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                   Monday, March 27, 2017

Plains forecast update for March 27

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Chasing
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The month of March is part of the spring severe weather season, and I am always on alert for opportunities. Although I chase frequently in the Midwest this time of year, I've never actually embarked on a Great Plains storm chasing expedition during the month of March. I usually don't plan on it, for two main reasons. One, March setups are less climatologically favored for good tornado days - most have multiple failure modes (things that can go wrong) compared to peak-season. Two, and more importantly for me, with a limited number of Plains chase days (roughly 10 or so) in my budget each year, I'm very hesitant to use those days early on during a time when few setups work out well. Chase dollars go much further in the tornado department in late April through early June, and without unlimited days at my disposal, I must pick and choose. I never rule out a March Plains chase trip (look up March 13, 1990 for one reason why), but my bar is *very* high for a March day to steal away a peak season-earmarked day.

And so, it is mainly for these reasons that I didn't go for Oklahoma on Sunday the 26th and won't either for the Texas panhandle tomorrow the 28th. Both are respectable setups, with many of the right ingredients in place - but both with big caveats. Sunday's problem was insufficient moisture, Tuesday's looks to be early-day convection fouling much of the target area. Not to mention, tomorrow's target distance is a big one. At more than 11 hours away, it would require two of my budgeted Plains days and at least one overnight stay. Again, I'm not against a March chase if the setup is right, but in my opinion this doesn't appear to be that at this stage. It could change for the better in 24 hours, but I *have* to make the call now - and that call is "no".

Beyond that, going into April, things certainly look very active. A long parade of shortwave troughs is shown crossing the southern Great Plains every 2-3 days:

GFS model for April 5

Any and all of these could be players for a Plains expedition. That being said, I don't typically like patterns like this as they aren't necessarily a good thing for us non-unlimited-funds chasers. Right now, none of the days really stand out as exceptional, and they are all "one hit wonders" with 1 to 3-day gaps in between each. It will be difficult to choose which, if any, of these to use chase funds on. With all of the in-between down days, chasing them all could use up more than half of my season budget! We will just have to take each one on a case-by-case basis as they come, making any decision to go at the last possible minute. And so that's the plan for now. I'm elevating chase expedition probabilities to 50% starting this weekend, and start evaluating individual setups as they get closer. Stay tuned!

2017 Plains Chase Expeditions - Probabilities as of March 27
March 27-April 12%
April 2-750%

25 Years of Storm Chasing
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