Saturday, 28 May 2016

May 27th report

We started the day in Dodge City. Morning analysis and model guidance showed a surface low in SW Kansas, beneath an upper low - this upper low was progged to move eastwards and open into a wave. At the surface, the low was expected to move slowly east or north-east, but perhaps then re-develop back south-westwards a bit. The rich Gulf moisture of recent days had largely been overturned by several days of storms, and cooler, somewhat drier air was moving in from the west behind the low. We decided to target a boundary to the NE of the surface low - despite the somewhat unfavourable deep-layer flow, the strongly backed surface winds might do something interesting.

We decided to head to Great Bend, and had lunch there for the second day in a row! After lunch we continued NE through Ellsworth, as cells were starting to form to our east and south-east. Indeed, this line of storms quickly started to merge and look rather unfavourable for chasing, as they were unlikely to have decent structure and had no chance of being supercells.

We paused and watched a storm to our south slowly move in. We'd noticed towering cumulus to our west, and storms were already firing in far west Kansas, suggesting that convection should turn into thunderstorms on the northern side of the upper low. We started to head west towards a developing thunderstorm, and then north towards Sylvan Grove, where the storm was moving. We paused to work out how far north to go, admiring towering cumulus building into the side of the main storm. Helen then said, 'funnel cloud' - something we often do for fun (!), but in this case, it actually was! It was under the towering cumulus building into the main storm, rather than under the main updraught. This is something which sometimes happens in these situations. After a minute or two it disappeared. We took this chance to dash a mile or two west towards the agitated base of the towering cumulus, and then it did it again - this time, about 1/2 way towards the ground, and lasted several minutes. It was great to watch, and certainly brought fully into focus why we chase! This was something we'd not seen before, i.e. a funnel cloud under the flanking line of a storm. We decided to head towards the core of the storm, but after a while decided there was nothing of much interest to see now.

Other storms were forming to the south-west, with an isolated one near Russell. We headed there and noted a decent wall cloud under a nice updraught column. A few times it looked quite close to producing a tornado but never did - I don't think the rotation was quite as strong as the storm's appearance suggested, but it was certainly pretty. We then headed a little north of town and the colours were very nice as it was around sunset. A policeman turned up - he was keeping an eye on the storm. We had a nice chat with him for 10 mins or so before we decided it was time to brave the core of the storm and head to our motel in Hays, to our west. This was quite an intense drive with frequent CG lightning and very intense rain, and a bit of hail. Clearly this was too much for one driver whose car was in a field with a few police cars in attendance - the guy seemed fine. This was a more understandable 'off' than one we'd seen earlier in the day, where a lady seemed to have just driven off the road into a field - again, people were already in attendance - she seemed fine too.

We ended the day in Applebee's, of course, in Hays. It was a great day of chasing and brought us a couple of nice surprises!

Watching a storm from a point west of Salina, looking south.

Funnel cloud number 1, near Sylvan Grove.

Funnel cloud 2, near Sylvan Grove.


Wide shot showing funnel under line of towering cumulus.

Funnel thinning.

Wall cloud near Russell.

Wide view of supercell updraught near Russell.

Supercell approaching Russell.

Sunset just north of Russell.

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