May 11, 2005

Today was being billed as potentially one of the first major severe weather outbreaks of 2005. A strong surface low was forecast to move out of northeastern Colorado today, with a warm front trailing eastward across northern Kansas. Meanwhile, a dryline would trail south from western Kansas through the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. The favored area today would be in northwestern Kansas, northeast of the surface low near the dryline/warm front intersection. But like every other day so far, work obligations would prevent me from traveling too far. The only real options I was considering chasing today were near a warm front/outflow boundary intersection near Salina KS, and along the dryline in the Texas panhandle. With winds aloft over northern Kansas forecast to be much weaker than those in the Texas panhandle, I decided to try my hand at the dryline in the Texas panhandle once again.

Conditions over the Texas panhandle were fairly similar today as they were the day before, with the 18z Amarillo sounding showing southwest winds of around 50 knots at 250mb and southwest winds of around 40 knots at 500mb. 500mb winds at Albuquerque were even stronger, southwest at 70 knots, although I feared these winds wouldn't quite make it as far south as the Texas panhandle. No worries though, as winds aloft were plenty strong to sustain supercells. Moisture would be a bit deeper today however, as extensive low cloudiness had streamed northward across western Oklahoma and the eastern Texas panhandle. The cap would be fairly strong again, with 700mb temps once again around 10C.

With all this in mind, I headed west on I-40 for the Texas panhandle. Scattered low stratocumulus dotted the sky across the eastern Texas panhandle, and winds were beginning to back towards the southeast as a dryline bulge developed between Amarillo and Lubbock. Listening to current conditions over NOAA Wx Radio were interesting as dewpoints dropped into the 30s at Amarillo and winds at places like Canadian and Pampa became more and more southeasterly. I continued west to Conway, where I could see turkey towers struggling against the cap to my southwest. From here I went south on Hwy 207, periodically pulling over to watch these turkey towers go up and fizzle. Although it was frustrating to see this happen for the second time in five days, I was determined not to give up until the sun went down, with the lesson learned on June 3, 2001 clearly on my mind. I ended up stopping for a while east of Wayside, watching the pattern of towers building up and orphaning anvils. One tower tried to sustain itself briefly, leaning way over in the powerful shearing southwest winds as it drew in tufts of low stratocumulus from the southeast. This tower was hauling however, moving off to the northeast at about 35 mph or more before it fizzled. It also seemed as if the southeast winds feeding this tower felt cool, despite the fact I was measuring a temperature/dewpoint of 75/65. I stayed here until just before the sun went down, then decided to go home after all cumulus towers had diminished.

Today turned out to be less than expected for many people. Those who played the triple point and the warm front in northwestern Kansas did see some storms, although for the most part they were non tornadic - not the long lived tornadic storms that some (including me) had been expecting. The storm of the day happened after sunset near Ulysses in southwestern Kansas. One storm rapidly developed on the dryline just before the sun went down, producing a couple of large tornadoes in very low light between Ulysses and Garden City. The southwest Kansas storm is a perfect example on why chasers should never give up on the dryline until the sun goes down, as it often can produce a storm seemingly out of nowhere in the last minutes of daylight. Although it didn't happen in Texas, it certainly could have, and these slim but possible chances of seeing something are why I keep making these 500 mile gambles.

Digital images

Total Mileage: 551 miles
Total Driving Time: 9 hours, 29 minutes

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