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April 30, 2009 Storm Chase Log

Great Plains Chase Expedition 2009

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Plains 2009, Days 4-6: Monday-Wednesday, April 27-29, 2009

I woke up early on Monday morning (the 27th), stopping in Tulsa again for a truck stop shower before heading east toward home. I wasn't entirely impressed with the severe weather outlook for the next few days, but I decided that since I was in Tulsa, I'd hang around for the 12z models to come out (around noon). I figured if there was a drastic flip-flop in the models that would change my mind about going home, it would be better for that to happen while I was still in Oklahoma than if I was half a day into my drive back to West Virginia. The 12z models didn't show major tornado outbreaks, but pointed to a few 'sleeper' type setups - 'boom or bust' days that could be either yield tornadoes, or nothing. Setups that I wouldn't drive all day from WV to get to, but ones I'd chase if I was already there. I have a few good chaser friends in Tulsa (Dave Crowley, Justin Teague, Greg McLaughlin), and since I was in town, I decided to try to make some phone calls and arrange a dinner to catch up and talk storms. Later that evening, Justin offered me his guest room, which made deciding to stick around for the 'sleeper' chase days much easier. So, I made the choice to stick around for a few days.

Tuesday and Wednesday were 'down days', in other words, non-chasing days that are useful in resting up and catching up on things like laundry, emails and going through a few chase photos. I was actually able to put in a couple of work days using my laptop set up in a Starbucks coffee shop, which was a nice way to avoid any anxiety of ignoring work for a long period of time. A big disappointment came on Wednesday when I chose not to chase a 'sleeper' setup down in the Texas panhandle that produced a prolific tornado day. The target was a 7-hour drive from Tulsa, which would not only cost me in trip funds, but would make my eventual drive home half a day longer. So I didn't bite on it. Besides, two more 'sleeper' days were expected to happen Thursday and Friday closer to Tulsa.

Day 7: Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thursday was another 'sleeper' chase day. Strong instability was forecast to develop across much of Oklahoma by late afternoon. A dryline, along with several outflow boundaries, were expected to provide focus for convection to fire. Upper winds were not that strong, but marginally sufficient for severe storms. If a storm could fire in the threat area and anchor onto a boundary, tornadoes would be possible. Models did not show much in the way of precip in our target area, so we knew about the possibility of this being a 'blue sky bust' - that is, a day when the atmosphere is primed, but storms fail to develop at all.

This day would find me in a rare situation that I have only been in a handful of times in my 16 years of chasing - I was a passenger on a chase rather than a driver. I headed out with Justin, Greg and Charlie (Justin's dog) in Greg's 4Runner, and we targeted the Enid area, arriving around mid-afternoon at the intersection of two boundaries that we felt would provide the best tornado chances if a storm could get going there. Standing out in the Oklahoma sun among the red dirt roads, green wheat fields and blue skies is something I hope I have a chance to do at least once a year. I love it out here.

Charlie, Justin's beagle, is a seasoned storm chasing dog, with many miles and tornadoes under his belt - or should I say collar. He's good company on a chase.

Some cumulus began building, but the development was short-lived. As the afternoon turned to evening and peak heating time passed, it became apparent that things were not going to happen today. We headed down to near Hennessey, OK where we watched a cluster of cumulus try valiantly to get established, but to no avail. Once again though, the classic Great Plains scenes presented themselves for a couple of photos.

Charlie kept an eye on things. We wondered if it was possible to train a beagle to sniff out deep moisture or warm RFD. If food was involved, I think it would be doable.

We finally called it a day and headed to Stillwater for dinner. We watched via radar the supercell fire back on the dryline after dark near Clinton, which lasted only a short time before dissipating. We never really considered heading for that development due to the late hour.

NEXT CHASE: Supercells in Texas >

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