Brian A. Morganti

2011 May Chase Summaries

May 13, 2011  -  May 31, 2011

May 13, 2011:    Fri - Day 1 - Departure/Travel Day :  A few weak storms were encountered in western PA and eastern OH on the first leg of my trip west.  Centerville, IN 525m

May 14, 2011:  Sat - Day 2 - Travel Day: 

Drove from Centerville, IN to Joplin, Mo under mostly overcast skies with numerous light to moderate rain showers.  The weather pattern continues to look quiet across the plains for the next few days, so no rush in getting to OKC.  621m

May 15, 2011:  Sun - Day 3 - Travel/Van Prep Day: 

Rather uneventful day...traveled from Joplin to OKC, helped get vans and equipment ready, and had plenty of time to get a couple of decent meals.  221m

May 16, 2011:  Mon - Day 4 - T3B/Photo - Arrival/Orientation Day: 

After having lunch at Earl's BBQ in OKC we headed west to be closer to our Day 2 target somewhere from CDS northward to the CO/KS border.  Storms are possible, but likely not severe.  Right now it appears the real fun should begin about mid-week.  Childress, TX 250m

May 17, 2011:  Tue - Day 5 - T3B/Photo (Day 1) - No Storms: 

We targeted the southern CO/KS border based on minimal model support for storm development and saw nothing.  Moisture return is still anemic and upper level support was lacking.  However a severe storm did initiate farther north in CO and produced a brief land-spout as it moved off to the northeast.  Guymon, OK - 341m

May 18, 2011:  Wed - Day 6 - T3B/Photo (Day 2) - Supercell - Arlington, CO: 

There were two target areas to choose from today, the triple point play in NW OK and the upslope play in SE CO.  Either target was easily in reach from our previous night's stay in Guymon.  I had concerns about the parched conditions and large dew point spreads in western OK and was fearful we might experience another day without storms.  Conditions weren't impressive in SE CO, but there appeared to be a better chance of seeing a decent storm as long as that region didn't cloud over.  I also realized we might miss out on a big reward by not taking a chance in OK.  By earlier afternoon we were committed to CO and the southern 1/4 of the state remained under mostly clear skies.  We then hung out for a bit at an old farmstead a few miles west of Walsh.

The first cells formed along the I-25 corridor between Walsenburg and Trinidad.  We got within 25 miles of one of these cells from a viewpoint southeast of Timpas along highway 350.  We watched this LP'ish storm struggle for awhile before targeting a strengthening cell to our northeast near Rocky Ford.

We caught up to the southern edge of this storm a little east of Sugar City and then followed it northeast via highway 96.  We stopped several times to view this storm between Arlington to Galatea and observed some nice inflow banding near Arlington looking back to our west and southwest.  We also observed a nice wall cloud with some rotation near Haswell at about the time MTN was showing a shear marker of 162, which seemed to be way overdone.  At this time the storm was sucking in cold inflow from the east and we could see a large inflow jet pulling in dust to our south.  By the time we reached Eads the storm was going down hill and becoming disorganized.  Although we did see some some suspicious brief lowerings, I can not confirm any rotation on the ground that others had reported. A fun chase none-the-less.  LAA - 524m.


May 19, 2011:  Thu - Day 7 - T3B/Photo (Day 3) - Supercells & Murk - Central/North Central KS: 

The day didn't turn out quite like I had hoped, but we did have storms to chase and a few exciting moments along the way.  We hooked up with the regular T3 folks in Pratt by early afternoon and then headed north to get closer to the triple point which was moving northeast.  A beefy updraft began to form just to our northwest and we stopped near Great Bend for a photo-op.

We then continued north to I-70 and by this time the storm had developed into HP supercell.  Soon after we got on I-70 eastbound we had to stop at a rest stop to allow the bulk of the hail core to pass off to our north. We got in front of the storm and looked back to see a nasty looking core heading towards us and then bailed south a bit to let it pass.  We then headed back north and east a bit to near Sylvan Grove where this northeast moving storm gave us its best show with rapid cloud base rotation that came really close to producing a tornado at one point.  There were two spotter reports of tornadoes around this time but we did not see a tornado.  Visibility was very murky just north of the warm front which tended to limit both visual and photographic opportunities. We continued east and then let the storm go somewhere near Lincoln before heading back south towards other storms moving northeast along the dryline, but these turned out to be rather junky upon our arrival.  We finally called it quits south of Great Bend.  Abilene, KS 538m


May 20, 2011:  Fri - Day 8 - T3B/Photo (Day 4) - Photogenic Storms - Southwest KS:

The Best play for today was in southwest Kansas near Pratt where there was some weak surface winds converging with dryline.  By early afternoon a line of cumulus began to form and grow to our west as we neared Great Bend.  We continued west, then south and then stopped for awhile at an old farmstead for some photo-ops and to wait for a storm to form out of the towering line of Cu just off to our west.  Soon a couple of weak storms formed to our west and we were able to get closer and linger for a while waiting for something better to form off to our southwest.


For the next few hours we played with new storms that formed, then let one go as it weakened and then headed for the next one down the line to our southwest.  Since the storms were moving predominately to the ENE we were easily able to get in front of the storms given the excellent road network within about a 25 mile radius of Pratt.  We were able to view some occasionally interesting structure as well as several decent wall cloud lowerings but these only had weak rotation at best.


The last storm of the day had the best look on radar and gave us our final, and BEST, show from behind the storm between Cairo and Isabel.  The sky to our east was unreal with chaotic cloud forms and fantastic colors, with a couple of rainbows thrown in for good measure!  We lingered with this storm until there was no light left to film before calling it quits for the day.  All in all a fun day, especially from a photographic standpoint.  McPherson, KS 447m. 


May 21, 2011:  Sat - Day 9 - T3B/Photo (Day 5) - Tornadic Supercell - Topeka, KS:

We had a wild and fun chase day for sure!  We started the day in Emporia in good position to intercept the nose of the dryline beneath good southwesterly flow aloft that would occur in northeast Kansas.  We drifted north and hung out a yet another abandoned farmstead north of Americus.  Towering Cu were visible off to our west and northwest so we it was time to head north towards I-70.


By the time we reached I-70 we had two good looking storms to choose from, one to our north and one to our south and both were moving northeast.  At first the one to our north looked better but it was moving away from us and might prove difficult to intercept.  With time the southern storm started to look better and would certainly be an easier intercept.  We exited the interstate just east of Topeka towards Auburn to get our first good look at this storm which was now off to our west.

We then positioned farther east and had a great view of the approaching structure with a persistent low hanging funnel shaped wall cloud with an occasional well defined funnel cloud.  A tornadic touchdown always seemed to be moments away but we could never confirm any circulation on the ground from our position. 


We then blasted east and north to stay with this storm and had fantastic structure to our north and wild and crazy rotation nearly overhead at times.  We took another film stop as the storm moved north over the Kansas River.

We had only occasional glimpses of the storm as we headed east via a wooded dirt road to our river crossing at Lecompton.  More great views were had as we headed east and then north from Perry as the tornado sirens wailed in every town we passed.  The storm developed a very wet RFD as we neared Oskaloosa, I think.  New cells had formed on the tail end of our original storm and we watched more rotation just off to our north from a point a little west of Oskaloosa.  After enjoying the final storm colors and a bit of lightning we headed back south towards our motel in El Dorado.  We figured we could film more lightning along the way from an isolated cell that was moving northeast from the Emporia area, but this storm soon had a report of a large and destructive tornado and it was now  moving eastward.  We were able to make it to Ottawa ahead of this storm and then while traveling east on I-35 had fantastic structure views from of its corkscrewed updraft off  to our north being backlit by lightning.  Unfortunately by the time we found a good exit to film the storm it had already given us its best show.  443m El Dorado, KS


May 22, 2011:  Sun - Day 10 - T3B/Photo (Day 6 - Final) - Tornadic Supercells - Parsons, KS to Southwest City, MO:

No time for a detailed summary this morning.  We were on the original storm in southeast Kansas near Parsons that went on to produce the deadly tornadoes in Joplin, MO.  That storm kept back building but just wouldn't produce any tornadoes and it was heading into a less 'chase friendly' environment.  We dropped south along the OK/MO border via a winding wooded road in heavy rain in order to get ahead of another eastward moving cell to our south that had tornado potential.  We cleared the bulk of the rain/hail core at Southwest City, MO and waited for the updraft base to come into view thru the rain.  Soon after we spotted a large tornado off to our WNW.  The tornado once again disappeared in the rain and we headed a mile or so east to try and get another look.  During that time we spotted the rope out stage of this tornado and made a hasty stop for a few quick photos.  Tulsa, OK 468m


May 23, 2011:  Mon - Day 11  - Supercells - North Central OK:

I was able to leave OKC by early afternoon after saying good-bye to the photo tour folks and preparing the van for the next tour this weekend.  Unfortunately I needed just 7 more minutes in order to see the tornado that formed near Okeene, OK.  I hooked up with Bill and we then headed east and south in hopes of intercepting another storm to our south.  It pretty much croaked by the time we got there but still gave us some nice structure for awhile. 

We then headed back north towards the back edge of the storms that were ongoing to our north.  We watched this storm approach from the northwest from Kingfisher as it produced a large ground hugging wall cloud.  We then quickly headed back into town to find shelter under a car wash and a local sonic from the hail core.  254m Guthrie, OK


May 24, 2011:  Tue - Day 12  - High Risk Day - KS/OK/TX:

We started the day in Guthrie and finished it in Independence, KS.  There were deadly tornadoes to our south near OKC, but our area farther north had too many competing storms to produce the big show we were hoping for up there.  I took no pictures or video on this day.  Here is Bill Reid's summary for our day:

Our group targeted the Enid area north to the OK/KS border, and had lunch in Enid. A cell went up about 70 miles to our SW and produced the tornado(s) near Canton, and I elected to play it conservatively and let the cell come to us. Because it was moving so quickly (NE 40 mph) I was concerned that we would quickly wind up behind it and end up out of position for the rest of the day. So, the supercell put the tornadoes down, the tornadoes ended some 35 miles or so to our southwest (we didn't see them, of course---too hazy and rainy), and we waited for the next cycle of tornadoes as the supercell matured even further in the presumably improving environment. To our dismay, the supercell sputtered on its way towards us at Pond Creek, and then Wellington, KS, as a trillion other nuisance cells popped up in and around us and the storm.

It was only 5 p.m., we were amidst a bunch of rainy crappy junk, we had little or nothing to chase, and those big cells down towards I-40 were a bit too far away and fast-moving to consider. With the few hours of daylight remaining we managed to get in front of the tornado-warned cell that approached the Independence, KS, area from OK. The sirens went off in Cedar something or other in KS, just north of the OK border, and the wind kicked up to 50 mph, but the circulation was 5 miles or so west of town and wrapped in rain.

My record is fairly dismal on high risk days. Today my forecast was somewhat flawed, as tornadic supercells were absent for the most part in NC OK and SC KS. We could have been on the Canton supercell without much difficulty had I not been nervous about falling behind in the chase race early on. I guess the problem in my target area was too weak a cap and/or too much forcing and consequently too much convection. I kept hoping that a switch would be flipped and the messy convection would morph into a couple of big bad cells (which occurred on May 25, 1997), but that did not occur before late evening.

May 25, 2011:  Wed - Day 13  - High Risk Day - Ellsinore - Greenville, MO tornado:

After getting skunked in yesterday's high risk area Bill Reid, Chris Gullikson, Chad Cowan and I had to try again, even though we really dreaded the idea of having to deal with the hills and the trees.  We targeted the region near the "Boot heel" of Missouri where the best surface wind convergence, moisture, and CAPE beneath 70 knot southwesterly flow aloft would likely produce big supercells with large tornadoes.  It didn't take long to encounter our first severe warned storm near Springfield, MO in a broken line of supercells that had formed by the noon hour.  We quickly got ahead of these cells and headed for another broken line of storms about 40 miles to our east, with yet more storms forming to the south and east of these cells.  There were numerous storms to monitor as they would go up quickly and race off to the northeast at 40 - 50mph.  Our only hope would be to watch for a target storm off to our SSE that would be possible to intercept as it raced northward towards our direction.  By late afternoon we were keeping our eye on a storm to our south that had taken on a kidney bean shape and had no competition to its south.  This storm had a nice couplet as depicted by SRV on GRLevel and soon became tornado warned.  The big problem now was that we were now in a rather heavily wooded area of the state with lots of hills...viewing this storm was not going to be easy. We figured our best bet would be to get ahead of the storm a bit and then find a good spot to observe its approach from the southwest.  That was easier said then done, but we did manage to find somewhat of a high spot at a convenience store parking area along the north side of highway 60 a few miles southeast of Ellsinore, MO.  We didn't waste time setting up our cameras as this large supercell was filling the sky to our west and was racing northeastward.  We had one shot at seeing the tornado to our west as it crossed the clearing created by the double divided highway 60.  It didn't take long until a large tornado came into view and then quickly disappeared behind the trees on the north side of the highway.   We tried to stay with this storm via highway 67 northward towards the town of Greenville and managed to get a few glimpses of what now appeared to be a wedge-shaped tornado between the dips in the hills that seemed to constantly blocked our view.  Very frustrating to be so close and not being able to see the whole tornado!  We encountered quite a bit of tree damage and roadside debris on the north side of Greenville.  By now the storm had weakened and we headed back south in pursuit of other storms to our south, but nothing really was worth the effort any longer.  We finished up the day a little south and west of Poplar Bluff, MO filming the last remnants of the storms moving off to our east.  Poplar Bluff, MO 458m appx.


May 26, 2011:  Thu - Day 14  - Travel Day:

With no reachable storms today we began our journey back west to OKC.  Along the way we stopped to visit a bit of Branson, MO and watch Sean Casey's IMAX film "Tornado Alley".  We then had a big dinner at the Golden Corral before heading to Tulsa for the night.  440m. 

May 27, 2011:  Fri - Day 15  - Travel Day:

Although there is a slight risk of severe storms near OKC this evening I am not feeling very motivated to chase...likely a long shot anyway, but will continue to monitor.  I need this time to catch up on laundry, e-mails, video and photo file back-ups, etc. before the next tour starts tomorrow. 

May 28, 2011:  Sat - Day 16  - T4B/Blum - Arrival/Orientation Day - Severe Storm - Kingfisher, OK: 

There wasn' t a lot of hope for us to see a severe storm today but we at least had a chance not too far from OKC.  There was also a possible play in the upslope in Colorado and potentially severe storms could back build along the warm front in north central MO, but both those targets were a bit out of range given our late departure.  The NAM and RUC both indicated wind convergence in north central OK along with very high CAPE values, but under a very strong capping inversion.  However, both models were showing a strong cell breaking out not too far north of OKC and RUC updates continued with this trend.  Additionally the HRRR model was bullish on a storm in this region as well.  Why blast off trying to reach a marginal area when we had as good a chance, or better, right in our own back yard for today!?  We had a nice BBQ lunch in Ponca City and then hung out at Lake Ponca until late-afternoon.  After booking rooms for the night in ICT we noticed a small blip on radar to our south, but low clouds in our area prevented us from seeing any towers.  We headed south figuring this would be our only shot for today and that is pretty much what happened.  The storm was moving very slowly to the ENE and became severe warned as new flanking line towers developed on its southwest side.  The storm looked decent for a while as we headed south on 74 north of Crescent City, but not for long.  It had put out a huge anvil but the rest updraft tower was rapidly eroding.  The flanking line towers looked like they might have a chance, but were rather skinny and vertical and soon fell apart as well.  Lack of upper support and minimal forcing thru a strong cap were likely the culprits.  Oh well, it was still nice to be on the only severe warned cell in at least a 500 mile radius, even if it didn't last long.  Wichita 312 miles appx.

May 29, 2011:  Sun - Day 17  - T4B/Blum (Day 1) - Pulse Storms SE Nebraska: 

Today was similar to yesterday in that storms initiated and put out large anvils before quickly dissipating.  We targeted a couple of these cells near Lincoln and the last one of the day looked really good for a while both visually (from a distance) and on radar.  But this one too met an early demise before even becoming severe warned.  The updrafts were just not being sustained as they moved north of the boundary into cooler air. Better storms were sustained farther south along the DL near Concordia, KS...right where we were hanging out earlier in the afternoon.  West Point, NE 455m approximately.

May 30, 2011:  Mon - Day 18  - T4B/Blum (Day 2) - Fast Moving Storms, brief dusty gustnadoes/tornadoes - Central NE: 

I was hoping for more, but the day turned out pretty much as expected---fast moving storms that lined out early rather than offering a few discrete Supercells.  We played around for hours with a line of storms to the west of Burwell, NE hoping to eventually pick up a "tail-end Charlie".  But the line continued to extend farther and farther southward, so in the final hour of daylight we headed south to intercept a few dusty gustnadoes along the leading edge of the storms and did observe at least one decent dust-filled tube north of Kearney.  We then dove south into Kearney for a pit stop just as the mammatus show and anvil crawlers got quite good.  We then continued farther west on I-80 to the Odessa exit to get a better view, but by this time the mammatus had faded in the darkness and the light show had moved a bit too far east.  Cozad, NE 503m.


May 31, 2011:  Tue - Day 19  - T4B/Blum (Day 3) - Down Day - Nebraska: 

With no storms to chase we took a day to hang back a bit a visit a couple of historic sites including the old town of Arthur in the Nebraska Sand Hills.  We finished the day at a nice restaurant in Valentine, NE with hopes of not having to travel too far for the next day's severe storm potential.  Valentine, NE 309m