Sunday, November 23, 2008

New Chasemobile

Been too busy to do a real update.

Shortly after the November 5th chase, my 1st chasemobile blew a head gasket and was forced into retirement. After 8 years and 174500 miles, I cant complain really. Thats more than most people get out of their vehicles. I was hoping I could get 1 more season out of the van, but it wasn't meant to be.

That being said, I will be hitting the plains next year with a 2006 Ford Expedition. Allot of thought and shopping went into picking out the right vehicle. Not only do I travel allot on chases, but I also do allot of traveling for camping, fishing, and various other adventures. I need to haul lots of gear and sometimes people.

After the mud incident on May 23rd, I realized 4 wheel drive is a must...not that I plan on driving on a field again, but you never know. Rear wheel drive only just wont cut it. So that was another reason I opted for the large SUV. The fuel economy is horrible, but if gas prices can stay where they are I will be able to manage. Although I wont be so generous in giving freebee chases and may ask those who ride along to chip in a little more.

Many upgrades will come to this vehicle and I plan on designing and building hail guards for awesome thing about the van was it had a fiberglass hood and rear liftgate that kept it free from dents. Since I plan to sample more cores in 2009 i think hail protection is a must. So here she is...a true gas guzzling whore if ever there was one.
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I like how it had the custom grille already installed, as well as a tow package...Price was 15k but in the end ill have paid about 22k after all the financing crap.

So...RIP to Aerostorm....for now...the van will remain in the garage and be fixed in the future when I have the time and money. Itll mostly serve as the local driver whereas the SUV will be for the long trips. I saw my 1st tornado with this van on 5-5-07. Pictured here along side the TIV in Murdo, SD on 6-6-07
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and with an awesome shelf cloud...
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The weather pattern around here sucks. Its very similar to last year with a massive blocking pattern over greenland keeping us in a mostly NW flow. Temps are way below average and the lake effect snow machine has been in overdrive. Luckily its been minimal here in Chicago, but NWern IN and Wern MI have been getting pummeled. Im wondering if this pattern will feature a winter of extremes like the 07-08 winter. I hope so. We had an EF-3 in January about 70 miles from here, a december squall line which downed trees and powerlines in my neighborhood. And hail during a storm in February...not to mention the historic Feb 5th tornado outbreak. I guess well have to see.

For now...storm chasers is on tonight. I will be chiming in on spotter chat along with everyone else for my wanted and unwanted thoughts.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Recap of Nov 5th chase to Southern KS

Thats right, southern Kansas.

We abandoned our northern target to play the southern target. The problem I have is once Im out there, I tell myself "its only a little bit further" and I forget I have a long drive back to Chicago once its all said and done. About 2 hours into our changed plans, SPC updrades to MDT risk as we drive down there. High Fives all around and confidence is up high. But alas, no tornadoes. Another thing I know but like to deny...SPC are not the all knowing gods of severe weather. In the end our northern target saw storms as well, so the original forecast was still good. Though they were less concentrated than the south.

The sun slowly rises in Iowa and we find ourselves driving through crapvection.
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We finally make it to Kansas and decide to play the waiting game around Fredonia. Iniation took place around OKC and storms quickly became severe and started racing off to the NE. They would eventually track through where we were but we were concerned they would be linear by then so the decision was made to go after them.

Starting to see them as we approach.
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We got down to hwy 166 and headed west, just as the 1st storm of a bunch went tornado warned. We stopped along the highway and the CG activity really picked up, it was one of the most intense CG barages Ive experiences, 4 strikes within 100 yards of us..including one that was probably less than 30, jolted us within a minute. I wish I had the camera rolling.

Looking west towards the tornado warned storm, at a ragged wall cloud partially embedded in a precip core.
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The storm started looking outflowish, and then the winds turned outflowish as well. I had very little confidence in the storm producing, so rather than staying out ahead of it I mad us at least sit to sample the core. If im not going to get a tornado, then I opt for cores.

Yea I was not impressed by that, but driving along the leading edge of the precip shaft was really neat. Like driving under a moving waterfall. We decided to stay ahead of the storm after that. The precip shaft was very well defined now behind a classic outflow feature called a whales mouth
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I really like that picture. Anyways, the next storm in the bunch went tornado warned as well. It had a better presentation on radar visually, but I still wasnt to confident. For some reason I just get a feeling for when I feel the enviroment is going to produce, I get a feeling of excitement/nervousness...I just wasnt feeling it this time. The storms were all bark and no bite...but we had to stay on them...the weather likes to prove me wrong sometimes.

But it was more of the same the whole time. Whales mouth infront of a well defined precip shaft. Tornadic potential = almost zero. Although theyre still pretty to look at.

Trying difference camera settings here...shoulda tri-poded them
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This one sort of confused us, it looks like there was a wall cloud back there on the 2nd tornado warned storm, but the big whales mouth along with the outflow winds were the dominant story. I knew better but at the same time, you just never know with the weather.
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Awesome hail core on the 2nd storm
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Well we decided to leave these storms and call it a chase, stopped for Sonics [yummy!] in Independance, KS and headed home. This will likely be the last chase of 2008, even though Im keeping an eye on the next trough lol. It felt great to be in the action of some tornadic storms again, though the tornadic potential was very brief. The intense CG action along with the brief overrun by the core made it a fun and worthwhile chase.

We met up with fellow chasers Dick Mcgowan, Darnin Brunin and others from their crew. Ive always had some respect for these guys and the shots they get in the field, it was awesome to meet and chat with them in person finally.

See everyone in 2009!

Chase: 14
Miles: 1,460
Tornadoes: 0
Largest hail: pea .25"
Highest wind: est 40mph.
Chased with: Danny Neal and Matt Fischer

Google Map of chase: larger view can be seen by clicking the link below it:

View Larger Map

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I have no will power

GAAAHHH!!!! Im obsessed I swear. I just cant pass up even the slightest opportunity. I know if something happens tomorrow ill toss myself infront of a CTA bus for not going. If nothing happens...oh well, I tried. I still have 29 days off work at my disposal for next year. This year I used about 10 for chasing, and it was an active year, so 29 should more than be enough.

Me, Matt and Danny are going to play the norhtern target, somewhere near the NE/IA border. Dynamics are good. Instability sucks. Storms are already firing though in NE kansas [elevated non-severe obviously] but if that can get going already, plus with the mid 50s dews I see in nebraska already...perhaps this could be one of those under-forecasted events. Ive seen it happen. Its a gamble. OFF WE GO! Good luck to everyone else heading out and playing the southern target.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Oh well.

Well the final vote for tomorrow is no. There is a threat, but given whats involved to get out there...its not a favorable gamble. Sucks, but oh well. These systems have minds of their own. This setup is very similar to what we had all spring it seems, such awesome dynamics but little instability to work with. All thanks to typical southeast ridging keeping the gulf choked off.

Thursdays potential seems to have gone down the crapper too. Instead of a nice beefy system we have a lost little closed/cut off low thats gonna bobble around before finally getting shoved outa here by a kicker wave. During this time it will loose upper level support and occlude itself to death and we will likely be dealt a sharp temperature decline that may produce a flurry or two. *PUKE*

The only saving grace is perhaps an isolated t-storm before the FROPA with maybe a few lightning strikes that I can be lucky enough to capture on camera...but...should anything worthwhile devlop, ill still be ready to bolt out the door thursday, tho I wont be using any time off so id be racing after it at night.

Saving grace #2...the pattern looks to become active..with system after system...hopefully one of them can produce something worthwhile...times running out so they say...but then I remind myself that on January 7th of this year, an EF-3 touched down near the IL/WI border. Anythings possible.

Monday, November 3, 2008

May wait till Thursday

This is the part I love/hate. To go or not to go.

Actually if it were a weekend id be all for it. One day I wont be bound by the 9-5 and I can chase when/wherever I want...but for now I must be picky.

Now that the potential event is closer I can take a look at more models takes. NAM, WRF and GFS are all very similar, with the GFS moving things a little more north and a less deeper low, but all paint a similar picture, this system will move very slow and it almost appears to cut off although i know this isnt the case. There will be a definite moisture return as far north into MN. Looking at surface plots theres a nice convergence zone between the OK/AR, KS/MO boarders all the way into Iowa, with nice backed flow on the eastern side. NAM wants to pull moisture allot further north than the GFS
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Now the Shear along this entire area looks good...not much complaints directional wise, speed shear looks good too. Id like to target SWern IA, due to my local bias and better backed flow and convergence buuuuuut heres the problem
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PHHHHHHHHHHHHHHT. No instability that way, as is the problem this time of year, looking at RH plots up at 500mb reveals cloud cover may be an issue for the northern target, but its possible with such strong kinematics in place that not much instability will be needed to get things going. Always a gamble.

So theres the ideal target around south central kansas, decent shear, good moisture, better instability...or the preferred northern target that has similar ingredients in place just without the CAPE. Well I could write forever and ever about what I see on models so Ill just move along.

Right now the IA target doesn't seem like it would justify taking a full day off work, nor the Kansas target taking 2 days off....but things can still change. As of right now I will hold off until Thursday.

With the system slowing down so much, and a big cold front progged to plow through against such strong surface heating ahead of it. A raging squall line appears possible. And there even looks like some moisture could advect into my hometown before hand.
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Ugh. sorry for the smaller maps but I dont like how this blogger cuts off larger images. Anyways, so with this possible scenario coming into play, I may opt for a half day chase downstate, or perhaps west to intercept a possible squall line.

Im not just in it for tornadoes, I love all storms and sever weather, so it may be more worth it to make a 2hr drive for some good shelf structure and maybe some severe/hail and wind. At least I have two options, and its not do or die on Wednesday. I wish SPCs day2 would come out now so they could just tell me what to do haha. But that takes the fun out of it.

So thats where I stand, right now I think for me the Thursday chase is more probable, unless some things really come together for the IA target and confidence goes up regarding moisture and instability....and also pre-dark initiation.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Coming together

Ok so yesterday I did a quick 5 minute crap shoot post about the potential chase day next week. Today Ive had a bit more time to look at things.

Models are all over the place with this thing with each run thats for sure, making such a setup even harder to forecast. The area I mentioned yesterday isnt even close to where Id consider today...gotta love it...I probably wont make a final decision till Tuesday. Latest runs don't deepen the surface low as much and slow it down a bit. This may help the timing of whatever moisture we get a little better. All it will take this time of year is tds in the mid 50s, especially with really cold templs aloft. Pretty good surface heating may lead to some really steep lapse rates. I can see these storms being prolific hail makers too. I still like the backed flow over much of MO and into IA and even shifting into central IL by 12z thursday.

Right now I would set a target around south central IA based on the winds. Moisture is the big problem that far north. Storm speeds will be on the quick side, but it doesnt look like theyll be near impossible like they were on 10-18-07.

So Im still on the fence, id like to see the best target area shift east a bit, just because Im locally biased to a 1 day chase. If the best area ends being the central plains I will have to sit this one out, id rather hold my days off for a better setup in the spring, where moisture is more abundant and it wont be dark at 530pm. I can certainly pull off a 1 day chase to IA or god forbid...MO.

So for now I will keep my faces glued to the PC and further analyzing things with each run...and will post a more detailed target zone and forecast probably monday night.

I just had my laptop stipped down to factory settings, so I need to scramble to get everything back on there and working. Stay tuned.