A victory for procrastination

10 May 2014

We had stayed reasonably close to where we thought we needed to be for today and the morning’s forecasts didn’t change that much. The setup today was one that we would have struggled to pick without guidance from the SPC. The models were showing particularly marginal instability and there weren’t many obvious factors around to initiate storms. The SPC’s reasoning seemed to change from forecast to forecast but the general theme that they were sticking to was that storms were going to initiate on the east side of Kansas and move into Missouri and Iowa.

After spending quite a while understanding the SPC’s reasoning, and trying to embellish it with at least a little of our own thinking, we pitched ourselves in a park and proceeded to fritter away a little time waiting for something to happen.

It can be very hard to maintain any fitness at all when chasing so I like to take any opportunity when we’re waiting at a park to do some running or similar. This park was particularly fun for it because it was on a slope and the ground was uneven to the point that I can imagine dogs tripping over. Cambo watched the models while I waddled my way around the park trying to balance needing to get my heart rate up with not breaking my ankles. Then, after a bite to eat, we started to see updrafts to our north and west and visible satellite imagery and radar data were all showing various storms firing to our north and south.

There were a bunch of factors in play now. Partly because we’d spent so long trying to understand the setup for the day we had developed various opinions over what the best plan of action would be. This led to a protracted period of procrastination which mostly involved neither of us having a strong enough opinion to override the other’s opinion, and we wanted to go in opposite directions. We decided to give the deciding vote to a face that Cambo had drawn on her leg. As even this deemed not to have a strong opinion we remained stuck in decision limbo. This went on for around an hour, meanwhile more and more storms were threatening to pop up. In the end Cambo won out and we decided that heading north was the best plan, not least because the storm was closer. By now, though, we had procrastinated for so long that there were new developments. The most important of these was a rapidly growing storm cell that was moving into our path north. We started our journey but quickly decided this new cell was going to cut us off, but, looking at it, this cell looked pretty good. It was heading away from the metro area where the road network is good and, importantly, to a less populous area. Indeed we could see this cell growing from the gas station where we were making the decision from. It didn’t look that great from here, but it certainly looked strong enough.

Weather Photo Gas Station Storm Building

In the end the decision was a fairly easy one, the weather had pretty much made it for us. The storm was tracking directly east which is ideal when you’re working with a gridded road network that runs along the principle compass points. We got ourselves in underneath the storm and could see the familiar sight of part of the storm lowering and rotating. We’d only been on it for 10 minutes and it was already starting to look like it might put down a tornado.

Missouri Tornado

Surely enough, just moments later, we were stopped by the road watching the first tornado touch down, quickly followed by a more pronounced one which stayed on the ground for two or three minutes. Unfortunately our vantage point wasn’t great, but the road ahead that might get us a better view went into the trees and we couldn’t risk losing sight of it.

10 May 2014 Tornado Photo 1

We continued along the US65 east while the storm continued its somewhat unusual lifecycle. Rather than raining itself out it seemed to cycle through more and less organised phases with each phase of organisation yielding another tornado. A little further down the road we stopped as it was apparently trying to put down another tornado and a pair of horses came to ask for the forecast. Apparently when you live in a field the weather service’s saying “get to the lowest part of your house and stay away from windows” is not welcome advice.


As the storm progressed eastwards it also propagated a little south, cutting off our road east (producing a tornado on it in Marshall, MO) and forcing us to move to another road further south. We weren’t able to get back into the optimal part of the storm to view it from but we got some good views of the structure nonetheless and enjoyed the lightning display it produced.

10 May 2014 Cambo Taking Weather Photo

Once it was well under way raining itself out we headed back to Kansas City to find a familiar Walmart and start trying to mentally prepare for what was a likely difficult day to follow.


SPC Day 1 Weather Outlook as at 06:00UTC (01:00 Central Time the night before)

SPC 01:00UTC day 1 forecast for Sat May 2014

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Sat May 2014

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