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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!"

May 1, 2010

Chase Trip Day Six (Apr 29) Summary [20 images]

A dryline bust saved by late storm initiation on the cold front at Wilson Lake, KS.

(rest of images at the bottom of this post)

My target all along was the dryline just south of the cold front — somewhere from Great Bend to Pratt.  I didn’t waver from this target, except briefly right after I had lunch in Hays when cumulus was already forming from west of Salina to east of Hoisington.  I drove south from Hays after lunch, which pretty much sealed my fate for chasing the northern storms that 97% of the other chasers were chasing.  Once I reached La Crosse, KS, I turned east to Hoisington watching the southernmost cumulus congestus to my east-northeast.  Briefly, I thought this would be the intercept.  I then noticed more aggressive cumulus growth to my south in my original target, so that was the clincher for me.  I blew off that congestus to my east-northeast and dropped south from Hoisington.  1km visible satellite also confirmed this nicely with a clumping cumulus field centered across Stafford County and points south-southwest of there to between Greensburg and Pratt (4:30pm).

I made it down to Stafford which was where I decided to stage between 4:45 and 5:15pm.  Nothing was happening with my cumulus field to the west through southwest… and I was becoming increasingly anxious.  The best convergence on the dryline appeared to be shifting north a bit, so I moved back north and sat again along a farm road from about 5:30 to about 6:30.  I spent most of this hour interrogating the models for the next couple of days of my vacation.  Still nothing to my west through southwest.  In fact, what cumulus was developing was quickly turning into a big area of virga.  This wasn’t good!

The NAM and GFS models were insistent in vigorous convective development in the 00z (7pm) to 03z (10pm) time frame… right around sunset, with the southern edge of this vigorous development right about Great Bend.  I felt very confident storms would eventually develop, but along the cold front instead.  The cold front was slowly moving south toward the best dryline convergence.  It was just a matter of time before initiation.  In the meantime, I trudged north on farm roads (7:30pm), watching this huge area of virga shower activity from my northwest through southwest.  You could make out some bases in spots, but nothing that said “come chase me” yet.  It was just about to go.  So I continued my merry way north (8:00).

Once I reached I-70 at around 8:30pm or so, the atmosphere finally let loose:

Intense development along the cold front all the way down to southwest of Great Bend!  There were embedded mesos in spots along this line of convection, and the one I concentrated on was just west of Wilson Lake.  There was a good view from Wilson Lake, so I decided to stop here and begin shooting.  I was greeted to some insane inflow winds from the southeast!  I estimated winds in the 50-60mph range… which was difficult to stand in, let alone to try and photograph in… or even set the tripod up (after all it was now 8:45 by this time and light was low!).  Electrical activity was pretty good in the updrafts, and I managed to capture this to some degree in the stills.  Since the activity was moving northeast instead of straight east, it allowed me to drive east and stay ahead of the storms… stopping for about 5-10 minutes to shoot, and then repeat.  I continued east from Lincoln to Beverly.  The best storm on the line now appeared to be to my southwest, so I headed south on an unpaved farm road from Beverly at around 9:45pm.  This turned out to be a fateful move.

I blew out my front driver’s side tire.  On a dirt road.  With a storm to my west about a half hour away (10:05pm).  I could still drive on the flat, but no faster than 20 mph.  It was imperative I find pavement, and thankfully I was only 3 or 4 miles from an I-70 interchange west of Salina.  I limped south and by a stroke of luck, one of the next east-west county roads was paved!  I stopped here.  Since this was a new Jeep that I had not changed a tire on before, I had to learn the little idiosyncrasies for spare tire changing with this vehicle on the fly… with a storm headed my way.  I didn’t think I had any time before the storm hit, so I resorted to just photographing the damn storm updraft, since it was fairly photogenic…

The cell to my immediate west would miss me to the north, and I just got a few big rain drops (10:30pm) and it ended shortly thereafter.  I had a brief window of opportunity to get the spare tire on before the next cell hit.  That window was about 15 minutes…

…It took me longer than that to complete the job, because I started to get poured on shortly before 11:00pm.  So now it was a waiting game… with my vehicle jacked up.  So now I’m sitting in my Jeep with west winds gusting to about 60 mph rocking the Jeep a little bit while it was jacked up.  I felt pretty confident that despite these winds, the jack would hold.  And it did.  So now I know I can have the vehicle jacked up in 60 mph winds, LOL.  Not again, though.  Next time, I will have it calculated down IN ADVANCE how long it takes me to change a tire.  As much storm chasing as I do, this is the #1 reason for a break-down.  A flat.  It’s happened a number of times to me, my chase partner’s vehicles, or other chaser’s vehicles that I’ve assisted on.  I had planned on doing a practice tire change before my trip, but I simply ran out of time preparing for my trip in other areas.  It ended up biting me.  But I got the job done.  When this vacation is over, I’ll do another practice spare tire change and time myself so I know exactly how long it SHOULD take, if I’m chasing solo.

The rain finally let up enough to get out and finish the job at around 11:30pm, and I was back on the road.  At this point, I was obviously done chasing given the time and the activity to my east, so I began my trek back to Dodge City.

Begin:  North Platte, NE
End: Dodge City, KS (home)
Day Six Mileage: 620 mi.
Trip Mileage: 2847 mi.

20 images from this day’s shoot:

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