May 8 sunrise in Oklahoma. Photo by Chris Kridler, chriskridler.com
I started Sunday’s storm chase – let’s just say chase – with enough optimism to make me get up before 5 a.m. to get to Nebraska from Oklahoma. I was thinking I might have to play the northern extremes of the state, which is a seriously long drive. On the way, I stopped to get a few sunrise photos, and I talked with Steve Sponsler about his analysis of the day, and then I did my own forecast when I stopped at the dirtiest Starbucks I’d ever seen in York, Nebraska. (I can rough it, but goodness, this is Starbucks, home of the $5 cup of coffee. Clean the tables once in a while.) It looked to me as if I didn’t need to go that much farther – perhaps north a bit, near the warm front. I went north of Columbus but south of Norfolk (which the weather radio voice around here calls “Norfork,” apparently the computer version of the native pronunciation), then did a circle, then decided as the computer models became more pessimistic to get farther north, near the warm front. And then, it became clear, the cap was going to win. That’s the warm temperatures above the surface that prevent a storm from breaking through. I got a few photos of one towering cumulus that gave it a valiant try. It was kinda pretty. But that was it. I finished the day in O’Neill, Nebraska, after running into the Cloud 9 and Extreme tours folks, along with a few of the “Storm Chasers” folks, in a mass convergence at Pizza Hut. So today, I’ve been to the Swede capital of Nebraska (Stromsburg) and the Irish capital of Nebraska (O’Neill). The hotel has a live shamrock on the counter. Just how many of these capitals are there? Is there a tornado capital? Hoping for better chasing on Monday, but my expectations have been officially lowered on the first storm-chasing day of my 15th season of chasing. See the photos.