South Dakota Storms and a Wrap

From Storm Lake Iowa, we targeted South Dakota for Sunday. Awakening to a cool wind and a dewpoint of 34F, prospects for the day seemed dim. We focused on two factors: the area showing the best moisture return (meager at best in any event), and the frontal boundary sagging through the region. Eastern South Dakota seemed the like the best spot, and storm initiation would prove that we made a good choice, even though at one point we wondered whether diving further south into Nebraska where marginally better instability was located would be a reasonable play. With such lackluster ingredients, we decided to stick to the boundary, and it paid off. We intercepted a photogenic severe-warned cell, and then an anchor cell in a short line segment which produced a rotating wall cloud. Looking over the storm reports for the day, we had chosen a solid target, as most of the severe reports were concentrated in this area.

We covered a lot of territory:  sixteen states and over 6000 miles of roadway.  Driving home, especially late at night, provides plenty of time to cruise through one’s inner thoughts on the chase. This year, my time was spent thinking about how many factors played into the poor pattern in the Great Plains. Perhaps most frustrating was the lack of any focal point to hang a forecast on, providing a diffuse, nearly impossible scenario for targeting certain areas for convection. A hail report in Texas, another in Colorado, yet another in North Dakota. Extremely isolated storms that took advantage of enough ingredients on a local scale to become elevated to severe status. Ingredients that cannot be reliably sampled and analyzed, ingredients that elude the most observant forecasters. In order to gauge the pattern overall, over the two weeks for our trip, only one day elicited a “slight risk” from the Storm Prediction Center (our South Dakota day). We lived and forecasted in a “see text” regime: terms used when the severe threat is too low to warrant even a slight risk for a particular area. In past years (including 2008), we were able to endure the poor pattern and wait it out until more favorable ingredients for storms arrived. This took one full week last year, but resulted in a few days of ballistic storm action where we actually lost count of the number of tornadoes we saw in a day (somewhere between 8 and 12). This year, the relentless pattern would not give way. I appreciated the hard work from the leaders, and the good nature of the crew when faced with poor convective potential day after day. The time has come to untangle the mess of antenna cables, disassemble the computer mounts, store away radios, and begin planning for next year…


One response to “South Dakota Storms and a Wrap

  1. Thank you for showing me the inside of your vehicle. I enjoyed visiting with you.

    It’s too bad you didn’t get to see any of our real excitng storms here in SD.

    Perhaps next year!

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