3/24/97 Kansas chase by John Moser


Monday, March 24, 1997 At 3:00 PM CST, the national weather service issued a tornado watch for eastern Kansas and western Missouri. I anticipated this watch due to the ingredients of a major severe weather event unfolding throughout the day. A surface low was moving into eastern Colorado, strong winds out of the southeast were pumping gulf moisture into the eastern midwest, shear was prominent , CAPE values were over 2000, the instability index was -7 and a cold front was approaching. With all this I decided to leave work early and begin my first chase of 1997. My chase began on I-29 in Missouri, I headed south to I-35 (the great wall of chasing) to a position just 50 miles south of Topeka on route 169. One problem was the road was under repair and I could not travel very fast, My hope was to catch any tail end Charlie's that might form on what I had anticipated would be a nasty squall line. By 5:30 things were still fairly quiet, then the cap snapped and all hell broke loose, towers starting going up and I was in my glory! I traveled back north to catch a rotating meso that was just north of Eudora, Kansas,(6 miles from my position). Then spotter reports verified that this cell was moving on a more easterly course so I planned to intercept just south of Kansas City, (keep in mind it is rush hour!) I traveled on I-435 at a snails pace due to the traffic and at 7:05, spotted a wall cloud near Liberty Missouri. This wall cloud that I observed appeared to propagate backward in relation to the storm direction. The propagation was quite noticeable, it literally looked like the storm was being pulled in 2 directions!20 However, the main thrust of this chase was avoiding the hail shafts. Hail from golf ball to 2inch diameter was just to my west and south, I opted for a drive-thru bank as protection for my chase vehicle, turned out to be a wise maneuver. Eastern Kansas City was pounded by hail from these cells. This was a great way for me to start the chase season, although I chased alone on this occasion (my wife provided radar updates via my cell phone though!) and do not recommend such practice, it was exhilarating to see the towers that I had longed missed through the dismal winter. The thrill of the chase has set in........and not just a thrill for tornadoes. I was content to see the hail, mammatus and the wall cloud. In addition, the most dangerous part of the chase was the farm machinery I got stuck behind in eastern Kansas, a caravan of tractors pulling trailers topped with hay, visibility was ZERO!! Gosh I am so glad the sounds of Spring are here....."SKYWARN, we have 2 inch diameter hail, rotating wall cloud, all hell is breaking loose.....". Regards John


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