HP Heaving on Hutchinson

July 9, 2009 by · Comments Off on HP Heaving on Hutchinson
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15 Jun 9
Central KS

SHORT: Observed skinny supercell from N between Scott-Ness Cities. Performed an end-around intercept on HP supercell-turned bow from E of Kinsley to HUT. Munched by bow/HP hybrid in HUT.

Once again, we were faced with two interesting target areas — the “north play” near what turned out to be a warm frontogenesis zone along the KS/NE border, and the “south play”, along the prior day’s OFB over SW KS. I didn’t like the south play as much because of the forecast (later observed) smallness of hodographs and persistent SW flow right through the boundary for hours on end. Nonetheless, we headed that way from Oakley (despite being closer to the northern play) after three trends appeared:

1. Winds began to lighten N of the old boundary but not to its S (speed convergence) and

2. Midlevel (i.e., 500 mb) winds appeared stronger farther S, as proged, although low level shear and SRH were bigger in the warm frontogenesis zone, and

3. Storms erupted to our S.

I wanted to hold out longer for the N play, but convective bombs going off were too tempting when compared with the “pancakus” Cu around us and to the N. I’m not sure we would have gone all the way ENE to HSI for that amazing warm frontal storm, but we were in ideal position for the NW KS activity later.

A lone supercell formed N of GCK, here shown at wide angle from N of Scott City, then a separate, zoom view of the backside updrafts. In the background, another cluster of convection SW of GCK could be seen; those eventually would hog the inflow and choke off out storm. As we drove past its near N side, the updraft looked rather skinny, but was quite intense. Then too many other storms formed in too close a proximity to its SW-SE, and we had to make a choice — go back N toward the NEb border (no deep towers yet visible) or go a long way E then S to get ahead of the lead storm N of DDC. As we headed E past Ness, the lead storm started absorbing cells of assorted sizes to its E and “jumping” mesos eastward, forcing us to go still farther E before dropping S.

We finally did so through Larned, St John and Sylvia, encountering a few hailstones of unknown size in the far forward flank (heard ’em loudly, didn’t see ’em). Heading S toward St. John, I finally got a view of the business end off to the SW — a dark, menacing, HP supercell, absorbing yet another storm (itself with a high but circular/rotating base) into its forward flank. I might have seen the tornado near Macksville as a persistent, gray on darker gray, bulbous form back there in the mesocyclonic murk several minutes later (no photos…very low light, moving). It was about the right distance, direction and time.

We stopped briefly S of St. John to view the dark menace approaching, then headed E and NE toward HUT to stay ahead (wide-angle photo looking WNW from near Arlington KS). Finally deciding this wasn’t worth going any farther E, we found a protective place and let Stormzilla move over. A sporting goods store on the S edge of HUT was kind enough to let us park under their front porch overhang, right against their doors. It’s not often you get to just stand there well-covered in the lee side of a building, relax, run out now and then to shoot some photos of the oncoming HP/bow Stormzilla, and then let it blast you, no worries.

This was one case where having the I-Phone radar provided assurance we wouldn’t be in a truly dangerous part of it (using the DDC radar, since ICT’s 88d timely fried its antenna motor over an hour before). The apex of the bow passed just to our S, the bookend vortex ( old meso from HP phase) just to our NW and N ( here lit by some anthropogenic glow from the W side of HUT), and we sat in an intermediary channel of estimated tropical storm force (~40-50 kt) WNW winds for about 15 minutes. Power went out there and everywhere else we could see during the maelstrom.

After the wind-whipping, we headed back toward GBD for lodging. A couple miles S of Sterling KS, the solar orb appeared below the razor’s rear edge of the MCS anvil shield and above the top of the far-away deck representing storms in northwest KS. This started up a brief but dazzling double rainbow, its hues warmed across the entire palette thanks to the low sun angle. We stopped to appreciate and photograph it across a deeply golden wheat field foreground, with a strip of green corn in the distance. The wheat looked well-nigh ready for harvest.

Then came dinner in GBD, where we parked next to yet another among many “look at me” chase vehicles hereabouts in the Plains. This one was festooned with Skywarn stickers, assorted “Storm Chaser” decals, a “J2” decal (as if this was one unit of some sort of team…suuuuuure), and an assortment of anemometers, antennae and PVC tubing atop. Upon closer inspection, only one antenna had any wiring leading inside the vehicle; and the anemometers and tubing were wired up to absolutely nothing. Posers. The large stencils on both sides of the rear windows for a local janitorial service cinched the deal. Yep, we found none other than the Janitor Chasers — keeping you safe and clean!

We ended the evening watching and photographing mainly in-cloud lightning and occasional LTGCA filaments from a band of elevated storms that formed just south of town (and later moved N). It was a neat show, as seen from the open field behind the GBD Wal-Mart. [Mr. Jewell knows exactly where this is.]

Be advised, if you must travel through GBD anytime soon, the main E-W route is torn all to hell, and down to one abominably rough lane each way, for about 1/2 mile W of downtown. Keep your windows up too, for the long puddles in the adjoining swales of construction mud smell like the bowl of a bus station commode. But our lodging was good, and cheap (<$50 again), and that line of elevated cores provided a thunderous late-night lullaby.