May 8th 2016 – So Close, Yet So Far.

Jun 05, 2016


Played a supercell that was seconds away from producing a beautiful tornado, before  a left split slammed into it causing a quick demise.


Tornadoes: 0
Hail: 1.00″
Wind: n/a

The Forecast:

Highly amplified pattern, leading to ample speed shear. Directional/VBV concerns due to highly amplified nature of trough. Dryline forecast to move east into W Oklahoma. Better moisture confined further south, with just in time nature further north where directional shear was slightly better. LLJ forecast to strengthen during the evening in typical fashion. Opted to play moisture tongue in NW Oklahoma, closer to better shear near the triple point. SPC went with 10-hatched tornado probabilities due to ample speed shear and forecast instability.

Detailed Account:

This was the middle day in a trio of potential chase days, and was supposed to be the “big day” of the three. I sat out the previous day, which saw a couple beautiful tornadoes in Colorado, the kind that made the season for those who chased. They weren’t my ideal tornadoes as they appeared landspout-ish in nature even though they weren’t – but they were photogenic and sustained…the kind of tornado I still need to catch this year, so I was a little miffed about sitting the day out. Regardless, hopes were pretty high today but the forecast was a difficult one.

I left Chicago around midnight for the marathon drive. Stopping for a brief cat nap just past the Missouri border, my timing was well. I initially targeted SW Kansas and wound up waiting around in Coldwater for about an hour as the day’s first towering cu began going up and showing good promise the day would provide. I moved to the southernmost storm, just south of the Oklahoma border.

Getting a first look, a nice base was present.

Some quarter size hail began falling as I re-positioned once the base moved overhead. The storm began a weakening trend, however. Some storms further north were looking better on radar, in addition to one isolated cell way down in Southern Oklahoma near Lawton (again) but neither were options for me at this point so I stuck with it.

Meanwhile, I noticed this in the distance, rapidly approaching my location.

That storm in S OK had thrown off a left split that was rapidly flying north. Typically left splits only produce large hail. I didn’t think much of it, but figured if all else fails I could dip south for a core punch. The storm I was on, as it neared the town of Alva, began rapidly strengthening and taking on a more classic supercell appearance both visually and on radar. Excitement was now building. I got into good position as the storm still needed time.

Rotation in the base was picking up fast, and other chasers in a large group chat I was in began getting excited. An RFD clear slot nudged in, and a rapidly swirling lowering appeared.

This is it. Tornado time, and it was going to be a high contrast beauty….but oh wait.

Remember this little jerk?

Just as the storm I was on was ready to plant one, this little punk slammed into it, effectively cutting off the warm inflow. The storm rapidly fell apart, one of the quickest deaths I’ve witnessed, almost poetic. In about 10 minutes this was all that was left.


Well, so much for that. It was the only shot in the area and with no other storms to go for I called the chase and began making my north towards Wichita. The primary target tomorrow looked to be in the jungles of the ARKLATEX region which did not appeal to me. I wound up rooming in Wichita where I would make a decision tomorrow if I would play the day, and if so, where. I ordered pizza, and fell asleep before it arrived at my room, luckily the front desk called and woke me up.


Well, that was a bit of a let down. The storm was seconds away from planting a nice tornado, but a left split slams into it at the last moment and ruins everything. That’s just bad luck right there, but I cant help but laugh. The day overall failed to live up to expectations and the main catch of the day ended up being a brief, low contrast tornado on that storm in Southern Oklahoma and some surface low landspouts further north in KS. Higher end setups failing to produce seems to be a theme of this year, while the marginal days end up pulling hat tricks. Hopefully tomorrow doesn’t do that, as I have a speech to give back in Chicago the following day, and I would hate to cancel or show up on no sleep because I gambled on a marginal jungle setup and lost. We’ll see….


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