Saturday, March 24, 2007 — North Central KS


A long haul to the Nebraska border ends in disappointment, as instability fails to live up to expectations.

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Not the first flat-out bust of the year, but easily the longest and most frustrating. The cut-off low mentioned in the setup for the previous chase day (Wed., Mar. 21) finally began ejecting from the Baja California by Friday, the day before this "chase," resulting in multiple days of what looked to be so-so severe weather potential. Friday's threat region was SE NM and SW TX, which I opted to pass up chasing because of the excessive distance, concern over widespread cloudcover and "grungy" supercells, and particularly wanting to save my energy for Saturday, which looked better and closer to Norman. Needless to say, when Friday wound up producing several impressive tornadic supercells in NM and a flood of impressive photos and video came in from chasers (some from OU), I felt just a bit ripped off.

As Friday's event unfolded with significantly more intensity than had been expected, things began simultaneously looking in jeapordy for Saturday, thanks to cloudcover possibly limiting instability over the Central Plains. Both Bryan and I were indignant, though, determined to avenge what had happened the day before due to our incredibly painful choice to pass up chasing NM. We left Norman at about 9:00am, even as the 12z RUC came in showing well under half the CAPE values the previous night's 00z NAM had depicted, and satellite revealed widespread cloudcover moving northward into the target region. We stopped in Wichita for data, then in Salina for lunch and another data check, but felt rather helpless with no SPC discussions, no initiation on radar, and no really attractive areas showing up on the SPC Mesoanalysis. Still, we pressed northward on US-81 to Concordia, knowing that if we'd already committed several hundred miles to this day we'd be fools to let whatever did happen evade us.

In Concordia, we awaited the 2000z SWODY1, and cursed as it came out with the tornado probabilities shifted almost entirely into NE and decreased from 10% to 5%. Even more frustrated and confused on where to head, we went north and took US-36 west to Mankato, just south of the Nebraska border. As we made that drive, the decent-looking Cu field consolidated into a complete overcast, and by the time we stopped, it was quite obvious temperatures and humidity were lower than one would hope for in a situation like this. By this time it was nearly 4:30pm; we hung around for nearly half an hour in Mankato awaiting any new data or SPC guidance, and when nothing noteworthy came in and Mesoanalysis still showed absolutely abysmal CAPE, we decided to call it a day. Frustrated as ever, we made the long haul back to Norman totally empty-handed and arrived at 10:00pm.

I normally regard chasing in new areas as at least marginally worthwhile even if the setup busts, and this was no exception. I found the terrain along the I-35/I-135 corridor throughout Kansas to be quite a bit less appealing than I had envisioned. The tree coverage was at least comparable to I-35 in Southern OK all the way from south of Wichita to Salina, though somewhat better north of there. Rolling hills were also prevalent, though not large enough to significantly detract from chasing. Even north-central KS west of US-81 is certainly no western OK, though. So far this season I'm developing an even stronger preference for chasing well west of I-35, as I've very much enjoyed the visibility and overall "feel" of the TX Panhandle and far W OK.