Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Sunday, May 15, 2016

May 8 chase - NW Oklahoma/S Kansas

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May 8 chase GPS log >

I have embarked on two short Great Plains trips already this season, each comprising of only one storm chase day. Both have been without success (I covered the April 26 Kansas chase here). My second trip began on Saturday night, May 7 with a departure on I-70 west into Kansas. I spent a short night at Junction City, then continued down to my target of Pratt/Medicine Lodge by early afternoon on the 8th.

The target this day was the nose of a surface moisture max pushing its way north along the dryline into western Oklahoma and the Kansas border area. I arrived in plenty of time, stopping in Pratt to look for dry ice for the hail cooler (alas, everyone was sold out). I arrived on the first (and best) storm of the day at Hardtner, Kansas, watching it split multiple times as it slowly made its way east. Finally, a right-moving storm emerged from the mess and rapidly intensified west of Capron, Oklahoma. I made the short jump across the border and in front of the storm.

I was in a great position as the RFD began punching in hard just to my southwest. Motion along the updraft/RFD interface was very rapid, and it appeared it was moments from spinning something up. But alas, a blast of cold outflow from the storm's forward flank pushed underneath all of this, ending the tornado threat. This occurred right as a long-lived, left-moving supercell raced north from central Oklahoma and collided with the storm. The Capron supercell never recovered from this interaction.

A few more cells fired in the same vicinity, but in every case the left splits became dominant, racing off to the northeast. I followed one back north to Pratt as darkness fell, seeing some nice lightning from the storm, but nothing more. I ended the chase at Pratt, headed up to Emporia for the night and was back home on Monday afternoon. Like many others, I wasn't impressed with the setup in eastern Oklahoma and therefore wasn't in position to react to the 18z special sounding from Norman that indicated the major tornado threat south of Oklahoma City.

The 2016 season so far has had two main downsides: 1.) the big-parameter days have failed to produce, and 2.) one must chase many less-than-optimal setups to finally be in position to catch the one that unexpectedly produces something big. I generally don't do well during seasons like this, since I go out only on the days when the tornado parameters are strong. If those "big-looking days" don't do anything, I end up mostly empty-handed.

I took a few still images on this trip, but haven't been that motivated to process any of them. I did however archive and render out my dashcam footage (to show chaser traffic/behavior) as well as a clip from my main video camera. Both show the display of motion along the RFD punch near Capron.

Dashcam timelapse of the full chase:

Realtime exceprt of the timelapse showing peak chaser traffic:

Looking ahead - there still aren't any synoptically-evident big events presenting themselves on models, so the rest of the month is a little uncertain in terms of storm prospects.

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

2016 Plains Storm Expeditions - Probabilities as of May 15
May 15-170%
May 18-2230%

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