2005 MAY 18: TOPEKA TO EMPORIA, KS SUPERCELLS AND DERECHO
We intercepted the supercell south of Topeka, another supercell twenty
miles east of Emporia, and finally a derecho that blasted us with
powerful winds and blinding rain.
We talked all morning about what our lifting mechanism was supposed to be in northeast Kansas today. The front was too far west, the pre-frontal trough/windshift was interesting but was that enough convergence? There was some upper level support around TOP but could it break the cap? We visited the Eisenhower Center at Abilene (can't recommend this great little Kansas town enough) and left when the MCD was issued.
We went south to Emporia, and watched the cluster of storms near TOP become more organized and discrete. Around 0z, we shot northeast (thanks for the roads, Ike!), intercepting the TOP supercell just south of the city, where it had already developed a large wallcloud and striated banding around the forward flank. This hasn't been the May of photogenic tubes for me, but the storms are making up for it with their detailed, laminated structure. We pursued this storm until the tail-end charlie cell to the west became dominant, then moved west on 35 to flank that end storm. We headed north on 75 up into the notch and saw a great CG show that lasted well past sunset. We stayed with the now southward-moving supercell by dropping down on 75.
When the storms congealed, they formed a powerful derecho which overtook us south of the interstate, where the extreme rain and powerful winds forced us to stop. Scott Currens and Eric Nguyen measured winds sustained at over 60mph for nearly ten minutes with a 72mph gust we reported to TOP on their 800 number. This was an amazing core! No hail to speak of, though Tony Laubach and Jon Van de Grift heard some pea size stones ricochet off Tony's car.
After the core passed, we dashed to a Wendy's about five minutes before they closed, along with a half dozen other windblown chasers and truckers who found themselves diverted around a section of I-35. I never saw the damage, but I assume a ten mile or so stretch of highway was blocked when tractor-trailers were blown over in the powerful microburst.
This was an intensely fun chase that included Scott Blair, Chris Collura, Jeff Gammons, Scott Eubanks, and Kersten McClung in addition to those I mentioned already. Chasing with a great group like I'm privileged to do makes it even tougher to decide if I should hang it up for a few weeks or so and return when the pattern is more favorable. I'll probably go home, but the amazing storms and camaraderie is hard to leave behind.
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