Today

No time to post much. I would love to be in the Texas panhandle today, but I have stuff going on at work that I am certainly not at liberty to talk about on my blog lol and I had to be in the office this morning. I have the car loaded and I’m ready to run out this afternoon, but I’m not optimistic. The warm front is still in Oklahoma, but it is lifting north now and we are finally getting some clearing north of the front. The HRRR has jumped around a lot on whether or not we’ll get any strong supercells in south central Kansas. If we do get one that can develop near the boundary and somehow not shoot north of it too quickly, then maybe we can get a tornado. I plan on working until 3pm and then I’ll meaner out near Wichita.

I haven’t looked ahead to the setups from Friday through Tuesday so I don’t have anything on that yet. I’ve been taking it one day at a time on forecasting at this point. I’m dragging ass after juggling work and chasing on 5 of the last 6 days. No break in sight though. Looks like I’ll be chasing pretty much every day from now through Tuesday. God willing I can shake this short term slump off and start delivering results. I’ll try to look at the forecast later tonight or tomorrow and get some details up regarding the upcoming potential.

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Today

Just got off work. I was too busy to look at models this morning so I’ll be going over data on the road. Initially we are heading to Independence, KS, but that may change slightly on the way there as I go over data. Convective evolution and maintaining discrete storms that don’t screw each other up is still my main concern with this setup. I may error downstream a ways from where I expect storms to fire if that remains a concern after I see how cumulus fields are evolving on satellite. I’ll update as I can from the road. As always stay safe and good luck if you’re out.

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Forecast Update

Long few days. I covered quite a few miles and a lot of hours were spent in the car. I haven’t totaled it up exactly, but in 4 of the last 5 days I covered around 2100 miles and spent 47 hours in the car chasing. I did run out today briefly, which is skewing my daily average down lol. I wasn’t into it enough to go all the way up north where they had some weak tornadoes unfortunately. Missed out on those. I was busy at work all day. Never even forecasted, but saw the 5% tornado prob from SPC and just glanced over the HRRR. Figured if it was telling the truth and a good storm was going to track close to Wichita then I had better be on it so I threw my stuff in the car at lunch and headed out towards Kingman where new storms were developing. They were worthless. The first forecasting I did was in the car looking at mesoscale analysis page and quickly questioned why the in the hell I was going to Kingman lol. That’s what I get for not forecasting and just taking a 5 minute glance at the HRRR. The backed surface winds along the warm front in northern/NE Kansas was clearly the play if you wanted a chance at a tornado.

As for yesterday, I think we got on the right storm, which ended up producing the tornado by Magnum, but unfortunately we did not see that tornado. I can’t kick myself on that one too much. There was so much haze with the nearly saturated air down in Oklahoma (dew points were approaching the mid 70’s) that you really couldn’t see shit from the traditional distance for watching structure ahead of the updraft. We didn’t want to cross the Red River, so we waited for it like a lot of other chasers on the north edge of the river. I was looking at radar as it approached and kept saying it’s right there, pointing to the southeast lol. We knew it was only miles in front of us, but nothing. It was just too hazy. You had to get right in front of it to see anything. The storm had just absorbed some smaller cells and had got done fighting off the lead cell that had merged with it and was stealing inflow as it became this weird HP storms half merged with the other storm like they were conjoined twins, so I knew it was likely going to strengthen and the tornado potential would be going up, however, the road networks and chaser traffic were far from ideal. There’s a road that cut north and would take you right into the updraft of the storm as it moved through by Magnum, but there were no good east options out of there unless you core punched or dropped in behind the storm and followed it out of there. With fast storm motions and it still being early afternoon with nothing but open warm sector ahead of that storm, I decided the better play was to cut east farther and go north out of Altus to get back ahead of the storm before it produced any major tornadoes. That put us too far away from the storm to see the tornado through the haze and the storm essentially shit the bed not too long after Magnum. Bad call. After missing that tornado I decided to take a much more aggressive line on the storm and put us right in the occlusion NE of Mangum. I had it timed right to get in under the occluding/in the bears cage (it was going HP at this time) until we got to our east option in the hook of the storm and it was a horrible muddy road. lol those moments will make you cringe. Being out in open country with a tornadic supercell/hail core bearing down on you with no place to run in order to get out of the way always gives me a sense of panic and adrenaline that sucks a little at the time, but also reminds me of why I love chasing afterwards. You get to experience the entire spectrum of emotions out there. Everything from extreme fear to extreme exhilaration. We ended up hauling ass north another 7 miles to hit a paved east option and got out of there with just a little whipping around by the RFD and inflow jet. I don’t think the storm had any big hail at the time anyway so we would have been fine. At the time though, we were in a high risk with what appeared to be extremely favorable conditions for huge hail and violent tornadoes. After our time spent in the bears cage the storm had more bullshit cells blow up off it’s south side and it was apparent the tornado threat wasn’t going to pan out so we started making our way back to Wichita.

Looking ahead, I would chase pretty much every day if I could, but I’ve been off 2 of the last 3 days so I have some things I need to get done. I’m watching tomorrow. I really need to be at work, but I may run out to NE Oklahoma/SE Kansas. Thursday looks a little more promising IMO. The models show solid parameters. Supercell composite is quite high with good crossover, but then I step back and say well we have models showing storms going along a front with the HRRR, or out over the open warm sector apparently with the NAM. Storms that go up along a front usually get clustered in and sloppy pretty quickly and storm motions should be parallel to the front, so regardless of what the models show common sense tells you that’s a concern. There’s no real upper level support. It’s basically a nontraditional setup with big composite indices that make you want to believe it’s going to produce. Maybe it’s just because I got burned by that on Monday, but it’s a red flag to me for one reason or another and I’m highly skeptical about it working out. Again models aside, common sense is also telling me that if we do get storms along the front in Oklahoma/SE Kansas tomorrow, they’ll produce early if they’re going to get it done. Just like Monday, on days when things look to get sloppy I always look for the best tornadoes earlier than you’d usually expect. I literally have only glanced over tomorrow’s setup since I’ve been busy with chasing so take it with a big grain of salt. I’ll look at the setup in the morning and try to post my target whether I’m heading out or not.

I think Thursday may be a bit more promising of a chase day. Again I just started looking at it tonight, so I’m not going to get into much yet, but a triple point should set up near SW Kansas. This time we have a good shortwave ejecting into the plains to work with, unlike Wednesday. It’s a much more traditional setup which I think tend not to bust as frequently. Everything looks solid with the models for a good tornado threat except for one little thing and that’s what time storms fire and how they unfold. It looks like an ideal setup for a triple point tornadic supercell. The models kick off storms early in the afternoon though along the dryline in the Texas panhandle. The NAM keeps lighting it up between 15-18Z. That’s too early for my liking, especially when I really need to get a half day of work in at least. I don’t trust the NAM at all on precipitation, but one thing I find disturbing about that is the NAM has consistently been under forecasting precip and initiating it too late with the last few setups. Assuming that strong trend continues then what does that mean when it’s showing storms going off at 15-18Z. I didn’t look at the details much, but again I’ll dig into it tomorrow.

Looks like several more chase opportunities through the holiday weekend, but I need to get to bed so I’ll save that discussion for another day. I’ll probably update several times through the day tomorrow so check back then if you’re interested.

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Update

Quick satellite view map depicting where I think the best chance for violent long-track tornadoes will be this afternoon. Currently in Sayer, OK where the red star is on the map. The TORUS group, the Dominator 3 and numerous other chasers are here waiting. I watched the TORUS crew launch a balloon in the parking lot while we were getting lunch. I posted pictures of it on my facebook and twitter pages if you’re interested. I’d love to see that hodograph and sounding right along the warm front. It shouldn’t be long before storms start going so only pics on twitter from here on out. Good luck if you’re out and stay safe. Our chase strategy is to take a somewhat tail end storm from this early warm sector action and stay with it as long as we can before pulling off an cutting back west for any afternoon dryline storms. We are getting ready to cheat southeast I think towards Hobart to ensure we aren’t caught north of any of the early more dominant storms that should track into west central/SW Oklahoma. Probably good where we are and it’s just me getting antsy wanting to move, but I don’t want to have to try to get to the south side of one of these storms today when I’m located north of it, so it’s the safer play I think for a stair stepping type chase strategy. Again good luck if you’re out and stay safe.

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Update

The latest HRRR is a scary picture for west central Oklahoma with two rounds of strong tornadic supercells tracking through there this afternoon. I am feeling real good about our initial target of Sayre, OK, which is righ on I40 about 20 miles from the Texas border. I am actually a little nervous about the chase today which is unusual for me. If convection unfolds like the HRRR has been showing, then this is an ideal setup for strong/violent large tornadoes. Knowing that this is one of the highest probabilities you are going to have of seeing a large wedge in combination with the fact they’ll be flying at you at 50mphs and road networks and conditions are not the best makes you a hair uneasy lol. I know I mentioned it yesterday, but really you have no business trying to chase this unless you are a good and experienced chaser. I feel like this may be one of the most dangerous if not the most dangerous setup I’ve ever seen for chasing. LCL’s will be hugging the ground as these storms approach the warm front. Low level shear will be off the chart and all indications are that we will have upper 60 dewpoints and very strong instability packed along the front. That is a perfect scenario for ground hugging updraft bases planting large tornadoes. The flooding will be a huge issue later today as well. With the number of supercells forecast to track across Oklahoma it feels like you’re going to be one of those little metal ducks at a shooting gallery. Need to stay on your toes and be quick today if you’re out. We are west of OKC now heading to Sayre. I’ll update again as more details become clear.

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Today

Got on the road at 7am this morning headed for Sayre, OK. We will forecast and move in our final target from there. So far the models seem to have a decent handle on precip and moisture quality. Morning storms aren’t to expansive and haven’t back built too far south. Additionally 70 degree dewpoints are generally along the I20 corridor and should quickly advert into central Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle over the next 5 hours. With the low level jet cranking near 50kts that doesn’t seem unrealistic at all. So I think the warm front setting up near I40 by early afternoon seems about right. The next question is whether or not free warm sector storms that are forecast to develop in the early afternoon across southern Oklahoma will contaminate the warm sector for later afternoon storms coming off the dryline. Remains to be seen. I’m keeping a close eye on satellite and surface obs as we drive and I think we have a plan for each scenario. Decision making time for us on which target we go with will be around 11am. If it looks like warm sector storms are going to be too expansive and disrupt things in SW Oklahoma I think we’ll drop south to south central Oklahoma. Otherwise Sayre it is for a preliminary target. From there we would adjust one way or another based off current trends. This is definitely looks to be one of the more dangerous chases I’ve seen so be careful if you’re out. As fast moving and strong as these storms could be later today the margin for error is small. Stay safe if you’re out. I’ll be updating regularly as forecast details become clear.

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Forecast Update

Jeez, tricky little forecast to figure out. It looks pretty definitive that it’s going to be sloppy tomorrow with an abundance of storms, but the question is whether or not it will be sloppy enough to prevent the tornado potential from being realized. All the models develop storms in the very early AM over eastern New Mexico/west Texas that will track northeast across the Texas panhandle and into western Oklahoma through the morning. Beyond that the models start to diverge. Rather than regurgitate the details with each model, I’ll just quickly explain what I think will happen. My best guess is that the warm front will lift to the area near the I40 corridor by noon or so. Generally the morning storms should remain along and north of the warm front, but as we get closer to noon storms may begin intensifying and/or back building into the warm sector south of the front and move into SW Oklahoma. At the same time, additional warm sector storms are forecast to develop across southern Oklahoma, especially along and east of I35 in SE Oklahoma. How extensive these free warm sector storms are and how much they disrupt the unstable warm sector will likely play a big role in the tornado potential. Additional storms are likely to come off the dryline as well in the early afternoon. You could see a tornado threat from all three of the places I just mentioned and you can add the lead edge of overnight storms tracking through NE Oklahoma to that list as well if they manage to intensify and become surface based along the southern edge. I need to get to sleep so I’m not going to get into my reasoning much, but I think the tornado threat is about the same as I said in my previous forecast post. I think the highest tornado threat is likely to evolve from SW into central Oklahoma with storms that are develop around noon across adjacent portions of Texas and into SW Oklahoma as they approach the warm front through the early afternoon. There has also been consistent signals that a tail end dryline storm or two could produce quite a few tornadoes through the afternoon/evening down in the southern portion of the SPC moderate risk area. Honestly with a sloppy setup like this if I didn’t have to be back to work on Tuesday morning I would probably take the cleaner air and more sure thing along the southern portion of the dryline. I think the chance of a cyclic tornadic storm down there are good. I also think that the best chance for a violent wedge tornado is closer to the warm front and that is what I’m going for. Given that it’s sloppy, I think the strongest tornadoes are likely to happen earlier than some might think. I think as you get later into the day, even though the low level shear will be increasing, the storms will be getting more clustered in and the air mass will have been worked over more. I think it will be with the initial more dominant storms that develop and track into SW and central Oklahoma first when there is still room to work with very unstable air that hasn’t been compromised. Those more dominant storms will likely pose the greatest tornado threat as they approach the warm front and get into stronger low level shear. I’m going to start in SW Oklahoma I think and work my way back towards central Oklahoma through the afternoon. Thinking maybe an Altus target. IDK. I’ll figure it out as I drive down there in the morning and post it then. If things get sloppy up there early, then get south.

I need to get to bed. Early 6:30 departure for our target area so I’m going to leave it at that. I wanted to get into the details more, but after watching the shitty final Game of Thrones I’m ready to get in bed and ass out. I am riding shotgun in my car so I can forecast and monitor data tomorrow so I’ll have time to post mesoscale updates through the day, so check back for those. It’s going to be extremely dangerous chasing tomorrow given the fast storm motions and higher end threat the storms will pose. On top of that and possibly more worrisome is the flooding. I am seriously nervous that I won’t be able to take I35 home tomorrow night. A corridor across north central into northeast Oklahoma could be looking at up to 8″ of rain tomorrow. That is going to be a huge mess and it could close a lot of roads. I pray I don’t have to deal with that navigational nightmare on my way home after chasing, but it looks like I’m going to. At best we are staring at a 5 hour white knuckle drive home. That is going to suck so bad lol. What are you going to do though. Good luck if you’re heading out and be safe.


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Tornado Forecast for May 20th

Above is my thoughts on the location and extent of the tornado threat for tomorrow. Convective evolution still makes forecasting the extent of the tornado threat tricky, but current thinking is that some discrete supercells and or a broken line with enough spacing between storms to realize a higher end tornado threat will occur, despite the overall heavy storm coverage that tends to mitigate the tornado threat. The most likely area for semi-discrete supercells collocated with a favorable environment for a strong tornado threat is outlined in purple on the map. The SW Oklahoma into central Oklahoma corridor looks particularly concerning. Storm motions will be very fast. Storms could be moving at speeds around 50mph, which in combination with strong and potentially long-track tornadoes can lead to very large damage paths. It is also extremely dangerous chasing them when they’re moving that fast. Back roads will likely be muddy down there which will further make escaping the path of the tornado dangerous if you’re chasing them. There could be traffic jams on the paved roads and no chance of escape on back roads if they’re muddy, so be very careful if you’re chasing about managing your time in the direct path of the tornado unless you know you have a reliable escape route.

I do think I have a fairly good feel for the forecast and chase strategy. I’ll get into the parameters later tonight, so check back then for a more thorough breakdown of the parameters if you’re interested. For now though I’m going to keep it short because I have a lot of prep work to get done before I hit the road early tomorrow morning so I’ll briefly touch on the tornado potential and cover my chase strategy as it stands now. The parameters are higher end. You don’t get a combination of thermodynamics and strong shear like we’ll see tomorrow very often. It’s a potential high risk setup, with the potential coming into play due to storms firing early in the morning and convective evolution potentially mitigating tornado potential. Convective evolution (fancy term for how storms unfold, firing early/clustered in too much with too many storms) screws up more tornado setups than anything. The parameters will be there for higher end tornadoes tomorrow, but we need somewhat discrete supercells in order for them to realize that potential. The area along and south of the warm front, which should be draped roughly along and either side of I40 through the first part of the day will be characterized by high CAPE and strong deep layer shear around 60kts. The more impressive part is the low LCL heights and extremely strong low level shear as you approach the front. Hodographs are extremely impressive with an 850mb jet out of the south at 50kts. When you get strong instability with that kind of very strong low level shear and low LCL heights, that’s the type of environment that supports large/wedge tornadoes. Add into that the extremely fast storm motions, with 45-50mph expected, it makes for an exceptionally dangerous setup to chase. If you are not an experienced chaser who has reliable data in the car then to be honest you have absolutely no business being out there chasing on a day like tomorrow. I tend to err on the side of letting inexperienced chasers get out there and figure it out for themselves. That’s how I learned (kind of, I studied meteorology a lot when I first started so I wasn’t just winging it out there), but you don’t want to chase fast moving storms with strong/large tornadoes unless you are prepared and experienced. Any semi discrete storm tracking towards the warm front tomorrow afternoon will be no joke. I’ll get into the forecast details more later tonight when I update again.

As far as my chase strategy for tomorrow goes, I think the best bet is not getting sucked into the panhandle early and potentially missing out on significant tornadoes in western into central Oklahoma later in the day is a risk from a chase standpoint, so I’m going to setup east of the initial threat area close to the Oklahoma/Texas border in I40. How storms evolve and fill in with play a big role in where and when the strongest tornadoes occur so my chase strategy is a fluid plan at this point and will need to be adjusted as things unfold. For now though, I plan to get to far west central Oklahoma early so I can adjust as needed depending upon how things are unfolding. Sayre, Oklahoma looks like a good initial target for evaluating the forecast and making adjustments from there since there are good road networks going east/west and north south out of there. I think staying off the southeast side of the heavier storm coverage and picking up on any semi-discrete storms that are going to approach the warm front in a favorable corridor that doesn’t have other storms and some undisturbed warm sector air to work with is key to getting on the strongest tornadoes tomorrow given that it’s going to be somewhat sloppy with storms near the warm front. I’m hunting elephants/wedges, so that is going to be my play. Where exactly that corridor will be is unclear until we see how storms are evolving through the morning, but my guess is I’ll start by chasing the corridor from Wellington, TX to Mangum, OK to Sayre, OK triangle. With the very fast storm motions, it will be tough to hang with a storm for too long, so I plan on maximizing my time on the storm in the environment just south of the warm front as they get into stronger low level shear. Take one storm going through there as long as you can, then shoot east to pick up on another one. That general NE stair step from storm to storm idea is how I’m hoping to manage my chase tomorrow. We’ll see. I’d like to work my way back towards OKC by 7pm or so and then keep an eye on the possibility of the warm front surging north in north central Oklahoma if it’s not inhibited by storms along/north of the front.

Public safety warnings: number one watch your local news and National Weather Service office for specific warnings through the day. They know best and will keep you informed. My preliminary thoughts are that you do not want to be driving along the I40 corridor between Oklahoma City and Amarillo on Monday. That could be a potentially life threatening situation and unless you know what you’re doing I would strongly advise against it. Flooding and severe weather could be a major issue between Oklahoma City and Wichita. I would not travel along that corridor after late morning tomorrow. Same goes for northeastern portions of Oklahoma.

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Update

Sorry for no update. I got home from Nebraska, showered and then jumped back in the car to meet friends and headed out to Medicine Lodge to chase today so I haven’t done any forecasting. No tornadoes today but we got some cool outflow dominant structure. Below are a couple pics from today.

We saw that hurricane hunter aircraft that’s working with the DOW crew making laps around the storm. That was a first. Not often you see a hurricane hunter in the plains. I’m heading to a movie but I will forecast when I wake up in the morning and get my thoughts and target for Monday posted.

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Update

Driving home from Nebraska this morning. Doubt I chase today but I’ll take a look when I get home. Monday looks like a beast. You rarely see as potent of a combination of thermodynamics and shear as what the NAM is showing. It’s back to what the GFS was showing days ago. High risk day if it holds. I’ll get into that and try to get a post up when I get home

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