Begin: Wichita, KS
Lunch: probably a quick convenience store lunch
End: Wichita for the tour/Flagler, CO for me
This Thursday was shaping up to be a very active severe weather day in the middle of Kansas. Tornado prospects were not particularly good, as “coalescing outflow” and strong winds and hail would be the rule. SPC upgraded to moderate risk for central Kansas by lunchtime, and convection began rather early in the afternoon in vicinity of the surface low, near Hays. I bemoaned the early initiation, as that usually portends a long and difficult chase day with minimal chances for tornadoes and nice, isolated and very strong updrafts. The tour group was out of Wichita and on the road early enough, and we had a nice CB or two in our sights between LaCrosse and Hays. We stopped south of the development and monitored a couple of warned cells. These showed little inclination to wrap up nicely at low levels. They dragged us east a little, and were looking a lot like mean and green HP beasts.
I was leading the tour group until this point. I had to head back to Denver for a flight home on the following afternoon, so I handed the van keys to Chris Gullikson. Chris would lead the tour group for the next four days, and I was free to chase in his Jeep! The tour group headed east to stay in front of the storm, and I headed south on U.S. 183 to Liebenthal. I was less interested in making my drive west to Denver any longer than necessary. As it turned out, this decision proved fruitful as the HP storm sagged more to the south along the highway. As the hot and moist inflow surged into the cool and moist storm outflow, the cloud base lowered and cloud fingers teased the ground. A whirl of dust and dirt kicked up to my WNW by a couple of miles. Was it a tornado? Well, sort of. Some observers called it a tornado. I don’t know if the circulation at the surface was violent enough to qualify, but tornadoes aren’t always going to fit neatly into our definitions. The images below were taken on the south edge of Liebenthal, and the town’s church is to my north-northeast. The water tower was to my northwest.
Though the storm was gaining some strength and the inflow/outflow interface was quite active, it appeared that cool outflow was winning the battle. I decided to abandon the chase here and to head west. I caught a few other strong storms along Route 4 between LaCrosse and Shields, but these were rather ho-hum. Flagler, Colorado was my home for the night, while the Tempest group battled strong winds and heavy rain on their way back into Wichita.