsung S9.




From my daily chasecast written the day before the chase:

"This setup stands on the edge of a blade. A damningly cold frontal boundary to the north that may impinge and force an elevated storm mode. A damingly strong cap to the south that may squelch the show. Yesterday's 18z and 0z NAM NEST runs were scary and showed the worst case scenario: the boundary sagging and plowing under any storms. The big fat updraft helicity tracks that model is spitting out are for an elevated storm north of the boundary. It won't produce a tornado, and in my experience they're not even structured well. They just look like huge black, fuzzy beasts. Ominous.
Not very pretty.

This morning, some rays of hope. Both NAM NEST and now HRRR are containing the impinging cold front, and maintain a bowing warm front to the east. That bowing warm front is the ideal case. It allows a northeast moving storm to track backed surface winds for an extended period of time, rather than crossing the front or dilly dallying in the open warm sector with southerly winds. We had that pattern on Mapleton back in 2011, eight years ago now to the day, and it was a cyclic tornadic supercell. HRRR says the NAM is being too bullish on the moisture. This was feared by many and is likely the case. I'm hoping lapse rates and dynamics compensate a bit. Both models are still initiating the triple point and a bit of the dryline even into the open warm sector. So that's good news. There's going to be a tiny window of opportunity to get a surface based storm up and spinning before big bad boundary or scary cap come to ruin the show. Preliminary target is Salina, KS. 22z or 5pm, right on the low and off the nose of a thermal axis where the cap can be breached. Initially high based storm will hopefully hit a bit better moisture to the east and bases will lower as surface temps cool a bit toward 0z. Avoid the junk north of the boundary. It will most likely be HP and elevated, and is forecast to track into flooded areas of southeast Nebraska.

Here are your analogs.

Best case scenario where 60 F dews magically show up and a surface based storm tracks the bowing warm front: http://www.skip.cc/chase/110409/

Worst case scenario where the impinging cold front comes in and the cap wins: http://www.skip.cc/chase/130409/

The worst case is scary close in date, position, and pattern. Those who do not learn from their chases are doomed to repeat them."

Lunch in Salina
1 miles SSW of Salina, KS
1:34 PM
Wednesday, April 10 looked like a long shot with its sharp frontal boundaries and warm sector capping. I saw enough opportunity to pull the trigger on a chase, however. I was raising money for the ALS Chapter of Greater Chicago to sponsor a charity run in the 2019 Chicago Marathon. For donations to the ALS Chapter, I offered daily storm chasing forecasts and a few seats to ride with me for a on chase. David Oxley signed up for this date. We rendezvoused in the Kansas City area and then proceeded to our initial target area of Salina, KS. We arrived early and decided to grab some lunch before the chase. I found a mom pop Korean joint. The food was excellent.

Abandoned House
5 miles WNW of Lucas, KS
6:23 PM
A clusters of storms fired northwest of Salina and we went to hopefully find a dominant supercell in the mix. While we waited for storms to mature, we came upon an abandoned house and stopped to shoot a few pictures of it again the Kansas landscape.

Abandoned House with Updraft Base
5 miles WNW of Lucas, KS
6:24 PM
We chased a few updraft bases, winding up on the middle cell in a short line that was lifting northeast. Nothing was organizing much, however.

3 miles WNW of Glen Elder, KS
7:44 PM
The dominant storm wound up firing well to our northeast and rocketed away in the strong upper level flow. We had a photogenic view of the backside of the updraft tower and mammatus studded anvil, but we were unable to get under the updraft base before dark and before the storm fell apart.

I was pushing the range on my flaky Subaru, which has a nasty habit of quitting between 80 and 50 miles indicated range and a couple gallons still in the bottom of the tank. We had called the chase and were making for I-80 in Nebraska when the Forester stalled. I carry extra fuel in case of such situations and got out to hopefully revive the car and be back in business in no time. I didn't properly dress for the cold side of the frontal boundary, and there was a howling north wind of 40 mph that was bittery cold. Shivering as the can slowly drained, I put three gallons into the car, but then the car starter wouldn't kick over. The battery was drained. I should have killed the lights and all the chase equipment while we were stalled. I called for a tow, but instructued the driver to bring extra fuel and jumper cables as that's probably all we needed. A jump did the trick and we were rolling again after the delay. We stopped for some dinner and to unwind at the Applebee's in York before stopping for the night and grabbing rooms in Lincoln.


I wish I could have taken David on a better chase after his gracious donation, and the car stalling issue just added insult to injury after a rather lackluster storm chase. We wound up not missing anything in terms of tornadoes, and the car issues didn't delay us too terribly long. There were a couple of photogenic moments between Kansas landscapes and evening stormscapes, but this chase was a pretty solid bust.

Lessons Learned

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