Sunday, April 15, 2012

04142012 chase log

It's been a while since I used the words chase log.  Yesterday's apocalyptical  weather had been forecast since early last week.  NOAA had the Wichita area under alert and even national media's lead story was about potential storms.  Local proms changed location, concerts moved indoors, and there was a very heavy fear over the city of Wichita on Saturday.

It started out with overcast sky that continued most of the day.  One thing that storms need to pack a punch is sunlight.  It creates warm air that rises and adds convection (or the movement of air vertically in the atmosphere).  Last time we had a set up like this was in May 10, 2010.  Lots of warning and overcast skies led to one of the largest non producing wall clouds I've ever seen.

Storms fired out west and moved NE along a dry line set up around Dodge City.  Around 3pm, not seeing much movement towards Wichita, I grabbed a chase partner and moved out towards Pratt.  I like to visually chase and with no hallmarks seen due to overcast sky, we had to rely on radar.  We decided to stop in Cunningham and watch a storm approaching the Pratt, Kansas area.  We were a decent length away , but could see a pronounced wall cloud and funnels near Pratt.  We progressed on the storm but the rain was caught up in the inflow and weakened the wall cloud.

Due to the hail reports and some loss of energy in the storm, we followed a storm coming up from the Medicine Lodge area.  The storms carried a one-two punch with power going back and forth between the storms.  They never fully developed as we observed them.

We moved around for a while and found the storm in Kingman moving into Reno county.  Near Pretty Prairie, the storm developed a nice rear flank downdraft but the wall cloud had issues developing and respawned in a couple different areas.

Since this storm was trending down and the sun beginning to set, we broke off the chase.  Unfortunately, the storm powered up at dusk and caused significant damage to Lyons and Salina.

In Kingman, dining at the world famous McDonalds, we came across another wall cloud moving east of Kingman.

Storms powered up in Oklahoma and with multiple warnings about the dangers of storms near Wichita, we headed back before the storms had entered Sedgwick Co.  Several reports came in of large wedge tornado developing SW of the city and before long, the sirens were sounding.  Due to it being dark and a very dangerous situation, I battened down at home and rode the storm out.  A tornado emergency was issued and the storm looked to move through the city.  Strong tornados tend to twist so hard that they make a right turn and cut themselves off from the energy sustaining them, and this one did.  The storm moved east out of the city, but preliminary estimates claim $290 million in damage to Wichita and a state of disaster has been claimed.  Luckily, no fatalities have been reported and only minor injuries occurred.  

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