We went AWOL! The principal investigators decided it would not be in the best interest of the group to wake up at 5am, drive to Texas, AND chase all in the same day, only to move back near our current location the next day. So we had a very lax departure, at which point I heard rumors that a couple of probes wanted to break off and pursue some “photo opportunities” in a promising area to our south. I write this from the back of Probe 12, as we move towards Wichita, KS. Josh and Karen were fine with us breaking off as long as we didn’t deploy any pods. Josh was only concerned that P12 doesn’t have an anemometer still, so we can’t take any wind data. Chris from the NWS in Wichita is in the front seat looking at weather maps, Andrew is asleep across from me, and Matt is looking for a good radio station. We’ve got Probes 11 and 14 as well as the Medic with us. Wish us luck!
Today was awesome! We stopped for lunch at Golden Corral in Wichita, KS, then went over to the NWS office where Chris has connections. As we were getting ready to leave, we heard of reports of tornadoes in Dodge City, KS and hightailed it west. As we were moving towards the storms we got word that DOW6 and Probe 13 were leaving the armada to our north and heading towards us, and the TIV team was following us! We intially planned on targeting Greensburg, but Chris and Tim Marshall decided the north of Pratt was our best opportunity.
We stopped a couple of times, all the while checking the radar. After one stop we noticed some fairly tight rotation on the velocity scan, and once we pulled over again we watched as the clouds swirled and began descending over our heads! We raced away from that area, only to stop about a mile away, where the rotation visually tightened even more right over our heads. At this point, a tornado warning was issued…for the cell right over us! We jumped in the cars and sped off to a safer distance, pulled over, and watched some funnels in the distance. At that point the rain/wind caught up with us again and we moved further.
I felt badly as a poor woman pulled over to our mini-armada and asked if it was safe for her to drive back into the storm, because her house was that way. At that point the storm was really outflow-dominant and Tim assured her it was mostly a hail threat at that point. After more repositioning Probe 12 decided to drive into the storm to verify the NWS severe thunderstorm warning, at which point we took some small hail (mixed in with larger clunks) and a probably 60mph wind gust (recall that we have no anemometer). Chris’s buddies at the NWS said someone else reported a 70mph gust at the same time, and think it may have been a microburst. After that we watched lightning set multiple grass fires.
All in all………….the best chase day so far!