Brian A. Morganti

2016 Chase Summaries

May 21 - May 31, 2016

May 21, 2016:  Sat Day 1 - Departure/Travel Days:   I Drove to O'Fallon, Missouri for my first day of travel and about half of that trip was spent driving through moderate to heavy rain.  A nice and totally isolated supercell with a tornado stayed in place for hours near Tribune, Kansas...but I would be leaving a day too late for this one.  880 miles.

May 22, 2016:  Sun Day 2 - Travel Day/Chase Day:   I originally targeted southwest Kansas as a good place to be by late afternoon.  I got into Dodge City by about 4pm just as some weak storms were forming along the dryline to my west.  After another long day of driving I figured my best bet would be to head a little more west and wait things out for something better to form, but got greedy and decided to blast south into the northeastern part of the Texas PH instead.  I arrived a tad too late for the tornadoes on a storm located in Roberts County.  The storm had become HP and was rather messy and non photogenic from my viewpoints from along a sparse road network and no photos were taken.  Meanwhile, a storm with a tornado did form in my "easy" target farther north!  Another 860 miles driven.  Woodward, OK.

May 23, 2016:  Mon Day 3 -  Tornado - Woodward, OK:  Model trends were showing that a couple of isolated supercells would develop by late afternoon ahead of the dryline somewhere north of Woodward into southwest Kansas.  Conditions for tornadoes looked slightly more favorable farther southwest in the TX PH, but also figured that is where most of the chasers would be headed.  I hung out near Fort Supply looking at data during the early afternoon, then headed a little north to Buffalo, OK.  Bill R., Chris G., and the Tempest gang had abandoned their earlier thoughts of the TX PH and joined me at a shady rest stop along highway 64.  Two Cb's soon went up, one to our immediate northeast and another one farther north near Coldwater Kansas that soon became severe warned.

We continued east watching towers build then anvil out on the storm just to our north, but it became apparent neither of these storms to our north were going to amount to much.  Meanwhile, a new and isolated storm exploded about 35 or so miles to our southwest near Woodward.  We blasted south on highway 50 from Camp Houston and unlike the previous storms this one looked like the real deal.  It had a very stout updraft along with a very nice back sheared anvil!  We cut west on road 508 to get on the southern edge of the updraft base and stopped a little short of highway 34 for our first look at the updraft base to our WNW, and then continued to highway 34 for another look.


We watched from highway 34 as the updraft area remained nearly stationary while tons of moisture was streaming in from the east at cloud base level.  Surface inflow was quite strong from the southeast and it looked like we just had to remain patient for a tornado to form.  The action area began to drift a little closer to highway 34 and with a large hail only a few miles to our north.  We had to move a little farther north to get closer and have a better westward view of any tornado, so we moved about a mile or two north on highway 34.  We stopped at a nice open area just as the tornado began to form and the sun was beginning to set.   The following images were taken over a 15 minute time span.  Finished the day back in Woodward, Ok with only 125 miles logged in for the day! 


May 24, 2016:  Tue Day 4 -  Tornado - Minneola - Dodge City Kansas Tornadoes:  Just a short summary for now.  Photographed the first tornado touchdown near Minneola a little after 6pm CDT and then photographed continuous tornado action while heading north to Dodge City taking my last tornado image a little after 7pm CDT.  Was slowed down twice, once on mud slicked roads west of 283 when cars in front of me got mired down, and again in Dodge City with no traffic lights working and a hailstorm moving in from the southwest.  Finished the day filming beautiful sunset mammatus clouds a few miles north of town.  The first image was taken from Minneola of the initial tornado, the rest were looking NW from highway 283 and nearby dirt roads just south of Dodge City.  180 miles driven



May 25, 2016:  Wed Day 5 -  Tornado - Bennington - Abilene Kansas Tornadoes:  Another short summary...originally played ahead of the DL near Newton Kansas as some towers went up, but struggled as they moved east into unfriendly chase territory.  Meanwhile, some towers formed about 50 miles to the north along the bent back boundary and these looked to be the best bet for anything tornadic.  On the way north a large Cb exploded northwest of Salina and that became the obvious target.  Got in position along highway 18 a little west of Bennington in time for a brief tornado to form (first image below).  The storm weakened some soon after as we played around on a dirt road network, but it wasn't long before the storm became much better organized.  Dropped south to I-70 and then east in an attempt to stay on the southward flank of any tornadic activity to the north. The following images were taken between the Salina and Abilene Exits, with the last images taken from another dirt road network a little southeast of Abilene, Kansas as the sun was setting.  371 miles in all.



May 26, 2016:  Thu Day 6 -  Supercells - Tribune - Scott City Kansas:  A good part of central Kansas had a moderate risk for severe storms with the likelihood of tornadoes.  As is often the case on days with plenty of ingredients for severe weather, numerous storms went up by early afternoon and were fast moving.  I decided to drift west towards the Colorado border for more isolated activity in that area.  A tornado watch was issued for a good portion of east central Colorado for any storms coming off the front range if any of those storms that could remain discrete.  Unfortunately, the storms merged into a messy cluster of storms long before reaching the Kansas border.  However, an isolated cell did go up near Tribune that offered some nice structure!  The storm split and as I was photographing the left split moving off to my north, the right split became tornado warned.  I had a good visual on both storms, but other than a few mid-level funnels no tornado formed.  I followed the right split cell to Leoti, Kansas before it weakened some and drifted off to the north.  Meanwhile the southern edge of the convective line of storms from Colorado was fast approaching and gave me one last photo opportunity in an old abandoned farmstead on the west side of Scott City.  A little more driving that the last few days but it was also nice to slow things down some.  Around 450 miles driven.  Garden City, KS. 



May 27, 2016:  Fri Day 7 -  Stormy Skies - Kingman - Pratt Kansas:  Today was a little similar to yesterday in that a cluster of severe storms would likely form somewhere in south central Kansas ahead of the dryline/CF where very moist and unstable conditions existed.  Numerous storms went up by mid-afternoon along the I-35 corridor from northern OK to about Wichita Kansas and many of these storms became severe with large hail.  I played around on the north-south route 14 from Kingman to Anthony hoping to get a look at something discrete coming up from the south on the western edge of these ongoing storms.  Although I could make out the individual storm cells at times they were connected with a continuous cloud band layer.  By late afternoon I headed back towards Pratt for some new cells that were forming along an old outflow boundary that was moving northward, but all this stuff was rather weak.  Not a lot to show for the 350 or so miles driven today, but then again I really wasn't expecting a whole lot either. 


May 28, 2016:  Sat Day 8 -  Position Day - Lamar, Colorado:  Prospects for severe weather today were nil except for south Texas, an all day drive that I wasn't willing to make.  Tomorrow looks good for the Texas Panhandle, but the following day looks promising for NW NE, SW SD a decision will need to be made in the morning.  Chase Texas and the northern play is out of reach the next day, or start heading north and give up the chance for supercells farther south.  Lamar is well positioned in between and there was a chance of some weak storms in eastern Colorado.  A few storms did go up closer to the mountains, but only pulsed briefly before weakening.  428 miles driven today.


May 29, 2016:  Sun Day 9 -  Marginally Severe Storms - Pritchett - Lamar, Colorado:  The best severe storm risk for today was located to my south in the Texas PH and Texas south plains, a long drive I was not willing to make given the early morning convection in that area along with the prospect of a lot of messy competing storms.  I still wanted to play the middle ground in case I decided to head north, rather than south on Day 2.  The possibility of strong or severe storms looked promising across far southeast Colorado, so I just had to be patient and wait.  By late afternoon a cluster of storms formed about 75 miles southwest of Lamar and these became my target storms.  One of the cells to my west became severe warned as I approached Springfield, but for the most part the storms in this area were rather junky.  My best play would be to get behind the storms and look for photo opportunities looking back to my east.  I found a few near Pritchett, then headed back north to another cluster of weak storms near Lamar.  Finished up the day just north of Lamar photographing a the remains of a decaying storm cell lit up by the setting sun.  215 miles for the day.


May 30, 2016:  Mon Day 10 -  Strong - Severe Storms - Yuma, Colorado:  Another day where severe storms could be expected anywhere from ND south into Texas, but no clear cut area to focus upon.  The best potential for supercells/tornadoes looked to be in South Dakota, but way out of range for me.  Even there, the transition to lines of messy outflowing storms would be quick.  The closest severe threat for me appeared to be in northeast Colorado along the edge of the better instability and 500mb wind flow.  I hung out in Seibert watching a nearly stationary and isolated cell near Limon, along with a new cell that formed near Deer Trail.  If either of those storms could move east they could put on quite a show.  Meanwhile a really nice cell went up east of Cheyenne, WY...about 125 miles to my northwest.  That is the storm I wanted to be on, but it was still noontime and I didn't want to abandon an area I was sure would produce severe storms later.  Even so, I started to drift a little north on highway 59 where I could keep and eye on stuff to my west and the big storm well to my northwest.  It wasn't long before I realized the big storm to my north might just be the best of the day and decided to continue north while monitoring the activity to my west.  By the time I reached Yuma the northern storm had a couple of tornado reports, one lasting 13 minutes but I was still at least 60 miles away at that point and that storm was beginning to go downhill fast.  Meanwhile the storms to my southwest had done nothing.  I continued north to near Clarkville to intercept new cells that were extending southwestward from the original big cell, a trend that would continue the rest of the afternoon.  Those cells were pushing out tons of outflow, so chances of any landspout tornado were gone.  I played around with these storms and followed them east and south taking photo opportunities whenever I could.  I abandoned these storms go as they headed east and lined out near the CO/NE border and at this point there wasn't much to go after.  I headed back south towards Lamar figuring I may get a look or two at the storms to my south along the way.  Lamar would also put me in good position to either head farther south on Day 2, or west to my son's house in Castle Rock.  425 miles in all. 


May 31, 2016:  Tue Day 11 - Mini Supercell - Kiowa, Colorado:  Since the prospects for supercell thunderstorms in a large section of the plains states appears to be non-existent for the next week or so, I figured that today may be my last shot at intercepting a strong to severe storm before heading back home.  Even though upper level and surface winds were weak, instability looked to be sufficient for a few strong to severe storms east of the front range somewhere in the Palmer Divide area.  This would work out well since I planned to spend a day or two with my son's family in Castle Rock before heading back east.  By mid-afternoon a couple of storms began to form in the Castle Rock area, so I hung around the area east of town near Kiowa and Elizabeth.  I bounced from one weak storm to another until one finally got strong just on the north side of Kiowa.  This one offered some decent structure along with a persistent wall cloud and a lot of cloud to ground lightning.  With better conditions this storm could have easily produced a tornado, but the storm did put on a nice show for about 15 minutes.  Other storms briefly pulsed after this one, with one dumping a large amount of pea size hail over my son's house a little south of Castle Rock.  230 miles for today.


June 1, 2, & 3, 2016:  Wed, Thu, & Fri - Day 12th to 14th. - Relax & Travel Home Days:  I spent Wednesday relaxing at my sons house in Castle Rock, Colorado.  By late afternoon numerous storms went up similar to the day before, but these died rather quickly after a brief pulse.  The prospects on Thursday morning still looked very bleak for any quality supercell action on the high plains for at least the next 7 or 8 days, so I decided to end my trip and head back home about a week earlier than expected.  I drove exactly 1000.0 miles to Marshall, Illinois on Thursday and the last 685 miles back to Pennsylvania on Friday.  Other than a brief shower from a decaying thunderstorm near Harrisburg, PA the weather was great for driving.

I started my trip by missing a great supercell and tornado in Leoti, Kansas by leaving a day late.  I intercepted a supercell the day of my arrival in the northeast TX PH but missed the tornado when I could not get into position fast enough.  Significant tornadoes were intercepted the next three days in Woodward, OK, Dodge City, KS and near Salina, KS.  These events in order had a tornado (or multiple tornadoes) on the ground for 15 minutes, 60+ minutes, and 90 minutes!  The pattern quieted down after that, but there were still storms and photo opportunities to pursue.  But by 10th day or so of chasing it became evident that the prospects for any nicely structured supercells on the high plains were pretty much non-existent for the next week or longer...thus an early end to my 2016 chase vacation.

Of note for future reference, the average nightly rate paid for hotel stays was again about $70.00 (from $54 to $82 including tax) and the average daily gas expense came in at $56.00 for the entire trip.  Gas was again running less per gallon this year than it was in 2015.  Highest per gallon was $2.59 on the PA Turnpike and least was $2.04 in KS...but the average price overall was about $2.26 per gallon, which again was a nice savings from previous years. Total actual miles driven for this trip 6,285, which may vary from estimated cumulative miles totaled above.