High Plains Drifter

disclaimer:  "The meteorological views/forecast thinking expressed are those solely of the author of this blog
and do not necessarily represent those of official National Weather Service forecast products,
therefore read and enjoy at your own risk and edification!"

March 24, 2009

Chase Acct: March 23, 2009 (south-central KS)

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Latest Chases,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 5:25 pm

For me, this was just an “average” chase.  I intercepted two supercell thunderstorms on this day after leaving Dodge City shortly after Noon.  My target was Kingman, KS, but I never got there before storms started forming.  I was already in “chase mode” when I reached Pratt, as the first decent storm echo on radar was developing to my south-southeast.  It was really early in the day, so I just opted to let the storm come up to me on Highway 54 at Kingman.  From Kingman, I followed the storm… a rather smallish LP or “dry classic” type storm… north-northeast from Cheney Lake up to Highway 50 near Burrton.  This was indeed a “race chase” as this storm was trucking north-northeast at around 50 mph.  This left me very little time to photograph the storm other than brief stops for a quick snap.  A lot of my images of this storm were shot while driving up north on the paved road from Cheney dam to Haven.  A large wall cloud formed briefly, with a beautiful rear-flank downdraft clear slot eventually taking shape to my north-northwest near Haven.  These were probably my best images of the chase day.

Once the storm reached Highway 50 it became less organized and was just continuing to truck away from me so I said to hell with that storm.  I then drove east to Newton, and with a new focus down along the Oklahoma border, I made a goal to get down toward the Winfield area.  A fairly impressive supercell emerged out of a cluster of storms southwest of South Haven.  An extrapolated path took this storm to South Haven about 15 to 20 minutes before I was expected to reach the South Haven interchange.  When I first got a good glance of the structure of the storm, I realized that it was likely not going to produce any large, photogenic tornadoes, so I went into “structure mode” — basically getting far to the east of the storm to get decent supercell structure shots.  The structure of the storm was pretty good while I was on Hwy 166 looking back to the west and southwest…with a very long, broad inflow band taking shape from the north through northwest feeding into the main updraft area.  It just looked like there was too much rain-cooled air being re-ingested into the updraft area…however given such strong storm-relative inflow winds, rain-cooled outflow could not surge very far from the updraft area.  So what ended up happening, from my observations, was that you would end up with nice looking wall clouds for a few minutes — only to evolve into crappy looking fragmented pseudo miniature shelf-cloud looking features.

The best of these wall cloud features I photographed was along Highway 166 at about 4:56pm CDT looking west from a location ~ 2 to 3 miles west of Arkansas City.  Very briefly, before I had my camera in hand of course, there was what appeared to be a bulbous looking laminar appearance protruding from the wall cloud about halfway to the surface.  I tried to get a photo of this, but was just a little too late.  This would have been almost directly in line with Highway 166, or barely south — not too far from Ashton.  Anyway, after this, the wall cloud became fragmented with outflow seemingly winning out for that feature.  I continued into Ark City and then eventually north on County Road 1 about 7 or 8 miles east of Ark City.  The structure was never really the same as it was back farther west…and the whole thing was just becoming a big mess — and not very photogenic.  Nevertheless, I captured a few images as the storm’s core was approaching my location shortly before reaching Hwy 160 east of Winfield.  Not long after this, I gave up on this storm given the yucky structure and it moving farther east toward southeast KS.  I’ve never had luck photographing a storm in southeast Kansas, so I figured this storm’s structure would continue to degrade.  I drove back to Winfield and got some dinner at the Mexican restaurant in town.  After this, I headed south a bit to photograph backside Cumulonimbus development of storms coming up from far northern Oklahoma with only marginal success.  I called it a chase right at sunset and began my trek back to Dodge City.  All in all, not too bad of a chase.  I’ve had much better — and much worse chases — that’s for sure.


March 22, 2009

Chase Forecast — March 23, 2009

Filed under: Chase Forecasts/Outlooks,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 11:20 pm

Tomorrow is a chase day if I can get off work early.  I am scheduled an "easy to get off" supernumerary day shift, and since I’m not working a forecasting shift + the fact that severe should avoid the Dodge City forecast area, I can probably take a half day off, leave at noon, and head east toward Wichita.  I do plan to "join the masses" and play the conventional obvious target from Wichita, KS to the Oklahoma border.  This does appear to be the best play — along the dryline and ahead of the cold front which will be moving rapidly southeast through central KS by late afternoon/early evening.  Surface winds should back to about 170 or 180 degrees by late afternoon, increasing surface convergence along dryline.  I like to play the thermal noses along and immediately west of the dryline…and this also appears to be setting up along the KS-OK border by late afternoon somewhere between Medicine Lodge and Harper, KS.  My target is somewhere between Kingman and Harper at this point (see black circle in image below).  I will have Underthemeso.com in "chase mode" by early afternoon if I do indeed get off work early.  That final decision will be made in the morning while at work.  At this point I’m about 80% sure I’ll get off and be able to chase.

March 9, 2009

UTM Photo of the Month — March 2009

Filed under: Photography,UTM Updates — Mike U @ 12:03 pm

March 2009

An icy Medano Creek and big dunes

On a fairly warm winter day in late February, ice on the Medano Creek was melting in areas providing an interesting foreground to the dunes that stand tall adjacent to the creek at Great Sand Dunes National Park. I got down extremely low to the ground in order to capture the depth in this image. Details of this image: Nikon D200body, 22mm focal length (33mm virtual focal length), 1/13s @ f/22, ISO200. Circular Polarizer used.


March 7, 2009

Moab Trip 2009 — Feb 21 (Day 6)

Filed under: Moab Trip 2009,Photography — Mike U @ 12:27 pm

The final day of my Utah-Colorado 2009 trip was spent at Great Sand Dunes National Park.  This was my first visit to this park, and ironically is the closest National Park to southwestern Kansas.  The dunes here are something else… the tallest in North America.  One dune in particular, called "High Dune", stands some 650 feet tall from the base of the dunes.  This dune is only like three quarters of a mile from the large parking lot (the main parking area at Great Sand Dunes).  I took all my photography gear with me for this climb up.  It wasn’t as easy as I thought it might be, meandering up sand dune ridge lines to get to the summit of High Dune.  Since I was by myself, I had to take the tripod so I could get a pic of myself at the top.  Of course, I chose to do this at the wrong time of day, photographically speaking, with a high sun angle and very limited shadows.  Hiking down sand is like stealing candy from a baby, LOL — about a hundred thousand times easier than going up and far easier than hiking down a mountainous trail.  So after that, I decided to hike this 4WD Jeep road that parallels a creek (Medano Creek) adjacent to the dunes.  I only went about 1.75 miles north on this "trail".  It was really a rutted road that was filled with old crusty snow in many places.  The creek was frozen over which provided for some cool photography.  I walked onto the ice for some compositions as it was quite thick.  I backtracked along Medano Creek as it became increasingly unfrozen and narrow as the waters of the creek eventually seep into the porous sand.  It was kinda cool to watch the creek essentially disappear into the sand about a mile north of the big parking lot.  I got some pretty interesting photos of this.  By late afternoon, the light was getting better with longer shadows on the sand making for better photography.  This was the extent of my first visit to Great Sand Dunes.  That evening, I headed back into Alamosa to find the power out over most of the town (mainly downtown area), which pissed me off because I wanted some Mexican food at this supposed real popular mexican restaurant in downtown.  I had to settle for some fast food on the outskirts of town where the power wasn’t out.  Images of Great Sand Dunes below!

Here I am on top of High Dune:


A look at High Dune from afar, do you see the people in the photo below?  


A frozen Medano Creek adjacent to tall sand dunes:


Medano Creek and sand dunes:


Late afternoon light and shadows on the dunes:


Late afternoon light on the dunes with Medano Creek on the right:


There I am again..


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