Monday, February 22, 2016

April 8, 2015 Chase Log


Unseasonably good shear led to this being hailed as the first possible outbreak on the Great Plains across the traditionally great western Oklahoma/SW Kansas area, an area that had been plagued by a drought leading to chase days being few and far between since 2010 out that way. A sharp dryline was progged to set up somewhere in the far eastern Texas Panhandle/far western Oklahoma region. Unfortunately for this setup, the first hints of what was to come with morning precip on each setup during the traditional chase season reared it's head. Persistent cloud cover and rain were present over much of west-central Oklahoma. This would end up pushing the target area further west than originally thought and many chasers including myself scrambled west towards the stalled dryline when the first signs of convection showed up in the eastern Texas counties up through Roger Mills and Ellis county, Oklahoma. We would end up making a fatal error and dropped southwest out of Alva towards an isolated tornadic supercell moving near Camargo. Shortly after passing through Waynoka, a northern cell moving towards Medicine Lodge, KS got it's act together and spat out the only good tornado of the day.

The buildup to this day saw the most chaser chatter about a setup in a long time. While the target area was nebulous, the general consensus was that the first true potent dryline setup of the year was upon us. A lead impulse looked to set off the dryline right around magic hour (4-5PM). The morning of, we set an initial target of Enid, Oklahoma. This would end up being a somewhat costly mistake in the long run. By the time we reached Enid around 18Z, the dryline hadn't budged from the eastern Panhandle and it was apparent towers were beginning to show up on the northern end closer to the surface low. We stayed on a nice, empty dirt road and tossed a baseball around for about thirty minutes before the towers really got going and we packed it in to begin moving further west.

We turned north to get on US 64 east of Jet and gradually snaked our way through Cherokee and headed for Alva. We were faced with a then still developing, LP storm in western Roger Mills county near Black Kettle National Grassland or the cluster of storms near Selman rocketing north towards the warm front. By the time we made it to Alva, it was decision time. Unfortunately, the mushy appearance of the storms to our north and the crapshoot of beating it to Medicine Lodge had already somewhat made up our minds. But as we entered Alva, the isolated southern storm presented a classic tornadic appearance and became tornado warned west of Camargo. We blazed south on US 281 and made it to Waynoka before we realized our mistake.

While the southern storm still looked decent on radar, the northern storms had finally congealed into a mammoth supercell that was putting on quite a show. We trudged forward and made it through Seiling just our southern storm began to parallel the Canadian. We got in position southeast of Seiling on US 270 and watched the storm move in front of us near a wind farm. At first, it appeared to still be a healthy supercell.

It briefly produced a lazily rotating lowering just to the right of the road but as it continued to move east, it became apparent that something was going extraordinarily wrong with the environment it was moving into.

The base became extremely disorganized and raised significantly. Cold air was pouring into the storm's inflow region and it slowly began to shrivel up just east of Seiling. Roughly 25 minutes after we arrived, the storm almost completely lost it's radar signature with only light rain showing up in a previously 45-50 dBZ core. This was the final picture I snapped before going into a fit of angry laughing.

Inattention to detail was what did us in. We had failed to check the Mesonet or any other surface data to the east where crapvection and precip had been training for most of the late morning. It wasn't until perusing Stormtrack that I saw the Mesonet temperature map that showed ice cold temperatures and general subsidence from the leftovers of the morning convection. The storm had ingested extraordinarily stable air just as it reached Seiling and shriveled up accordingly. Meanwhile, the Medicine Lodge storm had produced one low-contrast, yet pretty tornado and put on a hell of a structure show.

The day had not gone as advertised at all but would be a primer for the difficult forecasting that would come with the frequent bouts of morning precip due to the unusually wet EML source region the southern Plains was drawing from. It would also represent what would turn into an April filled with futility as I whiffed on two setups roughly a week or so later.

Chase Stats 
Miles Driven: 377
Cost: $25
Tornadoes: 0
Largest Hail: None
Highest Winds: None