Update

Just glanced at data and no changes to the going forecast (see previous post and map). I think the NAM had a good handle on moisture with last night’s run and we are staring down the barrel of upper 50 dewpoints in SW Kansas this afternoon. That ain’t good. We may eek out a few low 60’s, but it’s just not going to be enough to get it done I’m afraid. There is a small chance we’ll get a weak tornado or two, but I’m not banking on it. I don’t believe in this setup and I don’t want to chase, but I’m going to lol. I absolutely hate missing out on tornadoes, especially when they’re in Kansas and the KWCH viewing area. That’s the sole reason I’m chasing today. If this were across the border in Oklahoma and outside of the KWCH viewing area, I’m getting drunk downtown tonight instead lol. It’s a sense of obligation and fear of missing out that’s getting me in the field today.

I glanced at tomorrow’s setup very briefly. I still feel good about it. My fear for tomorrow is that unfavorable convective evolution may create a brief window for tornadoes. I’m not sure how long storms will stay discrete. I think they’ll tornado fairly quickly with explosive development given the extremely volatile environment along the warm front, but if they fill in and it gets sloppy fast then that won’t leave a very long window for tornadoes. I think the density of the tornado cluster we see along that warm front is going to be largely proportional to how long those storms stay discrete. I’ll get into that more later today or tomorrow morning.

That’s it for now. I’m heading out around lunch time today. Probably heading towards the Syracuse area for starters. I may tweak that a bit, but I’ll be some place in that general area and plan on chasing east/NE from there. I’ll try to get an update posted either right before I leave town or when I’m on the road.

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May 18th and 19th Tornado Forecast

Good news and bad news with the 00Z NAM. Bad news is that tomorrow still does not look good for tornadoes. Good news is Saturday looks a whole lot better for tornadoes. I’m dragging ass and need to get to bed soon so I’m not going to get too in depth, but I wanted to get a post up. Above is my map showing where I think the best tornado potential is each day. Keep in mind I only highlight the area where I think the best chance is, not the entire area where it’s possible. I’m not SPC lol. I’m a storm chaser. I’m focused on where the best tornadic storm will occur and not much else.

Starting with tomorrow, moisture continues to look like the big problem. I ran through the NAM quite a few times looking at moisture advection from now through tomorrow afternoon and then meshed that up with current observations. It looks like dewpoints are going to be in upper 50’s and at best maybe a few low 60;s along the dryline and surface low by 7pm. That’s pretty weak for mid May and with surface temps getting into the 90’s along much of the dryline, I just can’t imagine that temperature-dewpoint spread is going to be manageable for tornadoes. So with too high of a temperature-dewpoint spread that kind of rules out the area south of far SW Kansas where surface temperatures are too high, which brings are focus farther north to where surface temperatures are lower off the northeast side of the surface low. This is where the bulge in the dryline/moisture wrap around the low curves back into Colorado. This bulge in the moisture gradient should be somewhere around Syracuse, KS. That’s the target I’ve been looking at. This area over the northern portion of the dryline and moisture wrap around are one area for storms and the other area is with storms coming off the foothills of the Rockies in central and north central Colorado. I didn’t look much at the foothills, so I’m going to skip over talking about that environment. From the quick glance I took I’d say it’s on par or maybe a hair lower with tornado potential when compared to the area just northeast of the surface low. So for now my focus in on the Syracuse, KS area and the areas adjacent to it along the moisture wrap around. Dewpoints are only forecast to be in the upper 50’s. That’s the biggest limiting factor for tornadoes right now. As I discussed at the beginning of this paragraph, I did take a fairly close look at moisture advection from now through tomorrow afternoon and for some reason the NAM is putting out a big blob of drier air over Oklahoma, that then advects up into that moisture wrap around corridor in SW Kansas and east central Colorado tomorrow. By 00Z the NAM shows slightly better moisture working into SW Kansas, but it looks like too little too late. The NAM does seem to have a good handle on current precipitation over Texas/Oklahoma, which seems to be the source of the drier air (and when I say drier I’m talking about ultimately a few degrees difference in dewpoints, but that can be a big difference as far as tornadoes are concerned). Current surface obs in the wake of those storms didn’t look terrible, but the NAM didn’t really show much drier air at the surface until 06Z either, so I’ll see how that unfolds. Long story short, as things look now I think we’re going to be a little short on moisture quality for a credible tornado threat tomorrow unless dewpoints are low with the NAM (which would be unusual) and we manage to get into the low 60’s tomorrow afternoon. I expect storms to develop in the foothills of Colorado and near the surface low and around the bulge of the moisture wrap around. For the bulge near Syracuse, I think that storms should come off discrete since storm motions are largely normal to the boundary in that area, but I think the’ll trend more outflow dominant with the weak low level winds and marginal moisture (less bouyant outflow). The NAM doesn’t show convection coming off the moisture wrap around area near Syracuse, it only has storms farther south along the dryline. I’m not buying that. The high resolution NAM has storms coming off the bulge/moisture wrap around area, but it also shows unfavorable convective evolution where storms seem to go outflow dominant and get clustered pretty quickly. That seems logical as far as convective evolution goes. That or the other scenario I could see is even if storms form later in the day and stay discrete into that 7-8pm window where LCL’s lower and low level shear picks up, I think CINH is going to beat those improvements out and still largely mitigate the tornado threat. So I guess pick your poison. Either scenario is bad for tornado potential and I think one or both are likely to happen. IF we do manage to get a tornado tomorrow in that area, it should be weak and most likely later in the day. I want to see what SPC says and look at current obs and CAM guidance before I make the call. My car is mostly packed and I’ll throw the rest of my stuff in there in the morning. I’ll be ready to go if I need to, but I’m 60/40 not going as things look now.

That was long a ramble on a shitty setup where I didn’t discuss a whole lot more than moisture and convective evolution lol. Sorry. I wing most of these blog posts and don’t even proofread when I’m done.

Alright, onto Saturday’s setup and better tornado potential. The NAM shows a much more volatile setup with the 00Z run. Despite this being a fairly major change from the last couple runs, I’m giving it a fair deal of credit because it is somewhat in line with the stronger setups with the models a couple days ago. So really this run is not that out of line if you look back over a few day stretch. The location has shifted relative to those earlier runs. A couple days ago it was showing the warm front and surface low (or at least the northern portion of the surface trough where winds back) was up near Omaha and across central Iowa. Now the surface low and warm front is down in north central Kansas and southeast Nebraska, but the same volatile environment is back along the warm front with high quality moisture pooling along the wind shift. Dewpoints are in the low 70’s with the 00Z, which would be great. The image below from COD shows the moisture pooling along this windshift/warm front running southeast from the surface low.

The thermodynamic side of the environment from the surface low southeast along the warm front looks great with deep moisture, low LCL/LFC heights, and strong instability. In addition to that, shear profiles look pretty damn good considering the strong instability we’ll have. Surface winds will be backing strongly along the warm front/E of the surface low, 850 winds will be fairly strong out of the SE around 25-30kts with 500mb out of the SW at around 40kts. That is strong directional shear with almost 90 degrees of turning between 850-500. Bulk shear is approaching 50kts. That kind of deep layer shear along with strong instability is a pretty volatile environment for supercells. I feel like I’ve seen this movie before. Assuming those parameters verify, that environment is quite favorable for tornadic supercells and storms should be explosive when they fire. This is not the type of setup you play downstream on. You get right up on the towers as they form because it probably won’t take long after one breaks the cap before it goes severe. When I say I feel like I’ve seen this movie before I’m thinking of the classic warm front demon supercell setups. Although deep layer shear is okay, SR upper level winds aren’t all that strong and being that these are warm front storms in a very moist environment along that wind shift corridor, I would expect them to trend HP pretty steadily through their life. That’s how these types of setups usually play out at least. They can be beautiful striated supercells early, plant a couple tubes and then go full demon mode as they transitions to HP. In my experience, you get on those storms early because they may only get down one or two easily visible tornadoes before it goes into HP beast mode. When that happens, you are going to get shit whipped by an expanding wind field at the surface if you try to go in the bears cage and hang out by the occlusion. I hate being in warm front demons when they transition. It’s violent lol. You can’t see shit without risking getting pounded by gorilla hail and it can be a bastard to drive if you stray a hair north or south (into the core or RFD). I’ll go in the occlusion on them, but it’s not a great time and it’s nerve racking as shit if you don’t want to beat the hell out of your car. If the storms do unfold that way and go HP, then they usually don’t produce much in the way of tornadoes once that HP mode really takes hold. They’ll have a beastly velocity signature, but the circulation will be broad and the gate to gate is always a little soft. As the wind field/circulation expands during that transition to HP it seems like a lot of people get duped into thinking it may be producing a massive tornado, but it’s not. It’s just a broad violent circulation that is unpleasant to be caught in, especially on muddy roads where you can get pushed into a ditch by the wind.

Alright, enough speculation and rambling for one night. You can see the areas I think have the best tornado potential each day on my map at the top. I am reaching pretty far here for Saturday’s setup considering how it hasn’t been exactly rock solid with the models, so take it with a grain of salt. I’m anxious to see how the 12Z run looks. I’ll probably post at least a brief update in the morning, so check back then if you’re interested.

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Forecast Update

Just a quick map I threw together at work this morning. Since I am working, I literally only glanced at the NAM so don’t put much stock in this. that’s especially the case because this goes against the  SPC map from the first day 2 outlook (and day 3 outlook). Despite the SPC map, if I had to pick one small area where I think they may eek out a tornado or two tomorrow, that would be it. I’m still up in the air on chasing, but I’m leaning towards not chasing tomorrow. I just don’t think the moisture quality is going to be good enough for tornadic storms, plus shear profiles are somewhat weak until late in the day. If there is a tornado, I would expect it later in the day as conditions become more favorable. Probably around that 7pm window. I’ll take a closer look later tonight and update again. I am probably chasing Saturday. I still think that Saturday may have better tornado potential, again despite what SPC is saying (didn’t even mention tornadoes in their day 3 outlook).

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Forecast Update

I wouldn’t even be making a post right now if I did say I was going to last night because I don’t know what to tell you lol. God damn models. Usually I’m a pretty big fan of the NAM and despite getting shit on constantly, I think it does a pretty solid job. If we are going to get tornadoes on Friday and Saturday, it will almost certainly be over isolated areas. The devil is in the details with tornadoes and with marginal setups like we are dealing with on Friday and Saturday, you have to have some sort of an idea on the precise details (like moisture quality and distribution, where surface winds are backing, etc.) and those finer scale details both at the surface and with stronger 500mb flow keep jumping around from run to run. Going off the 12Z run this morning it looked like the I70 corridor from western Kansas into Colorado would likely hold the greatest tornado potential late in the day on Friday as LCL heights lowered and deep layer shear picked up slightly. For Saturday the 12Z run showed a pretty solid target near Omaha for supercells just northeast of the surface low. I just got done glancing at the 00Z run and it’s shuffled shit up again. Moisture quality is looking like a serious problem for Friday. The latest NAM run throws in a new curve ball with storms firing along the dryline in the northern Texas panhandle with fairly strong mid level flow over that area associated with a small jet streak/short wave. LCL and LFC heights are really high down there though despite dewpoints near the low 60’s (which really is kind of shit for this time of year). With the questionable moisture we are dealing with on Friday, my gut says the best chance for a tornado will be with storms coming off the higher terrain in central Colorado into eastern Colorado. I’d think late in the day around 7pm or so is when a tail end or discrete storm may be able to get it done. I’m up in the air on whether or not I’m chasing Friday. I am not real pumped about the tornado prospects. I felt a lot better about it this morning, but the downward trend with decent quality moisture wrapping into western Kansas and Colorado is really putting a damper on things. I’ll look at the morning runs and hopefully that will make a decision easier. I plan on being packed and ready to go so really I can put the decision off until Friday morning if I need to.

I think Saturday is more likely a chase day for me simply because there will be stronger deep layer shear with the stronger mid/upper level winds coming in and moisture quality will hopefully be better. Overnight convection complicates the surface pattern a bit, with a big complex of storms forecast to track through Nebraska. Again this morning I thought I was zeroing in on a target near Omaha, but the 00Z run has shifted the stronger mid and upper level jets about half a state south (jet was nosing into NE Kansas Saturday at 00Z with the 12Z NAM, with the 00Z its nosing into SE Kansas and it’s a little weaker). The northeast quadrant of the surface low in Iowa actually looked pretty damn good (at least for this year) with strong directional shear and instability. The 00Z took a dump on that though and without getting into all the details as to why, it basically has a weaker version of the 12Z setup shifted farther SW with a sloppier surface pattern. The drop off in mid level winds is a real bummer. Now, all that being said, I don’t buy what the NAM is selling right now. It’s one run and I think the 12Z solution was more in line with previous runs than this latest run is, so I’ll sit tight on passing judgement until I see the 12Z tomorrow. For now I’m thinking the area for the best tornado potential on Saturday could be anywhere from Salina up to Omaha. I do think there is a slightly better chance for a tornadic storm or two on Saturday than there is on Friday, but really one or two storms could plant a couple tubes either day. It’s nothing special or anything to get excited about, but it’s what we have to work with. After this setup it looks like we may be done until June as a summer pattern takes hold in the plains (death ridge). Historically speaking, this almost always happens around mid to late May and it always seems like it’s about a two week break before you get another little second half of tornado season as the ridge breaks down and a few more troughs manage to dig into the central and northern plains. Even though this year has been anything but normal, I have no reason to doubt that will not be the case this year. The latest runs of the GFS hint at a stronger trough over the west coast as you get towards the end of May, which would be about right on schedule with that typical two week break. I can tell you this much, I can about guarantee you that I’ll see the Dakotas this season because if we do get a strong June trough up there then there is no way I’m passing on it. I am desperate for a strong tornado and there’s not a whole lot I wouldn’t do or places I wouldn’t go to see one.

Alright, enough bullshit for tonight. Sorry for the lack of clarity in the forecast, but so goes the model data so there isn’t much I can do about it. The picture should become more clear over the next 36 hours and I’ll stay on top of it, so check back for updates and a more worthwhile read.

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Update

Finally got my first tornado of the season. The tornado wasn’t all that impressive. The funnel lasted for quite a while, but the tornado was probably only down for a couple minutes. I did stream it live on KWCH, which is always big when you can get a tornado live on air. I heard tonight that we were in continuous coverage before the tornado warning even got issued, so KWCH was ahead of the curve for sure on that one. I had the stream of the wall cloud long before the warning and had a great shot of the funnel then tornado as it came right at my location. By the time I was done with my phoner I could only get the bottom portion of the funnel in my shot because it was coming right over my head. That storm was great from a motion standpoint. It started moving northeast as it developed and then made a hard right turn NW of Arkansas City. It was so easy picking up on storm motion changes watching that base. The initial tornado completely roped out about 2-3 miles NW of Ark City. The updraft base when pretty much right over or just off the east side of town before it started to crank a new wall cloud back down just east of Ark City as the storm approached Silverdale. It seemed like the funnels/rotation wouldn’t really get going with that storm until the updraft base at the occlusion was really skinnier out and about wrapped in rain curtains. I stayed with the storm on it deviant motion to the SE all the way down onto the back roads and into gods country along the KS/OK border. There is shit for roads down there in that area btw. Just in time the storm did that catchers mit style hook up where it starts working backwards off stronger inflow. I watched small rotations near the occlusion all the way until it was too dark to see the base without lightning. I thought the storm still had a chance, but it was in the middle of nowhere and I wanted to head home. I also had storms between me and Wichita to deal with, one of which I think had a tornado warning. I ended up watching the inflow notch/circulation that was developing with a supercell as it went through Winfield after dark. I got right in front of the velocity couplet since I knew if it did manage to spin up a tornado it would be weak. You could actually see the rain curtains wrapping around the circulation in the lights of Winfield as it came across the Main Street through town. It was kind of cool. I should have stayed with it because it ended up going tornado warned only a couple minutes after I let it pass over me, but I was being lazy and wanted to get home so I bailed. I regret that a little. I really regret bailing on the storm I was on rather than staying for a while after dark because it actually ended up producing two more tornadoes. That was a mistake. I don’t really give a shit about seeing tornadoes after dark. It’s a little boring IMO, but it’s better than getting a couple extra hours of sleep. I can sleep all year. I need to man up and go that extra mile for the rest of this season. I guarantee that will not happen again this year. It will almost certainly happen next year lol, but not again this year. Anyway, got home around midnight after maneuvering around severe storms on the way back to Wichita. All in all a good chase and a good night for KWCH weather coverage.

I’ve kind of lost track of records over the years, but I am about positive this is the latest I’ve ever gone into the season without a tornado. Now that that monkey is off my back it is time to find some more. Unfortunately Mother Nature isn’t giving us much to work with this year. It’s been brutally slow and by my measure, it’s going to stay that way. It does look like we’ll have a good chance at a few tornadoes in the plains on Friday and Saturday, but I desperately want one a strong trough, classic tornado outbreak type setup and it’s not showing up in the models. You have to take what you can get though so I almost certainly will be chasing this Friday and Saturday. I obviously didn’t have a chance to look at data yesterday because I was out chasing until almost midnight. I’ve been watching Friday and Saturday’s setup for what seems like forever with the GFS, so I think I have a fairly good handle on at least the area where the best severe/tornado threat will occur, but I’m going to hold off on getting a map up until tomorrow. I feel like I need to see the NAM pick up on both days and I want to look at some of the finer details. I’m really not a fan of these later season style setups where you get a big moisture wrap around the surface low/trough. I like the more classic dryline and triple point setups. That’s what I’m most comfortable forecasting and chasing. The type of setups we’re going to have Friday and Saturday are a little more nontraditional where you may be playing an area of hardly backed 850’s, CINH could be an issue and smaller scale areas (maybe even just one storm) are what manage to produce vs a more volatile setup where the ambient environment is supportive of tornadic supercells. I feel like you have to work harder on these types of setups with your forecasting and the certainty of tornadoes is never there. Basically it’s a crap shoot where it’s easy to get burned and miss out. I don’t think either day looks all that good for tornadoes, but I do think we’ll get tornadoes out of this two day deal. As I said so poorly above, these more nontraditional setups always seem a little sketchy. I think Friday you’re probably going to have to play up closer to 70 later in the day for tornadoes. Moisture should be better up there and although still weak, deep layer shear should be alright there later in the day where you get a little overlap in the stronger 500 and 850 winds. Saturday is another queer little setup. I’ll get into the details for bother setups tomorrow, but my initial guess for the best tornado potential on Saturday is going to be northeast Kansas into southeast Nebraska. Basically some place up there off the northeast side of the surface low where surface winds back. Right now I’m about one day out from booking a room in Hays for Friday night. I just want to firm up that both days look chase worthy before I do. Hotels fill up quick on days like that in May because of all the chase tour groups, so you don’t fuck around on getting reservations for those small towns that only have a few hotels. I got burned two years ago on that after the Leoti, KS tornadic supercell and had to end up driving all the way to Burlington Colorado before I got a hotel room lol. It sucked. Especially since my target for the following day was in the opposite direction. I’ve always had fond memories of staying in Hays while chasing. I think I’ve always gotten tornadoes the following day after staying in Hays.

Alight, enough rambling for now. I’ll try to get on my forecasting tomorrow and get a map up.

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Extended Forecast Update

Just a quick update on the extended forecast since I haven’t posted in the last couple days. BTW, usually the frequency of posts you’re going to see out of me is directly proportional to how good the tornado potential is, so if I’m not saying much, then it’s probably because there isn’t much to talk about lol.

I’ve been watching the GFS pretty closely to get a feel for when it will get active again. I mentioned some potential for this Friday and Saturday in my last post, along with the potential problem of not getting any surface based storms. That’s a big problem if you’re after tornadoes and it’s looking more likely that it’s going to verify. I’m not going to get into the problems with the trough and this setup, but the only chance I think there is may be for SE Wyoming on Friday where they may eek out a low end tornado. It’s not looking good Saturday either and it’s doubtful there will be any surface based storms or tornadoes.

The next possibility seems to be around Wednesday of next week when a very weak short wave may work through somewhat zonal flow across the plains. Now the models are still jumping around quite a bit run to run, but for the most part they’ve consistently shown this weak shortwave coming through mid week. It isn’t much to look at if you’re just scrolling through 500mb charts, but it’s got my attention for a couple reasons. One is that throughout the forecast period there should be pretty favorable trajectories in the low levels bringing moisture up from the gulf and Caribbean, so it’s logical to assume there will be pretty solid moisture already in place across the plains for this shortwave to work with. With good moisture/instability, you can offset weakness in deep layer shear to some extent, so even with a small weak wave, you can still get some solid tornadic storms, at least over a small area. I also think there is likely to be good directional shear. With a small, low amplitude wave like has been forecast, you’re not going to get screwed on directional shear like you can with a higher amplitude trough that has a positive tilt. It may be over a compact area, but the potential is there for some good tornadic storms if the GFS stays on track. I’m certainly keeping an eye on it. Still a long ways out, but the consistency on showing a weak shortwave working through the somewhat zonal flow and the fact that model data, common sense and climatology point towards decent moisture being available, I am somewhat optimistic about chase potential with this disturbance.

Things get a little murkier beyond Wednesday. By that I mean I really don’t have any idea what is going to happen lol. The models have jumped around a lot with any specifics regarding the upper air pattern, but in general there have consistently been signals for a more active pattern for the last 10 days or so of May. Several runs of the GFS have shown significant tornado outbreak type setups, but they just as quickly vanish in the next run lol. When you’re looking that far out and there is little run to run consistency, you really can’t pay any attention to details. I try to focus on moisture, upper level winds and the trends from run to run with both when I’m watching models that far out. As I mentioned above, trajectories over the Caribbean and gulf appear to be pretty favorable through the forecast period, so moisture likely won’t be a major issue with any trough we get. We just need a stronger trough to come through the plains (that doesn’t have a nasty positive tilt and is shitting the bed like this weekends trough). The GFS keeps wanting to bring SW flow into the plains with fairly strong waves working through it starting around a week from tomorrow and then it keeps a good wave train pattern going through the plains up into the end of May. That is what you’d expect this time of year, so climatology is on our side here. May 20-30 has delivered more consistently for me over the years than any other stretch of storm season. I’m fairly certain that statistically the peak of tornado season is in that May 20-30 period along with the peak of tornado season historically for Kansas (I think May 26th is the statistical peak for Kansas). I know this, if it does get active then I will definitely be out there. I haven’t used much vacation with as slow as this year has been and I am itching to chase. I really hope we get a multi day event where I can hit the road and stay in hotels for a few days. Those are always fun. Exhausting, but fun.

Alright, that’s it for the night. The theme here is don’t overlook that weak shortwave that may come through the middle of next week and there is reason for optimism with the back half of May looking more active.

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Extended Forecast

You can’t pay much attention to any given model run, but the model trend over the last day is to lean more towards a trough digging south across the Rockies as we approach next weekend. That’s a good thing if you are wanting storms and tornadoes in the plains. If you look at the specific details with the GFS there are certainly issues with the setup that it’s portraying for next weekend (prospect of no surface based storms being one of them lol), but it would be stupid to pay any mind to those details at this point, especially since this is a pretty recent trend that has really just started evolving over the last 24 hours. Hopefully the trend continues and we get a stronger, deeper trough that is taking on more of a neutral to negative tilt. As it looks now, it is nothing to be too excited about, but it could possibly give us a chase opportunity or two next weekend. I glanced at the ECMWF. I can only get base products with that from pivotal weather, but going off the upper air pattern it seems to be in general agreement with the GFS as far as the trough goes for next Friday-Saturday. Soooo, there is at least something to watch for the time being.

Ole Mikey needs to lay down on the couch and watch a movie, so I’m not taking it any further than that tonight. Short and sweet. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the models so I’ll probably update most days coming up. Check back if you’re interested.

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Extended Forecast and Chase Results from this Week

Welp, not a lot to look forward to right now if you’re a storm chaser. It’s hard to believe how slow this season has been. Minus one significant tornado on Tuesday this week, the plains has been dead. I made a critical error on Tuesday and missed that tornado. I think my forecasting was solid leading up to the event. My forecast maps with the greatest tornado potential really never changed in the 5 days leading up to the event and ended up being pretty accurate. Below was my forecast map and the actual storm reports. I’m a chaser and focus on zeroing in on exactly where the greatest tornado potential will be, since that’s what I’m after, so anytime I get the area right where that will happen (red box below), then I’m pretty happy with my forecast. I think that was the case here where the best tornadic storm tracked right down the middle of the area I highlighted.

My plan leading up to the event was to hug the I70 corridor. That notion was further reinforced with Rich Thompson at SPC pointing out the only subtle difference between this setup and the analogs of significant tornado events was slightly better moisture quality. Anytime you are forecasting and there is a weakness with the setup/paramaters, a big part of my strategy is identifying the target that mitigates that weakness. In this case, hugging up close to the triple point where moisture pooling could increase dewpoints a few degrees was a priority for me. The models hinted at a cluster of storms along I70 in the last few runs before Tuesday’s event, so I was prepared for that (vs. a more discrete cell) and knew to stay with the lead supercell or more dominant storm on the southern flank. I largely executed on that strategy and stayed with a supercell from Rush Center all the way over to Wilson. The storm was tornado warned off and on and had a few decent wall clouds, but it never really got close to actually producing. It had a very wet RFD and the updraft base was a little skimpy, which led me to believe we just needed low level shear to ramp up, which I knew would happen as the evening progressed. I did several phones and streamed video of the storm back to KWCH, so did alright on coverage as the storm approached I70 at Wilson. There is a major void of roads off the SW side of Wilson and we knew we’d have to drop south a bit to swing around that void and tie back in with the storm off the east side of Wilson. This is where the error occurred. The storm had gotten high based and was getting ready to go through a merger on top of being embedded in a cluster of supercells. As we dropped off the storm temporarily to swing around it’s south side and get east of Wilson, we had a discussion about the storm to our south and whether or not it would have better tornado potential. That storm south of us was all alone, it had gone tornado warned way faster than the storms coming off the triple point area, mesoscale analysis maxed out sig tornado parameters ahead of it, etc. Virtually everything you would consider in making a decision as to which storm would pose a greater tornado threat pointed towards taking the south discrete storm. The one thing that didn’t point towards that storm was my forecasting target/strategy leading into the chase. We had a discussion and bailed south for the discrete storm rather than swinging back up to the east side of Wilson at that point. As soon as we got about half way to the storm it started to struggle with CINH or drier air, not sure which. At the same time the storm along I70 we left became dominant after it went through the merger and planted a wedge. That one hurt. I still think we made the logical decision, but the lesson here is to stick to your forecast and strategy leading into the day and don’t get sidetracked with short term trends as the day unfolds.

Missing that wedge would be a lot easier to swallow if we had an active stretch coming up, but unfortunately that does not appear to be the case. It’s impossible to get into details right now because the models have been jumping around a lot, but the general trend has been for the polar front jet to stay north and then be fairly weak with any waves that do cross the Rockies. There is a weak disturbance in a NW flow aloft pattern across the plains that may trigger some low end severe storms next Tuesday and Wednesday. Nothing major there though and it’s unlikely we’ll see much out of it. Then there is some hint that a weak trough will dig south about 7 days from now over the plains and possibly break off from the polar front jet becoming a closed low over the plains. Closed lows are not generally good tornado producers due to vertical stacking, so again probably no dice here. The GFS then has this closed low parking over the plains, somewhat reminiscent of a blocking ridge as the polar front jet arcs up and over the plains completely. As the low wraps back in to the polar front jet around May 20th, the upper air pattern begins to look a little more like you’d expect in May. If there is a single stretch of spring that always seems to produce in the plains it is May 20-30. I hardly ever get skunked during that 10 day stretch. I don’t trust this far out and we could very easily be chasing next weekend if the GFS doesn’t have a good handle on the upper air pattern, but if that doesn’t happen then my money says we’ll get back into action around May 20th or shortly there after. The only silver lining with the GFS is that with high pressure anchored in off the SE US for the next week or so and favorable trajectories up through the Caribbean and across the gulf over the duration of the forecast period, the Gulf should be primed and ready to go whenever the jet stream does get active again in the plains. Besides that, there isn’t a whole lot to be happy about lol. I did look at the CFS and ECMWF, but there’s no reason to make a long post detailing each model. We are in hurry up and wait mode. That’s the bottom line.

Alright, I’ll update again Sunday with an extended forecast. I’m checking model data daily so as soon as there is something to talk about I’ll be on it like a duck on a June bug so check back for updates.

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Update

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Update on Today’s Tornado Threat

Just a quick update from the road. We are heading down I70 and should make Hays within an hour. My thoughts are about the same as last night. There is a strong tornado threat, especially near the triple point and dryline storms developing in the area I boxed in green on the above map. Convective evolution and getting a discrete storm with unimpeded inflow is still my chief concern with the extent of the tornado threat this afternoon. The HRRR picked up where the NAM left off and shows somewhat clustered storms as they move off the boundary before one or two becomes more dominant with a clear southern flank. I think the best play is to get along I70 near or just east of Hays and then move in on one of the cells that you think should be more dominant as the picture becomes more clear with cumulus fields on satellite or radar as storms first develop. It’s still kind of hard to pin down the exact location of the boundaries, but you can start to see hints of the front with the latest visible satellite images and the dryline should become more well defined over the next couple hours. I’ll try to get a satellite pic posted showing the exact boundary locations in the next hour or two. For now, not much more to add as my thoughts haven’t changed since my previous posts. The map above is a quick road sketch of where I expect the strongest storms to develop and where the peak tornado threat should be later today. I’d expect a tornado watch sometime in the next few hours. Be careful if you’re out and watch KWCH for coverage. I will try to post again with a final target and mesoscale updates as warranted, so check back if you’re interested.

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