Quasi-Intercept into Yankton

August 4, 2007 by · Comments Off on Quasi-Intercept into Yankton
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Eastern NE and southeast SD
10 Jun 2007

We throughly had been enjoying a couple of days of R&R and photography in the Flint Hills, and now it was time to get back on the road again in pursuit of storm potential in ensuing days. We chose on this day to eschew a marginal/HP type threat in SE KS, and instead, to move into interceptable position for any potential over western NE or western SD in succeeding days. Along the way I gathered some rock samples around I-70, and we passed once again through the charming town of Marysville KS.

After leaving KS, we noted additional development SE of FSD associated with the effluent from earlier and elevated morning storms in the same area. We watched this activity, then over the NW corner of IA, from a distance while traveling though and NNW of LNK. Deep towers periodically formed to our N, around Wayne NE, but withered to invisible vapors before we arrived on scene. Meanwhile, the nearly stationary storm SE of FSD finally died soon after the swirling strawberry donut showed up on WxWorx. [That software and hardware was a recent birthday present to Elke from a friend of ours. No way was I gonna pay what Baron is charging for that stuff, but if someone was willing to give it to us…wellllll… :-)]

A new cell tried to form on the E edge of SUX (no photos…driving!), but it SUXed in too much dry air aloft and died quickly, leaving us with a sunset in YKN. From the north bank of the MO river there, we could see anvil material from the MCS that hit VTN. We enjoyed sunset in southerly breezes in Yankton’s riverside park, listening to the calls of whippoorwills riding the winds from the Nebraska side, and photographing the double-decker bridge and its water reflections in the twilight.

For those looking to have an appreciatively transitional Plains experience on any trip northward across east NE, I recommend some combination of KS-177 through the Flint Hills, followed by NE 15. If you’re traveling from the southern Plains into the eastern Dakotas, and not in a dire rush, give it a go. The tallgrass prairie offerings of KS-177 are well chronicled in many places, including Heat-Moon’s monstrous but incrementally digestible tome PrairyErth. Then go N on 77 between MHK-LNK, taking note and photos of some of the Victorian architecture of Marysville. NE-15 then spans the gap between the northern edge of the Flint Hills and the Missouri breaks around Yankton — both fascinating landscapes for the plains enthusiast — and includes a jaunt across the western part of the “Bohemian Alps” as described with exquisite writing of Ted Kooser (e.g., Local Wonders).

I hadn’t been on NE-15 before today, and after the first trip, it’s already among my top four or five north-south drives in the Plains states (including TX-16 from Fredericksburg thru Llano and MWL to just S of Wichita Falls; 177 up and down the Flint Hills; the road from Belle Fourche to Bowman, the route across Thunder Basin National Grasslands and the western fringe of the Black Hills from Lusk to Newcastle to Sundance, the route from Kimball NE through LBF-CDR, and NE-61 through the Sandhills).

Tail-end Storms near Odessa

July 6, 2007 by · Comments Off on Tail-end Storms near Odessa
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Odessa MO, That Is!

KC Area Storms of 7 Jun 2007

SHORT: Long drive to supercell attempts in broken line near KC, nice sunset and lightning.

LONG: We started the day in Sioux Falls and left later than hoped, so much of the afternoon was spent driving SSE down I-29 as the broken band of frontal/dryline storms slowly rose into view above the distant haze. We chose the southern target of NW MO and NE KS over trying to chase down fast storm motions through the forests of WI. Despite when happened up there, I don’t regret it at all.

The drive itself was long but relatively smooth and quick, despite the crappy shape of I-29 through most of its Iowa segment. During a pit stop at Mound City MO, the post-dryline temperature reached 91 F, with blustery WSW winds. Reaching the NW outskirts of the KC metro area about 4:45 p.m., we swung E on MO-92 through Smithville, briefly trying but failing to stern-chase a tornado-warned supercell over Ray County, then gave up and swung down I-35 and 435 to look at other storms over and SW of the metro area.

One semi-discrete storm over the western and northern parts of Kansas City sported a persistent wall cloud and made a couple of occlusions, as viewed from several high spots off I-435 in south KC and I-470 in Lees Summit. It never rotated very fast nor looked imminently tornadic. Other bases along the backbuilding line caught our attention briefly, but did little before being rained through by additional coring upshear.

Chasing in the city at rush hour — particularly one as hilly and forested as Kansas City — is no easy ticket to bliss. Despite (or maybe because of) my familiarity with the roads from living there 12 years ago, I was glad when storm motions soon took us E of the area.

Two somewhat discrete areas of storm separated themselves within the line, and we busted E on I-70 through Odessa (MO) to keep pace. As we turned N in Concordia (MO), a tower to the W pierced straight through a gloriously iridescent pileus cap then cast its ragged shadow in the intervening haze layer.

We turned back WSW on US 24 with plans to eat dinner and secure lodging at Blue Springs, to photograph the sunset, and to run along the S edge of the convection in the low probability anything could tighten some low level rotation in a sustained way. One more somewhat high-based notch formed with a ragged, feeble attempt at a wall cloud near Lexington MO, but a dense core quickly plowed that through. The sunset was a delight — the orb glowing golden and fuzzy through a rain curtain, its light pattern annular with the bright spot perfectly centered.

Alas, I didn’t find a suitable pull-off in time for a good photo, but when I did stop in vain effort to shoot, we were greeted with golden entities of a far more morbid variety. As I was changing lenses, a powerful aroma of rotting flesh wafted in; Elke gagged while DF and Keith came over to admire the source. A large dead doe lay in the roadside weeds, its body seemingly boiling with a thick coating of cream-yellow maggots from neck to feet to tail, not an inch of skin uncovered by the seething mass of larvae, except, curiously, on its head.

What, you’re disappointed I didn’t take pictures?

The menfolk openly admired the efficiency of nature’s organic breakdown processes for a few moments while Elke turned the other way and covered her face. Was that reaction in disgust at the carcass or at us? I didn’t dare ask. 🙂

That put us in a fine mood for supper, but first we did find a nice hilltop spot a mile N of Grain Valley to shoot some sunset scenes of color-bathed convective clouds — both the tail end of the line and mammatus near anvil edge from a new and isolated storm that fired to our SSW over southern Jackson County. Though the new storm’s convection appeared soft, it rolled up the rear flank quickly, generating a pronounced backshear. While driving along I-70, we noticed it began to fire cloud-to-air discharges out of the notch region between flanking line and backshear. Even though we were entering the suburbs and no easy place was available for photography, we admired this spectacle for its own sake.

I happened to glance up there to see one strike that connected a mammatus bulb and a flanking tower over several miles of clear air. Sweet! Soon came the giant javelin of Zeus: a prodigiously forked, strobing “bolt from the blue,” out of the notch, several miles westward into clear air, then downward several miles more to ground contact. It looked fully extended in side profile and only 8-10 miles to our S. The storm continued to roll towers up its flank in the waning twilight, hurling cloud-to-air filaments by the dozens as we pulled off I-70, and we stood outside the entrance for several minutes admiring this grand piece of artwork.

And so ended another day’s storm adventure, peculiar in many ways but ultimately worthwhile and rewarding. We ate dinner with DF and Keith, then the following morning, bid them farewell, as their chase vacation was over. The ensuing two days gave us R&R in one of our favorite places — the magnificent Flint Hills and Tallgrass Prairie preserve — before resuming storm observing activities over the Great Plains.

Late Arrival, Bigtime Outflow!

July 6, 2007 by · Comments Off on Late Arrival, Bigtime Outflow!
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Between Faith-Pierre SD: 6 Jun 2007

I shared the frustration of Chuck Doswell, Bill Reid, Brian Morganti and many anonymous others on this one, because we all were too far away from the Kyle storm to see the tornado it produced in its early lifespan. Instead we arrived late from many different origins, and still got a memorable nontornadic show, mainly of outflow-driven processes.

As for Elke and me, our disappointment in missing the hose was ameliorated in a marginal modicum by cruising the verdant green ocean of grass that is western SD, and by the partaking of some photogenic outflow structure late in the convective process. Along the way, at Bear Butte, we also discovered what could have been a classic chase vehicle of a bygone era, facing where the storms come from, as if parked to forever scan the western skies for the next round of atmospheric tumult.

We stuck to our forecast plan, took a gamble that initiation would occur near the synoptic surface low in west-central SD, and went N toward the initial low near Mud Butt(e) and Faith. But after the main supercell went up SE of RAP, and we saw nothing but flat “pancakus” (albeit with lower cloud bases) in the vicinity of the low, and we tried as much as the crappy road network would allow to haul back S and SE to get ahead of the storm. The initial supercell already had evolved into a much larger storm with multiple embedded mesocyclones, and other convection attaching to its flanks as if being absorbed into a snowballing monstrosity. While still over 80 miles away, its anvil canopy covered most of the sky and considerably darkened everything south of the zenith, making the looming inclemency appear far closer than it was.

By the time we were in its path south of Milesville, and just starting to see some of the features distant S, the storm already was moving past the Cactus Flat area of I-90, and the tornado was a mere memory for those who had been fortunate enough to be close to the storm when it initiated.

As we found out much later because of lousy cellular telephone coverage, David Fogel and Keith Brown (Two Dudes and a Dog, team II) had seen the Kyle tornado from 35 miles away, much by accident: They had taken “too long” at a pit stop on the way up to the same surface low target, including a necessity to let DF’s dog “Thunder” eat and run. By the time they were done — lo and behold — the storm had popped up to their WSW. So they decided to check it out while keeping north options open. As they drove W on I-90, a tornado developed from the very young storm, which they saw in the distance and filmed for its duration. Later they nearly got reamed by outflow on I-90, as we got our first view of the shelf arc.

As for the overturned semi near Belvidere: DF and Keith saw it as it happened in the severe outflow. An eastbound semi right in front of them suddenly levitated three feet into the air then flipped on its side into the median. Fortunately there was a SD state patrol trooper right there, who immediately attended to the wreck amidst the howling wind and rain.

Meanwhile, we had been delayed coming SE on SD 73 by a 9-mile, one lane stretch of road resurfacing, clogged up by a 20-mph pilot car in the same roadwork area as that which plagued Mr. Morganti. This ensured we couldn’t even get to I-90 before the big supercell did. Its appearance as it roared NNE toward us was that of HP “outflowus barfus maximus” as feared! We repelled hordes of mosquitoes while watching the shelf cloud approach, and marveled at some of the oddities of cloud formations developing ahead of the storm. One was this strange, stringy formation attached to the side of a convective turret, followed soon by a cumuliform vessel resembling a winged alien war-fighter (upper left, this image).

We got some structure shots of its multicolored wall from there to just W of PIR. Also, while NNE of PHP, we saw a maybe-something (super-enhanced version) to the distant WSW, in a front-flank meso region (super-enhanced version). On two different occasions, about 5 minutes apart, condensation developed or extended to or just above ground level, but distance prevented us from judging much more than that. The first was more scuddy (super-enhanced version) and the second was a smooth cloud column with scud translating N-S behind it.

Those linked shots are from the first feature. I didn’t step outside to tripod-shoot the second because of increasingly close CGs and voracious mosquitoes. [Better to electrocute those buzzing bloodsuckers than the photographer on whom they were attempting to feast!] Both features were somewhere N of PHP.

After that, we briefly stopped for a few views of the shelf cloud features and gust front across the grasslands W of the Missouri River (looking S, then looking SW); and I mean briefly, thanks to the onrushing wall of outflow! The gust front smacked us at Ft. Pierre with a choking pile of dust and grit; and we drove in the big puddle of outflow for several more hours until well after sunset. Long after the storm had moved far to the N and gusted out, the arching outflow boundary still was firing storms from NE-E-SE, including some nice sunset-convection views (looking NE at a distant thunderhead, then SE at later convection) around Vivian.

The best potential for the next day appeared to be in a deeply forested place we wanted no part of chasing through (central WI), with secondary areas down the front in east IA and north MO. So we drove to Sioux Falls for the night.

The tornadic storm did its thing really quick and then went into outflow mode. I’m curious why that storm went up there and not farther N or S along the front or near the original low. Surely others are too, considering the surprise expressed on many discussion forums by others about the tornadic storm’s initiation and behavior. Note that the storm wasn’t “the surface low” until well after it had matured. Watching an evolution of the sfc map, it was obvious that the surface low still was in w-central/NW SD before the storm took over and created its own mesolow, which in turn grew upscale, effectively relocating the larger scale but weaker cyclone into its own envelope.

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