Saturday, April 01, 2006

Chase report 3/30/06

Chase report from Thursday (crossposted from Storm Track":

No tornadoes today for me -- and not much of photogenic anything due to the persistant cloudcover. But a really fun chase, nonetheless, especially considering it was in my back yard. I started out by driving west a bit on I-80 and waiting at a rest stop just east of Goehner, between Lincoln and York. I got the impression that the dryline storms out west were going to be completely linear, and I noticed that convection was trying to pop from an area basically overhead to points south into Kansas. So I dropped south. Eventually, a supercell formed south of Beatrice, so I headed back east to HWY 103, then dropped south to Crete. As I was doing this, the Beatrice cell was really getting wound up, and given the fact that everything was tearing along at 50+mph, I only just barely got NE of the cell on HWY 33 before the core could catch me. This was actually pretty cool, as CGs were dropping left and right around me about once every 2 or 3 seconds -- and they were really, really close, close enough to get the 'radio hum' before the strike. I stopped about 2 east of Roca to watch the 'meso' (not too impressive looking) roll by and to get in position to try to close in on it (briefly) once I had a clear shot at the inflow area. Unfortunately, the storm started falling apart at around this point. Still, it was the only game in town at the time, so I tailed it by taking the grid roads to the north. While I was doing this, I noticed another cell forming to the south. To be honest, I didn't have a lot of hope for it, as it had plenty of crap convection surrounding it, but the original cell I was on was limping into Lincoln like a wounded deer, so I decided to "try" to get east before the core of the new storm overtook me. Drove east on Hwy 2. No luck, but at least I only caught the blinding rain and wind part of the core, not the hail part. It seemed pretty clear, though, once I got to Syracuse, that the storm I was positioning for wasn't going to make the cut. I munched out on Slim Jim's & Strawberry milk as disorganized storms marched overhead. Once it was clear the the squall was going to march in and finish the day, I decided to go and try to meet it somewhere picturesque, so I took HWY 2 back to Lincoln. Got to the outskirts of Lincoln just before the squall did, and let me tell ya -- it was one of the more visually frightening things I've ever seen. I knew I wasn't in danger, but it looked like something out of one of those Apocylpse movies. I sat in my car with my jaw dropped as I watched a massive, impenetreble fist-like curtain of rain sweeping across the horizion towards me. I mean you could really see it coming. I parked next to HWY 2, and boy was it was making the traffic on HWY 2 freak out! Once it got right on top of me, I could literally see the power of the downdraft -- the rain flying horizionally several thousand feet overhead, and then whoosh! The car rocks as the gust front hits and the visibility goes from 5 miles to 5 feet in just a couple seconds. It was all over in five minutes, but wow! I'll never get the image of that squall coming in out of my head. It's one of those things that's so surreal that you wonder if you're dreaming.

Now, I saw no tornadoes today, but I still had an awesome time. Between the wondergul squall and the challenge of getting in position (even though the storms died), I had a good chance to shake down my equipment setup and have fun doing it. Plus, the usual chase magic was following me around. For example, at the gas stop in Syracuse, the clerk who was ringing up my Slim Jims seemed really distracted... and then she suddenly got this huge smile and blurted out to me that her sister, who has had cancer for the last 3 years, just called her and told her that her cancer was in remission. Outside, the last storm had just rolled through and the sun was poking through the clouds for the first time of the day. Yeah, it was a pretty cool chase.

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