Severe Storms in Northwest Kansas

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Storm Chase Details

Chase Date: May 11, 2011
Chase Partners:
Solo

Chasers Encountered:
None

Miles Logged: 1017
States Chased: KS, MO
Severe Risks: SPC Outlooks

Chase Recap:

After leaving North Platte the previous afternoon and driving to Salina, KS, we woke up with high hopes for Wednesday. A moderate risk had been issued the previous day, but had been dropped in the 13Z outlook due to all of the ongoing thunderstorms in the morning.

While Kansas managed to clear out and get sun, Oklahoma never did and the moisture transport to Kansas was cut off, and the day was ultimately a bust.

We left the hotel and went after the morning crapvection as Jari wanted to try and get some lightning photos. Not being in my truck, I wanted to keep things on pavement but Jari insisted we get closer, so I went down a dirt road which would give us an escape route about 2-3 miles down the road and let us get right back on the freeway.

Just before the storm reached us, I told Jari lets get going. He didn’t understand the urgency, and it took a minute to get his tripod and gear back in the car.

I took off, but didn’t beat the rain off the dirt road, becoming stuck about a mile from the exit and only 30-45 seconds after rain started falling. A number of attempts to move resulted in the same – Stuck. Our wheel wells were full of mud. At least the sun came out, but we still needed to find a way off this road and back onto pavement.

Things dried up pretty fast, and we manually removed mud with sticks and our hands. Eventually we were able to get most of the way up the hill before not being able to make any more progress, and I had about given up. Randy Denzer and Verne Carlson were on their way to help us out, but being in a 2 wheel drive car, Randy didn’t want to chance getting stuck himself.

We called a wrecker, but then decided to give one last try. I was able to drive up the hill with the help of jari pushing. I got to the top of the hill and had jari jump in, and we drove carefully over the next 3 hills to safety. Randy Denzer, Verne Carlson, Jeremy Degenhart and others were waiting at the end, and snapped some less than flattering pictures of us as we got to the end. Thanks guys! 🙂

We had to go to Ellsworth and spend approximately $20 in quarters to wash all the mud off the car and out of the tires. Scott Bennett showed up while we were cleaning the car off.

Jari and I both changed after we got done cleaning the car off, then hit the road west. Storms started firing in Eastern Colorado and went tornado warned, but we were still 150 miles away and closing within 2 hours. We ended up getting as far as Goodland before giving up and getting some Taco Johns.

After Taco Johns, we went to chase the storms north and northeast of Goodland. We spent the next few hours chasing very cold supercells again (Temps in the 40s and 50s) before giving up for the night. Jari stood and shot lightning for a good 90 minutes afterwards while I talked to Bill Oosterbaan and Bob Hartig.

We hit the road finally around 10 pm and got some McDonalds before continuing east on US 36. The plan was to try and head to Hays or Salina and stay the night, and return to Norman the next morning.

This wouldn’t be, as we passed a car, wrecker and cop on the side of the road. It looked like Jesse Risley’s car, so I gave him a call. It was Jesse, and their car had broken down, so we flipped around and picked up Jesse, Jeremy and their third passenger whos name I have since forgotten (sorry!)

We took Jeremy to a hotel in Phillipsburg, KS where he could stay with his car, and took Jesse to St. Joseph, MO. PROTIP: Fill up with gas in Phillipsburg, KS as there is no other gas station until Washington that is open at night, and then it was just the pump was on and we were able to use a credit card to pay for gas. We came really close to running out of fuel.

We got to St. Joe around 430 in the morning and checked into the Motel 6.