Long time no post. I needed a break after the last couple weeks. I haven’t totaled up my miles or hours spent in the car yet, but it was rough. My guess is I covered right around 6,000 miles and probably pushing 75 hours plus in the car during that stretch. Really not a whole lot to show for it either, which is frustrating. I made some mistakes I regret and other decisions that cost me tornadoes I still think were the right ones. I’ll get into that a bit below. I’ll tack that onto the back end so the people who don’t want to hear me ramble don’t have to. Before that I’ll get into the extended forecast briefly.
The mid season high pressure has set in. It’s almost kind of nice. I was ready for a break and I had a ton of work to get caught up on so it’s welcome in that regard. It’s also welcome because for the first time in a few years it feels like a return to a normal tornado season in the plains. 2016 had an active stretch, but if I remember right that was pretty much it. Just one 7 day or so stretch where we got some good setups. 2017-2018 just flat out sucked in the central/southern plains. This season feels like the good old days minus the quiet March and April in the plains. May has done it’s part and then settling into the mid season ridge around June 1st is what I always used to expect in the 2003-2010 or so window where tornado season used to seem more stable in the plains. The mid season ridge always seemed to last right around 2 weeks before it would break down and you’d get a setup or two in Kansas and several in the northern plains. Still way too far out to get into it, but the models have been hinting at a similar pattern for this year. There’s a closed low that’s going to come meandering through the southern plains late this work week, but I’m not sure it’s going to amount to much. Maybe a low end chance for tornadoes Sunday too, but again it’s not looking real promising. It doesn’t look good now, but I may be more interested in the NE Colorado area for Sunday than I am in the Oklahoma/Kansas corridor. It doesn’t look that good right now though so I’m not even sure it will be worth chasing. I’ll post on it more in later forecasts. Then as I mentioned above there are hints that the ridge may start to break down around the middle of June which would open up the door for some decent tornado setups in the central and northern plains. I just started looking at the models after taking a forecast break for a few days so give me another day or two to get a feel for it and then I’ll try to elaborate a bit more on the extended forecast.
Now for the rambling lol. I’m sitting at 5 tornadoes on the season. Really I think I should be right around 13-15 by now if I did a good job. This latest series of chases started with the McCook and Dodge City tornadic storms two weeks ago this past Friday. I liked the Dodge City target better and mentioned that routinely in my blog for days leading up to the event. SPC going 2% on the tornado probs down there and the CAM guidance indicating any storms that went would struggle with the cap and fizzle out rattled my confidence in a sustained storm though and I opted for the more sure thing with McCook Nebraska. It worked out I guess since I got tornadoes up there, but I would have much rather been in the KWCH coverage area on the Dodge City storm. Lesson learned, try not to let SPC influence your targeting judgement too much. I’ve been burned on that a lot and I always tell myself to completely disregard SPC’s thinking, but when it comes to cap strength or whether or not storms will fire I lean on them more than usual. Consequences weren’t that bad, although my tornado pics in Nebraska didn’t look nearly as intimidating as the pictures of the tornadoes from behind the storm. Most chaser pics were from behind and it made the tornado look white with brown dust sucking into them. They looked pretty gnarly from that view. I was in front of it and it didn’t make them look nearly as good. That storm was hauling ass, doing around 45mph at times. That’s why most chasers were behind it. I kept good position in front which would have paid off if the tornadoes stayed on the ground for very long, but they didn’t. I like positioning in front so when there is a long track tornado I can cut it off at an intersection. That’s usually my go too play on fast storm motion days. Stay ahead and hold position as long as you can waiting for a solid tornado. In this case staying behind actually worked out a little better.
Next serious tornado day was that Monday down in Oklahoma. The big high risk bust lol. Non-traditional setups seem to never work out for tornado potential in the plains to the extent you think they will on tornado potential. Textbook dryline and triple point setups always seem way more reliable. That free warm sector storms (although there won’t many that materialized that day) needs to stay in the southeastern US where it belongs lol. I think we got on the right storm that day. We were on the tornadic supercell in SW Oklahoma that produced the Mangum tornado. Only problem was we were repositioning when it produced. It was super hazy that day down there with dewpoints pushing into the mid 70’s. We watched the base just south of Mangum by about 10 miles and you had to get in tight to even be able to see it. Rotation was weak but intensifying as it crossed the E-W road we were on south of Mangum. The choice at that point was to take this paved road straight north into Mangum which would put you right under the base in the near term, but there weren’t good NE road options out of there without core punching which was a nonstarter on a high CAPE (huge hail) high risk day. The other option was to give up position for 20 minutes to shoot east to Altus and cut northwest out of there to pick up on the storm as it came out of Mangum. Doing that you were ahead of it and would have position for at least an hour or so after Mangum and you’d be in front of the chaser horde which was pretty brutal that day. Given that it was a high risk day and shear was only getting stronger through the afternoon and it was pretty early in the day at that point, we opted for sacrificing immediate position to have it for the longer term. Unfortunately for us it produced by Mangum and then got packed in with other bullshit storms that fired south of it right after that killing the tornado potential. I still don’t know that I regret that decision. It still seems like the smart play. I do think I need to be a little more aggressive though and stop focusing on position for the future and shift my focus to holding position in the present. That horde and the road networks probably would have screwed you coming out of Mangum though so that one could have gone either way. I chalk missing that tornado up to dumb luck.
The other day where I think mistakes were made was the day I chased southeast Kansas/night of the two tornadoes north of Joplin. I had that one. We went to intercept that storm as it tracked through northeast Oklahoma and had it beat easily to Baxter Springs. North of Baxter Springs about 10 miles I talked to the guy I was with and decided to go north instead strictly because the roads were already on the verge of being closed for flooding down there and there was a big line of storms coming in behind the Baxter Springs storm that we’d have to punch back through and more importantly were going to dump a bunch more rain across southeast Kansas, potentially blocking our return trip home. I already got trapped by flooded roads once this season and it sucks balls. I had to be at work the next morning and I think that probably cost me. If I could just grab a hotel some place I wouldn’t have been sweating getting caught southeast of the storms/flooding. We knew that storm had the best tornado potential, but if we took the northern storm in eastern Kansas we had an easy escape home on 54. We opted for that storm. It went tornado warned but never produced. I only get two weeks of vacation at work so I have to use as little as possible to make sure I stretch it out through storm season and don’t miss any big outbreaks. I also took two ski trips this year and am going back to Vail on vacation next month. That has kept me running tight on vacation days through this active stretch. The really good news is starting here in a month or so I get bumped to 4 weeks of vacation. We got bought out by a larger corporation and they have a much better vacation package, so this will be the last year Mikey has to meter his chasing. It’s open season after this month so I’ll get out a lot more and be able to chase way more aggressively with my targeting. I haven’t got to do that since 2012 or so and I think the results have suffered quite a bit because of it. Anyways, it was a bitch move on my part and I got what I deserved lol. Fuck sleep, you got to go where the best tornado threat is. I had been chasing pretty hard for 5 days or so by that point though and the lack of sleep and the extremely long drives really starts to wear on you. Driving though pouring rate at night also sucks something fierce. Basically I allowed those things and the fact that I needed to be back at work the next morning steer my decision making and that was a mistake.
The final day and the only one that really hurts was Tuesday of last week. I knew better. The Topeka to Kansas City to Emporia target was a layup. I knew that and I knew a tail end would track through there that would have unimpeded inflow and produce. I also knew it was going to be sloppy and I’ve had my fill of sloppy setups this season. HP supercells suck and I don’t enjoy punching in on them if I have options. That option was north central Kansas. SPC was giving the north central Kansas target no love with the tornado probs. Again I know better than to allow them to influence my judgement. I don’t say that because I think I know better, although chaser targeting is a different animal from what spc is doing with probs. I don’t like giving them much credit in my targeting because I find it’s easier to swallow a bust when I’m responsible for the decision making than I do when I go against my instinct and allow other things like SPC to steer my targeting. That clearing and high quality moisture working in behind morning convection in north central Kansas was a big red flag for tornado potential. I knew around 1pm I needed to head to Salina. The idea that wichita also had a decent tornado threat was making me want to stay south and SPC’s lack of higher tornado probs up north was kind of the icing on that cake. Had I gone to Salina, by the time the warm front started lighting up and wrapping into the triple point on satellite by early afternoon that was an easy call. The warm front looked great and although there was shit directional shear in the 850-500 layer, strongly backing surface winds right along the warm front should have given a sickle shape to hodographs and that warm front was oriented northeast to southwest right by the triple point which was going to parallel storm motions (rides the boundary or long residence time at worst). I regret missing that storm. I don’t really regret not seeing the Lawrence rain wrapped tornado all that much. The north central Kansas storm was a beast though and I think it would have favored my style of downstream chasing since those tornadoes would have been down long enough for me to get in close in front of them. I also could have gotten some more tornadoes live on air this year for KWCH, which is the holy grail of tornado coverage. They eat that up when you get a live stream of a tornado and it’s harder than you might think to do. That storm would have been pretty easy though since the tornadoes were highly visible and lasted a while.
That is the end of my sulking. I need to man up and get my shit together for the back half of season. I’ll be keeping any eye on the models and I’ll try to update again tomorrow on the extended forecast so check back then if you’re interested.