Storm Chase May 18, 2013: Epic fail in Kansas


chase imagesand log by William T. Hark, M.D. Video (HD) and pictures available for licensing. Click on images to enlarge


I made the wrong decisions and came away with nothing. I had high expectations for the day with a Moderate Risk and a 10% forecast area for tornadoes by the Storm Prediction Center. I really liked the high instability that would make up for somewhat weak upper level winds. The day started in Russell, Kansas. I flew into Wichita a day earlier to catch this potential outbreak, and I had positioned myself in Russell the previous night to have the ability to target both northern and southern possibilities. As I reviewed the morning data, there were still two target areas, one to my west and another to the southwest near the Kansas-Oklahoma border. I drove west to Oakley, Kansas and reviewed more data. I really liked the instability farther south near the Oklahoma border but hated leaving my initial target. I blasted south to Garden City, then through Dodge City to Greensburg. Some storms were already forming to the north, but I expected better storms to the south. Greensburg was packed full of chasers, and I am sure that made the locals nervous. I chatted with several including Jeff and Kathryn Piotrowski. Soon, a weak line of storms formed just to the west of Greensburg along the dryline. A stronger storm had formed far to the north along I-70. As expected by the computer models, a more isolated storm was developing in Oklahoma near the Kansas border, and it was moving northeast toward my position. This would be an easy intercept. As I was leaving Greensburg, part of the weak line just to the northwest was intensifying. It was moving away and I blew it off in favor of the one to the southwest. I headed southwest and intercepted the storm near Protection, Kansas. The storm intensified but was outflow dominant and soon became part of a line. I followed it for a while but it never did anything significant. Meanwhile, that developing storm that I observed to the northwest of Greensburg dominated the line and eventually went tornadic and produced multiple photogenic tornadoes near Rozel. Congratulations to several of my friends who had started in Nebraska and were able to intercept the storm from the north and Jeff and Kathryn who left Greensburg early enough to also catch the storm. After the chase, I headed east on 64 and then 11 through Alva to Blackwell, Oklahoma. On 11, just east of Medford, I suddenly was blasted by blowing dust and high winds in a “brownout.” Visibility was at times zero and I encountered scattered power flashes along the road. The winds were recorded as high as 60 mph. My progress was slowed and I pulled off several times to allow the air to clear. I finally reached Blackwell, Oklahoma and “licked my wounds” hoping for a better outcome on the next day.

Powerflash in high winds in a moment of better
visibility along 11 near Medford, OK

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All images Copyright 2013 William T. Hark