Thursday, April 24, 2014

High-Based Hailers & State of the Chase Season Address

After weeks of futility I finally managed to wander into a severe thunderstorm. Yesterday provided some very nice high-based supercells in western Oklahoma/northwest Texas with quite the lightning show after dark. Cj and I left Norman for an initial target of Sayre with generally low expectations. While moisture return ended up being better than what had been progged, it appeared to be very shallow throughout the boundary layer. The other issue was the weak capping, leading to everything going up once instead of what should have been a widely-scattered structure day. After a brief stop in Sayre, convection initiated just off to our southwest near Wellington on the dryline. The storm grew pretty rapidly considering the modest thermodynamic environment and quickly went severe warned. We moved west to Erick before dropping south on OK 30. We initially were fooled by a scud bomb that had gone off right under the updraft base (the hope still finds a way out somehow), but after sitting and watching the storm for about 15 minutes we quickly ascertained that it had a base higher than the Rockies. We continued south, pausing to take in what had become a very pretty high-based supercell. The storm also had a pretty cool descending hail core just to the right of the updraft tower which made for some great views. Unfortunately my camera decided it didn't want to be of any use and I ended up with really crappy, light-washed images. We eventually continued down to OK 9 and headed east towards Vinson in a desperate search for gas (a Mustang does not get great gas mileage on state roads, who knew?). Although we didn't find gas until Mangum, we did run into two friends from OU and ended up caravaning with them for the rest of the day. We briefly stopped outside Reed to take some photos of the storm as it grunged out with more crapvection going up on all sides of it. during our gas stop in Mangum, we decided to abandon the storm for two coming out of north Texas that were 50 miles south of Vernon. We hauled it south out of Mangum to Duke and cut to Altus for the river crossing. Initially unsure of which storm to pick when we got across the river, we watched the western cell's base for a bit and became convinced the eastern storm had more to offer. In the end, either choice would have worked. Neither had much better structure than the other (although the western storm did have an interesting look to it as we left it behind). Regardless, the eastern storm was a beautiful sight with the sun setting just behind the FFD. 

State of the Chase Season
Well there's no way to really start this without saying one thing: this season has sucked. When I mean sucked, I mean it has been the worst chase season since David Hoadley started chasing way back during the early stages of the Cold War. The lack of not only tornadoes but supercells in general has been appalling. We're currently sitting at 64 tornado reports grand total for the months of March and April, with 11 in the "Traditional" Alley. My home state of Ohio has more tornadoes that Oklahoma currently and it's April 24th. While that will most certainly change this weekend, the trends have not been good. Just as every previous setup to date, the models have gone from singing high-praise to just absolutely shredding it. A mere 48 hours ago, the ECMWF and GFS were all-in on what looked to be a pretty spectacular severe weather event setting up across the central Great Plains. By today, the GFS has flip-flopped to the NAM's side with questionable moisture, capping and weak forcing for ascent all appearing along the dryline through southern Kansas into Oklahoma. It's starting to look like a distinct possibility that I will manage to not see a tornado in my brief time left on the Plains (exam week is coming in two weeks). My only hope if this weekend continues to trend down is the vaunted June period of the season back in the Midwest. While it's often ridiculed and ignored by the multitude of Plains chasers, I'd be surprised if an exodus east for some of the higher-end derecho days happened. Desperation can do some crazy things to people in this hobby. 

With any luck, Saturday/Sunday will eke out a decent tube somehwere in Oklahoma or Kansas, otherwise it looks like I'm destined to have a repeat of my horrible 2013 nightmare year. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

This Week's System: Sir Busts A Lot

Wow what a crappy week for chasing this turned out to be. Brady, Zack Allen and I left Norman around two with an initial target of Waurika. Lack of appreciable forcing along the dryline/triple point doomed this day from the start. We sat at a truck stop in Waurika and watched as tower after tower shot upwards before toppling over and getting shredded. Many a healthy TCu was lost Tuesday. The only upside were the people I had a chance to meet in person for the first time, including Craig Maire, Chris Hayes, Mike Scantlin, Andrew Newcomb, and Evan Hatch as well as running into Blaize Edwards.  All that was salvaged was a little bit of dignity as we only had to make an hour and forty-five minute drive from Waurika back to Norman. The only supercell of the day ended up going just SW of Abilene, and went through the same area we had been two weeks earlier. It spat out some very nice structure and a few wall clouds near Throckmorton from what I've seen in terms of pictures so far. The bust itself wasn't so bad, but more what it portended for the next two days.

The next day would just end up rubbing more salt in the wound. A very moist, unstable airmass was situated squarely over all of western and central Oklahoma with the dryline slowly advancing out of the TX PH. A pretty stout cap was in place per the 12Z OUN sounding and most hi-res models had the only storms of the day breaking up along the warm front/triple point in the evening. The displaced dynamics for this day put out a red flag early, but it still looked like any storm that could maybe just get a whisper of life along the dryline in western OK would go crazy. Unfortunately, the only storms of the day ended up riding the north side of the warm front, with one of them having a nicely structured updraft and multiple gustnadoes before sunset. We were in no position to even get close to it and decided to call the chase around Kingfisher instead of continuing north any further. All attempts at TCu further west fizzled leaving us with a patchy cirrus deck and a juicy, untapped airmass. A lack of any trigger really killed the potential further south. Just goes to show how different a dryline day in April is compared to a dryline day in May.

Meanwhile in north Texas at Denton, there's a tornadic supercell about to cross I-35. 2014 not off to the best of starts.