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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 9, 2008

Chase Acct: May 8, 2008 (Southwest KS)

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 5:37 pm

Another day another chase close to home!  These are much easier on the wallet.  My chase route on May 8th was very similar to that of May 6th — starting out northwest of Garden City and following the supercell east-southeast through northern Finney County into western Hodgeman county.  In fact, in Hodgeman county, I traveled some of the same dirt roads I did just two days prior — and had a similar "deja vu" experience of racing a storm back to Jetmore…and effectively ending the chase *in* Jetmore.

I had not planned in advance to chase May 8th, which was Thursday, in between my 1st and 2nd 9pm to 5am shifts.  Only very rarely will I be able to chase on a day where I have to be in the office by 9pm.  Typically, for this to happen, a storm has to form about an hour to an hour and a half west of Dodge City, and I basically chase it back east towards the direction of home.  I also need to find out if the office is going to need me in early in case they were short-staffed for working severe.  All the ducks were in a row for me to chase before work, so I set out for the Garden City area.  Just after I left Dodge around 2:40pm, landspout tornadoes were already occurring in the Selkirk, KS area to the southwest of Leoti.  A 1000 J/kg CAPE axis was positioned across the Garden City area to go along with very strong cyclogenesis just west southwest of Garden City.  The low level and deep layer shear was excellent for supercells.

A formidable cell finally established itself south of Leoti which was heading for southern Scott County.  I made my way to to Friend where I headed west then north on county roads for the intercept.  The storm was a dry-classic supercell by this point with a fairly nice wall cloud.  I opted to go north a bit to stay out of the sun, and viewed the updraft region from the northeast (instead of the traditional southeast).  Contrast was excellent here, and I was able to get away with this due to the lack of precipitation with the storm at that point.  Eventually, the new mesocyclone was taking shape along Hwy 83 and I had to get east… but beforehand, I optioned south to get back to the proper positioning south of the main updraft.

I reached the Finney-Scott county line road and continued east on this road for quite a distance, as the main updraft and mesocyclone rotation was about 6 miles north of me moving almost due east at the time.  Cloud base rotation was becoming a little more prominent, but rather broad.  Inbound winds on radar were approaching 70 knots (ground relative), so I knew this was a necessary ingredient for a future tornado.  You could see this inflow visually at cloud base upstream… it was impressive east to west motion.  Time at this point is about 5:10pm when I was positioned a few miles east of the Finney-Scott-Lane county tri-border.  By 5:15 to 5:20 or so, precipitation was falling in the rear-flank downdraft region, and a huge pendant echo on radar was becoming well-established.  I was running GR2Analyst and looking at higher slices, the bounded weak echo region (BWER) was incredible — one of the most prominent BWERs I have seen — and I’ve seen a lot of them.  This was just a classic supercell in all aspects. 

The RFD precip was approaching the county-line road, and it was fortunate that Hwy 23 came when it did.  I did stop a few times prior to continuing south on a couple of one-mile legs.  The first time I stopped at a T intersection with Mennonite Rd, I was observing some wild rotation in two different area to my immediate northwest and again to my more distant north.  I was preparing to see tornado-genesis at this point.  Time at this point was around 5:30 or so.  The 2nd time I stopped at a 1 mile south leg prior to reaching Hwy 23, the RFD precip was bearing down on my location as a number of chase vehicles rounded the corner to go south.  I got some decent images of the chase vehicles with the RFD precip in the background. 

I finally made it to Hwy 23 where I blasted south…but the hook echo precip beat me.  I was blasted by roughly 60mph west winds and large rain drops on the way to my next east option, which was Lake Rd. through Ravanna (which isn’t a town, all Ravanna is is ruins of one building).  I had to keep blasting east to get a decent view of the new mesocyclone area.  All this while, I was probably thinking there was a rain-wrapped tornado way back in the old occlusion.  I never saw any evidence of such, though.  At one point though, I did see what looked like a large old "tornado cyclone" cloud mass reaching the surface.  That was interesting!  It faded quickly though, and I only got photos of the break-up of this feature.  As I made it into western Hodgeman county, the storm was transitioning fairly quickly into an HP storm as it was making its bead on Jetmore.  I traveled east on a farm road a couple miles north of Hwy 156 on my way to Jetmore.  The structure was quite good, despite the storm being very wet now just to my north.  I eventually made it to Hwy 156 and then to Jetmore before the large hail hit…and I continued south on my way home.  I ran into my co-worker, Scott, who was out chasing with his son south of Jetmore as we watched the now HP supercell travel east away from us.  New storms were forming to the northwest, and I managed to get a few images of this before finally calling it a chase.  When I finally called it a chase shortly after 7:30pm, I was only about 10 miles from home — still having almost an hour time to spare before going into work!  A very nice "spontaneous" chase to say the least!





  1. You certainly prove you do not need a tornado to produce awesome pictures. I wondered how many people ventured out this day.

    Comment by Phil Kurimski — May 9, 2008 @ 7:26 pm

  2. Thanks a lot Phil! There were actually a number of chasers on this storm once it had been going for a while — like a moth to a flame. No storm pretty much goes unphotographed in western Kansas in May!

    Comment by Mike U — May 9, 2008 @ 10:06 pm

  3. Glad to hear from you on this one! I was satisfied with my shots as well. Thanks!

    Comment by AJ Dome — May 9, 2008 @ 10:46 pm

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