May 29, 2013


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Dodge City, KS
2 miles SE of Platte City, MO 8:31 AM 5/29/2013
1 miles W of Dodge City, KS 11:09 PM 5/29/2013
Garden City, KS Hoxie, KS
0 mph
Updraft Base, Shelf Cloud


Dryline setup in western Kansas. Targeted Dodge City area for afternoon initiation of supercells. Left KC area, heading southwest through Topeka. Intercepted dying updraft with shriveling base north of Garden City before cell went orphan anvil. Headed for new activity on a warm front in northern Kansas. Came in behind a small, tornado warned cell near Hoxie, KS noting backend of updraft base, but no tornado. Repositioned for fast moving squall coming in from the west and targeted tornado warned embedded supercell noting gust front with lowering and severe winds. Called it a chase and headed south through dryline storms before stopping in Dodge City for the night.

Crew and Equipment

Chase partners: Jennifer Brindley Ubl. Equipment: Canon 60D, Canon t2i, Canon EFS 10-22, Canon EF 50mm, Sony HDR-xr500v..




This was my third day out on this plains trip and my first with Jenn Brindley after picking her up at the airport in Kansas City the day before. We were eager to get out there and chase after missing the Bennington, KS tornado the day before. Today’s chances for supercells and tornadoes looked even better with a well established dryline, moderate instability, and decent shear with southwest flow aloft. The Storm Prediction Center was prompted to issue a moderate risk for tornadoes. We targeted the northern end of the higher probabilities, where directional shear looked to be a bit better with some enhanced lift from a dryline bulge.

Awaiting Initiation
12 miles SSE of Cimarron, KS
2:45 PM
Brindley and I grabbed some coffee and a quick bite from the continental breakfast at our hotel just north of KC and we were rolling southwest toward the dryline, heading through Wichita. We stopped a little shy of our target at some dusty crossroads south of Cimarron, KS to watch the conditions out west and check data. Clear skies stretched overhead during the early afternoon. We were joined by a few other chasers heading toward a similar target, including our friend Nick Nolte, who teamed up with us for the rest of the chase. I set my camera to shoot a passing freight train while we waited:

Dying Updraft
11 miles NNW of Garden City, KS
4:39 PM
Storms started to pop to our west, and we decided to bite on those rather than something coming out of Oklahoma. We made our way west through Garden City before heading north for the intercept. The roads were thick with chasers. We passed a few along the way and many were pulled off the side of the highway as we approached our storm. The storm had a severe thunderstorm warning, and it looked like a nice updraft base was coming into view as we approached, which was exciting. As we watched it, however, it became obvious that the base was much too small and it looked like it was even shriveling up. We pulled off the highway on a gravel road a few miles north of Garden City to watch the storm for a few minutes. Chaser and friend Darin Brunin stopped to say hi, and pointed out that we had indeed intercepted a dying updraft. There was just not enough lift on the dryline or the capping was too strong to sustain the updraft. I shot a time lapse of the storm, but it was rather low contrast so not very photogenic.

Tornado Warned Updraft
9 miles NNE of Scott City, KS
5:17 PM
We moved north to keep up with the storm, but the updraft base withered away to a point and we soon had an orphaned anvil. Many chasers in the area opted to wait around for new development, or head south into Oklahoma, but we decided to go north after new development that was moving northeast away from us toward a warm front in northern Kansas/southern Nebraska. It took us awhile to get up there, but approaching I-70 we had a view of the storm's base to our distant north. The storm was unwarned, but had a decent pendent shape with a small hook. However, the cell itself was quite small. A tornado report came in on Spotter Network which prompted a tornado warning from the National Weather Service. Although we were still miles off to the south, we didn’t see anything that looked like a tornado from our vantage. Since we were coming in from behind, it could have been that the precipitation in the hook simply blocked our view. As we got closer, however, we realized that we had been indeed staring at the back end of a horseshoe shaped updraft base. Precipitation in the hook was minimal, and the chasers reporting the tornado were also behind the storm.

We drove right up to the back of the base, carefully watching overhead to make sure we weren’t about to drive underneath a tornado producing region of the storm. We bumped into precipitation on the back end of the storm, and decided that we didn’t have a good way to get around the storm or punch through it, but had a good view of the back end so we stopped. I setup for a time lapse of convection lining the walls of the rear flanking downdraft clear slot. The clouds were pretty, but we didn’t see any areas of tight rotation.

The chasers who reported the tornado caught up with us a few minutes later and stopped to chat. One went to get his laptop to show us a photo of the tornado they saw, and I was eager to see what we had missed. Despite contrast enhancements on the photo, I couldn’t make out any tornado at all in their pictures. I wasn’t sure what they had seen that would have warranted the tornado report, but the photos certainly didn’t back it up. I was pretty sure we had missed nothing.

Squall Line
6 miles S of Hoxie, KS
6:11 PM
The small cell was falling apart so we let it go as it rocketed off to the north. New cells were exploding on the dryline just to the west, and Brindley and I headed down I-70 west to intercept with Nolte still behind us. The storms quickly filled into a solid line as it appeared a squall was going up on the dryline. It was racing east too. I realized that we weren’t going to have a good intercept point at our next exit before the line ran us over, so we immediately turned around at the next exit and headed east back down the highway. We wound up heading north down the same highway where we were watching the previous storm at, and then a ways further north from there. A menacing shelf cloud was rapidly approaching from the west. It didn’t look like anything tornadic, but we were still a bit apprehensive about being caught in severe winds and zero visibility.

Lowering under Gust Front
8 miles N of Grainfield, KS
7:12 PM
A kink in the line went tornado warned, and we approached from the south, crossing into the warning polygon and looking for any discernible supercell structure amidst the solid line of storms. Through the gust front, there appeared to be a lowered area to our northwest. We stopped and watch it move away to the northeast, and then turned to face into the wind as the squall line ran us over. Winds were probably at or over the severe threshold, but the power lines and signs nearby stayed up, and we got a smattering of half inch hail as well. Once the storm subsided a bit we decided to call it a chase since we were behind the line and start heading south toward a room and tomorrow’s target.

Rosy Sunbeams
11 miles SSE of Ness City, KS
8:55 PM
Another line segment erupted to the south and we wound up driving through the length of it and getting stuck in it for several minutes before we finally decided to cut east and then south to get out from under the storm. As we did so, the setting sunlight gave us a pretty show of colors under the storm’s base. Deep rosy red shafts of light glowed beneath the line of storms.
The sun dropped below the base, filtered by bands of rain while a gust front fanned out in front of the storm:

Colorful Cloud Layers
6 miles NNW of Jetmore, KS
9:02 PM
The display of colors continued for quite a while, and it was a scenic end to our rather lack luster chase. In addition to the colors, near the end of the show we also had several layers of striated, stable cloud layers, and fragmented convection. It was quite photogenic.
We decided to stop in Dodge City, KS for the night and found a local barbeque joint that looked pretty good and was open late in which we could grab some dinner. David Mayhew soon joined us, and we had a good time talking about our chases over a couple of beers.


This chase was a bust, but we gave it a good run, having intercepted several different storms of different modes and at different stages. The tornado show was lacking for most chasers, even though a smattering of reports came in across the region and the tornado probabilities were three times higher than they were the previous day, which featured a long lived, violent tornado. The biggest tornado producing storm appeared to be in central Nebraska, but I don’t recall seeing chaser pictures from that area.

Lessons Learned

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