Malnourished Storms but Great Light Shows

September 17, 2006 by
Filed under: Summary 

16 SEP 2006, SW KS


Skinny rotating Cbs intercepted in SW KS made for splendid sunset scenes. Convectively illuminating lightning show near HUT after dinner.


Elke, Donna and I headed NW through Woodward toward the FCST target area of “…SE-E of DDC, via NW Passage of OK” as posted on a discussion board. Some very helpful real-time information from Vince Miller (thanks a bunch for the calls, Vince!) confirmed we were on the right track, the question being what the atmosphere would yield in the most probable convective area. We measured sfc temps around Woodward around 93F, so given the dew points 66-68 F in the area, early storms would be rather high based with potential for lowering LCL with sunset’s onset. My main concern was how soon storms would form, if at all, before sunset. Vince was more optimistic, and as it turns out his suspicions were well founded.

Shortly after leaving Ft. Supply and taking the Buffalo split northward, we noticed an area of agitated Cu and Tcu to the NNW, NNW of Buffalo OK, along the KS border. As we approached the state line, a small Cb erupted from the clump, which would evolve into the initial SVR-warned Edwards County storm. So far this was working out far too well — initiation right on the SW rim of the forecast target area, a tad earlier than expected but manageable strategically. What would go wrong (besides the Stevie Wonder style Pac-10 replay officiating in Eugene OR)?

The Edwards County storm’s base was visible to the NW and N, off and on, weak rotation visibly evident as it took the hypotenuse track between Sitka, Greensburg and Stafford. Meanwhile we navigated the bases and sides of the triangles, never catching up with the storm but somewhat encouraged by other development to its SW (and to our W-NW).

All convection vacillated between hard and soft towers — but mainly soft, and sometimes even see-through. Given the warm midlevel temps, this wasn’t too much of a shock. I was hoping some of the towers SW of the Edwards storm would get deeper, and they did. Too bad they wren’t wider too. The main failure mode this day was updrafts that were too skinny. Here’s a young multicell clump with crepusculars to our W near Greensburg, S of the main convective area.

Malnourished updrafts squashed our hopes for a truly robust daytime supercell or tornadoes, but we enjoyed a wonderful sunset sky from 1 E Stafford which made the whole trip worthwhile. The narrow convective pillars and their collective anvils formed a fluid, multicolored rampart, catching so many angles and hues of the waning rays. Ghostly vaporous permutations of light and shadow (vertical, horizontal) projected across a skyscape that evolved wondrously minute by minute. Zooming in with eyes, mind and lens revealed otherwordly patterns of nature more in common with Hubble telescope images of far-away nebulae than with the humble prairie earth beneath.

After that glorious little show, we header E into Hutchinson for dinner, somewhat surprised by the lack of lightning in what was left of the sunset activity. I was hoping some of the storms could latch onto the low level jet and go berserk, turning into electically sizzling nocturnal supercells. An hour later, as we were leaving, numerous flashes caught our attention to the N, so we headed NE toward Inman to get away from the Hutch city glow and attempt some lightning photography.

That storm died as it approached SLN, but another one — a soft, but discrete and weakly rotating supercell — came up from the SW. As seen from 2 SW Inman, It put on a nice show of lightning illuminated convective structure (e.g., 1 looking NW,2 and 3 also looking NNW) before anvil precip from more upstream storms forced us to shut things down and head for home. [In case you’re curious about the feature beneath lightning shot #2, I thought it was a precip shaft. Here’s a deeply contrast-enhanced crop-n-zoom.] We rolled into Norman after 3 a.m., sleepy but fairly satisfied with a rare September storm intercept in the south-central Plains.

===== Roger =====


One Comment on Malnourished Storms but Great Light Shows

  1. Joel Genung on Sat, 21st Oct 2006 10:00 am
  2. Roger, your 9/16 sojourn proves you don’t need spring meteorological mayhem to provide atmospheric satisfaction! You’ve shown there is beauty in even the most mundane of storms and your pictures illustrate this perfectly. Plus, what’s better than heading out on a relaxing chase with the family immediately at-hand?