Tuesday, May 12, 2015

5/9/2015 Grinnell, KS Tornadoes

Dad and I left for the plains the previous evening in anticipation of Saturday's severe convective risk. It was clear that there would be severe weather somewhere, but a cold pool from overnight thunderstorms ended up greatly reducing the severe weather potential.  Despite the worked over surface air, severe weather still occurred corresponding to the rather impressive upper tropospheric dynamics in place.  Initially targeting southwest KS, the region was slow to clear and we quickly set our sites on strengthening convection in Colorado (storm motions we not in our favor!).  We stopped near Lakin/Tribune, KS, and met up w/ Walker Ashley (NIU meteorology professor), Stephen Strader (NIU Ph.D. student), and Alex Haberlie (NIU Ph.D. student).  It was Alex's first time to the Great Plains, so of course we gave him a hard time about what he had done to the day's setup.  Keeping the warm front in play, we continued northeast out of Tribune to a very turbulent sky. Whirling eddies, interesting cloud formations, and a warm frontal boundary made for interesting conversation in the car while traveling east toward our overnight destination of Salina, KS.  As luck would have it, a cell formed right on the warm front near Wakeeney, KS and immediately produced a tornado.  It wasn't too long before another (what appeared to be stronger) cell formed in southern Gove county Kansas lifting north toward Grinnell.  It was this cell that we targeted, and it really paid off despite some really frustrating initial views of this storm.  We were caught north in the forward flank of the storm and knew it was producing a tornado, we just could not see it.  Every second that passed caused frustration, as we knew we would be in a great place if the precipitation core would just pass north of I-70.  Eventually it did, and a nice elephant trunk tornado came into view. 

We saw at least 4 different tornadoes, with a few of them occurring after dark north of Grinnell (see one of these tornadoes in my poor quality video below).  It was great to get pops his first tornado, despite the dark and rainy conditions which made photographs extremely difficult.

Overall, it was a great quick trip to the Great Plains and Pop's first tornado experience.  I got to test out some new gear in anticipation of our upcoming Thunderstorm Lab field Trip (CoD Trip 2).

Track our trip on twitter (@gensiniwx ; @cod_stormchase)! 

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