I had some hopes for popup storms today, maybe storms with a little structure, but I’m wondering if I’ll see anything here in Texas. Chances will be marginally better in northeast Colorado, but I question whether it’s worth it for me to drive all the way there and then back into western Oklahoma (probably) for tomorrow. I will look over the data one more time before making a decision, but I don’t think I will go to the northern extremes, given the time and gas money involved.
Sometimes I’m asked if I’d like to chase storms full-time. And I would, except that it’s a seasonal gig. In addition, in between the storm systems, there is usually down time, as there is right now, when high pressure is sitting over Tornado Alley. I’ve always said, when I make my fortune, I’ll build my bunker vacation home in Oklahoma. Then I can hang out at my second home in between the storms. In the meantime, though, I’m languishing in a hotel, watching “Betelgeuse” and again wishing for a teleportation machine for easy cross-country commuting. It may be a few days before I have anything to update – whether it’s storms, or going home. In the meantime, have you seen my lightning gallery?
Late update today, because I’m in another crappy hotel (in north-central Kansas) whose wireless wasn’t working last night. I called the front desk and asked what the name of the network was, because it wasn’t showing up in the list. “I think it would be some kind of Internet thing, America Online or something like that,” the gentleman informed me. After a few minutes of conversation, he confessed, “I’m almost computer illiterate, to tell you the truth.” Thanks. Oh, yeah, and they told me breakfast was over at 10, but I found out the hard way it ended at 9. No hot waffle for me!
Not that I’m complaining, though in a way I am. I was on the main storm show from the start yesterday. It was another day of a churning low and crazy storm motions as the cells in question formed and then moved north or west around the low pressure. My first thought was northeast Kansas, but as the low’s position became more evident on the computer models, I felt it was important to go to eastern Nebraska, where the surface winds would be backed, thus aiding rotation. I spoke with Steve Sponsler and with Daniel Shaw, and Daniel and I decided to go for the Nebraska target, despite the Storm Prediction Center’s more likely tornado risk farther south. It was a good call, even if we didn’t see the reported tornadoes. We were in York when the first storm went up and a tornado watch came out. We got to the storm fairly quickly, but as the whole line of convection exploded, the potential for photogenic storms fell. The photo is from that first storm, which was tornado-warned, between Cairo and Ravenna, Nebraska. It was an interesting chase, as storms kept training over the same area. The storm system almost looked like a hurricane over Nebraska on radar. Or, as I said on Facebook, a giant toilet that kept flushing supercells. It wasn’t exactly what I came out for, though. I’m still looking for a long-lived, isolated rotating storm that will pose for its picture. It doesn’t have to smile.
See the May 12 photos.
There’s nothing like eating your continental hotel breakfast of generic fruit loops and hard-boiled egg while hearing the morning “crapvection” spitting rain all over your hopes for the day. Not that I am entirely without hope, or I’d be at home, given that essentially all storm-chasing is about gambling time and gas money against a few moments of reward. But this morning, what it comes down to is that this big shield of clouds and rain is going to have to get out of the way in order for sunshine – and thus heat and destabilization – to occur to fuel severe storms later. How all that will play out is up to Mother Nature. In addition, there are multiple potential target areas. Northern Kansas? Oklahoma-Kansas border? Mars? Rather than rush out to chase the rain, I’ll do a little more analysis before I give up my wi-fi.
I am disturbed and amazed at the wave of tornado onslaughts … and now flooding, too … all in the same area. People keep asking me why I’m not there. Many chasers are seeking and finding the storms, but many tornadoes are occurring in what is referred to as “the jungle,” because of the hills and trees. In other words, visibilty is low, making it extra hard to track the storms. And of course, the people who live there can’t see them coming, either. If you are in the danger zone, leave your weather radio on. It will give you the best and fastest warning.
Much wiser storm chasers than I have said, “Live by the models, die by the models.” But one must live a little by the computer models in order to figure out when to make the (ideally) two-day drive out to Tornado Alley. I’d much prefer chasing storms in the lovely, flat, empty expanses of the Alley than in the trees and hills and populated areas where tornadoes have been wreaking havoc for the past few days. When I live as far away as I do, it becomes somewhat of an expedition to get all the gear ready, load up the car, and get the heck outta Dodge. Or to Dodge – I’ve passed through Dodge City, Kansas, almost every year of chasing, it seems. It smells like cows.
That said, I’ve ordered a rental cell modem so I can get data while mobile. It’s a long way from the days when I had to plug into a phone jack at a truck stop and sign on to the Internet that way to get data – and that was awesome. Granted, you can’t get mobile data everywhere, but it’s amazing where you can get it.
Anyway, I’m starting to get everything ready. I’m working my last few days as a full-time newspaper reporter this week, as I begin a freelance career. And I’m trying to find a missing camera battery. You haven’t seen it, have you?
I drove slightly out of my way this evening to get about 10 raindrops on my windshield as a front pushed through the area. I was hoping for a little more excitement, especially after I saw some, you know, clouds. I talked with my friend Steve Sponsler, who writes a great forecasting blog that focuses on Florida. He feels his forecast verified, because, after all, there was rain.
This time of year, it’s easy for storm chasers to obsess about the weather. I haven’t been, because I’ve been busy trying to finish up things at my job so I can start working for myself. But the obsession is about to begin, since storm chasing is just a few weeks away. I have a lot to do in terms of getting gear in order, and just getting in the mode of daily forecasting, too.
Well, tonight’s “chase” was rewarded at home, when this ambitious little turkey tower, complete with a few mammatus, pushed east overhead at sunset. It wasn’t powerful, but it was pretty.