Stormy Sunset Salvation

June 30, 2009 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Summary, Uncategorized 

9 Jun 9
Northwest Osage County OK

SHORT: Killed Kay County supercell as it moved into Osage County. Intercepted complex multicell/supercell cluster from two sides near Webb City, with brilliantly sunlit convection astern.

A couple days of prognostications indicated the best play on this day would be the frontal zone from the central high plains to the Ozarks, preferably W of I-35 where the road network and terrain each are friendlier. Analyzing the situation from our prior night’s lodging in SLN, it became screamingly apparent the too-well organized morning MCS was spewing lots of cold outflow and shunting the effective frontal zone well southward across south KS. The western part was being shoved into drier warm sector air with more westerly sfc component, while at least the middle segment seemed to be interacting with a sfc moisture plume characterized by mid 60s to near 70s F dew points. A mesolow also was forming W of ICT, potentially concentrating convergence in its vicinity from the area S of HUT through the ICT region.

Armed with that concept, we (Elke and I in one vehicle, Two Fogels/Two Dogs team in the other) headed for our target area of south-central Kansas, with a great lunch at the IHOP in HUT along the way. Scattered Cu dotted the SE-SW horizon in a band obviously corresponding to the outflow boundary. As we waited for initiation near Cheney Lake Dam, the boundary continued to sag S, and the winds actually backed from ENE to N. Oh no…the mesolow not only was riding the slowly progressive boundary, but moving E thereon! Meanwhile the warm sector winds to our S still remained out of the SW, with a more southerly component hanging in there E of PNC to BVO. Time to move SE and stay ahead of the mesolow…

As we cruised E from Conway Springs, storms erupted to our E along the boundary, and to our S over north OK. The former would have a shot if it could stay on the boundary (big “if”), while the latter erupted in the hotter, deeper mixed boundary layer, but more discrete with less undercutting potential from the outflow boundary. By the time we reached WNF, we decided to go after the Okie storm, now right-moving over Kay County all by its little lonesome.

Dodging a few small, transient left splits, we maneuvered with steely determination E and S toward Webb City OK, in the beautiful, green-carpeted, southwestern Flint (Osage) Hills. The storm maneuvered E toward our location, into better storm-relative sfc winds, larger hodographs, and lower LCLs, with a stone cold death wish…for itself. Just as we got in good position to its ESE: shrivelus convectus minimus!

A messy complex of storms behind it, to our WNW-SW, became better organized, even sporting decent gate-to-gate mesos for short periods along a curving, embedded cyclonic shear zone. With sparse roads and a good W view (albeit with a hazy boundary layer), we let the initially distant assemblage of bases and cores — including one striated but small updraft cylinder — move our way. Very briefly — less than a minute, a finger of cloud condensate connected ground and ambient cloud base to the very distant WSW, but it was just too far away to ascertain whether this brief feature was rotating — a scudnado or the real deal. By the time I ran across the road for a better photo angle, it was gone.

After that, the storm cluster and its precursory anvil CGs drew closer, forcing our southward retreat to US-60. What appeared to be an anchor supercell on its SW flank grew feeble quickly (again, upon entering more backed surface winds and greater moisture…go figure), allowing us to “core punch” its moderately rainy and baseless carcass driving W on US-60.

By now, the sun was getting lower, and we decided to bunk down in PNC instead of driving up to 2.5 hours out of the way (to home), given the more western location of the next day’s forecast area.

The best part of the chase day, as often happens, came behind the storms, near sunset. The newly soaked, rolling green hills and valleys smelled a fresh and invigorating earthy aroma. Mild, moist air came to life with the calls of bobwhite quail and many wild songbirds, while a couple dozen nighthawks arose from the fields and flew off toward the setting sun.

Out across the big eastern sky, a beautiful double-rainbow festooned the back of the retreating storms to our E, followed by marvelous layers of light and shadow across the sides and tops of big new towers forming another anchor storm. Across a few fleeting minutes, the sunlight tones warmed considerably, reflections off the big towers in turn lighting those beneath and casting ever deeper hues across the scene. Finally the show ended, but not before a brief blaze of bronze from the final rays of the day.

It was a neat way to salvage an otherwise disappointing chase day and an egregious atmospheric underperformance compared to the 15% sig-tor outlook that had been issued for central KS early in the day. 😉