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April 7th, 2013 - Great Bend, KS Supercell

The SPC's storm outlook for this day: [click here]

Didn't really intend on chasing this day until Chris called me at around 10:30am telling me he was heading to York and would drop south from there to chase south-central Kansas. He proposed meeting up there, and I said I would be game if I could get someone else to ride with us. He called Tyler Burg in Lincoln, and I called Eric Anderson in Omaha. Both ended up saying they could chase, which seemed ideal, because that meant a pretty cheap chase splitting gas 4 ways. Unfortunately, I forgot that Chris had his girlfriend along and Tyler would be bringing his. That meant six people to one car, which clearly wasn't going to work lol. So, I ended up heading out of Omaha with Eric to pick up Tyler and his girlfriend in Lincoln. Picked them up and met up with Chris for a quick lunch at Subway in York, where Tyler and Liz transferred to Chris' car and we all headed south.

Things looked pretty lame for quite a while. Our target of south-central Kansas soon shifted to southwest Kansas, as cloudcover plagued our original target. Instead of going south through Wichita, we got off interstate and headed southwest towards Hutchinson, where we met up with Mike Hollingshead on a dirt road. Checked radar, tops, threw some rocks, and talked about how annoyingly cold it felt. Didn't really feel like a chase day with constant cold mist lol.

From there we headed west, where some small ongoing storms were trying to strengthen. Nothing real promising yet, just some blips with 15k ft tops. Pulled off at the intersection of highway 50 and 281 (Hollingshead flew on ahead) after seeing fellow chaser Brett Nickeson pulled over. Checked radar again and finally saw a couple little blips trying to become dominant with 30k ft tops north of Great Bend, KS. Headed north on 281 and filled up with gas on the south side of Great Bend. Brett blasted on ahead to sample the core and was never seen again (joking, we just didn't happen to run into him again lol). By the time we were heading west from Great Brend on highway 96, things were really starting to look good. A nice solid defined southwestern edge on the storm kept our hopes up. Think it finally gained a warning just as we got on it. As this storm began to become dominant, all the other small storms gradually died off.

With the sun due west of us and our storm to the west-northwest, it was tough to tell what the structure of the storm was like (low contrast). We got off the highway and headed north on dirt in order to put the storm to our west-southwest, giving the storm better contrast.

Had to stitch six images together to make this image (didn't have my wide angle on me) but it gives you an idea of the structure. Basically a weak sort of liberty bell shape. Actually far better structure than I expected! It appeared to be at a weak point in terms of surface inflow, but it showed signs of strengthening. I think what I was most excited about, honestly, was finally being on a storm with clear air to the west and south of it.

Sort of a cool scene off to the east of the storm. That's why I love any storm in clean air, you're always presented with unique lighting situations. In this case, part of the updraft was casting shadows into its hail shaft to the east.

Decided to push our luck and head just a bit further north, closer to the core. We wanted a clearer view of the updraft base, and the only way to do that is to drive closer (so there's less atmospheric haze/moisture obscuring your view). Once we were under it, it was apparent that inflow wasn't going to be a problem. Tons of inflow fingers started forming right above our heads as the storm sucked in the warm air around it. The area just to the right was also trying to wrap up and produce a funnel.

Jogged south back to the highway and east a bit to get out of the range of the quarter- to golfball-sized hail. As we pulled off on dirt to shoot again, this area really began to wrap up, trying to produce a tornado. It never did, but it's the closest I've seen a storm with this amount of left-to-right motion come without doing so. Made a gif animation showing the amount of motion present. Sort of hard to believe that didn't put down a tornado lol. Would have had a sweet tripoded video of Eric, Chris, and Tyler all shooting a tornado too if it had put one down.

Got back onto the highway and ran into a slew of chasers. Had at least three vehicles pulled off to the shoulder at the intersection of every dirt road, both north and south of the highway. It was obvious that this storm was the only show in town lol.One of the first "real" chase days of the year, so I suppose bad "chaser convergence" was to be expected. Up to this point though, it felt like we had the storm to ourselves.

We got ahead of the storm as we headed back east toward Great Bend. Once we turned south off the highway and I had this out my passenger side window, I about crapped lol. Had no idea the structure had actually become moderately interesting while we were under it. And still clear skies to its south!

As this storm became elongated, the structure to the east became increasingly interesting. Nice lower and mid-level inflow bands apparent, with the updraft tipping to the right.

Structure on the west end of the storm remained pretty consistent for the rest of the evening. Basically a big shelf that ended in clear air. With that light though, who could complain?

Shot some zoomed in stills of the updraft through the sunroof as we drove back through Great Bend. The textures in it were just incredible.

We drop south of town. Looking to the west, the view of the storm was just about the same as it had always been. Big trailing shelf, but in some great light! Nothing like shooting the sun right next to a storm in clear air.

Pulled over one last time to shoot. Just a bunch of noobs and a storm.

And lastly, the scene of the day, an all-encompassing pano. Think this was stitched from 12 images. Computer about died doing so, but it got most of it right. Couldn't ask for a more picturesque ending to this storm! [click image for higher res]

Ended the day eating at Sonic in Lyons and chatting with a couple other chasers. No tornadoes, but a nice way to start off the season! And quite possibly the first decent storm I've seen in Kansas. Hopefully the rest of the 2013 season will wake up and produce more photogenic supercells!

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