Saturday, May 3, 2008

Southeast KS supercell chase 5/1/08

Shawna Helt and I storm chased in southeast Kansas Thursday evening before coming back to the Kansas City area ahead of the damaging bow echo that hit town with embedded tornadoes (see a later post that I'll get to after this one). With all the weather in the KC area that evening , including a supercell mesocyclone that passed very near our house NW of Trimble, we could have saved alot of gas had we just stayed put. :-)

Anyway, our chase in southeast Kansas in the Fredonia-Chanute area yielded some nice views of supercells and mesocylones, and one possible brief tornado. The first photo above shows a supercell with inflow bands and some lowerings viewed to the southwest from just east of Fredonia, KS around 7:30 p.m. CDT. The 2nd two images (one full, one zoomed) show a lowering and possible brief funnel or tornado in the distance from another supercell that had formed behind the earlier one. These last two images were a westward view from south of Altoona, KS shortly after 8:30 p.m. CDT. It was good to get out in the field on a real chase, but a little frustrating with the storms going on closer to KC and home.

Thursday was an interesting day. Why did the storm west of Tulsa in Oklahoma produce tornadoes, while those in southeast Kansas struggled to do the same? It's hard to say. Post analysis suggests that low-level shear and helicity may have been stronger farther south, but that's not clear. Also, for whatever reason, in the Fredonia area, new cells would form behind each supercell we watched and then appear to interfere with progressive structure and maturation of the older storm. Many questions. There was also a prolific "cold core" tornado event in extreme northwest Iowa east of the surface low and cold core midlevel low with many online photos of impressive tornadoes there.

After Shawna and I returned to the Kansas City area that night, the most damaging event of the day was about to happen. See my next post.

Jon Davies - 5/2/08

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