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8/17/2005: Grassroots Chasing

Toward the end of the chase - we were starting to take lightning shots at this time.

Joseph T. (left) and Justin Teague looking like he is about to kick my ass.

This pic is of the storm that developed to our south.
Looked good but there really wasn't much to it...

EDIT: My log for this event is now posted at HamWx
My forecast target of NW Kansas (forecasted on Monday) did not play out, in fact, Central NEB is where the focus of the northern half of the system ended up.
Yesterday morning Justin Teague called and said he would not be chasing NEB but was watching an area NW of Wichita for an outflow he expected to sit and bake all day then be a producer. Because I was unable to go on the previously planned long trip, I had not bothered looking at models after my blog post on Tuesday. Upon his call, I started forecasting and realized the potential for activity. Justin T., Joseph T. and myself hit the road for "somewhere" west of Wichita. Justin's target was St. John, KS (damn close to where storms developed). Mine was the OK/KS border between Alva, OK and Medicine Lodge, KS. Storms developed in my target area but were not near as impressive as the one we would intercept NW of Pratt, KS.
I'm going to jump ahead to the storm because I doubt you want to hear about Justin's gas issues or Joseph's OCD.
First off, I want to mention that this chase was like the "good ol' days" of chasing. From Tulsa to Alva, we had data and set our target. At Alva, data was gone and we did not pack an XM unit for this trip. Could have, but didn't. It was quite fun to actually listen to each other and learn or just talk about past chases rather than constantly pouring over data.
At around 4:30, we picked up on the familiar sound of the NOAA weather radio squawking and we had our first svr t-storm. We were sitting just north of Medicine Lodge, KS and the storm was NW of Pratt, KS. We were photographing the storm from a distance. I'll post pics at www.hamwx.com as soon as I grab them from video.
We shot north through Pratt and circumnavigated about 10 miles of county roads until we found the absolute worst road we could be on if it were to start raining. Coincidentally, this road was also providing the best view of a wall cloud with strong inflow band, tiny clear slot and great contrast.
After shooting a lot of great time-lapse and real-time video (that looks like time-lapse) and making a key decision or two, we were back on pavement before the rain swung around and finished our day early.
The storm cycles over and over until finally there was a bit of hope when, within a minute of each other, we had an RFD related vortex develop about 40 yards to our west (I have decent video of this) and Justin saw about a 7-second spin-up in a field to our north about 100 yards. Both of these were not related to the wall cloud in any way and were not tornadoes regardless of what others are calling it.
These tiny vortex's gave us renewed hope in the storm and the potential it might have.
I will skip ahead some more because, as you know, the storms never produced a tornado so this story would be quite boring if I kept talking about how it looked like it would, right?
The lightning was INSANE. I would say it was near consistent. There were times when All you could hear was thunder. Crash after crash, it was hitting everywhere. There was really no judging where the next strike would be.
On two occasions, Justin and I almost had to change our shorts. The first was a strike that had to be around 20ft away from the vehicle. I happened to be looking right at the object it struck when it did. I was temporarily in a white-out mode with my vision and the concussion was startling as hell. One thing I did not feel was heat from the strike. We were in pretty swift inflow winds and that may have carried some heat away but radiant heat should have still been present... I need to do some research and figure this out. Anyway -
The second strike was just as scary I'm sure but by that time we were in the middle of the strikes so long we were numb to the danger to an extent and not as affected.
One interesting strike hit a wood telephone pole about 50 yards from us and caused it to smolder for a little while. -Most of strikes I discuss here are in my video, I just need to extract them which will require time I don't have... might be a few days...
We went ahead and dropped south a little and well east of the primary storm (which now had two updrafts) a few more shots of the storm structure which was trying to resemble a "mother-ship" but never quite got it together at the lower levels. Made for some nice pics though and for August, I ain't complaining.
After dark, Justin and Joseph took some time to work on some lightning shots. This storm was perfect for night-time lightning photography. While they did that, I sat in the vehicle and complained to myself about leaving my digital camera in my wife's car over the weekend...
We arrived back in Tulsa at around 1:30am and drove a total of 540 miles.
I must say, there will be at least a few chases each year from now on where we turn the equipment off and chase with nothing but what we have learned over the many years of participating in this god forsaken hobby.

Don't Shower During a Thunderstorm

Forecast for 8/17/05