Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Sunday, June 11, 2023

Season Epilogue: The year without a classic Great Plains peak storm season

By DAN ROBINSON
Editor/Photographer
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I've seen enough of medium-range models that I'm confident in declaring that my annual Great Plains tornado season standby period has ended, and will do so without me having made any Plains chases. It's the first time I'll record a zero on the board of spring Plains travel days since 2011 (aside from the obvious 2020 exception). Thankfully, the April 4 Illinois event will prevent me from going tornado-less this year.

While there have been some good storms in the high plains of New Mexico and west Texas this year, those areas are just too far outside of my normal range to consider. They've occurred as diamonds-in-the-rough during mostly-marginal setups that didn't present themselves as trip-worthy, particularly considering almost twice the mileage of the average central/southern Plains trip would have been required. If peak-season storm targets are essentially near Albuquerque, Fort Stockton or Del Rio as they've been, that means they're not your classic Plains dryline days and therefore you're just not going to see me making a trip for them.

Will I miss storms and tornadoes with that stance? Yes, of course I will - but I'm OK with that. I'm unapologetically a classic dryline supercell aficionado during peak tornado season, and normally I'm not going to consider traveling much farther south than the Red River, north of South Dakota or west of the Texas border. If action doesn't happen within those confines in April-June, it usually means it's just a bad year for spring storms and I'm better off saving my money for opportunities later in the year (or even in the next).

So, my focus now pivots to Midwestern summer storms, and it appears we might have some opportunities as the upper jet and deep moisture finally return to our region in the next couple of weeks. This upper jet configuration would have been great for Plains tornadoes had it occurred 2 to 3 weeks earlier - but this late in the season, such a jet usually just brings with it a "thermonuclear" capping inversion from northern Mexico that suppresses storms over the Plains.

I've also made some changes to my high-speed camera rig this month, with a wider lens that I'm hoping will result in some better lightning captures. Stay tuned!

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