April 24 Kansas Chase BUST

by John Farley

Not much to say about this day, except congratulations to everyone who was able to get on the Nickerson, KS storm and catch the tornadoes! For me, it was pretty much a bust day. It looked like a promising day, with good directional shear forecast, a warm front and dryline in northern and western Kansas respectively to focus the storms, and divergent winds aloft. As it turned out, there was less directional shear than forecast, and way too many storms in eastern and northern Kansas for any one to become dominant. Toward sunset, a new line of storms formed in central Kansas along the dryline, and at the tail end of that line near Nikerson, KS, a supercell formed and produced numerous weak but photogenic tornadoes.

I got suckered way too far northeast following the first group of storms from south of Manhattan up to Holton, KS and beyond. I was hoping some magic might occur when these storms approached the warm front, but it was not to be. Moreover, I got overrun by the storm I was attempting to chase on route 99 north of I-70, and was caught in blinding rain and gusty wind (40-50 mph, I'd guess) for 10 or 15 white-knuckle minutes (no hail though). I then meandered around looking at various storms in the area around Blaine before futilely blasting east to try to catch the storm that produced marginally severe hail around Maple Hill and Holton. Had I left these storms earlier rather than following them so long, I might have been able to get back west in time to catch the Nickerson storm. As it was, I was drooling at it from about 100 miles away, west of Topeka, knowing I had zero chance of catching it before dark. The tail-end storm in the line to my west and southwest had a rock-hard updraft tower that had supercell written all over it, and when I stopped to check radar using the wifi at the rest area west of Topeka (at which point I still hoped I might be able to catch the new line), the tail-end storm also had the classic flying-eagle radar presentation indicative of a strong mesocyclone. But even the closest part of the line was at least 70 miles away to my west, and the tail-end storm much more than that, off to my southwest - and I had well under an hour of daylight left. So, it was time to admit defeat and find a room in Topeka to plan the next day's chase. Also, it didn't help that I was slowed by detours in both Holton and Topeka, the latter of which I could have easily avoided with better road choices. A truly humbling day! I didn't even get any pictures worth posting.

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