Chase Accounts

May 27, 2001
Pictures from this day.

On the second day of my chase vacation the stage was set for a significant severe weather outbreak across Kansas. An unstable air mass would be in place with a warm front located across southern Kansas, and it appeared the best combination of lift, helicity, and CAPE would set up near the Liberal, Kansas area. The warm front would provide the focus for convective initiation, and although it appeared that storms would line out fairly quickly, backed surface winds indicated that a few brief spin-ups would be possible during early development. Scott Blair and I knew the road network in the target area was horrible from a previous chase on May 31, 1999, but since when has a bad road network deterred us in the past.

Just after 1:30 p.m., we arrived in our target area, and while waiting for initiation, we met up with several other chasers, including Eric Nguyen, Amos Magliocco, Dr. Jason Persoff, Chris Collura, and Jeff Lawson, and analyzed data. By 4 p.m. supercells finally initiated; however, initiation occurred much further north (a few miles north of Garden City, Kansas) than what was originally thought, and now, Scott and I had a choice to make. Either wait with the rest of the chaser convergence, who were watching for new development along intersecting boundaries near Meade, or go after the supercells that had already developed. We chose the latter and blasted north on Hwy. 23, then west on Hwy 50/400 toward Garden City.

Several radar-indicated tornado warning were issued before we finally arrived at the line of supercells at 5 p.m. However, by the time we arrived in position west of Garden City to intercept the cells, everything had lined out and become outflow dominant, producing intense straight-line winds and kicking up huge amounts of dust. Scott and I took advantage of the situation by pulling off and filming various pieces of airborne debris and dust flying by at more than 70 mph. At this point, it was obvious that the situation was quickly turning into a major straight-line wind event as large amounts of dust covered the sky from horizon to horizon.

After filming this incredible and intense event for a few minutes, we decided at 5:30 to blast back south on Hwy. 83 and get ahead of the line to observe what was now becoming a haboob that would rival the Nebraska "wall of dust" we witnessed on May 29, 2000. However, at 6:15, just as we had caught back up with the cells' core and were punching through the strong winds and golfball-size hail, our efforts were thwarted by an encounter with an 18-wheeler that had been overturned by the intense straight-line winds.

Since emergency vehicles were already attending to the driver, we decided to continue the chase. However, while maneuvering around the semi, Scott unfortunately ran over a chunk of dislodged metal from the truck and abruptly ended the life of a tire by a few thousand miles. After letting the main core pass and getting Scott's tire changed, the line had moved well south of us. With Scott's car on a donut spare and little hope to catch the line, we decided to call off the chase early and head back north to Garden City since it was the closest city with a Wal-Mart where we could get the damaged tire replaced the next morning.

At the time, we chalked up the experience as a continuance of the unfortunate luck we just can't seem to escape. However, this bout with "bad luck" ended up being a fortunate happenstance because it placed us at an excellent starting point for the next day's chase in Colorado (the most spectacular chase of the year) and gave us much needed forecasting time since we got a room earlier than usual. So, it wasn't too terribly bad even though we missed out on some jaw-dropping structure and an amazing haboob associated with the derecho.

For some gorgeous images of what we missed because of the flat tire, I recommend the following pages by:

Bobby Eddins
Amos Magliocco
Eric Nguyen
Patrick Kerrin
Chuck Doswell

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