Chaos on the Plains

06 May 2015

Woke up today feeling really optimistic about another slight risk stretching from Nebraska south into Texas near where we were based. We decided to drive only a little north. On route an upgrade to an ‘enhanced’ risk had us even more excited. In fact there were two ‘enhanced’ risk sections identified – one further north in Oklahoma and into Kansas where the storm coverage was expeted to be much greater, with the potential for some strong tornadoes, and that further south on the Oklahoma / Texas border where the chance of more isolated supercells was forecast later in the day. Both ‘isolated’ and ‘discrete’ are much favoured words when it comes to describing these storms as it suggests a more manageable chase without storms popping up taking you by surprise, or clusters of storms blocking paths and potential escape routes.

The marked difference in these forecasts seemed to play out quite quickly. Whilst we were waiting patiently in Seymour, Texas for the initial cells to fire, the Oklahoma metro area was already about to be hit by some quite violent storms. This was another reason why we had opted for the more southern risk – it was less likely to take us through any densely populated areas which never appeals as the last thing we want to be doing is adding to the chaos.

At the sign of a couple of cells going up we headed south but soon the road became blocked by the firing storms that were moving far more easterly than we’d anticipated. So we backtracked, taking a couple of photos and took a more easterly road to keep ahead of them.

Inital Cell Munday

Unfortunately though they started to line out, and all we could do was try to stay ahead of the line and hope that we could drop back onto one if it started to show any signs of rotation. We tried to not only keep ahead but also edge south so that when the line did eventually catch up with us we could creep underneath it and stick with the last cell in the line - this is often the one you’ll find has the greatest chance of becoming tornadic. However, power lines and trees down due to reported gusts of over 80mph hindered our plan so we decided to grab some beers and head to a motel for the night. It hadn’t really been the desired ‘discrete’ mode we'd hoped for.

On route to the motel it was apparent through reports and twitter feeds the extent of the impact on the Oklahoma metro area  – not only had a mile wide tornado been reported, but other cells were tracking the same direction and the area was becoming heavily flooded. It has since been reported as the third wettest day on record with rainfall totals nearing the monthly average. The storm mode and type had not been anticipated by any of the trained professionals and the complex setup and outcome still have many baffled.

Not only was Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska to be hit that day, but no sooner had I put my slippers on and got ready for some sleep, a warning was issued for some of the cells within the line of storms that we had been chasing (or rather had been chasing us). This would have been more of a blow save the fading light and the fact that we never have and probably never will be close to being tempted to chase in the dark. It would however put an end to the chilled out slipper wearing, small beer drinking session we were currently enjoying (for some reason we accidentally managed to buy these ridiculous 8oz cans – probably just about big enough for Mr Pilkington).

Small Beer And Pilks

Luckily though, the Texas tornado warned cells, in which another wedge tornado was later confirmed skirted at least 5 miles north of us, so Tim could let me, by this point remain sleeping, dreaming of better luck with tomorrow’s potential!

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

SPC 01:00UTC day 1 forecast for Wed May 2015

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Wed May 2015

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