Cyclone Road

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Long-Track Tornado Chase Across Oklahoma: 5/8/2003 Report

Tulsa, Oklahoma--Dave Fick and I are just getting up and around after chasing the Oklahoma supercell last night for over 200 miles and about seven hours. We
chased until 2:30 AM and caught glimpses of the large tornado several times. Hopefully the dash-mounted camcorder, which was running continuously, will have captured the lightning-backlit image of this monster. We encountered the outer edge of the circulation near the intersection of 102 and 44 when we got a little too close once.

We're shocked to see more storms potentially on tap today in Central we go again. This has undoubtedly been the most ferocious week plus of severe storms, not only for frequency but also for the sheer power and violence of the tornadoes producued, in the modern era. As I am posting this blog, the SPC has issued a Tornado Watch for parts of Oklahoma and the Norman NWS issued a discussion in the last thirty minutes describing the potential for tornadic supercells in Eastern Oklahoma. The Weather Channel is discussing a potentially "historic" day for tornadoes across the Midwest today. Already we have seen far more tornadoes in the last ten days than we normally see in all of May.

Warnings coming out now for Oklahoma. Gotta go. Pictures and video caps later.

Friday, May 09, 2003

Heading for Oklahoma

St. Joseph, Missouri--I hate to say that it looks like another round of severe storms along the dryline this afternoon in Oklahoma. We're heading south on 35 from Kansas City, and will go as south as necessary. An upper level disturbance associated with a closed low aloft is headed for the plains, and the boundary layer in the eastern half of Oklahoma is still juiced, with seventy degree dewpoints common. No specific target to name for now, but perhaps about halfway between OKC and the Kansas state line on I-35. No time to check messages or even do much beyond rudimentary forecasting. Time to hit the road again.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Warm Front Frustrations

St. Joseph, Missouri--Today's chase along the foggy and grungy warm front was the most frustrating day of the vacation. Between the proxmimity of Indiana and my dissipating chase budget, I'm reminded of the old saying about too much of a good thing. Today Dave Fick, Scott Eubanks, and I chased at least three supercells, all with tornado warnings, none of which produced for us.

Scott and I turned on a dirt road near Clyde, Kansas and found ourselves sliding on a very slippery mud road. I spent thirty minutes going one-half mile and Scott wasn't so lucky, requiring a tractor to drag his Durango from the ditch. I could recite the GPS log to recount the day, but why bother? We went from around Clay Center and chased for several hours all the way to near St. Joseph. I'm tired and frustrated. Here's the only decent image of the day.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Chase Target Tomorrow
I like the area around or south of Concordia, Kansas tomorrow, perhaps more south if the warm front stalls, or more west if the system slows overall, as the ETA seems to trend. I'll leave early in the morning around 8:00 AM.

West Missouri Chase Report May 6,2003

Large meso hangs beneath second Fort Scott, Missouri supercell

Carthage, Missouri--Waited in Nevada, Missouri for storms to fire along the intersection of the dryline and an outflow boundary which drifted south from ongoing convection south of Kansas City. Jeff Gammons alerted me to the first cell of the day which fired north of Chanutte, Kansas and headed east northeast. I raced up 71 to Nevada and turned toward Ft. Scott. I closed on the classic looking supercell and Mike Hollingshead described the structure from his position near Uniontown, Kansas. Near the intersection of 54/7, I saw my first large wallcloud of the day, a feature which developed quickly into an elongated funnel cloud that I chased very closely by following the reliable grid of farmroads every mile.

Not far east of State Road 71 this storm rocketed away from me and, despite chasing as hard and persistently as I could due east between Rich Hill and Rockville, I abandoned the storm southwest of Appleton City and turned back to the west for the second supercell of the day, coming hard on the heels of the first one and moving toward Fort Scott. We believed these storms were moving along a boundary, either the warm front or the earlier analyzed outflow boundary.

When I crested a hill on 54 near Deerfield, a massive mesocyclone with striking inflow tails on either side and beautiful laminar symmetry hung beneath this classic though slightly elevated supercell. Mike Hollingshead was under this storm again and reported that it appeared to be undercut, perhaps by the very feature we counted on for horizontal vorticity and nuances of boundary magic. The cool air behind this outflow may have ‘cold-fronted’ the updraft and left us only with this impressive structure, which was variously reported as everything from a tornado on the ground to Elvis’s Flagship UFO. I told my nowcaster that under no circumstances would I abandon speedy and straight State Road 54 this time, because the smaller roads offered no hope to keep up with storms.

Of course when the storm exhibited the slightest southerly component I exited 54 for a south route with a better view of the updraft. I raced east on Farm Road E to put distance between myself and the storm. When I turned around to look, it was gone. This was the most bizarre moment of my chase career: I’d lost an entire supercell. It was behind me, then it wasn’t. I called Jeff Gammons and said, “What the hell just happened?” He explained that a storm to the south and my storm had merged, and the core of the new, larger cell jumped southward so that what had been due west of me was suddenly southeast. I didn’t enjoy this news.

Once again I tried to catch and reposition myself to no avail. I considered shutting it down and moved south and east toward State Road 160, thinking that I might catch sight of another storm approaching from Joplin. Drifting in the precip between two storms as another merger took place, I came out of the rain curtains around 7:30 to find a surprising wall cloud hanging from a meso right in front of me, just west of Golden City on State Road 126.

Dade County surprise meso and wallcloud

I believe this was the backside of the Dade County storm which earned a tornado warning only moments after I found the lowering. I snapped a few pictures and turned east to keep up for as long as I could, but soon this storm, too, dashed beyond reach, and, as I pursued on State Road 160, a tornado was reported near Bolivar. A spotter told me later that this might have been a false report due to various lowerings and blocky, gust front-related tendrils.

Karen Rhoden mentioned this Bolivar tornado report in an earlier post and Dave Crowley replied. However, I believe Karen’s post concerned this last, third storm that I’m describing—the Dade County storm—and I think Dave’s reply concerns the second storm, the one which produced a remarkable meso misreported as a wall cloud over Fort Scott. I saw both storms and they were very different. The Fort Scott meso storm merged and disappeared well before the Dade County meso cranked up.

I chased as hard as I could on 160, through the towns of Greenfield and Walnut Grove, taking road BB to continue due east. At this point I was due north of Springfield, and about to run out of gas, not from neglect but from a complete lack of opportunity to refill. South of Morrisville, I knew I was finished and that I’d need a gas station soon. Of course, the power was out in the village and, as we all know, gas won’t flow without the electricity to run the pumps. I rolled to Brighton on fumes and found a working station, then packed it in for the night.

Godlight over Brighton, Missouri

Many thanks to Jeff Gammons, Jeff Lawson, and Robert Hall for great nowcasting, and Mike Hollingshead for comparing notes from alternate angles.

Carthage, Missouri--I decided to stay here in beautiful, "historic" Carthage, Missouri
today. I plan to drive only to breakfast and a grocery store, then
return to my room to post pictures and my chase report from
yesterday, and do some reading. I may even break out some work of
my own and see if I still know how to write. After marathon mileage
(nearly 3000 so far) each day since last Friday, I'm ready for a day
like today, with a setup so marginal and far away that it doesn't
makes sense to lose position for the next day.

I may even take a nap.

I haven't looked at targeting for tomorrow, but I always hear it
described in the same general area, so I guess the models are
consistent. If it makes meteorological sense, I'd like to stay
south of the KC metro area, but who knows what will happen?

Okay, I'm checked in here for another day and I'm headed out to find
a *decent* cup of coffee for once on this trip. Chase Season 2003
rocks on.

Quick Update
Carthage, Missouri--Chased three supercells in Western and West Central Missouri on Tuesday (5-6), all with strong and photogenic wallclouds and other features. May have spotted the Bolivar tornado from a great distance. Started around Fort Scott, Kansas and finally quit northeast of Kansas City near dark. Will post a longer report tomorrow night. Looks like a Western Oklahoma target tomorrow, though the setup is highly conditional.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

I'm headed for Springfield, MO. Looks like another
round of major storms this afternoon as the BL is
primed out the wazoo today--more CAPE than Sunday's
storms. Low level shear not as favorable for
tornadoes, but pretty close.

Dave and I may meet up in TUL if time allows, likely
not, however. He'll probably get the southern quarter
of activity as TUL expects the dryline to light up
this afternoon as well. This shift of targets was a
little unexpected, and a good example of why it pays
to be up here already. Yesterday, I expected to
drive to the Oklahoma panhandle today. Things change

I hope I get to SEE North Texas sometime this month!
LOL! I really want to.

Off to SGF,


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Update and Some Pictures

Norman, Oklahoma--Spent the evening running errands: a long-overdue haircut, washing the truck, laundry at the motel, catching up on emails from students, etc etc, after we drove to Southeast Oklahoma today on the long shot chance that something might fire. Nothing happened and I came on to Norman while Scott and Jeff returned to the Dallas metro area for what may or may not be a down day. Storms are possible in Missouri tomorrow. Whether I chase them or not is up for debate. Scott Currens may chase with me a for a few days so that would make things easier.

Looks like things won't be quiet long as Wednesday appears to be another very good dryline chase in Northern Oklahoma and then Thursday looks, on tonight's ETA, to be something like an exact replica of the major outbreak yesterday. No way that can happen twice in a week, but Thursday looks like a tornado day for sure, at least on the models tonight. The models, as we know, are always subject to change.

Here are a few pictures from my digital camera, which aren't very good because what we saw was poorly contrasted. My video shows the Wal-Mart tornado more clearly, but I'm going to post this anyway. I had the flash on when I shot it from inside the car, and the light washed against the glass and ruined the image. What can I say? It was not a day of great imagery for us, as it was for many chasers. Also, I should mention that yesterday was a very destructive day of tornadoes both for structures and loss of life. There's no celebration of torndoes that have killed.

2003 MAY 4: NW TEXAS LEFT SPLITTER (don't take the left splitter!)

The left splitter on May 4, a back-ass-wards storm

Another May 4 view

2003 MAY 5 KANSAS CITY SUPERCELLS & TORNADOES [chase partner Jeff Lawson's report]

Same storm that produced Liberty tornado trying again

Large wedge on the ground probably near Platte City [shot from west of Smithville]
(damage reports and paths from KC NWS seem to confirm this, though Brian Fant and Scott Eubanks believed they were watching the same feature from another location and report it was not on the ground. However, reading storm reports today, it seems two supercells in NW KC metro were so close together, that it's difficult to know if what we were looking at was the same thing they were looking at.)

This large tornado I manage to obscure by allowing my flash to go off in the truck, thus washing out the image. It shows up more clearly on video, though not by much. It was visually quite obvious, however, that a large tornado was approaching Excelsior Springs from the south. This, we believe, is the same tornado which began in Liberty Kansas and tracked behind us up State Road 69. I will link the larger images to these thumbnails as soon Jeff Gammons comes to the plains next week and shows me how to code the html. Haha. And it's 1:00 AM and I've chased from Texas to Missouri and back again in four days. So as Furio says, "Don't bitch to me." :-)

Monday, May 05, 2003

Big Tornado Day

Ottawa, Kansas--Spending the night southwest of Kansas City after another long day of chasing with Jeff Lawson, Scott Eubanks, and Brian Fant in the high risk area in northeast Kansas and Western Missouri.

We had three or four distinct events. First, Jeff and I may have seen a tornado near Platte City in the Northwest Quadrant of Kansas City, Missouri.

Later, we saw the outer edge of circulation as a tornado formed in downtown Liberty, Missouri, where large debris floated through the air in a strangely dim light with rotating rain curtains and screaming inflow behind us. We bailed out of the approaching tornado and raced it up State Road 69 toward Excelsior Springs where we saw the somewhat rain-wrapped wedge grind from the south toward a Wal-Mart near the edge of town. When the precip was too heavy to stay, we continued up the highway and witnessed a very small, non-violent (and therefore not meeting the classical definition of a tornado) circulation which crossed the road near Wood Heights.

Unfortunately, these storms and tornadoes peeked in and out so quickly and in such hilly terrain that our video isn't even close to what chasers saw in Kansas City proper or, apparently Southeastern Kansas. But the experience of being in the outer circulation of a developing large tornado was surreal enough to more than make up for the lack of glorious footage. I may have images of the Wal-Mart wedge that are *decent,* but after three straight days of driving constantly, I'm in no condition to upload them. In the morning, I'll post them.

A huge thanks to Jeff Gammons for great nowcasting, staying on the phone with us constantly as we skirted the edge of the tornadic storm moving through North Central KC metro. Also, Rob Hall made himself available, too. Thanks to both. Congratulations to all my friends who had success the last two days: Shane, Scott Currens, Chris Sokol, and many others.

Yesterday we chased the left split because, like Sam, we expected the storm would interact with the warm front and a north/south boundary we analyzed near Vernon. What we found was, of course, an inverted backwards thunderstorm that never got its act together for us, while the Haskell storm apparently sat and spun deep into the core of the earth.

Tomorrow looks like a much-needed down day, and we won't be doing much driving. Tuesday, we'll head south to position for Wednesday.

Amos Magliocco

Sunday, May 04, 2003

We chased the left splitter yesterday for what seemed
like good reasons at the time; only saw brief

Very short of time this morning. We're in Winfield,
Kansas (myself, Brian F, Scott E, and Jeff Lawson) and
we're headed for the Topeka area for initiation.

Best of luck to all. Be safe.