Storm Chase: 16 April 2002

Chasers: Dorian J. Burnette, Joseph Crane, and Stephanie Whitcomb

Preliminary Destination: Salina, KS

We began the storm chase by heading west on U.S. 50 out of Emporia. The first objective was to go west until we reached sunshine. This did not take long, as the overcast skies broke up not too far west of Emporia. We began to keep an eye on the cumulus clouds around us from this point on. All of them around us at that time were flat cumulus with little vertical extent. This was not surprising given the dryline was still farther to the west.

As we continued eastward toward Florence, we began to notice a line of cumulus that were trying to tower well off to our west. I made a phone call to KSN and Rodney Price mentioned that the dryline was right around that location. He also mentioned that so far those clouds were having trouble. Given that area was where the best development was occurring, we decided to continue onward toward Salina by taking U.S. 77 north out of Florence.

Unfortunately, Joesph Crane had to go to work and bailed on the chase prior to the arrival in Salina. Stephanie and I continued on into Salina and made a stop there to look at the Internet. It was now slightly after 6 p.m. CDT, and our view of the development going on to the west had become hindered by some mid-level cloud cover. We knew the cap was going to be the big problem this day, and that it might take mid-level cooling during the evening to allow the storms to develop. This is why I will not abandon a storm chase due to cap strength until shortly after 7 p.m. While we were connecting to the Internet, a message came over the Spring PCS phone saying a severe thunderstorm watch had been issued. We downloaded a visible satellite image, and the cumulus clouds to the west were becoming better organized. After another 15 minutes of looking at data on the Internet, we decided to make a break for the storms that were developing off to the west of Salina.

We moved westward on I-70 out of Salina and got off on K-156 heading south-southwest toward Ellsworth following a growing storm. From our view, the storm was elevated behind the dryline with quite a bit of virga noted. The rain increased on us from time to time, but never became a downpour. By the time we arrived in Ellsworth, the lightning had increased dramatically and the storms were beginning to backbuild to the southwest along the cold front (behind the dryline). All of the storms remained elevated with large hail being the main severe thunderstorm report. The storms also had a heck of a lightning display, and that kept our attention as we moved southward on K-14 out of Ellsworth.

The line of storms was chasing us to the southeast, as we moved southward toward Lyons. Given that the storms were elevated, we were not overly concerned about tornadoes. It was dark by the time we rolled into Lyons, and we had to use lightning in order to see the cloud features. We kept an eye on the storms and enjoyed the lightning show as we moved southward on K-14 toward Hutchinson.

Once we arrived in Hutchinson, I made a phone call to WeatherData just to make certain that the storms were going to behave themselves as far as tornadoes go. Don Coash mentioned there was one storm in southwestern McPherson County that had some minor rotation with it, but nothing tornadic was noted. With that being the case, we decided to ahead onward toward home. The storm in McPherson County did produce some golfball hail (not surprising given the fact it had some minor rotation), but nothing else came from it.