Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Thursday, May 3, 2012 - 11:44PM CST

May 3 IL bust account, storm forecast update for May 3-12

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Event log for Thursday, May 3: I burned a vacation day Thursday to chase one of Illinois' sleeper setups, one in a string of them this week (Tuesday's setup produced tornadoes up near Champaign). A curving outflow boundary from a previous night's MCS was draped from around Chicago back to the southwest. This boundary had been out in sunlight all day, with strong instability on both sides. As I made it past Springfield on I-55, a small storm was already in progress north of Peoria. I opted not to bite on it for a few reasons. One was that it appeared the storm would approach the boundary at too steep of an angle, crossing it before it could produce. I was too far away to catch it crossing and possibly producing at that brief moment, so I opted to let it go and hope that something would fire farther southwest. I slowly made my way west out of Lincoln to Mason City. After waiting for almost 90 minutes, it became obvious that nothing was going to go before sunset. The storm north of Peoria looked good for a few radar scans, but it seemed to have trouble keeping its act together. With darkness falling and nothing promising within several hours' intercept range, I called it a bust and went home. It would have been a classic 'blue sky' bust, except for the fact that I could see the lightning from the storm to the north.

Plains trip forecast update: The western trough/upper low setups that were showing on models for the Plains a few days ago has, not surprisingly, fallen apart. The trough is still there, but shown much farther south and weaker than it was before. Any tornado chances seem to be confined to the south Texas area where some decent upper flow will overspread deep moisture. The rest of the Plains will either be quiet or have some needle-in-a-haystack opportunities in a weaker flow or zonal flow regime, with possibly some difficult-to-forecast upper impulses here and there to enhance tornado chances (but not by much).

At any rate, this isn't looking like a pattern I want to spend the money on for a Plains trip. So, unless some major turnaround happens in model data in the next couple of days (highly unlikely), this one's a no-go. At the far end of the range, nothing of interest is hinted at by either long-range model through the end of next week. However, plenty of Midwestern 'sleeper' days may be thrown in the mix. Those are difficult for me to chase due to the short notice I have for taking days off, but occasionally I'll be able to make it out.

The following table plots the chance of a Plains storm chase expedition happening in a particular date range (Midwestern storm chase days are not factored into this table):

2012 Plains Storm Expeditions - Probabilities as of May 3
May 3-1210%
May 13-1930%
May 20-3130%

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