October 13, 2012


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Wichita, KS
Springfield, IL 6:18 AM 10/13/2012
Springfield, IL 10:50 AM 10/14/2012
Peck, KS El Dorado, KS Newton, KS
0 mph
Gust Front


Dryline setup in south central KS. Targeted south of Wichita for afternoon initiation of supercells. Intercepted cell south of Wichita near Peck, KS noting updraft that quickly gusted out. Followed Whale’s mouth, before targeting new storms near Emporia encountering large whale’s mouth gust front. Intercepted low topped line of cells to the west near Newton, KS with rainbow and colorful updrafts in setting sunlight, but storms failed to organize.

Crew and Equipment

Solo chase. Equipment: Canon 60D, EFS 10-22, Canon EF 50mm.




Lots of chasers had bit on October 12’s setup down in the Texas panhandle. The catch of the day turned out to be a couple of brief, “bird fart” type tornadoes. The distance looked too great and the setup too marginal to justify taking off work for that setup, however, so I let it go. The next day featured another chance at some supercells across the plains and it was also a Saturday. I decided to take a shot at it despite the rather modest forecast parameters. Storm mode looked questionable along the cold front/dryline, instability modest, but speed shear looked pronounced with a 90 knot jet ejecting into the plains. I decided to target just south of the Wichita, KS area where low level shear looked better closer to the surface low, which was further north, and with steeper lapse rates from cold air aloft.

The chase begins
5 miles NE of South Haven, KS
3:14 PM
I left Springfield early in the morning, making good time across northern Missouri and dropping down toward Wichita. I was playing with using my Canon 60D DSLR and 10-22mm lens in the van’s camera dome on this chase, shooting time lapse video. The stills in this log are all video captures from that time lapse (shown above in the video section). I stopped in Arkansas City, KS, gassed up and set the camera up. A line of cumulus was extending south from the surface low over northern Kansas. I headed west to 35 and then north as the first towers started to go up, trying to head them off before they hit Wichita, at which point I would have to go around the city as I couldn’t chase through it.

Towers going up
7 miles NNE of South Haven, KS
3:16 PM
I could see some solid convection to the west as I traveled north. Things were looking promising and I was in a good position to intercept. I made it to the Mulvane exit and turned west for the intercept, stopping a few miles short of the storm to let it mature as it came to me.

Outflow dominant from the start
3 miles SW of PECK, KS
4:02 PM
I got onto a dusty gravel road and stopped by a couple of farmers that were putting up a fence. I could make out the base of the storm to the west, but as it approached it was apparent that there was a whale’s mouth gust front starting to fan out from it. The storm had gusted out and gone outflow dominant before it even had a chance to mature or produce any sort of supercell structure. This was a not a good sign. Lack of backed winds at the surface or undercutting from the cold front might have been responsible. I let the storm get quite close before I headed back north a couple toward a paved east/west highway. The core overtook me briefly and I was met with some gusty winds and small hail, but nothing severe.

Escaping the Whale's Mouth
4 miles W of Mulvane, KS
4:10 PM
Escaping from the storm’s core, I got out ahead of the gust front and panned the camera back to capture the whale’s mouth. It looked dramatic, but it meant there was almost a zero chance that I would be catching a tornado out of this storm.

Turbulent storm clouds
Mulvane, KS
4:17 PM
I stopped a couple times to shoot the approaching gust front and whale’s mouth structure. The gusting out storm had a fairly rapid east motion so I didn’t have long before I had to move to keep ahead of it.

Storm Over Mulvane
Mulvane, KS
4:21 PM
I drove through Mulvane, KS as the whale’s mouth started to overtake the town.

Scuddy base
3 miles ENE of Mulvane, KS
4:32 PM
I stopped east of town to time lapse the storm and figure out what my next plan of attack was going to be. The storm looked like it was falling apart so I started looking for a new target. A much stronger cell was heading northeast toward El Dorado, KS so I decided to make for that.

Gust front over El Dorado
2 miles SE of El Dorado, KS
5:20 PM
It was the same story in El Dorado, however. Storms were gusting out and congealing into a rather solid, linear line.

Kansas skies
2 miles ESE of Whitewater, KS
5:42 PM
Cold air aloft was pushing into west central Kansas and overtaking the slow moving dryline/cold front. A new line of cells fired on the boundary, and a couple of them looked like they were taking on supercellular characteristics on the radar. One of the cells in north central Kansas went tornado warned and I cursed myself for not putting more faith in the cold core end of the setup. Nobody was on the fast, north moving cell. Cells to its southeast were going up, and I had a shot at catching one of those, but it would take me awhile to get there. I blasted east out of El Dorado, having punched through the storm’s rainy core and into blinding sunlight reflecting off the wet ground on the west end of the storm. Looking south, I could see the anvil from the gusting out line stretching over head, some cloud fragments, and flanking line towers in the distance.

Low topped storms
Whitewater, KS
5:44 PM
As I approached the new line of cells, I could see they were very low topped. There must not have been much instability left on the boundary, or the low level moisture was thinning out. The radar showed solid 50 dbz cores, but visually the storms looked like rain showers. They were quite photogenic as the sun started getting low in the sky, however. Approaching the line I could see a lowering to my WSW. It got my hopes up a little, but I don’t think it was anything supercellular.

Rainbow behind line
10 miles N of Newton, KS
6:15 PM
I caught up with the line of cells at 135 and headed north on the interstate to catch up with a stronger looking cell at the head of the line. The line pushed off to the east quickly and I found myself in the wake. The back end of the line was very pretty though, a rainbow extending from the back end of the precipitation core and the storm being lit up in golden shades.

Photogenic skyscapes
10 miles N of Newton, KS
6:17 PM
I had no good east road to keep up with the line and had to back track a couple miles. The storms were sputtering and failing to organizing, however, the skies were getting prettier and prettier.

Flanking line convection
1 mile NNE of Walton, KS
6:30 PM

Pink gust front
Cedar Point, KS
6:54 PM
I decided to call it a chase and start making my way east toward home as it was apparent the storms weren’t going to produce and light was fading fast. I punched through the back end of the storm and emerged into some very pretty skies. The gust front was now lit up in shades of pink.

Storm at dusk
3 miles W of Strong City, KS
7:08 PM
As the light faded, the storm turned a deep blue color and the backlit precipitation core glowed with the last bit of sunlight, punctuated by the occasional lightning flash.
I met up with Nick Nolte at the Emporia Applebee’s for dinner and then Lorraine Mahoney, Bille Marcum, Jillian Amanda, and Matt Fischer as I was leaving. The rest of the trip home was uneventful, and I found a quiet spot on a gravel road in central Missouri to get some shut eye in the van before making the rest of the trip home in the morning.


With the lack of supercell structure, this chase was definitely a bust. Still, there were some very pretty Kansas skies, and it was good to be back out on the road for one last supercell chase before fall came to a close. The day wound up being a bust across the region for storm chasers as well.

Lessons Learned

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