Thursday, May 18, 2017

Day 1 and 2 - Chase 2017

Day 1 (5/17/17): Whitewater, Wisconsin to Hays, Kansas (800 miles)

We rolled out of Whitewater around 9 am Wednesday morning to start the 2017 field course trip. After 14 hours we arrived in Hays, Kansas around 11 pm. When driving through Des Moines, Iowa we did encounter a poorly formed wall cloud. We kept our eye on this storm before moving on to the southwest. We wanted to get as far west as possible on this day to set ourselves up for Thursday's chase.

Day 2 (5/18/17): Hays, Kansas to Woodward, Oklahoma (386 miles; 1186 total for the trip)

Do to our drive late into the night Wednesday we held our briefing later in the morning. The mood of the group was good after the briefing and seeing the high risk that the SPC had issued for the day. We decided we would head south towards Dodge City, Kansas to have lunch and reevaluate the conditions. After our lunch stop we decided to move a little more south down to the extreme northern part of Oklahoma. We had some cells to our south in Oklahoma that at first looked promising but they quickly merged into a large cluster of storms instead of the isolated ones we would like to chase. We decided to drive back a little north back into Kansas as we had a visible cue field (area of cumulus clouds) developing in that area and there was a east-west oriented boundary (identified on radar) dropping south towards that cue field.

When we arrived in Minneola, Kansas a couple of new cells were quickly developing. Given the amount of shear that was being analyzed we figured these storms were promising. We moved a little east of Minneola to get a better  viewing angle as the new cells started to merge. While moving south, one of the students (Amber) looked back and saw a decent sized funnel descending from the storm. By the time we pulled over to a safe spot to watch, that funnel had dissipated but a new funnel started to appear from a different portion of the storm. A third funnel cloud was then spotted back towards the location where the priginal one formed. With all of these, we could not verify if there was circulation on the ground or not from our vantage point. At this point the areas that had the circulation and funnel clouds were getting wrapped in rain. We decided to reposition ourselves back towards Minneola, on the drive back we spotted yet another area of circulation and another funnel cloud. Due to the tremendous amount of rain associated with these storms it was hard to verify if any of the funnel clouds reached the ground or not.

We decided at that point to start moving east and south towards our stopping point for the night, Woodward, Oklahoma. It was a very exciting day for us. Here are some pictures from the day.

Developing Cumulus clouds from the storms in Oklahoma that quickly merged into a big cluster of storms. Photo by Luke Beringer.

One of the 4 funnel clouds we spotted today near Minneola, Kansas. Photo by Dr. Nathan Hitchens.

One of the updraft portion of the storms near Minneola. Photo by Megan Matheus

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