Thursday, June 11, 2009

6/11 - 2am CDT - Exciting Escape

Choosing a target area today was hard, really hard. A cloud shield from Texas was prohibiting clean formation of supercells in SE Kansas, Texas itself couldn't support individual cells, and the Oklahoma panhandle turned out to be a letdown. We thought SE Kansas would be the target area if that cloud shield could hold off, but it didn't at all. So we turned around and headed toward SW Kansas and Oklahoma because of clearing skies and increasing cumulus clouds. While individual cells fired nicely at first with the interaction of the dryline, they eventually clumped together and didn't strengthen as expected.

The exciting escape part came as we wanted to go north to see if these cells would strengthen a bit. A mesoscale discussion from the SPC suddenly came out saying that rapid strengthening would occur as the storms hit an area of high instability. Sure enough, CAPE values were over 1000 J/KG near Liberal, KS and these cells turned into a single wind-driven monster in less than 20 minutes. We were looking for the updraft base when this happened, so we became trapped when this storm accelerated eastward towards us. Hail parameters on radar were reading over three inches, which made for a tense escape situation. The road network near Liberal, KS wasn't that great, making the search for an exit route very difficult. We were able to outrun the storm system long enough for it to weaken to a safe point. Taking shelter under a gas station in Meade, KS, we let the dying storm pass over. Only pea-sized hail and heavy rain happened in our area, so we did pretty well!

There was an unconfirmed report of a tornado inside this storm, but that may have been caused by one of the scary-looking fingers of scud cloud underneath the storm. This storm had intense straight-line winds and no rotation at this point, so it's unlikely a tornado was present.

Here are a few pictures:

We're most likely going to end up in Eastern Colorado tomorrow to catch some early-firing upslope storms.

I understand that there is some rough weather back home in Louisville tonight... stay safe out there!

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