Tuesday, December 29, 2015

March 25, 2015 Chase Log


A solid chase day with a beautifully structured supercell unexpectedly forming just ahead of a crashing cold front north of Anadarko, Oklahoma. A weak, positively-tilted shortwave rapidly moved through the central Plains with a strong westerly component at 500 mb. Dewpoints from 58-61F overspread much of central and southwestern Oklahoma ahead of the sweeping cold front approaching from the due north. Multiple other supercells would occur this day along the front, including the Sand Springs tornado and a weak spinup out of another HP supercell in Moore. The Anadarko supercell would end up being the be the most classic of the storms that day, with most chasers ending up in a logjam at the junction of US-62 and US-81.  

This would promise to be the first major chase day on the Plains for 2015. The Storm Prediction Center slapped a moderate risk across northeastern Oklahoma into southwest Missouri, with a broad 5% tornado swath along the I-44 corridor through Lawton. A brisk cold front was progged to rapidly move through northern and central Oklahoma by later that evening with forcing being exceptionally strong along the southward sag of the front just west of the OKC metro, hinting at the possibility of a linear mode from the getgo.

A lead impulse ahead of the main trough swung through central Oklahoma around 19Z, exacerbating worries about a premature initiation and persistent cloud cover across the area. It shot off a few small cells and led to some strange mammatus under a stratus deck in Norman before firing off the strongest supercell of the day northeast of OKC that would eventually follow I-44 into Sand Springs and produce an EF3 stovepipe.

My chase partner and I left Norman shortly after the lead impulse swung through around 19:45Z with an initial target of Minco, OK. We cut through Chickhasha and swung just north of Pocasset to watch the struggling Cu field off to our northwest. After sitting for half an hour, the first signs of life stirred in the Cu field to our west around 21:30Z. By 22Z, full blow intitiation was underway and we were hauling it west towards a pretty beefy cell southwest of Gracemont and northwest of Anadarko. We ended up taking a brutal dirt road detour towards Gracemont on Dutton Road before finally emerging in some rolling terrain north of Gracemont and stopping on E1250 Rd to watch a beautiful storm take shape.

We were forced to move after about 15 minutes of watching the storm and a brief chat with a nice farmer who's home was about a 1/4 mile down the road from where we were sitting. The linear mess to our north was encroaching rapidly and the storm was continuing to be pushed southeast by the front.

We passed the OU radar trucks on the way down US-281/OK-8 before stopping about 100 yards north of the Gold River Casino to watch the supercell wind it's way south, with a few gustnadoes dancing around under it's gust front.

After watching the gustnado show with a few chasers we continued trekking south back towards US-62. We decided to try and blast east towards US-81 to try and get in front of the storm one more time. We encountered some decently high winds south of Anadarko and managed to make great to time to US-81. The cell attempted one more cycle and put out a pretty beefy wall cloud before choking on stable surface parcels and withering. By now the hail threat was manifesting itself in the storm and we hurried back to Chickasha to get partial cover under the awning of a Shell as quarters and a few ping pong balls pelted Chickasha. We briefly attempted to meet up with a few friends from OU before giving up the ghost due to the storm rapidly approaching Chickasha. We ended the day at the Dairy Queen before heading back to Norman to an awesome lightning show. The 2015 season was open for business.

Chase Stats
Miles Driven: 132 miles
Cost: $35
Tornadoes: 0
Largest Hail: Ping pong (1.5")
Highest Winds: 45 mph (estimated)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Brief November 16 Writeup

Sorry for the delay on this, work and school have colluded to make the last few weeks of the semester absolutely crazy. I managed to nab a few tornadoes to end my season in my favorite part of the High Plains: the Texas Panhandle. While getting a late start out of Norman, we still managed to make Goodnight just as the first supercell emerged out of the mouth of Palo Duro. It spat out a small, classic tor southwest of Goodnight. The road options down there screwed us out of good views of the next two, but we still managed to see the Groom tornado through the rain to the north and on our way down I-40 back to Norman, managed to get a view of the second Pampa wedge as it hit what I guess had to have been a transformer given the fact that it illuminated the entire tornado and base in white. All in all, a great way to end a great year.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Last Chance of the Year?

It finally appears that a few more parting shots are appearing on the horizon, starting with this upcoming Thursday, November 6. It's a sad state of affairs when I'm having to turned to a positively-tilted piece of crap trough with a SW/NE oriented dryline and a rapidly ejecting impulse, but such is the reality of late-in-the-year storm chasing. While another opportunity appears possible next week, the fact that it lands on a Wednesday and could require more than a three hour drive presents an issue what with early morning classes and work. It sucks that I'm running into the busiest part of my year as we sail toward wintry oblivion in several weeks but such is life.  

The time change and the shortening of the days tends to signal the beginning of the end of yet another chase season and me turning back to this blog to vent the usual frustrations with the cold world at large. But with Chasercon being held in Norman this year, the wait should be marginally better with chasers from across the country pouring onto the prairie before the annual march to the dryline begins a few months later. All in all, I guess I don't have too much to complain about.

Be on the lookout for updates as winter begins to take hold!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

March 19, 2015 Chase Log


The first chase of the year on a marginal day across northwest Texas in the worst road network imaginable. A rather positively tilted trough was swinging out of Baja and a small lead impulse was progged to push through the southern Plains with a cold front hot on it's heels. Modest moisture in the upper-50s/low-60s were rapidly returning northward throughout the morning. Instability looked marginal at best, hovering around 1500 j/kg ML throughout the period. Shear was lacking but increasing westerlies aloft coupled with some slight PVA across the region provided the possibility for at least pretty hailers. It seemed almost identical to the setup roughly a year earlier down near Coleman, Texas in mid-March.

We initially targeted Vernon and made our way out of Norman early in the morning. Thankfully we had a lot of time to kill as we were still in the middle of spring break. After snagging the usual lunch and WiFi from the Vernon McDonald's we mosied over to the Subway to chat with Jason Boggs. After chewing the fat for a little bit, we decided to dip south towards Seymour where a small, flat CU field was slowly taking shape. After a close run-in with a hog coming out of the insanely unpopulated canyon-land that is Baylor County, The CU field slowly began to beef up as moisture continued to pump in from the southeast. The issue at hand was the persistent cloud deck due to the rapid moisture return that morning.

The first hints of towers appeared out of the haze to our southwest towards Dundee. This would end up being the first tower to catch and we rapidly hauled through Baylor County to get on US 82 heading east. We eventually caught up with the storm as it struggled to maintain a base below 1750m.

After about 20 minutes of watching the storm crap itself out, we jaunted back west from whence we came as new development took hold near Benjamin. We caught the storms on US 183 in Baylor County once again, with 183 being the only road option. Outflow started rapidly hauling out of the storms that were crossing to our north and we decided to bail east once again for the only cell that had managed to stay organized, just west of Archer City.

We made good time and were able to catch up with the storm just past Windthorst. The storm looked to be the best of the day by far and actually had a centered, organized updraft.

As we came out of the rain, a lowered base with a hard cut presented itself. Rain bands were rapidly wrapping in and it actually appeared as though the storm might attempt to actually organize some weak spin in it's mid-levels.

The shear appeared to just be a bit too weak and the storm's cold downdraft shredded the storm. We attempted to stay out in front but got chased into the heavily wooded/hilly areas around Jacksboro before calling the chase. We slowly made our way back to SPS before making the two hour drive back to Norman.

Chase Stats
Miles Driven: 507.7
Cost; $20
Tornadoes: 0
Largest Hail: None
Highest Winds: 35-40 estimated

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Fall Season Coming on Fast

After a summer of below normal temperatures, the southern Plains summer came back with a vengeance this last week, with temps soaring into the low 100s over Oklahoma and Texas. The extreme precip that most of the Plains saw this year aided in making it absolutely unbearable to be outside, with 70F+ dewpoints over much of Oklahoma even in the face of extreme surface temps. 

But as the massive summer ridge continues to sit over the entire plains, hope appears on the horizon for a solid fall season. The maintenance of high boundary layer moisture gives me hope that fall setups shouldn't be running into many issues outside of timing on troughs. A prolific fall hasn't been seen since roughly 1998, but a 98 season isn't needed to get good tornadoes out of the fall. 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 have all featured solid fall days somewhere on the central to southern Great Plains and hopefully the trend continues. I've managed to nab tornadic storms in 2 of the previous three years, including a day with three tornadoes in the Panhandle in 2012 so expectations are running high. 

I haven't been out and about on the Plains since the ill-fated June trek up to northwest Kansas, which managed to add an extra 980 miles to my mileage in one go. The itch to get back out to see if I can eek another gem out of this season is getting bad. Then again, so is the desire to have college football back. 

I recently was hired on at WDT so my posts will likely be few and far between going into the fall semester, but I will try and keep this blog up to date on any chasing opportunities that come up this fall. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Summer Offseason

The weird part of the chase season has arrived with July and it looks like any meaningful chase opportunities will be limited until the secondary season starts up in August. More drenching rain is currently overspreading Oklahoma and the Panhandle and it would seem moisture problems should be negligible going into the fall season. I'll be working on the chase logs from the second half of spring soon.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Onward to the Northern High Plains

The bells have finally tolled for the southern Plains and the jet stream has rapidly begun flowing further north into Nebraska and the Dakotas. It's been an excellent year so far, thanks to the Elmer tornado on May 16th being the crown jewel so far. 2015 has been a pretty decent year so far for me. I'm well over 3000 miles after 7 chases and am looking towards the central High Plains either tomorrow or Thursday for another chase. The middle of June continues to put out some signals for activity even down into the Panhandles with NW flow setting up on the northern edge of the high pressure dome now in place across the southern Plains. All in all, I can't complain. Here are some highlights so far.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

First Bust on the Books

After two excellent chases, the atmosphere struck back with a day that ended up being extraordinarily difficult to forecast for. Daytime convection yesterday across W-Cntrl Oklahoma limited the eastward progression of the dryline, with initiation starting in the TX Panhandle. After initially N running through Enid, we began stair-stepping up roads towards Alva to get ahead of a cluster with an interesting tail-end cell heading into Kansas south of Medicine Lodge. At that same time, a lone cell near Arnett went tornado warned and caused us to make a horrible decision and drop south instead of north in Alva. The south storm shit the bed near Camargo and our northern storm spat out multiple tornadoes with monstrous structure near Medicine Lodge, Kansas. Bad luck of the draw on the first major chase day of the year so far. This weekend into next week looks to continue the favorable flow regime for severe weather, meaning a couple of redemption chases are likely on Sunday and possibly Thursday. Stay tuned for more updates.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

2015 Off to a Great Start

The 2015 chase season kicked off with a bang for most people yesterday, with strong supercells forming ahead of a lead impulse and the main trough/cold front in the late afternoon. Oklahoma and Arkansas both saw two tornadoes a piece. Sadly the Sand Springs tornado NW of Tulsa caused multiple injuries in a trailer park while also killing one person. Moore, the city that can't seem to catch a break, also got hit by a weak tornado that formed after the attendant supercell modified the front/OFB it was riding and seemed to have a very QLCS-esque circulation without an attendant large low-level mesocyclone. Yesterday was just plain strange from a meteorological perspective. 

As for my chase day, Noah Myers and myself left Norman around 3 PM CDT with an initial target of Minco. We cut down 9 through Blanchard, over to Chickasha but stopped short of Minco near Pocasset to watch as the beginning stages of convective initiation became visible to our NW. The front was visible on KTLX as a small band NW of El Reno and it initially looked like the storms might be instantly linear, but as we started moving west towards Gracemont it became apparent that the storms were actually semi-discrete. We got an excellent view of the storm as we closed in and managed to make it to a nice turn off on the west side of 281 north of Gracemont/Anadarko. The storm had decent mid-level rotation and ended up having a stacked plates appearance with laminar bands towards the top of the updraft tower. More linear storms with a rather ominous gust front were staying off to the north as the storm slowly pushed SE, staying out ahead with a nice rounded shape for the majority of our time on that road. After watching some decent attempts at organizing low-level rotation, the storm began to push too close, forcing us to drop south a bit to just north of Anadarko near the Delaware Nation headquarters. We watched dramatic outflow motion along the storm's still-sculpted gust front as well as a couple gustnadoes before continuing south onto HWY 9 back towards Chickasha. We got some pretty strong outflow winds on our way back and watched the storm's last attempt at a wall cloud get undercut by stable air before letting it pass over us in Chickasha. Finished off a nice day at the Dairy Queen, running into Ariel Cohen there, before heading back to Norman with a great lightning show to our SE. 

So far 2015 has started out great. While there were missed tornadoes yesterday, there was no way in hell I was going to chase back into the metro and the Tulsa storms had sailed NE before we even left Norman making the Anadarko storm an excellent prize in a decent roads network. A good looking supercell on the prairie is always a welcome event this early in the season. As of right now, the only thing showing up on the models of interest is a longwave moving into the central CONUS towards the end of next week. Details such as moisture and timing are still extraordinarily fuzzy, although this morning's 12Z GFS was very unkind towards the possibility of a solid fetch from the GOM. I'll likely have updates throughout next week on the status of another possible S Plains event late next week. Also be on the look out for my chase logs for March 19th and March 25th at the start of April. Enjoy your weekend, ladies and gents. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

First Chase of 2015 Down with More Coming

Sorry about the delay folks, a rather busy weekend kept me from updating about the first chase of 2015. The bleak, tornado-less March got a little better after me and two chase partners bit on the marginal day across NW TX on March 19 (last Thursday). We initially targeted Vernon before repositioning soutb closer to Seymour. We traipsed between Archer City and Seymour three times before finally busting it east for the best storm of the day near Windthorst. We got some nice looking supercellular structure with one hell of a core punch to get to it. We also learned that Baylor county has the  worst road network around. But I'll leave more details for the next chase log.

This week looks to be the first two day series of events of the year. Tuesday and Wednesday both hold consider severe potential starting with MO and NE OK Tuesday before the cold front washes out and allows for a strong fetch across S OK/N TX on Wednesday before it comes sweeping back down. I'm looking at chasing Wednesday due to time constraints tomorrow, but it looks like one of these days may finally get us on the board for a tornado in March. I'll likely save my next update for the weekend so be on the lookout!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

2015 Becoming Chaser Purgatory

Very warm temps continue to prevail across the prairie under mostly clear skies. Norman is currently sitting at 70F per the Oklahoma Mesonet and chasers across Faecbook , Stormtrack and Twitter continue to grow antsy with each passing day of "dull" weather. The Rex block over the west coast continues to lurk throughout the majority of the reasonable forecast period with the southern branch of the split flow resulting in moisture being dammed along the Gulf coastline. The SPC reports graph shows 2015's plot as a complete flat line in terms of tornadoes since just past the second week of January with roughly 25 reports since January 1st. This has been the slowest year since 2002 in terms of overall reports, with the mean number being 146 by this point. While there is no correlation to the quality of the season, it is a bit concerning that there might not be one severe weather episode before the final week of March based on the progs. With chasers already going mad from the long off season, it could cause an enormous amount of chaser convergence on the first Plains event.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Spring Arrives on the Prairie

The first bout of extended warm weather has finally arrived. While precipitation chances still exist across south-central Oklahoma through tonight and tomorrow, it will blessedly just be rain. The smell and feel of spring is back from the cross timbers to the High Plains. While the upper-air pattern looks bleak in terms of severe weather, the general consensus is that these warm temps are here to stay through at least the start of my spring break which begins next weekend. While these higher temps further west may dry out some of that soil moisture we picked up from the recent snowfall, it's still welcome to just change the mood. The annual chaser chatter that accompanies the start of March has quieted down a bit as the impending rex block draws ever closer, but the promise of likely setups in less than a month (April) is keeping people in generally better spirits. This season continues the narrative of slow starts that plagued the previous two years (2013 & 2014) but the storms will come. It's years like this where patience becomes more and more crucial the deeper into spring you get without setups.

So chin up people, the supercells and tornadoes are coming, it's just a longer waiting game than usual.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cleaning Off the Cobwebs

Norman took an absolute clobbering in Oklahoma terms from the winter weather event that unfolded over the course of this weekend. Most side streets were sheets of ice well into the afternoon and evening yesterday with the traditional bad driving that always accompanies Texans and Oklahomans when there's snow on the ground. The white death from above has done nothing to damper my spirits as we roll into a cold March, even as it looks more and more likely that this will be my latest start to a season since 2009. I've been working on clearing off all my SD cards, finding all the other things that have been spread about over the previous 6 months (road atlases are surprisingly good at disappearing), and finally planning out funds and days I will most certainly not be able to chase due to school and other events.

The lead-up to the 2015 season has given off one of the strangest vibes I can think of since I started chasing. It feels great to be in March but the desperation for storms, while still there, hasn't driven me to the brink of insanity just due to the sheer volume of other things I have going on right now. I've been itching to get out of Norman and back onto the prairie that I love so much but there's no real sense of urgency now that we've hit March. Whether it's maturity or just plain lethargy I'll never know, but it's nice to not be totally emotionally invested in when the season will actually offer the first setup on the Plains. But for the other out there who are craving supercells and tornadoes, we're not too far away.

Also, tune into the Ghost Train tonight at 7:30 CST to get an awesome rundown of the new Stormtrack from Steve Miller and the rest of the mods at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiQ0VwfDqcE

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chase Season 2015 Opening with a Shot of Cold Air

Well ladies and gents, it's finally that time of year. Chasers are beginning to anxiously watch the GFS and ECMWF deep into the 200-300 hour range, the annual bickering from hell that accompanies February has begun and a massive thermal ridge popping a squat over the Pacific coast into the Bay of Alaska is sending us all into deep depression. To top it all off, the southern Plains look to be in the crosshairs of yet another winter weather event heading into this weekend, starting with heavy snow from the edge of the High Plains in E NM all the way to far SW Oklahoma, with smaller totals into central Oklahoma. March 1st is also staring a decently high probability of freezing rain in N Central Oklahoma.

But even through all that, the undeniable fact is that chase season will likely soon be upon us. The monstrous ridge responsible for all these polar air intrusions well into Texas and the Gulf Coast has been shown gradually de-amplifying and making way onshore as a large trough swings through the central Pacific late in the 192 hour period. Yesterday saw the US avoid going tornado-watchless for the month of February with the first watch and tornado warning I've seen in a very long time. Repeated Gulf sweepers and cold air blasts are keeping me with my crabby expectations but its only a matter of time before the pattern shift comes and the tornadic thunderstorms return to the Plains.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Starting Shot for Chase Season 2015 Closing In

As of 12 AM this morning, we sit poised 19 days away from the opening of chase season. The current pattern does not appear overly favorable for convection before the last week and a half of February, but a potential pattern shift with the omega block breaking down and west coast troughing beginning might in the works about 10 days down the line (only the most accurate data known to man /s). Obviously this is wishful thinking, but an early return to troughing on the west coast with the main flow branch being shunted northward a bit would be a welcome change to the relatively dull temperature roller-coaster that has been February so far.

A lot of my first chases of the year have tended to come earlier rather than later (March 2, February 9, and March 15 respectively) over the past three seasons but I also hold no illusions to the likely quality of any setup that may present itself. A tornado before April would be quite the surprise at this point. But maybe I'll get lucky with a good supercell before too long a la 2012.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Under a Month to Chase Season 2015

We're rounding third and heading for home with chase season 2015 now only 28 days away, coinciding with the start of meteorological spring. While nothing is jumping out within the range of reason going into February, measurable rainfall across the Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma from .5 to .75" being reported by Oklahoma and West Texas Mesonet sites. It's unlikely that there will be a chaseable setup in the near future but I'm still gonna be looking to the near future for that first digging shortwave.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Warmer Days Across the Plains

In classic southern Plains fashion, a warmer airmass continues to sit over the region in late January. Yesterday saw upper 70s across much of central Oklahoma and even low 80s further west near Childress up to Mangum. Further west onto the High Plains looks to be even warmer than yesterday along with Norman flirting with the upper-70s again. Per usual, the nice temps are going away starting Thursday along with a possibly large amount precipitation across southern Oklahoma as the thermal ridge currently over the High Plains/southern Plains begins to break down. The 2015 chase season is still sitting about a month away but with the Texas PH receiving a bit of extra support in terms of precip due to the recent major snow event and a possible second winter weather event, I'm somewhat confident an early season setup or two may provide itself out west in the Panhandles region but that still seems like a very distant possibility.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Hidden Blocking Pattern

Once again, the hope that springs eternal was shot down after perusing the Euro and GFS to around 5-6 days out (yes I know, only the most accurate data comes from there). Towards the end of this week going into next, a rather unfavorably strong thermal/mid-level ridge looks to set up shop over the Four Corners and fringes of the High Plains. The problem with this is twofold:

1. A lack of decent precipitation is possible across the southern High Plains once this pattern sets up

2. It may start the dreaded east coast troughing that will likely lead to repeated scourings of the GOM with each impulse that rides the roller coaster.

While little is certain at this range and beyond, the trend towards that solution kind of sucks . The last time the CONUS was tossed into this pattern, the season started off at a snail's pace with moisture struggling to get north due to repeated sweeping fronts on the heels of larger upper-level features to the east.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Less than 50 Days Until Chase Season

Well folks we're finally rolling into the last and worst part of the offseason. We've hit a mere 46 days until the start of chase season 2015 on March 1st and as of right now, this winter pattern is already looking like a stark improvement to where we were last January. A much more "fluid" meridional flow regime is overspreading the CONUS with multiple troughs rapidly ejecting into the Atlantic each week. Last season, a stagnant blocking pattern with an almost constant east coast trough spelled doom for the early season as repeated polar intrusions into the southern Plains and GOM annihilated moisture and set the start of spring-esque patterns back a few weeks.

As of right now, Bessie, the ever reliable and unkillable 95 Jeep Grand Cherokee, has yet to receive the Aquapel application for the windshield or the new in-car tablet feature with a portable USB computer to negate having to lug a laptop and all the wires into the passenger seat of the Jeep. Outside the vehicle, my tripod still has a bad case of the "drop my central rod" syndrome and I'm still gonna be working with a meh camera this season. But the season continues to blessedly draw nearer and the annual promise of tornadoes somewhere on the Plains in March has me excited.