Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 7:31AM CST

Storm Chasing & Photography forecast update for April 5-18

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Things are about to get busy for the Plains and Midwest - tornado season is arriving in high gear! Models continue to hold onto high-probability tornado setups in the Plains and lower Mississippi Valley from Monday to Wednesday. I have secured time off work on Monday and Tuesday, which removes my biggest logistical hurdle and leaves the Plains trip probabilities entirely based on the days' tornado potential. It is still too early to say for certain that this will be a solid chaseable setup, but my confidence increases with each day that the models show the same general pattern.

My main concern now for this event is not meteorological, but with the anticipated chaser traffic numbers. Currently the strongest tornado potential is indicated in central Oklahoma. With this being the first quality storm chasing event of the season, observer 'buzz' about this event has been high. A large number of storm chasers have expressed plans to travel to the Plains for Monday, which coupled with the Plains-based observer element and the setups' proximity to Oklahoma City means that there could be serious chaser traffic problems. This threat will be particularly high if a single tornadic storm becomes dominant.

Right now, models show two and possibly three target areas from Kansas down into central Oklahoma, a factor which could help spread storm chasers out and keep traffic problems at a minimum. Models show the Oklahoma portion of this event to be the strongest, which should help to concentrate observer numbers in that area. Consequently I will likely choose the Kansas (northern) portion of the risk area to avoid the traffic issues as much as I can.

Tuesday's event looks significant through southern Missouri and Arkansas.

Once we're inside 4 days, we'll have one more major model in the mix as well as a longer series of runs to verify consistency. If Saturday's model runs still show the same pattern that they do now, April 8-9's Plains trip probabilities will be in the vicinity of 85-90%. However, unfortunately there is still plenty of time for this system to completely tank - which is holding me back from giving this anything more than a 60% chase probability right now.

Looking farther into the future, both the GFS and Euro show a second very strong western trough developing offshore in the northern Pacific, which (if it happens) should move onshore and swing into the Plains sometime after the 16th. This is really past the range for any confident forecasting, but since both models agree on it, I'll slightly elevate the chase probabilities for the April 12-17 time period.

The following table charts the probability of a Great Plains storm chase expedition for the indicated date ranges:

2013 Plains Storm Expeditions - Probabilities as of April 4
April 5-60%
April 7-1060%
April 11-1825%

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