May 31, 1999
Meade, KS Tornadoes Captured, Sitka Missed
Chase Account by: Scott Blair
Chase Team: Scott Blair, Kevin Scharfenberg, Jason Politte.
Brief Weather Setup
At 7am, a large MCS cluster was pushing through Eastern Kansas and Eastern Oklahoma. Scattered clouds laid across rest of the plains. A cold front extended to the Nebraska/Kansas border. Temperatures across the area ranged from 52 in Holdrege, NE to 60 in Dodge City, KS. By 7pm, the atmosphere was prime for severe weather. Temperatures in KS ranged in the 70's with 80's in OK. Dewpoints were in the 60's. SW KS had many extreme factors come into play such as lifted index values at -8 to -10, 80knt shear with strong divergence, areas of low pressure over the region, and strong 850mb temperature contrast. The dry line exploded from KS southward to TX. The cold front moved into Central Kansas with ESE winds ahead of the dryline. A large protrusion developed in the dryline near Woodward, OK and a significant supercell developed near the Meade, KS area.
A moderate risk was in place for a large area of the plains. We had been excited about the possibilities of this day for quite some time. It was a cool morning in Holdrege, NE as the wake-up call awoke us early. Taking a look at the models and current conditions, it was clear that SW Kansas would be our target area. Since we were in Nebraska, we left the hotel early.
Honestly, nothing really significant or exciting occured on the drive to our target area until the first convective towers developed some seven hours after we left the hotel. At 11:40am, we had made a few turns and arrived in Osborne, KS on Highway 281. We continued south to Russell, KS. We stopped at Braums for lunch. It only took them 30 minutes to serve a few shakes and burgers. After that delay, we quickly continued south on Highway 281 to Great Bend, KS and turned southwest on Highway 56. We passed the National Weather Service Office in Dodge City, KS at 3:10pm. Liberal, KS was reporting a temp of 84 and dewpoint of 70. We turned south on Highway 283 and debated to set up in the Oklahoma panhandle or Plains, KS. We decided to continue south into Oklahoma. Around 3:40pm, we reached the border of KS/OK. Soon after, we reached the intersection of Highway 283 and H64. Still, no convection had fired so we decided to drop a little more south onto Highway 270.
We viewed the first tower just south of Beaver, OK at 4:45pm as it exploded in the northwest sky near Moscow, KS. We stopped in Beaver to fill up with gas. After a stupid circle to the east, we jumped back on Highway 64 and proceeded westbound. The storm was growing rapidly and appeared to be a LP supercell. It had a beautiful flanking line with a backsheared anvil with already a few mammatus. SPC issued a tornado watch for the area until 10pm.
Around 5:30pm, we made our turn north on Highway 23 back into Kansas. The storm was now becoming more of a classic supercell. At 5:49pm, an amazing beavers tail streched across the dark sky in front of us. The base of the storm was clearly visible with perfect backlight. As we drove north, Kevin noticed a spin-up just to the left of the precip shaft. We quickly pulled off and watched the brief and weak feature. (I belive C. Doswell has a picture of the feature on his accounts page)
The feature quickly dissipated and we made a short backtrack to a gravel road going west off Highway 23. About four other chasers were already there watching the storm as we pulled off at 5:55pm. We sat there for a few minutes watching the storm become better organized and pockets of dust rise and fall under the rain free base. Finally, at 5:57pm, I spotted a rapidly lowering funnel cloud extend down from the base just to the left of the precip shaft. We quickly turned on our cameras and shot a few stills. The funnel cloud continued to drop and finally touched down. The tornado was a few miles to the west of Meade, KS. It had a strong vortice dance on the ground. After a couple of minutes, the Meade Tornado became rain wrapped and dissipated at 5:59pm. We decided to get a little closer, so we left the gravel road at 6:00pm and moved north on Highway 23.
We discovered a nice place to pull off at 6:12pm. It was at an intersection near Meade State Park. It provided a very scenic view as cows dotted the fields. Shortly after we pulled off, a small wall cloud began to develop. This was the first real organized wall cloud of the day. To the left of the wall cloud, the RFD was kicking up a significant amount of dust. The wall cloud continued to develop and began to tighten. At this point, the wall was just to the west Meade, KS. A few buildings in Meade were visible to the north in the distance. At 6:17pm, we decided to make our move east on the short jog on Highway 23 and continued eastbound on the county road due to rapidly failing contrast and a few drops of light rain.
By 6:24pm, we were on the country road heading east. The wall cloud became better defined and tighter. Rising dust began to inflow under the wall cloud. This quickly caught my attention and I began to video the event to the north.
It was difficult to tell if the dust was part of a developing tornado or just inflow. Eventually, two strong and sustained areas of cirulating dust became clearly defined under the wall cloud. (Keith Brown also has a good pic of this tornado from another angle) This was later a confirmed tornado by NWS in Dodge City. The tornado was 2 miles SE of Meade, KS. It lived for .2 miles and was rated an F-0. The only damage was a house with all windows blown out. A couple minutes passed and the tornado fell apart.
A quick summary of the latter part of the chase before the conclusion of the chase follows. At 6:26pm, we viewed a split of a wall cloud that became anti-cyclonic on the south end and cyclonic on the north end. After taking some video, we left at 6:27pm. Moving on the twisting roads, we pulled off to video and feel strong inflow winds into the wall cloud to the NNE at 6:31pm. We took off and pulled off again next to Howie Bluestein's team. The rotating motion was all around us, but the wall cloud was now rain wrapped. We left at 6:36pm. We continued on the terrible road and pulled off at 6:50pm. The RFD had produced enough light to turn the storm white with a black background of precip. We arrived in Englewood, KS at 7:10pm. The wall cloud was 10 miles to the north of us. We took Highway 283 north. We made great progress 6 miles north as the storm was becoming better defined again. However, the risk of hail was too great if we would continue 2-3 miles more to the north. We were forced to turn around and go 12 miles south before the next east road was available. We took a rough paved road just below the border in OK. We enjoyed being on a paved road, but the size of potholes checked our speed constantly. About 32 miles later, we hit the dead end of the road. Many chasers were lined about the road looking at nothing as the storm was well to the NE.
We quickly turned south on another small paved road and arrived on Highway 64 about 10 miles later. At 8:20pm, we turned north on Highway 34 to get one last look at the storm. At 8:25pm, we arrived near Lookout, OK on top of a hill. About 12 other chasers were already on this hill. After watching the storm dance away, a flood of chasers poured into the area at 8:45pm onto the hill. It was likley the biggest chaser convergence in one area. Almost all chasers were very respectable, except for one that stood in the road with a tripod. This unthoughtful individual was right next to us as we attempted to give him verbal hints. Finally, Eric Nguyen drove by and blasted his horn at the person as we gave applause to his efforts that succeeded. We decided to leave the large group at 8:50pm. We turned back west on Highway 64 and pulled off at 9:00pm. The supercell produced amazing outflow that kicked up dust around 60mph.
The SE Meade Tornado marked the last period of good contrast we experienced the rest of the day. The major supercell continued to move into an area where a bad road network exists. A large area of precip, including very large hail (4.75"), wrapped around to the south side of the wall cloud. This limited good viewing only to the W and E sides of the storm. The west side contained good light, but the risk of hail, dust, and severe winds from the RFD. The east side was the only hope for chasers. With the road network, the majority of chasers were too far away to pull north ahead of the storm. A few chasers were able to be east of the storm with nice contrast along Highway 183 and Highway 34. My respect goes out to Sam B., Tim Marshall, and others that were able to witness the Sitka Tornado.
A new, smaller storm was visible around 9:03pm to the west. It was clear it was rotating but presented no real threat for a tornado as outflow from Sitka was about to cut it off. A strong band of outflow dust covered the road and our car at 9:18pm. Winds once again reached near 60mph. We stopped for gas at 9:22pm in Buffalo, OK. Twilight had finally vanished as the radio reported of "still a possible tornadic supercell near the KS/OK line." We took Highway 270 into Woodward, OK were we stopped at the local Pizza Hut. We met a few other chasers such as Charles Edwards, RJ Evans, and Eric Nguyen. We shared stories of the day and viewed Eric's craked windshield from the large hail. Lightning from another storm treated us on the drive back to Central OK. Frequent cloud-to-ground strikes awoke the residents of Central OK. We finally arrived in Norman, OK around 2am. We reviewed chase video until 4am. After a long day, we crashed and prepared in sleep for the next day. -Scott Blair
***1300z Convective Outlook - SPC***
STRONG-EXTREME INSTABILITY IN THE WARM SECTOR /SURFACE-BASED CAPE
VALUES OF 3500-5000 J/KG/ AND THE PRESENCE OF SEVERAL SURFACE
BOUNDARIES WILL BE FAVORABLE FOR A CLUSTER OUTBREAK OF SEVERE
STORMS/TORNADOES IN PORTIONS OF W/NW OK AND SW KS LATE THIS
AFTERNOON AND EVENING. THE MOST INTENSE STORMS WILL BE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING STRONG TORNADOES AND VERY LARGE HAIL. CONVECTION SHOULD EVOLVE INTO CLUSTERS OVERNIGHT AND MOVE E/SEWD OVER KS/WRN MO AND OK...WHERE THE MAIN SEVERE THREATS WILL SHIFT TO DAMAGING GUSTS AND LARGE HAIL...THOMPSON.. 05/31/99
***STATUS REPORT ON WW NUMBER 348***
ALL INDICATIONS CONTINUE TO SUGGEST INTENSE TORNADIC SUPERCELL OVER SOUTHWEST KANSAS WILL PERSIST ANOTHER HOUR OR SO INTO AREAS JUST WEST AND SOUTH OF MEDICINE LODGE. ACTIVITY THEN APPEARS LIKELY TO MERGE WITH ACTIVITY NORTHEAST OF GAGE...EVOLVING INTO SEVERE MCS ALONG THE KANSAS/OKLAHOMA BORDER...SUPPORTED BY STRONGLY DIFLUENT AND DIVERGENT UPPER FLOW. AS EVOLUTION INTO CONVECTIVE SYSTEM PROCEEDS...WIDESPREAD DAMAGING WIND GUSTS WILL BECOME PRIMARY THREAT AS ACTIVITY PROPAGATES EASTWARD. CONTINUE WW.
***Last Convective Outlook for 5/31/99***
--- SW KS...WRN/CENTRAL OK...W-CENTRAL TX --- WIDELY SCATTERED TO ISOLATED SUPERCELLS...SEVERAL WITH CYCLIC LOW-MID LEVEL MESOCYCLONES...OBSERVED IN AN ARC NEAR WRN EDGE OF OUTLOOK LINES. LARGE/MULTIVORTEX TORNADO REPORTED IN SW KS STORM
BY VORTEX CREWS DURING PAST HALF HOUR...AND WRN OK ACTIVITY HAS
APPARENTLY BEEN INTERMITTENTLY TORNADIC. THREAT OF SUPERCELL
TORNADOES SHOULD PERSIST THROUGH EVENING...DURING WHICH SOME
CONVECTION WILL BEGIN TO COALESCE INTO MCS.
OTHER ENTERTAINING CHASE ACCOUNTS ON MAY 31, 1999
Jason Politte's May 31, 1999 Page
Eric Nguyen's May 31, 1999 Page
Blair Kooistra's May 31, 1999 Page
Sam Barricklow's May 31, 1999 Page
Ed Calianese's May 31, 1999 Page
Mike Umscheid's May 31, 1999 Page
D. Lewison - Cloud 9 Tours May 31, 1999 Page
Tim Marshall's May 31, 1999 Page
Robert Conzemius's May 31, 1999 Page
Perry Lambert's May 31, 1999 Page
Dave Gerstner's May 31, 1999 Page
Silver Lining Tours May 31, 1999 Page
Amos Magliocco's May 31, 1999 Page
May 31, 1999 Radar Loop