April 2, 2014


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Enid, OK
9 miles NNE of Oklahoma City, OK 12:03 PM 4/2/2014
2 miles W of Independence, KS 11:34 PM 4/2/2014
Attica, KS
0 mph
Rotating Updraft Base


Triple point/warm front play across the KS/OK border. Targeted Enid, OK for afternoon/evening tornadic supercells. Intercepted unwarned but photogenic and striated supercell near Attica, KS in evening noting horseshoe base with low level rotation. Intercepted storm with RFD gust front and scuddy lowering after dark east of Wellington, KS before stopping in Independence, KS for night.

Crew and Equipment

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




Wednesday, our second day out on the plains, was supposed to be the big day of the trip, with a sharp dryline, moderately unstable warm sector and ample shear from an ejecting trough. As the event approached, however, the trough lagged off to the west, and we wound up with only a grazing blow from the jet. The lift wasn’t there for a widespread severe weather event, so the Storm Prediction Center kept the tornado probabilities at a modest 5%. There was a quite a bit of discrepancy in the surface pattern between the various models even up to the morning of the event as well. What initially looked like a slam dunk triple point play, was becoming a much more complicated warm sector setup, with a bulging warm front. We were split between two targets, the bulging warm front in southeast Kansas or the more conventional triple point play in northern Oklahoma. We decided to head north up 35 for starters and see if we could narrow the target as the day progressed by watching the visible satellite and surface observations.

Chaser Convergence
3 miles W of Blackwell, OK
2:33 PM
We hung out at a gas station off 35 in north central Oklahoma watching the pattern at the surface unfold. A decent cumulus field had developed across northeast Oklahoma and southeast Kansas, but there was a line of robust cumulus trailing back into northwest Oklahoma as well. It wasn’t immediately clear which area would pan out as the winner, and by midafternoon we had a tornado watch spanning the length of the warm front. Jeff Piotrowski and Jeremy Holmes stopped by to chat a bit about the day’s setup and the previous day’s chase.

Wakita, OK
4:56 PM
The towering cumulus off to the west was looking much more robust than the stuff to our east. We decided to hold our ground and wait for the western triple point target to initiate. We drove east to get to where the better development looked to be. We had time to kill though, and couldn’t help but notice how close we were to Wakita, so we decided to drop in on the town, a favorite storm chaser tourist attraction as the town was made famous by the movie Twister.

Wakita, OK
5:02 PM
We peered through the windows of the Twister museum and walked up and down the main street. Wakita has seen better days. The small town is largely dilapidated. I posed for a picture by the Twister mural.

Towering Cumulus
Wakita, OK
5:10 PM
We moved a mile east of town and onto a red dirt road to time-lapse the convection moving overhead. Outside of town I noticed that we were north of the boundary. The temperatures were relatively cool in the low 70’s compared to the mid 80’s further south and the wind was out of the east northeast. As the line of cumulus moved overhead, the boundary passed us heading north and we were hit by a southerly blast of warmer wind. It was neat feeling the weather change.
The towering cumulus grew in size and started to show up on the radar. We moved east and north down unpaved roads into Kansas to keep up with them, eventually stopping in Caldwell as the tiny cells started to sputter out, struggling against the cap, lack of lift, and stable air north of the boundary that they were crossing into. Southeast Kansas started to initiate to our dismay and the cells took off, severe warned. A cell well to our west coming out of Oklahoma was looking promising, however. We jetted west hoping to catch it near Attica, KS.

Silver Lining
Harper, KS
6:51 PM
Traveling west through Harper, the storm moved in front of the lowering sun, illuminating its silver edge.
The base of the storm came into view between Harper and Attica. We stopped downstream of it and let it come to us, getting a smattering of penny sized hail in the process. The base looked fairly ragged at first, but had a large horseshoe shaped cut from a rear flanking downdraft.

Amazing Supercell
1 miles E of Attica, KS
7:08 PM
As the storm approached it started to develop amazing bell shaped striations, probably as a result of the storm sucking up stable air north of the boundary. This would be a bad thing in terms of tornado potential, but it made for an exquisitely photogenic storm. Brindley was ecstatic. I couldn’t get a clean shot of it on the video though as we were still sitting in the rain and hail.
A closer shot of the bell shaped striations, looking south:
To the east there were multiple levels of shaggy cloud, spiraling up around the updraft tower. The structure reminded of us something we'd expect to see in Colorado.
Brindley got out of the van, braving the hail to get a few pictures. You can see the stones gathering on the ground in the background, and a few still whizzing through air as blurred white lines.
Looking southeast at the anvil and overshooting top of another distant storm going up in Oklahoma:

Cinnabon Spiral
1 miles E of Attica, KS
7:22 PM
The updraft base passed directly overhead. This is something we’d go to lengths to avoid on a tornadic supercell, as such positioning can be quite dangerous. Tornadoes did not seem likely on this storm, however. I peered up over the dash and straight up as the base came into view over the roof of the van. The sight was amazing. A convective spiral twisted directly overhead like a giant cinnabon swirl in the sky.
The spiral had decently strong low level rotation. Had I know that was coming, I wouldn’t have been parked underneath it, but we let it pass to the northeast, watching it twist away. Brindley shot a vertical panoramic photo. The top of this photo is nearly overhead, the bottom looking straight ahead.
Wide angle of the spiral:
I shot video of the spiral as it moved off to the north. It appeared to be shriveling in size, but even as these features shrivel up into nothing, the rotation inside of them is often accelerated. I was hoping for a kind of "orphan anvil funnel", a non tornadic funnel cloud that happens when midlevel rotation is stretched in a dissovling updraft. It didn't happen though, and the rotation began to weaken.

1 miles E of Attica, KS
7:45 PM
To the east, on the back end of the storm as it begain to pass, we started to get some really pretty skies. Bubbling convection on the flanking line, with blue skies off to the south, and areas of deep shadow below. The sun was striking the midlevels of the tower, making them glow. I panned east to time-lapse the convection.

Sunset Clouds
1 miles E of Attica, KS
7:52 PM
Aaron Rigsby and crew stopped by to say hi. We were super giddy with our supercell catch and pretty skies. Looking southwest at glowing convection and the anvil of a storm off to the west:

Twilight Tower
4 miles W of Wellington, KS
8:45 PM
With the show winding down, we decided to get back on the highway and start heading east toward tomorrow's target in Missouri. A storm was erupting ahead of us near Wellington, however. The top of the updraft tower and anvil was catching the last light of twilight and it sparkled with frequent lightning.

Nocturnal Base
4 miles W of Oxford, KS
9:09 PM
I didn't think too much of it at first, but we started to see numerous chasers pulled off on the side of highway 160. The storm was only severe warned, but it did appear to have a faint hook echo on the radar. We watched the base but only saw what appeared to be a scuddy rear flanking downdraft gust front. Near Oxford, KS we decided to pull off the highway and take a good look at the base. The storm looked pretty outflowy and elevated, as I expected it to be as the boundary layer continued to cool.

Scuddy Lowering
1 miles E of Atlanta, KS
10:07 PM
The storm was cycling between supercell states on the radar, so we decided why not head north and check it out one last time while we were out here instead of abandoning the storm. We stopped on a remote stretch of gravel road near Atlanta, KS, our last chance to watch the storm before the roads and terrain got squirrely. The lightning was infrequent and very dim, and my camera struggled to capture anything under the base. It appeared like a giant ball of scud underneath, and nothing tornadic. Coyotes were yelping from the nearby river valley, and the wind whipped through the powerlines. It was almost creepy being out in the country. Keeping the creepy vibe going, as we headed east toward our room in Independence, Brindley saw something scrabbling down some rocks near a bridge, something that she could only describe as a "gollum." I only saw the movement and had no idea what it was. We made it to the room by 11:30. My stomach was in knots after eating some bad salty snacks we picked up and I got sick overnight.


We expected a bit more in terms of tornadoes out of this event and the forecast was a bust as a result, but the supercell that we caught was amazingly photogenic and made our day. The low level rotation we saw in the spiral that passed overhead filled us with awe. Combined with the photogenic skies and convection we saw afterwards, this was an amazingly enjoyable chase, and definitely not a chase bust. There were few tornadoes across the region. Only a couple reports came in of brief tornadoes, and nothing too noteworthy. There did appear to be some over eager chasers and spotters reporting tornadoes on social media with the nocturnal storm we were on near Wellington. Given the outflowy, elevated nature of the supercell, it's much more likely these chasers were seeing scuddy lowerings or "scary looking clouds" rather than legitimate tornadoes.

Lessons Learned

Follow On The Web!
Storm Chasers Giving Back!

Webpage, graphics, photos, and videos © Skip Talbot or respective owner 2018.
skip.talbot@gmail.com Skip's Webzone