May 19, 2013 Chase

After a great chase and subsequent night, I awoke with renewed vigor and excitement for the next chase. I could tell when I walked outside the first time that we'd definitely need to head east, as the air was drier than it had been the day before. Originally I had targeted Independence, KS, but it seemed that area was going to be too far east. This actually pleased me, because it meant we were that much closer to our target today, and could move a bit more leisurely. Once everyone was checked out and packed up, we headed into town to gas up, grab a snack, and then head to Wichita for lunch.

Our route was simple, as we took US56 east straight to I-35, then turned south towards Wichita. Once there, we stopped to top off the tanks and grab a bite. We found a Wendy's and had a nice, easy, sit down lunch while mulling over the day's possibilities. It was decided that we were in fact already in a prime area, but I wanted to head south to get out of the metro mess of town. So, after we finished, we jumped in the cars and headed south on I-35. The plan was to drive to the OK border and wait for initiation, but we never made it that far, as the first storm developed just west of us as we were approaching Wellington. We exited and stopped to survey the situation. It was the first storm of the day, we had good position, and it had already gone severe in the time it had taken us to drive maybe ten miles. We decided to make this our storm.

We headed west on US160 into Wellington, which isn't the easiest town in the world to get through. Once we finally negotiated it, we were flying west on open highway. There was a lot of haze in the air so it was difficult to see the storm, but as we drew nearer it became more and more clear. It was becoming obvious that the storm motions today would be much faster than yesterday, around 40mph. Because of this, I knew we would need the storm to do something fairly quickly, as I wasn't sure how well we'd be able to keep up with it once we turned north. We'd been due east of the storm when we committed to it, which put us more or less behind it as it moved northeast. So when we got to KS49, we blasted north towards Conway Springs. We got through town, and then continued north. After a mile or so, we stopped.

We got our first clear look at the storm's base, which was organizing quickly. Within a minute or two, scud began to form and rise up, as rotation began in the wall cloud. It lasted a few minutes, but couldn't quite get going. The storm seemed to be cycling down a bit, and being weary of our road situation and ability to stay up with the storm, we packed it up and continued north towards Viola. We had maybe driven a mile when I looked over and saw what appeared to be a funnel. I looked underneath it and saw debris, as a tornado had developed rapidly. The funnel was only about one quarter of the way down, but a very apparent debris cloud persisted underneath. The funnel's pointed tip began to morph into a nub, as the tornado continued while we drove north, looking for a clear spot to pull over. Just as we found one, the funnel began to taper into a narrow, sharp edge. And just as I got us stopped and out of the car, it was over. It had timed itself perfectly from start to finish to avoid being recorded via tripoded video.

After the tornado ended, I realized we were about to get cut off by the storm to the north. Not wanting to blindly drive into RFD wrap and possible large hail, we abandoned the storm and drove back south through Conway Springs and all the way to US160. From there we headed back east towards Wellington, just repeating the path we'd taken earlier except backwards. There was another storm to our southwest, but between the haze and the storm's anvil rain we couldn't see anything. So, we just kept moving east, with the plan to eventually get out ahead of it, then stop and watch as it passed us to the west and north. We took US160 east across I-35 to Oxford, then turned south on an unmarked road headed towards Geuda Springs. We made several stops along this road in an attempt to view the storm's base and reported tornadoes, but were simply too far away to see through the haze. We continued through Geuda Springs, winding our way back to US77 north of Arkansas City. At this point, we decided to just head south into Oklahoma, and try to find the last storm in this area of clustered supercells.

We took US77 all the way across the OK border to Newkirk, where we sat south of town watching what tried to be a rotating storm for a while. Eventually it was absorbed into the now-linear mess that was beginning to take over. While we were there, we saw several chasers screaming past us heading south, no doubt trying to get on the twin supercells in east-central Oklahoma that were quickly becoming the story of the day. We could see the storms from our position, and could tell they were obviously amazing, but I couldn't justify leaving a storm that was right in front of us and still had potential to run after a storm ninety minutes away. We stayed put, our storm did nothing, and eventually we headed south down to Ponca City.

As we did, a new storm developed near Tonkawa, so we headed east on US60 to intercept. We stopped about halfway between Ponca City and Tonkawa to watch this new storm. It looked rather anemic, but was the very last storm in the clustered bunch that was more or less lining out as time went on. We sat and watched it form a few wall clouds that didn't rotate, and eventually gave up once outflow winds hit our faces. We drove west to I-35, then headed south to Guthrie, where we stayed for the night. As good as this chase started, once the brief tornado ended, it was all downhill the rest of the day. As it turned out, this would be our last success of the weekend.