Thursday, May 28, 2015

Second Tornado in as Many Days (and an Awesome Wall Cloud)

Day 11: Thursday, May 28, 2015
Chase Day near Leoti, Kansas
Beginning City: Goodland, Kansas
Ending City: Amarillo, Texas
Total Miles Traveled: 487 for the day, 4969 for the trip

Written by Chloe Rehberg and Porter Vande Voort

Today we started our day off in Goodland, Kansas after an eventful day yesterday. This morning while looking at our maps and projections we realized that the expected storm area was very broad and stretched all the way from southern Texas up into Nebraska! As we noticed the Texas storms would be too far to chase, we started looking at good areas around the western Kansas and eastern Colorado region. Just south of where we were staying we noticed conditions were going to be most favorable so we decided to pack up and move south. In our briefing, it was discussed how these storms would start popping up in the early afternoon so we knew we have to get moving. 

As we started south, storms started firing up all around us. This was what we were predicting, storms starting in the early afternoon but moving very slowly. We continued watching radar and noticed cells popping up and a lot of them ended up merging together. We had a lot of severe warnings and great storm development as we watched the storms. After seeing a 'hook' on the radar which is a great sign for a possible tornado, we we thought we had spotted a quick tornado touchdown just to the west of Leoti, KS. From our vantage point the tornado was shrouded in rain so it was difficult to see and get a good photo of. Although it was brief and slightly far away, for the second day in a row, we witnessed a tornado on the ground through confirmation from other chasers who were closer and reported the tornado to the National Weather Service.

After seeing the tornado the storm started to intensify on its southern flank. We ended up having to move around to avoid the rain and hail cores from the new development. As this southern flank intensified it also started to rotate. We first saw evidence of this rotation on radar and then visually a wall cloud with rapid rotation developed on the storm. This wall cloud was only about 1 mile from us and thus we got a very good view including a few funnels that began to lower but never made contact with the ground. Even without producing a tornado it gave us a great show with lots of rotation and a very interesting cloud structure.
While there were multiple cells around us that had great hooks and great storm structure, we had to be careful not to get caught in a difficult path. Due to poor road networks and storms in all directions we ended up having a hard time staying ahead of the storm but got a great lightning show from the backside of it. In general, we had another successful chase day. After chasing, we headed down south to Amarillo, TX for the night to set ourselves up for tomorrow. Conditions look most favorable in the Texas panhandle which is where we will be staying; most likely for our last chase day of the trip.

Radar reflectivity for the storm we saw with a rotating wall cloud. Notice the hook shape just to the north of us.

Radar velocity product showing the rotation component of the hydrometeors (i.e., raindrops and hail stones) in the cloud. The radar site is to the north off the screen. and red colors indicate movement away from the radar and green colors represent movement towards the radar.

At the same time the radar images were taken this is what we saw from the ground. The lowering just to the right of the road sign is the wall cloud and this wall cloud was rotating quickly. Photo by Chloe Rehberg

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