Interview on El Reno Tornado

bbc-interview

I was lucky enough to get another TV deal for storm chasing. The show should air on BBC next year and is part of a series on extreme weather. I won’t know for a while how much of my interview and storm chasing video will appear in the show, but I think I’ll get a decent amount of time in it. I said a few things that I may end up catching some flack over lol. We’ll see. I’m not sure they’ll use the portion of the interview I’m talking about, but I have a feeling they will. Whenever the show airs I’ll try to make a post on it in case you’re interested in watching.

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Update 

sitting in Kingman watching towers trying to get going to my SW along the dryline. The boundary intersection is easily visible on radar and satellite and is approaching Sterling, KS. I can’t bring myself to shoot north to it though. At least not as long as this area of convergence along the dryline SW of Kingman looks like it may put a storm off. So I sit here and wait. 

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10/04 Tornado Forecast

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The fall tornado season looks like it very well may kick off tomorrow as a strong negatively tilted trough ejects into the plains. A surface trough draped north south through the plains will start to transition into more of a cold front overtaking a dryline in type surface pattern in the central plains surface pattern through the day. The map above shows the rough locations of the initiating boundaries in the central plains at 21Z.

Moisture return looks to be a little bit of a question mark. I haven’t forecasted much so I don’t have much room to talk here, but my guess is the NAM is overdoing dewpoints a tad. 00Z sounds at OKC and DFW show moisture depth is decent, but dewpoints are still in the upper 50’s with 60’s confined to south Texas. The NAM shows moisture return really ramping up with mid 60’s nosing into the target area by tomorrow afternoon though. With a strong low level jet I don’t doubt the NAM too much on moisture return, but like I said I think it’s probably juicing it a couple degrees. My only other slight concern for tomorrow is morning convection clearing out. The NAM and latest runs of the HRRR have it clearing out, at least over south central Kansas so I’m not too concerned. Even if it did geek things up a bit it would likely be further north so I’d adjust south if I needed to.

Minor concerns listed above aside, moderate instability should develop through the afternoon over north central Oklahoma and Kansas ahead of the surface trough. With a 50kt mid level jet nosing into south central Kansas during the afternoon, deep layer shear will be favorable for supercells. A very strong low level jet (40-60kts over the threat area) out of the south will create good length and curvature in low level hodographs and a tornado threat could become a possibility with any discrete or tail end storms tomorrow afternoon from central Kansas to central Oklahoma. If we get the mid 60 dewpoints with moderate instability, I don’t think a strong tornado would be out of the question given the respectable hodographs from central Kansas to northern Oklahoma. I’d just go 5% on the tornado probabilities in the initial Day 1 outlook if I were SPC, but if the NAM looks on track and the HRRR is showing several discrete cells from central Kansas into northern Oklahoma, then I’d probably up the tornado probs in a later day 1 outlook. For what it’s worth the NAM and 4km NAM have been pretty consistent with the precip pattern being more linear convection over northern Kansas with a transition to more of a tail end to the line in central Kansas and more discrete storms from there south into central Oklahoma ahead of the dryline (coverage gets sketchy in Oklahoma). That makes perfect sense to me given the surface boundaries and how similar patterns in the past have played out.

As far as targeting goes, I’m thinking I want to play the area where the cold front is starting to overtake the dryline. A lot of times that boundary intersection puts off the best tornadic storm with cold front/dryline setups (El Reno was a cold front/dryline triple point storm). It looks like that will be in central/south central Kansas (see my map). I think tornadoes are possible anywhere I boxed in on the map, but I’d put the greatest tornado threat over south central Kansas where storm mode tends to more discrete. This is where the best overlap over the mid and low level jet is, this is the area where you should transition from more strongly forced linear convection north to more discrete storms, this is the portion of the target area where sustained convection is more of a certainty. It’s also in the nose of the better quality moisture. Sooo, everything is pointing me towards a south central into central Kansas target. I may adjust that as surface boundary locations become more clear and we get short range CAM guidance. For now though I’m thinking Kingman is a good starting point. I marked my rough target with a star on the map.

As far as the extent of the severe threat goes, I think we could see some big hail, especially with the storms over south central Kansas and northern Oklahoma that tend to be more discrete and could be persistent supercells through the afternoon. I think there is a lower end tornado threat anywhere from north central Kansas into central Oklahoma, with the area most likely to see a few tornadoes being south central into central Kansas. I do think we’ll get some tornadoes tomorrow, just a matter of where. I don’t think this is a real good tornado setup, but with decent parameters across the board we may be able to eek out a strong tornado. I got the car loaded tonight so I’m ready to go. I plan on heading out a little after noon tomorrow and I’ll update again sometime before I leave. Sorry for the long rambling forecast btw lol. I literally just sat down and winged this one so I know it’s not my best work.

 

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Today

Well I pretty much botched today’s chase. Once I got on the road and did some forecasting my plan was to take 160 down into far southeast Colorado and setup by Springfield until I saw how CU fields looked along with a few other things before moving in close to where storms were going to fire. I knew I was cutting it a little close leaving at 8:15 this morning too, since storms were going to fire as early as 1pm. Still I think I had it timed right until I made one crucial mistake. I stopped in Dodge City and debated taking the northern route up through Lamar rather than sticking to my plan, committing south and going down 160 on a more direct course to my target. I have a bad habit of hedging my bets rather than fully committing to my target and a lot of times it costs you since your reaction time to getting on a storm is slower when you play the middle like that. I was a little too late getting down to 160 as a result and missed the tornado by Trinidad, Colorado. I don’t feel too bad, but it always sucks missing a tornado. I have a work meeting at lunch tomorrow I need to be at, so I’m playing the Kansas/Oklahoma target. The NAM spikes composite indices over north central Oklahoma. It seems to want to lay down an OFB right there from overnight/morning precip which serves as a focus for convection later in the day. Take that with a grain of salt btw. I just glanced at model data. Problem with this scenario as I see it, the NAM does not seem to have a good handle on how precip is evolving up to this point. Precip seems to be farther south than the NAM and 4km have it. So it’s still a little tricky trying to figure out any exact targets or the extent of any tornado threat until we can get some idea of how precip will impact the surface pattern. That probably won’t be real clear until morning. I’ll try to get a post up in the morning from work if I can. I do plan on chasing tomorrow. High quality moisture should reside over at least parts of the plains tomorrow and with seasonably good wind fields, the odds seem favorable for a few tornado reports. Soooo, I”ll be out there.

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Today

Heading west to chase in Colorado (and possibly into western Kansas) this afternoon. It’s a lower end tornado threat, but today and tomorrow look like they will probably be the last chance for tornadoes in the central plains this spring so I’m in. Flying solo today so I won’t post a whole lot, but I will try to get a brief forecast post up after I’ve looked at data. Right now my plan is to head towards the moisture tongue wrapping into Colorado. I like that area and then along I70 farther north as targets today. I think we could get a couple tornadic supercells and the tornado threat looks about the same regardless of which target you go with. It looks to be a fairly early show with storms firing between 1-3 across eastern Colorado. I’m still somewhat undecided on my exact target, but I’m thinking I’ll probably play the southern half of the threat area today and setup along the moisture tongue wrapping into Colorado. I’ll figure it out over the next few hours and update with a quick forecast post and target when I do. Good luck if you’re out today.

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Tornado Forecast Update

I’ve been watching the models the last few days, but haven’t spent a lot of time on it so take this for what it’s worth. Saturday looks to have a lower end tornado threat up in Montana. I’ve been debating going, but there are a few things making me think it’s not worth the brutal drive. I want to keep this short, but I’ll give a quick run down of the setup. A surface low initially over northeast Wyoming will migrate north through the day and will be located in southeastern Montana by 00Z. Moisture wrapping around the north side of the surface low will probably be the area most favorable for tornadoes. I’d probably target near Miles City, Montana or just off east of there. The models have been fairly consistent with precip developing between 21 and 00Z near and north of the surface low, so I do think we’ll get some storms, but the amount of CIN the models have been showing concerns me a bit. I’m also bothered by the extremely narrow corridor of decent moisture/instability along the warm front/moisture wrap around that storms may have to work with. CIN will likely increase fairly quickly as you move north of the warm front and make it difficult to keep storms surface based/tornadic. If supercells are established they can maintain themselves a little better/longer as they track into more stable surface air, but I’m not sure that’s going to be the case Saturday. At least not sure enough to feel confident when you’re staring at a 14.5 hour drive lol. With meridional mid level flow storm motions will have a strong northerly component and move towards the less favorable thermodynamic environment north of the warm front. At the same time though hodographs will be quite impressive, with solid low and deep layer shear. It’s a tough call for me. The narrow swath of favorable thermodynamics along the warm front, northerly storm motions and CIN all make me think I’m better off sitting this one out, especially since it looks like there will probably be other northern plains opportunities coming up in June. If you are going to go that far north you really want to get two chase days out of the deal too and it isn’t looking like that would be the case if I chase Saturday. In order for me to go that far north (looking at about 14.5 hours to Miles City), I really need to buy into the idea that there’s going to be strong tornadoes or there needs to be a multi-day event. Sooo, I’ll make the final call tomorrow, but I think I’m sitting this one out and going out downtown Saturday instead. Watching fireworks at Riverfest from a bar Saturday night sounds a lot better than 40 hours in the car lol. I’ll decide by noon tomorrow because I need to hit the road by about 5pm if I’m going. I’m charging the cameras just in case, but I’m 75% sure I’m not chasing.

Beyond Saturday attention turns to Tuesday in Kansas and Nebraska as a weak trough moves through the central plains. There is a fair amount of spread from run to run still with the GFS regarding some of the finer scale details, so I’ll hold off for tonight on getting into that setup much. A dryline will likely be the focus for convection. Directional shear will likely be better farther north closer to the surface low, with poor 850-500 crossover farther south, but decent turning in the lowest 1km is making me think we may be able to eek out a few tornadoes along the dryline in the central plains. The few hodographs I pulled showed a bit of a veer, back, veer profile so that’s something to keep an eye on. It wasn’t horrible, but it was there. Upper level SR winds are pretty weak too. Still with good curvature and decent length in the lower portion of the hodograph and good thermodynamics we may be able to get it done. I’ll take a closer look at model data and update again in the next day or two with more details.

And in the really long range forecast it looks like the jet stream will stay north and we may continue to get a few high plainest/Canada setups through the middle of the month and troughs crest the death ridge. Still too far out to get into any specific days or threat levels though.

I’ll try to get another forecast update posted tomorrow. If I don’t get one up then I’ll definitely get a post up Saturday though so check back then if you’re interested.

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Extended Forecast

I glanced over the last couple runs of the GFS and it looks like any meaningful action is going to be in Canada for a while. I can’t make Canada this week, so I only glanced at it, but Thursday doesn’t look too bad up there. The ridge doesn’t flatten out hardly at all with Thursday’s system, so it’s just a jet streak working into the crest of the ridge without much in the way of pressure falls, so convection will probably be limited, but the parameters look supportive of tornadic supercells.

I’m not going to get into much detail now because I’ve just started watching the models and they’re a little shaky in the long range, but ridge may start to break down over the northern plains early next work week as another trough moves through southern Canada/the northern plains. We’ll have to look at later runs, but if that happens then the jet stream and additional troughs further upstream should get into the northern plains next week (especially later into the week) and we may start to get some tornadoes to chase again. Just likely going to be heading north. That doesn’t bother me. I’ve actually made a lot more long distance chases up north than I have south. I’ve chased North Dakota and Minnesota quite a few times. It’s been a few years since I made it that far north, but I won’t hesitate to do it if there is a good setup. I really want to get at least one more good stretch of chasing in this year, so I think the odds are good I’ll be heading up there before long. We just need mother nature to cooperate.

I’ll take a closer look at the models tomorrow and update again.

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Update

Took a little break from posting. I didn’t have much time for it on my chase marathon last week and since then I’ve been spending my extra time going through video. Sorry if you’ve been checking for updates. There hasn’t been much to talk about weather-wise though. A ridge over the western half of the US has kept things quiet in the plains and will continue to do so through this coming work week. The models have been hinting at the ridge breaking down over the northern plains around next weekend though, so it’s about time to start looking ahead to the back half of tornado season. I’ll get into the extended forecast starting tomorrow. Tonight I’m just going to talk a little bit about the chase marathon I had the last week of May.

Well the longest streak of consecutive chase days I’ve ever had came to an end last Saturday. 7 days straight of chasing, 3,076 miles, 67 hours 20 minutes in the car and 13 tornadoes. My previous record was 5 straight days of chasing, which happened the last week of May 2013. I saw a lot of interesting things along the way. The most meaningful of which was I got to watch multiple tornadic supercells develop from small cumulus towers into violent supercells producing tornadoes and baseball hail. A lot of times I’ll target ahead of the initiating boundary so you don’t always get to see the storms being born from little cumulus clouds. It’s always a cool experience when you do get to witness it. Below are pictures of the cyclic tornadic supercell that tracked from Minneola, KS to north of Dodge City. The first picture is when it was just a small updraft starting to put off an anvil and then one of several strong tornadoes it later produced.

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I also got to watch two other tornadic supercells develop (Woodward, OK and Leoti, KS) from little towers/updrafts into tornadic storms. I’ll get youtube videos posted for both of those days soon.

I saw some incredible storm structure, especially on the Leoti, KS supercell which is pictured below.

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It’s always bittersweet ending a long string of chases. Chasing is not a relaxing ordeal. It is long hours, lots of pressure/stress and at times full of adrenaline and excitement. It can wear on you quickly when your covering long distances and spending all day in the car. You have to get some down time to recover and clean up the mess you’ve made lol. My car is a disaster. I had mud sprayed on the interior on two occasions this week. Once from another car driving by and another time by a storm blowing this misty mud in my window. I got my car cleaned last weekend, but I still have some work to do. I have a ton of storm and tornado video to process. It can be a pain in the ass, especially when you have multiple cameras to go through. I’ve been working on that all week. I’m hoping to get my Dodge City tornado video up soon and then I’ll start working on my Woodward and Leoti videos.

I saw a lot of interesting stuff over the last week beyond just the storms. One thing I’ve always appreciated about chasing is that you get to see all these beautiful places in the middle of nowhere that you would never otherwise come across. It’s nothing major, just small towns, picturesque farm houses, beautiful country, etc. I won’t ramble about that stuff since it’s the kind of thing where you have to be there to understand, but wanted to mention it. I need to start taking pictures of those things. I’m always so focused on forecasting and chasing that I overlook it. The other more exciting stuff I got to see was a motor home that had the whole back end ripped off on I70, a car stuck on a flooded roadway, damage from tornadoes around Dodge City and several beautiful sunsets (one below is from Leoti, KS.

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Some slightly weirder experiences from the trip…. I hit an armadillo with my car. Felt pretty bad about that, but there was no dodging him lol. Little guy walked right into it. I ate an Allsups burrito while I was in the Texas panhandle. After hearing so many chasers talk about them for years I had to try one. It was more of a fried tortilla with an orange paste in it than a burrito. That thing was so nasty. I ate it the night of the Woodward storm and I had planned on mentioning the Allsups burrito in my report post from that night, but never got around to posting it. I was going to say that the feeling I got after that burrito made me know something was going to happen. I wasn’t sure if I was going to see a tornado or shit my pants, but I knew something was about to happen lol. Luckily I saw tornadoes rather shitting my pants.

I saw a lot of familiar faces in the field and met some new people. I was talking to some chasers by Woodward while we watched a storm there and then ran into them the next night north of Englewood, KS while I was parked at the intersection of two highways waiting for storms to fire. I’ve always thought it was a little weird how you run into the same people in the middle of nowhere one day and then days later and hundreds of miles away you see the same faces and cars out in the middle of nowhere. I ran into Brendon Lindsey out by Leoti. I hadn’t seen Brendon since we hung out together before the infamous El Reno tornado. It was fun catching up with him and we ended up chasing together that night on the Leoti supercell. I met up with Brendon again a couple days later in Oklahoma. Ole Ryan Shirk got out chasing again and was with me on the Dodge City storm. It was fun to finally score on a prolific tornado producing storm with Ryan. He’d missed a lot of the better tornado days lately so that was a good change of luck.

Alright, enough rambling for one night. I had a lot of fun chasing last week and I’m sure the memories will stay with me for a long time. I will get chase accounts and video posted for last week’s tornadoes soon. Check back tomorrow for an extended forecast. I’ll start looking at what days could bring tornadoes through the first half of June.

 

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South Central Kansas Today

I think the tornado threat is starting to look a little better across south central Kansas for later today, including the Wichita area. I was initially targeting closer to central Kansas, but am cheating back south due to trends with convection. Morning storms put down some more stable air over far south central Kansas, but very moist and unstable air is quickly moving back north into south central Kansas. Oklahoma mesonet shows dewpoints in the low 70’s advecting in ahead of developing storms in NW Oklahoma. As these storms track northeast into south central Kansas later today there could be a fairly good tornado threat if they remain discrete. The timing of better moisture advecting in and low level shear increasing late in the day seems timed about right to put a solid tornado threat over south central and central Kansas later today. Keep an eye on the weather if you live in that area. I am by Hutchinson watching  a storm to my north for a minute and then I will be dropping south and anticipation of helping cover south central Kansas this afternoon.

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Today

Sorry for no post yesterday. I was in a deep depression from missing the tornado by Chapman. I punted that one into the stands. I honestly never really forecasted. I considered it kind of a down day from chasing nonstop and was going to keep it local. I looked at the HRRR and skipped over my forecasting process since I was staying by Wichita and overlooked the better tornado potential further north. Head up ass and I paid dearly for it. Now onto today.

Still a lot of uncertainty with the forecast. I was surprised SPC ramped the tornado threat as much as they did in the latest outlook. I’m still worried about current precip across the warm sector or convective evolution this afternoon mitigating the tornado threat. I need to hit the road so I’m not getting into detail now, but I’m heading to McPherson and cutting west back towards the Great Bend area. I’ll probably setup some place between there and fine tune the forecast.

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