July 16th featured very high dew points in the mid 70s and CAPE values over 3000 j/kg. Shear was modest, so we weren’t certain we would get supercells. An early day supercell over eastern Nebraska laid out an outflow boundary over central Nebraska from Valentine southeast towards Grand Island. Storms formed along this boundary and moved east into the cool stable air and died. Later in the afternoon a cluster of storms formed on the boundary and the tail end storm anchored. It immediately started spinning and became a formidable supercell! As the storm right turned on the boundary and moved towards Burwell, it was rotating strongly and was extremely electrified! I thought it had a decent chance to produce a tornado, but it did not. A couple of weak funnels did form. As the storm continued southeast, it became tornado warned with strong rotation continuing. Another supercell formed west of this and rotated down towards I-80 near Gibbon and also became tornado warned. The structure was incredible with one of the best shelf clouds I’ve seen in years! As the storms pushed south of I-80, they gusted out and became a wind machine. A great day with far better results than we were expecting! Enjoy the pics!
May 24th had substantial potential in western Kansas. A very moist and unstable airmass would develop over the region with multiple boundaries around for storms to form and spin on. We chose to play the usual triple point north of Leoti, where the first severe storm of the day formed. The triple point is the location where 3 air masses meet and it typically spawns one of the best storms of the day! It would struggle to sustain itself due to some small capping issues, but it eventually became tornado warned. However off to the north, a supercell formed and drifted north and produced tornadoes near Selden, Kansas. Since it’s a chasing rule never to leave your storm if it has a tornado warning to chase a different one (because, you KNOW what the one you left would do!), we stayed with it. More storms developed west of Garden City and would also become tornado warned. Our storm weakened, as did the Selden, Kansas storm, so south we went to play the tail end storm. What a beauty! Big, wet classic supercell with beautiful structure that would go on through the evening hours! At times the rotation became pretty tight, but it just couldn’t get a substantial tornado to the ground. We stayed with it till dark and then went back to Garden City for the night. Another day, where a secondary target produced tornadoes and the primary target would not. Such is the life of storm chasing! Please enjoy the pics!
May 7th was advertised to be a strong tornado threat. In the end of the day, there really weren’t many tornadoes and none that were strong/violent. Too many storms would form and create a competition where none were able to be long lived tornado producing machines. We were able to chase 3 significant supercells, one near Stinnett, Texas, one near Amarillo and another near Tulia, Texas. The Tulia storm was the only one that produced, and even that was not significant. We arrived near Tulia a few minutes too late to see a weak bowl with a couple condensation fingers and also another small tornado. As we arrived, video caught a tornado in the distance about 10 miles away. The storm was high precipitation and very messy. We stayed with it as long as we could, however the caprock escarpment has few roads off of it and it made it impossible to stay with the storm. Later in the evening we chased 2 other tornado warned supercells in southwest Oklahoma near Hobart and Vinson. Fun day, a bit frustrating, but we still had several tornado warned storms to chase!
Triple point action would be the play this day as a moist southeast surface flow would advect decent moisture northwestward towards a surface low in southwest Texas. By late afternoon, decent CAPE, moisture, shear and lift would result in a few storms developing at the triple point south of Seminole. After an hour of pulsing, one storm intensified and right turned along the boundary, becoming a supercell and eventually becoming tornado warned. It spun had as a very low hanging wall cloud would form. It just couldn’t focus in one area very long before shearing apart and a different area started spinning. As we moved east along highway 180, it became continuously tornado warned, but just couldn’t focus enough to produce. A couple of high based funnels occurred, as well as hail golfball size. If low level flow would have been a bit stronger, it may have eventually produced a tornado. By early evening the storm weakened and dissipated as the sunset and stabilization occurred. Fun day for us all!
July 13th was the second great day for the Great North Tornado Hunt tour. We started the day in Wichita. Extreme heat and instability would form that afternoon with temperatures near 100F and dewpoints in the upper 70s. Cells tried to form for a couple hours along a dryline/outflow boundary composite, and finally by around 5pm a significant supercell formed just west of Arkansas City, KS. This storm quickly became severe for large hail to tennisball size. As it continued to intensify, it moved due south towards northern Oklahoma near Peckham. This storm was a striated beast. It had continuous lightning, huge hail to baseball sized, and a wall cloud that spun like crazy. By mid evening, the storm weakened as it merged with other cells to its west, and eventually lined out moving into central Oklahoma. One of my favorite nontornadic chases of 2016!
For Tour #5 and Photo Tour #2, June 1st took us to the Black Hills area of South Dakota. Good upslope flow coupled with high CAPE values, would produce a very nice supercell storm that anchored itself to the east side of the Black Hills. This storm spun nicely, even tried to produce a tornado, but didn’t quite have enough low level shear to become tornadic. It did,, however, produce tons of very large and damaging hail to baseball size south of Sturgis. The storm persisted for several hours before decreasing in intensity just before dark. Both tours had a very nice treat on this day, and along with great structure, the storm produced some incredible lightning!