March 30th 2016 Kansas Bust – Tulsa Tornado

Apr 01, 2016

Summary:

Sampled a couple storms in southeast Kansas noting small hail, but no official severe weather. Called chase early to position for next day as prolific tornado touches down near Tulsa.

Stats:

Tornadoes: 0
Hail: .75″ (Penny)
Wind: est 50mph

The Forecast:

Surface low moving through Nebraska with trailing dryline/coldfront through the plains. Forecast moisture return offered some concerns, but those concerns were quickly nullified by rapid return with dewpoints surging into the middle 60s across our target area near the KS/OK border. VBV shear profiles presented another concern in addition to weak capping meant possibly too many storms going up at once. Regardless, instability was high and speed shear was sufficient to support severe storms. SPC went with a crazy 10 hatched outlook displaced from where many chasers placed their target areas, including us.
33016

Detailed Account:

I had lower than average confidence in this setup int he days leading up to it. A last minute decision was going to be made based on model runs the night before, and those model runs (especially the NAM and EURO) showed pretty potent potential so it was just enough to get me to take the gamble. Plus there seemed to be potential for a multi day event. Ricky Castro from the NWS was interested in teaming up with Alec and I so we set sail for the target area around 4am, arriving in Emporia, KS at 1pm. To our dismay, storms fired only a few moments later and the chase was quickly on without time to rest.

Storms were going up all over the place as feared, and we moved into position on the closest ones. They were semi discrete supercell structures but they were embedded in a large rain shield which made picking out features difficult. We debated on dropping to a southern storm while the storm we were on gained strength and pulled away. We eventually decided to stick with that storm but now had to play a catch up game. The storm briefly became a prolific hail producer and dropped some tennis balls but we were never able to catch it. We could see the hail core from the back side though.
kansas hail core march 30th

We got closer to the storm as it began to weaken and only encountered hail up to penny size. It merged with some linear junk and we let it all go. There were no other appealing storms in the area to chase so we moved back to Emporia to debate on what to do next. We sat there for an hour and no new storms had formed, it was now 6pm and we decided to head back east to get into position for the next days potential target. On our way we did catch a rainbow on a decaying area of showers.
rainbow

As we got further into our drive, a storm blew up near Tulsa, OK and produced a pretty photogenic, strong tornado in the days last light. Few chasers were there, and most of them were locals in the area. We stopped for dinner to watch the damage reports of photos of the tornado come in. Afterwards, we continued east to St Charles, MO where we roomed up for the night. I was confused at there the entrance was an accidentally turned wide on a double turn and ran a police officer off the road, he pulled me over but was understanding and thankfully let me go with a written warning. Some storms moved over our hotel shortly after arrival and I quickly fell asleep to the sound of thunder after a long days driving.

Conclusion:

Missing the Tulsa tornado was annoying, because calling a chase early and then having a new storm blow up after all that effort stings. I am not sure we could have made it down to that storm anyways, given our position near Emporia, KS. It re-iterates a recurring lesson in storm chasing though. The day isn’t over until its over. My perfect 2/2 year is now 2/3 – but it was silly to think I could have a 100% success ratio anyways.

Map:
3-30-16

SPC Reports:

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