Epic Clear Sky Bust in Southwest Kansas
Posted on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 5:00 PM MST
ASHLAND, KS -- A week after getting what will likely be my photo of the year as beautiful tornadoes touched down near Harper, KS, I was back in the Sunflower State and got to experience the complete opposite end of the spectrum in one of the most spectacular busts I've ever had.
The SPC had a Moderate Risk up for southeast Nebraska, extending down into central Kansas, with storms set to erupt on a dryline that was coming into Kansas and northwest Oklahoma. After I punched out from underneath a low cloud layer over west-central Oklahoma, there was nothing but blue skies. I didn't think much of it, figuring it was still early and the dryline was still way west of where I was.
As I rolled through Woodward, Oklahoma, there was still not a cloud in the sky. I still wasn't terribly concerned, and kept heading north. As I crossed the state line from Oklahoma into Kansas, I could see cumulus clouds starting to form on the dryline. A quick check of the radar showed there were no storms yet, I kept pushing north into Kansas.
As I pushed deeper into Kansas, I noticed that the cumulus clouds were not going up. They were instead just staying as fair-weather clouds. I drove around waiting for a while, and finally saw a target start to go up to my northwest. I started heading for it.
Further complicating the matter is that there is absolutely zero cell phone service in that part of Kansas, so I had no way of getting radar updates and statements about the storm. I had to go solely on what I saw visually, which is a lot harder than you'd think.
After chasing around for the better part of an hour trying to get a read on the storm, it fell apart. I pulled over and scanned the skies for any other possible development. There were some fair weather cumulus along the dryline to the north, and nothing but blue skies to the south. There was nothing I could do. The cap had held strong and won. I turned around and headed back towards Oklahoma to get back in cell phone range to get a last radar update, and I needed fuel too. Once back in cell phone range, the radar showed all the storms were up in Nebraska.
I spent the rest of the afternoon shooting Red Carpet Country of northwest Oklahoma for my Explore Oklahoma Series and took in a spectacular sunset at Glass Mountains State Park near Fairview. Even though the chase was a bust, I still got some great shots, so it was still a success.
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