Storm Chase Log 14 April 2001
Chaser: Dorian J. Burnette
Preliminary Destination: southwest of Wichita, KS
Oh...how I wanted to go down to Medicine Lodge after leaving the morning shift at WeatherData! However, I cannot be chasing all of the time (I do try to "have a life" and ignore storms at times). This day I decided to work on my master's thesis and not chase. Naturally a tornadic supercell would come find me.
The story goes that a large tornado developed around Pratt and moved eastward parallel to U.S. 54 highway. This cyclic supercell continued to produce one tornado after another as it moved through Kingman County. There was not any sign of this storm deviating from its track eastward into Sedgwick County. With that being the case, and knowing that I would not get any work done with a tornadic supercell passing overhead, I decided to head out southwest of Wichita to watch it come in.
I met up with the back end of the storm at 103rd Street South and Ridge Road. There was a wall cloud, but upon my arrival it quickly disintegrated as rear flank downdraft wrapped in and cut-off the inflow. From here on out the storm was totally outflow dominant. There was also a considerable amount of cloud-to-ground lightning. Needless to say, I stayed in the car 100% of time. Given that the rotation was weakening, it was not too surprising that the storm increased in forward speed. I was already prepared for this, and was quite a ways out ahead of the storm. I did observe some obvious "yahoos" out in the field driving right up to the edge of the outflow. I bet they received a rude awakening with the increase in storm motion! I stayed out ahead of the storm, moving south on U.S. 81 (the storm was taking a right turn and moving toward me), and continued to see off and on scud clouds and lots of cloud-to-ground lightning. U.S. 81 turns to the west for a short distance just west of Belle Plain, and I decided to stay on it for a brief time until I realized that the storm would catch me before the highway would turn back south again. Thus, I turned back around and moved quickly east into the town of Belle Plain. By this time, it was becoming dark and hard to see cloud features. I decided that it was time to let the storm pass over me. I did not see any cloud formations that gave me very much cause for alarm, nor did I hear any significant reports of nastiness. So I took some minor shelter near a gas station and allowed the storm to pass over me. I observed some 60 to 65 mph winds and some wind-driven rain, but nothing further.
A very interesting storm situation. Wichita got lucky. Per field observations and analysis of radar imagery, the storm reorganized and turned right in southern Sedgwick and northern Sumner Counties, only to become tornadic again in Cowley County. The good thing was that all the tornadoes stayed in open country, so the amount of damage was minimal.