Chasecation 2016 – Days 3 to 5 – Kansas and Texas

It’s been several days since my last update, although we have indeed been storm chasing each of the last three days. Turns out that these have been relatively slow chase days and there simply hasn’t been much to report, at least for a daily update. These have been “classic” chase days, which typically include a lot of sitting around waiting for something to happen and occasionally end in disappointment.

Following the incredible experience on Day 2, in which we found ourselves on the tornado that nearly hit the town of Chapman, KS, we were once again chasing in Kansas on Day 3. Despite the fact that the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) had issued a Moderate Risk that day with a decent potential for tornadic supercell development, not much of the sort actually came to pass. The early part of our day was spent driving around in circles in central Kansas, with overcast skies and a few nearby heavy showers and severe thunderstorms. We headed west later in the afternoon and targeted a cluster of developing storms near Dodge City, KS, several of which became severe and seemed to have the potential to do something interesting. Ultimately, the only severe weather they produced was hail and wind. Fairly disappointing day, although it did end with a beautiful sunset over Greensburg, KS.

wall cloud Greensburg Kansas

Interesting wall cloud that formed southwest of Greensburg, KS

sunset storm chasing

Expert senior storm chase expert Mike posing for the double shot

On Day 4, we headed back east to the Wichita, KS area and chased a few storms that developed along Interstate 35. This once again involved driving in circles for a while and sitting around waiting for stuff to happen before we finally located a severe storm near the end of the day near Leon, KS. This particular storm had a decent and persistent circulation within it for at least an hour, but was also in the process of becoming “outflow dominant” (where the cooler air associated with rainfall overtakes the warm updraft) once we arrived on the scene. We snapped a few photos of an really neat double shelf cloud before having to hop in the car and get east.

shelf cloud barn storm Kansas

Approaching “double shelf” cloud, with the area of circulation in the center of the photo

Where the two shelf clouds merged was also the location of the circulation, and as we were taking off we observed a very brief tornado (#4 for the trip!) back within the circulation, partially obscured by rainfall. It was so brief that we didn’t even have time to grab our cameras before it lifted and disappeared. All we have is relatively poor quality GoPro footage, which does show the tornado, surprisingly. The day ended on a relatively high note with another beautiful sunset and a stop at a local mom and pop restaurant for some authentic Kansas BBQ.

shelf cloud sunset rain shaft

Awesome sunset as the storm we were chasing dies out

We changed things up a bit yesterday (Day 5) and headed far south to Abilene, TX, hoping to see some interesting storms forming along the dryline over the central or western part of the state. A few storms did fire south of Abilene early in the afternoon but quickly died, leaving us in a bit of a conundrum. Either we continue south to chase a large storm that had developed northwest of San Antonio, or we go northwest to check out a few storms west of Abilene. Ultimately, we decided to go northwest and head toward Lubbock, TX, where we planned to sleep. We figured that we could get into town by 9 or 10pm, grab a hotel, and get some decent sleep.

On the way, an enticing storm popped up about an hour south of Lubbock near the town of Gale. It looked good enough both visually and on radar to pursue, so that’s what we did. The cloud structure within the storm was fairly interesting and, given that it was nearing the end of the day, the light was really good. The lightning was also incredible and was getting better as the light was fading. Over the next 3 hours we saw one of the best lightning shows I’ve ever seen and captured dozens of photos to prove it. The atmosphere was certainly discharging energy, that’s for sure! We didn’t end up getting into Lubbock until about 1am, finally getting to sleep after 3am.

lightning anvil crawlers cloud-to-ground bolt Texas

lightning cloud-to-ground car Texas

I write while on the road on the afternoon of Day 6 as we head southwest from Lubbock, pursuing some storms currently over southeastern New Mexico. Tomorrow we’d like to make our way back up to Kansas, so heading too far south today could set us up for a long drive tomorrow. We shall see!