It’s May 1st and the start of my favorite month of the year. I love the holidays so November and December are up there, but nothing can compete with the excitement on big tornado outbreak days in the plains. Haven’t gotten many of those in recent years, but hopefully that changes this year. As of now though, the models aren’t showing any major outbreak type setups. The models are showing a fairly active pattern continuing through the first 10 days of May though so there’s reason for optimism if you’re a chaser.
I glanced over several different models and the general consensus seems to be there are two periods of interest over the next 10 days. The first should be in the Tuesday-Wednesday timeframe of next week when another southern stream closed low meanders out into the plains as it ties back in with the northern stream jet. That’s the same synoptic scale setup we just had for the severe weather/tornadoes in the plains the last couple days. Still way to far out to get into any kind of detail, but it does look like there should be decent moisture to work with so that’s one of the major boxes checked. The next big question at this point is what kind of tilt will the trough have as it moves into the plains and ties back in with the norther stream jet. If it begins to elongate and veer low level flow/kind of a positive tilt as it comes through the plains, then it will be detrimental to any tornado potential. There is a lot of spread with the models on how exactly it will be structured as it moves into the plains, but that will directly impact the level of directional shear and tornado potential we see with this one. I’m keeping an eye on it and will update regularly, but it will likely be a while before we have any good idea what level of tornado potential we’ll be dealing with. You don’t get many troughs that come through the plains with good moisture And don’t produce this time of year, so I’d say it’s a good bet we’ll see some tornadoes in the plains the middle of next week.
After the trough the middle of next week, models are showing another trough coming into the plains that weekend. Once again, it looks like another southwestern US closed low that starts to tie back in with the northern stream jet as it moves into the plains. That will make three in a row if it verifies. I’d prefer a high amplitude open wave with a neutral to negative tilt, but I’ll take whatever I can get at this point. As stupid and nerdy as it sounds, I have always taken the if it’s May chase rule pretty seriously. I didn’t chase today because I knew any tornadoes would be weak and we’re still pretty early in the season so I didn’t feel like it was vacation time worthy, but my trigger pull on chasing gets a lot shorter in May. It just always seems like things start going your way and setups come together with a much higher frequency in May than they do any other time. Way too far out to talk details on a trough 10 days out, but again it looks like there will probably be decent moisture available so it’s something I’m definitely watching for tornado potential. I hope it verifies because I absolutely love taking multi-day chase road trips over the weekend in May. It’s way more relaxing when you can just grab a hotel after a chase rather than driving god knows how many hours to get home. You also get to sleep in way later the next morning since your generally somewhat close to your target area for the next day. That type of relaxed chasing without marathon drives is much more enjoyable.
Anyway, that’s about all there really is to say at this point. Long ways out, but I think we’ll see a fairly active week for tornadoes in the plains next week. I’m a little disappointed I didn’t chase Tuesday. There was no way I could make my south central Oklahoma target though without skipping an important conference call and as sloppy as it was going to be I just didn’t see it being worth the full vacation day when we still have all of May and June. I could have made the NE Oklahoma target by 3pm or so, but I wasn’t sold on it not being an absolute mess down there and I hate chasing NE Oklahoma. I got a tornado on Grand Lake once, but generally chasing down there is a bitch and I avoid it if I can. The Ozarks, where most of the tornadoes occurred, are absolutely off limits for me. Unless it was a slow storm motion EF4-5 type day, there’s no way in hell I’d chase the Ozarks. I’ve noticed in past years a lot of chasers go all out early in the season and are either burned out or out of money and vacation time by peak season and they fall off real quick. I’ve always tended to be the opposite and am very hesitant on early season chases, but start hitting it pretty hard in May and June. No more blowing off setups for Mikey now though. It’s May and it’s time to get after it. I’ll be keeping an eye on the models each day and updating regularly so check back if you’re interested.