Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 12:59PM CST

Storm Chasing & Photography forecast update for May 30-June 10

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This is the kind of year where I'm extremely thankful to have seen a tornado at all, much less the six I have in the bag so far in 2014. They've been very hard to come by, with virtually all of the Plains setups so far this spring coming up short in one or two key parameters - sometimes at the last minute. Meanwhile, in typical Midwest fashion, "Illinois magic" produced weak landspouts about an hour north of here that would have been welcome to most every storm chaser who is currently scrounging for any atmospheric table scrap they can in the Great Plains.

We have yet another unimpressive system shown moving through the Plains starting this weekend, but it is giving little reason to get excited. Midlevel flow is just barely enough to squeak out a decent wind profile where it is needed, and strong capping looks to throw a wrench into even that. Once again, as with this past week's setups, this system will provide a string of multiple storm chase days with apparently equal small chances at producing something worthwhile. That is, there's a halfway decent chance of a photogenic tornado somewhere in the mix - but one will have to work hard for it: forecast hard and chase hard every day to get it. I don't see a single day that stands out as the best player, or any that show an easy forecast or "slam dunk" tornado play.

Having lived here in the Midwest for 4 and a half years, I've seen time and time again that we can squeeze some "magic" out of the air just as easily as the Great Plains can during these marginal patterns. Yesterday's landspouts are yet another feather in the cap of that legacy (not to mention, 4 of the 6 tornadoes I've seen in 2014 have been in Missouri and Illinois). Given that I can stay within a couple hours of home for that type of thing (and not take much time off from work), I see little motivation to plunk down hundreds of dollars to join the ranks of the Plains warriors trudging through the brutality of this season. All that being said, I'm still open to a two-day Kansas/Nebraska chase on Sunday-Monday that I may be able to orchestrate with only one hotel night expense. If the midlevel flow ends up slightly stronger than shown and/or capping becomes less of a concern, it may be worth the trip.

The long-range models show uncertaintly of what lies beyond this upcoming system, enough that I can't speculate on the potential. Furthermore, now that two Plains trips are on the books for the season, my dwindling spring chase budget becomes an obstacle to continued chases. The third one may be the only additional one I have funding for, so I typically am fairly picky on which setup to spend it on (if at all).

The following table charts the probability of a Great Plains storm chase expedition happening for several indicated date ranges in the near future:

2014 Plains Storm Expeditions - Probabilities as of May 29
May 30-310%
June 1-330%
June 4-1025%

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