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Midwest storm observation day: Friday, April 15, 2011 (Update 1)
My shift in observing philosophy comes to full fruition this week as the first true high-probability tornado setup of 2011 arrives in the Great Plains today. One year ago, such an event would have meant a no-brainer weather expedition down I-44 starting early in the morning. But not this year - I will be staying home from today's storm observation day in Oklahoma and Kansas. My intention this year, for reasons I've gone into detail about previously, is to focus on the lower-probability yet lesser-covered Midwestern aspects of these systems - which we will have here tomorrow (Friday the 15th).
While Friday's main event will be a high-level tornado threat in the deep South (Mississippi and Alabama), the day will also offer two potential opportunities closer to the St. Louis area. The first and more distant option will be the extreme northern warm sector component of the setup, where instability and shear profiles are favorable for supercells. This region, as depicted by models, would extend from Tennessee into southern and central Kentucky. The second zone will be more of a cold-core play, currently shown as setting up ahead of the surface low from around Evansville, Indiana back through the I-64 corridor toward St. Louis.
While the second area is highly conditional and much more bust-prone (mainly due to the glut of rain and clouds shown in this region by models), its close proximity to home makes it the ideal option with current gas prices. So at this stage, my starting target for Friday is my living room - quite an easy trip to make in the morning. Great road options, a coffee maker and internet access to all the data to decide on the next move! If the day does end up being a bust, the return trip will be equally as short.