Tornadoes in Chase Country

There has bee quite a bit of severe weather in the last week, but it hasn’t really been a story in the news. Strong storms did a good job of avoiding large population centers, and never really threatened to move somewhere moer ominous. Any weather outbreak looks as though it will have to come at another time, as the severe weather in the Plains is going to wear itself out.

Tornadoes are common this time of year, and in the High Plains, thanks to the changing of the season, and the topographic advantages of the region. The flat, generally low density population of the region makes it popular with storm chasers, both of the academic, researching variety, and the thrill seeking tourist kind. The availability of weather data to the public has meant that May in the Plains can be thick with chasers, especially when the weather is busy. Such was the case over the last week, when tornadic activity was seen over many days from the Texas Panhandle to southwestern Nebraska.

Many videos were taken and twisters spotted, all without much harm to life or property. Call it a pretty successful chase season for all involved (except those who justifiably are a bit miffed by the idea of disaster tourism, especially in their home area).

The region, as I said, is a topographically perfect partner for storm chasing. The pattern this week set itself up nicely, and was long lived enough to encourage chasers to make the trek. There weren’t big areas of low pressure that dived into the region to make for dangerous outbreaks, like we see in the southeast or Ohio Valley when outbreaks occur there.

The Omega block over the eastern US allowed for warm, moist air to pump north on the western flank of the ridge, priming the pump for strong storms. In this environment, the tightly spinning lee troughs developing in the leeward side of the Rocky Mountains were able to trigger thunderstorms that were often well organized enough to drop tornadoes, often big, nasty photogenic ones that could be filmed from a distance.

In this case, they didn’t find any population centers, which is what everyone wants. With any luck, important information was collected. At the very least, cool images were taken.

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