April 9th Cold Front Bust

Apr 19, 2013


A surging cold front ruined what could have been a promising day giving way to the first storm-less bust of the season.


Tornadoes: 0

Hail: 0.00″

Wind: n/a

New Milestone: Coldest temperatures ever experienced on a chase morning, 21 degrees!

The Forecast:

A strong cold front plowing southward through the plains. South of that front, strong instability was in place along with favorable directional shear profiles for supercells. Speed shear was on the weak side as the main jet energy lagged to the west still. A stout cap was also in place that looked to hold off thunderstorm initiation till late in the day, except along the cold front where storms had a very short window to get organized before being undercut. SPC had out modest tornado probs, just in case a storm could form far enough ahead of the front to utilize the favorable directional shear.

Detailed Account:

This was supposed to be the big day in the 4 day run when the setup initially appeared on the models. Many were calling for the first tornado outbreak across the plains. However, nature had other plans. The main trough slowed down, keeping the best parameters out west and instead we were dealt a very strong cold front plowing through the plains. This would basically ruin the setup.

We awoke in Colby, KS to a frigid temperature of 21 degrees and our chase vehicles covered in ice! This was by far the coldest I have ever started a chase day, which is impressive considering I live in Chicago. None of us were really prepared for that. I had no socks and only flip flops. Skip had only T-shirts and the rest of us only had light sweaters or hoodies. Heat from the ice coated vehicles became our refuge, only the TIV has no heat. I hit up a local gas station where I paid 7 bucks for 3 pairs of socks, wearing all 3 pairs at the same time (with sandals and looking really goofy!)

I hopped in the TIV and we all began the frigid drive to the warm sector. After 20 minutes into the drive the TIV began malfunctioning and we had to pull off. Not sure what was wrong Sean decided to stay with the TIV and the rest of us were to continue on. Brandon and I hopped into Alec’s vehicle to get some heat, leaving poor Sean to drive the ice cold TIV alone to a better repair shop.

As we slowly made our way into less colder air, the TIVs problems went away and it was determined to be a faulty gauge reading probably caused by the cold air and the TIV rejoined us for the chase. The cold front was plowing through the entire target area, and it took us hours to catch back up to it. When we did, we watched the temperature gauge shoot up from 42 degree to 73 degrees in a matter of minutes.

None of us were enthused at the forecast at this point, we decided to hang out around Wichita and hope for the best. The best never came. After sitting around for a couple hours eventually storms did go up ahead of the cold front and we made a half-assed attempt to get infront of them, but they were rocketing away at 50+ mph with the main threat being barely-severe hail. With no real structure to shoot either we decided to call the chase early and move east for the next days chase. Eventually we settled on Joplin, MO as our place to stay for the night.

An interesting meteorological side note to the day came in the form of a squall line forming in an area where surface temperatures were in the 20s. Parts of Kansas and Oklahoma in the path experienced bonafied thunderstorms producing snow/hail/sleet with numerous lightning strikes!

I took no pictures or video. All I will show you from the day is a picture of me running in the cold wearing my 7 dollar socks and my sandals. One thing about going storm chasing, there are so many with cameras that never a moment goes by without being documented!


This day fell about as far from initial expectations as it gets. I definitely don’t travel to the plains every spring to wake up to sub freezing temperatures. The best thing I can say about this day is that at least some unique and fun[ny] memories were made. It may have been cool to experience the squall line in 20 degree temperatures and should I ever unfortunately find myself in the middle of such a setup again, I may have to give it a shot for the bucket lists’ sake.

Map/Radar not available

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