NOVEMBER 10, 2002: SW AND CENTRAL OHIO SUPERCELLS
Supercell approaching Columbus, OH
|I chased two supercells in SW Ohio yesterday afternoon,
neither of which produced tornadoes while I was on them.
I had been visiting a friend in Buckeye Lake, Ohio and didn't become aware of the situation until 2:00 PM EST. I left immediately but wasn't really prepared for a full chase in Ohio, a state I'd never even visited before. Still I'd brought the camera and laptop just in case and they came in handy until the Twilight Zone shut me down outside of Xenia later that afternoon.
I approached Dayton around 3:30, approximately the same time as the Tornado Watch went up for that section of Ohio. Several new cells lined up north to south, including one just south of Dayton and one north. I picked the southern cell because I judged it the easiest to chase as it was to my SW and moving NE, while the northern storm was NW of my location. I could have caught either one, and, in retrospect, I wish I'd taken the northern storm as it produced the tornado in West Mansfield, Ohio, you might have seen on cnn.com earlier today.
My storm moved east of Dayton quickly after catching the steering current and I followed by sliding east to Xenia. In hindsight, this was a poor choice as there's a slight southerly component in the path from Dayton to Xenia, so I was moving ESE while the storm was moving NE, albeit slowly, around 20 knots.
In Xenia I suffered the most bizarre breakdown of equipment I've witnessed or even heard of in chasing. First, my cell phone display locked up. It took me a while to understand the problem as it prevented my getting online, and I the laptop error messages suggested something was wrong with my modem. A few seconds later, I noticed that my video camera, a Sony TRV-510, was flashing the message "C 30:31" and would not function at all, refusing even to eject the tape. Then the four-wheel drive indicator lamp on my dashboard display failed to light when I shifted into 4 high on the wet roads. Finally, I lost my GPS signal and could not re-acquire again for thirty minutes.
All of this happened in and around Xenia, and the two explanations I favor most are that I was in the vicinity of some weird electromagnetic field, or that the ghosts of Xenia made their presence known to chasers yesterday afternoon.
After moving north of Xenia, I noticed the storm developed a solid and very vertical updraft tower, the backside of the updraft was a sheer wall, with an impressive lowering underneath. As I reached Interstate 70, I again made a questionable tactical decision and became entangled in Springfield traffic, a circumstance which cost me the storm. Luckily, another large and powerful storm was moving over Columbus itself and I slid east and followed this new storm as it dropped one inch hail on the eastern side of the city. This was more of an HP-style cell, with a perfectly symmetrical crown ringed by cloud to cloud and interior lightning. I followed this storm north of the city before breaking off and heading back into Columbus.
A frustrating chase overall, between the unfamiliar county and city names on NOAA, the massive equipment meltdown, and questionable road choices. I definitely knew I wasn't in my old stomping grounds of Texas and Oklahoma. Yet I managed to get some decent video of the two storms (after I'd disconnected and reconnected the camera battery to reset it) and enjoyed getting back out in the field after so many months in chaser-mothballs.
As for the other matter, I think it's fair to critically analyze any organization providing critical public information. The economic aspect of their mission in no way relieves them of the duty to help protect life and property, just as no chaser with an economic relationship to TWC should avoid speaking his or her mind. On the other side of the ball, I've heard nothing but praise and gratitude expressed for the NWS and the SPC, not just in here but by people in Ohio yesterday night and this morning, and I think it's a tribute to their work and vigilance that such a widespread outbreak killed far fewer than it might have, though every death is one too many.
Amos Magliocco KC5VPD
Amos Magliocco Storm Chasing Page