Time is closing in fast to the day we depart for the Great Plains. Welcome to the 2020 version of Hokiestorm! Over the coming weeks more material will be presented in the build-up toward departure. In the meantime, enjoy the last few weeks of this “winter” (or rather “non-winter”) as severe season is rapidly approaching. -Dave
With such a busy pattern during our time in the plains, I had no time to put together any entries into our life of the road during the trip. While the pattern was certainly stormy, in reality it was far from ideal in terms of chasing: too many storms (many days with multiple rounds of storms beginning early in the day), very poor visibility, and widespread flooding/road closures hampered our ability to net much in the way of structure or highly visible tornadoes. Many times we were positioned adjacent to tornado-warned storms and could not even see the base of the storm, let alone any tornado associated with it. We had a great crew and leadership this year whose company I thoroughly enjoyed, and most importantly, we are back home safe and sound.
Severe storm intensifies south of McCook, Nebraska.
Tornado west of McCook, Nebraska. (Drew Shearer photo)
Developing shelf cloud from a severe storm in Oklahoma.
Shelf cloud beginning to bow outward over Oklahoma.
Spectacular shelf cloud from a severe storm in Oklahoma.
Rotating wall cloud before a flat tire ended our chase for the day in Texas.
Our location adjacent to a supercell.
The poor visibility from the radar grab above.
Mammatus over Dimmit, Texas.
Dimmit, Texas pt. 2.
Photographic proof that the vanwich is indeed treasured among our crew in Springfield Colorado.
Hail pounded Springfield Colorado shortly after our lunch stop.
Rotating wall cloud over Kiowa County, Colorado.
Two months and we will be headed westward for the 2019 severe season. I’d like to take the time to welcome everyone on board: I am looking forward to our time in the plains together! The 2019 crew list can be found under the corresponding tab at the top of each page. Logistically, we will be headed out before VT graduation this year (as soon as the last chaser finishes up with exams), and our trip window will run from May 14 through May 30. A final packing list will be sent out soon, along with a pre-chase dinner meeting with some past chasers to amp everyone up for our departure. I will leave you with a photo from Dodge City in 2016: my drivers and leaders are a repeat from 2016, so perhaps they will bring good karma and safe travels in May this year. Hope to see you on a boundary out there soon. -Dave
We targeted northern Kansas today as we felt like the wind field would offer up the best chance for rotating storms. Patience was key, but late in the afternoon a storm fired in the area we were targeting. The storm exploded near Quinter KS, and we quickly raced under the developing mesocyclone in order to position ourselves just east of the storm (Peter Forister photos above and below).
Racing east of the intense hail core (visible to the left of the road in the photo above) we pulled off to get a quick look at the storm. Chris White is shown below hanging out the window taking a photo looking upward directly under the storm.
We could only stay here for a minute before racing east yet again where we pulled off on a dirt road (near Collyer KS) and were able to view the storm at close range in relative safety. Inflow into the storm packed leg-stinging grit as it spun up a few funnels, but no debris that we could see was raised at ground level under the funnels.
On to another day today.
(Photo: Peter Forister’s shot of the storm over the open high plains)
A leisurely trip to the plains never seems to be in order: a potential severe weather threat develops and we feel the need to at least make an attempt to intercept a storm on our second travel day. Yesterday was no different. After a punishing 900+ mile haul on the first day, we stretched our run on the second day, intercepting severe storms in the far SW Kansas/Oklahoma Panhandle region.
A region of low pressure/persistent trough in the Gulf has hindered moisture return to the already parched western high plains (it is the eastern side of this same feature that has the atmospheric faucet running full blast back home in Virginia right now, and the high plains fall under the drying western side).
Nevertheless, severe storms fired along the dryline and we were there for them. Shallow surface moisture seemed to be a limiting factor which kept them from developing into a more robust threat, but transient supercell/rotating cells treated us to some nice views over the high plains environment. We spent the night in Guymon Oklahoma in panhandle country, a place that has become a sort of home-away-from-home for VT over the years.