April 7 2013 Amazing Kansas Supercell

Apr 13, 2013

Summary:

Sat in chilly air for most of the day until storms finally blew up north of target area. Intercepted southern-most, strongest storm of the day noting great supercell structure and area of rotation with reported tornado. Core punched storm a few times with hail up to half dollar size before letting it go as it began weakening near dusk.

 

 

Stats:

Tornadoes: 0

Hail: 1.50″ (Half-dollar)

Wind: n/a

The Forecast:

Day before the day setup. Good instability under a stout capping inversion with main jet energy lagging to the west. A weak shortwave was forecast to move over the area that could ignite storms should the cap not be too strong.  Favorable directional shear meant supercells would be likely with large hail. Meager moisture meant an overall low tornado threat.

Detailed Account:

With the season off to a painfully slow start I was itching to get out there. Finally the long range models began showing a chase-able pattern, but I was cautiously optimistic. In my opinion the pattern wasn’t right to support good tornado setups, still, the models held on to the system and showed some very favorable chase days. With there being multiple days to chase, and time off work I decided to bite on the setup despite my gut’s concerns.

I teamed up with Jonathan Williamson and Alec Scholten who patiently waited for me to get off work the day before so we could head down. I finally arrived and we set sail for the first multi day run of 2013, excited as ever.

We made good time getting to the target area, which was near the KS/OK border. I slept most of the way so it felt really fast. My target city was Greensburg, but many of our chaser pals had converged on Medicine Lodge, which was south of there so we decided to go meet up and shoot the breeze while we waited for storms to fire…and wait we did…for awhile.

It began to look like a bust due to cloudy, cool weather overspreading the target area. Storm began to finally develop to our north near Great Bend around 6pm and the chase was on.  Heading out of Great Bend we finally began to notice some structure, first a really nice beavers tail.

As we got closer and the view got better we were able to see the left edge of the supercell. A lowering was present and really caught our attention.

We pulled over to observe the storm, which was showing signs of rotation and giving an attempt at tornadogenesis.  At one point it appeared a small funnel was ongoing and we thought for a moment it was going to happen.

All the while this storm presented an amazing corkscrew updraft along with a very long beavers tail. The structure was pretty classic, my camera could not capture the whole thing in one frame but luckily Jon’s could and this picture of his shows the amazing structure as a whole.

The rotation soon weakened and the base began to elongate. It turns out that at this time a weak dustwhirl tornado did occur. We were unable to spot it with our eyes though, but other chaser video confirmed the event. I’ve debated on whether or not I wanted to count the tornado as my first of 2013 seeing as how we were technically watching it, but I decided against it for now.

We moved to position ahead of the storm, in case it decided to cycle and try again, but it appeared the base was becoming elongated and slightly more elevated as the storm moved into an area of lower dewpoints. It still displayed nice structure, though.

After observing the storm for awhile we decided to get in a little closer to the bears cage and do some core punching. Alec’s vehicle was looking too new with a flat, un-hail dented hood so it was time to change that. We dove into the core and were dealt a heavy barrage of hail generally nickel or smaller in size. Coming out of the core and into the cage we encountered some larger hail up to half dollar size.

We also had a better view of the area of interest, but the storm still wasn’t showing any signs of imminent tornadogenesis, so we repeated the same core punching move a few more times until the storm began to show weakening signs on radar as the sun was setting.

Jon wanted to head back east to get some photo shots of the backside of the storm being lit up by the setting sun, so that became our next plan. The backside did indeed provide some nice sun-lit structure.

Once daylight faded we decided to head back towards Wichita and meet up with some of our crew. Little did I know I was about to be offered an awesome opportunity. Prior to coming down for the chase, I was asked to navigate the TIV for a couple days. Upon meeting them at an Applebees north of Wichita it was made clear that in fact I would be DRIVING the TIV. Needless to say I was excited for this opportunity and it was a great end to a very good chase.

Conclusion:

Overall this day met expectations. This was not supposed to be a tornado day but rather a day where structure and hail were the main goals, and those were met. Counting the tornado is a grey area at this time. We were watching everything at the time, but were too far to notice the weak dust whirl. For now I will leave it out. This day was a great start to the trip and already the structure shots were nicer than anything I saw in 2012.

Radar image during our cat and mouse core punch game:

Map. Circled area represents area of chase:

SPC Storm Reports:

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