Monday, May 29, 2017

Day 10/11/12 - Chase 2017

Here is the long awaited update to the blog...

Day 10 (5/26/2017): Limon, Colorado to Pampa, Texas (553 miles; 4427 total for the trip)

The forecasters for the day decided to stay north for more chasing in Colorado. But before any chasing, we drove about 45 miles away so we were able to see the Rocky Mountains! They were about 60+ away, and there was a large cloud covering Pike’s Peak but it was very cool. After seeing the Rockies, we decided to go back to Limon to re-evaluate. There were two spots in Colorado that storms were possible and we decided to stay north instead of chasing the group of cells in southeast Colorado. We headed towards Denver where some storms were developing coming out of the Rocky Mountains; we hung out east of Byers, Colorado to watch the approaching storm. The lightning show was great; many students took awesome pictures. We stayed with the cell for a couple hours and saw so many other chasers out. We eventually decided to start heading towards our target city for the next day due to the long distance we would have to travel. As we were heading south towards the Texas pandhandle we saw the storms that tried to develop in the southeast part of Colorado. These storms were not as organized as the ones we had witnessed in the northeast part of the state. We were happy that we did not go south to chase, because the storms were pretty bleak down here. We got into Pampa, Texas around midnight.

Day 11 (5/27/2017): Pampa, Texas to Denton, Texas (542 miles; 4969 total for the trip)

After a long night, the WeatherHawks gathered at 8:15 AM for a weather briefing. There was a moderate risk of severe weather that covers southern Missouri with an enhanced risk covering portions of Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, and portions of other states out east. The Storm Prediction Center anticipated a 10% chance of a tornado forming throughout eastern Oklahoma and southwest Missouri. The amount of Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) was expected to reach over 5,000 joules with shear reaching over 70 knots throughout the area. Around 4:00 PM a dry line was expected to come through the area, dropping the dew point temperature from 70º F to 55º F throughout eastern Oklahoma. Heat will be coming from both the Gulf of Mexico and the southwest portions of the country. With a low-pressure system above the area, short-wave troughs, and diverging winds, lapse rates of 9.7º C with storm-relative helicity of 245 m2 s2. The team decided to head towards El Reno, Oklahoma to eat lunch and reassess the conditions.

After lunch, the team decided to drift south in order witness the initiation of storms in Sterling, Oklahoma. However, one of the problems with chasing storms throughout this region is the terrain. The area doesn’t provide great chasing conditions due to the rolling hill, tall vegetation, an inadequate road networks. In addition, another complication was the realization of a holiday weekend. As a result, more people will be out on the roads either traveling or chasing.

It wasn’t until 7:00 PM or so when storms began initiating. We chased a developing storm that showed rotation and was intensifying throughout the area. Throughout this time 2 tornado warning were issued and more were to follow as the night progressed.

Around 8:30 PM we called off our active chase because of the added challenges of chasing at night time. We did however move south of the storms and encountered a significant amount of cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground lighting strikes. We stopped for dinner in Ardmore, Oklahoma before heading on to Denton, Texas for the night.

Cloud-to-cloud lightning strike. Photo by Luke Beringer

Convective initiation. Photo by Luke Beringer

The radar reflectivity of the storms we were chasing south of Oklahoma City. The blue target was out location, the road network east of I-25 is very poor. Screen shot from RadarScope.

The radar velocity of the same storms.

Day 12 (5/28/2017): Denton, Texas to Shreveport, Louisiana (429 miles; 5398 total for the trip)

At the morning briefing it was determined that today would be our last chase day. Given the conditions over the next few days and the distance we were away from Whitewater we needed to start heading back to Whitewater on Monday, May 29. At the briefing, we decided our target area for the day would be south of us in Waco, Texas. The short-term models were showing that storms were going to potentially fire within the area. After arriving in Waco, we all had lunch and made a local tourist stop to Magnolia a store/warehouse owned by Chip and Joanna Gaines from the HGTV show Fixer Uppers. This made the day for one particular student that is on the trip because she is a huge fan of the show. After lunch, we headed south to the small town of Lorena, Texas and hung out in a city park waiting for the storms to initiate and indeed they did. The storms were forecasted to stay isolated from each other for some time but they merged very quickly and due to road networks had to pull off the chase. We had to cut through the line of storms to get to the back side of the storm. While we usually try to avoid these cores since they were mainly rain we drove through the line. Along the way, we witnessed multiple close cloud-to-ground lightning bolts. After escaping these storms, we then began to head towards our final destination of the night, Shreveport, Louisiana, where we will begin our journey home on Monday!

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