YORK, Nebraska — Contrary to what you may have seen on TV, tornadoes don’t drop out of the sky left and right in a timely manner when storm chasers are around. Finding supercells and locating to observe and track them effectively can be challenging even in the most ballistic severe weather pattern, let alone one that is far less so. The next few days present such a pattern for the first of two Virginia Tech storm chase teams. Pieces of puzzle are coming together, particularly over the weekend, for severe weather potential in the northern Plains states (think Nebraska and the Dakotas). But none of those pieces is shaped perfectly to fit with the others. Gulf moisture is returning northward, recovering after the big upper-low that drenched much of Virginia helped sweep it away from the central U.S., but it is returning in a much weaker manner than is common in mid May. Upper-level winds are starting to pick up as a trough, or dip in the jet stream, begins to dig southward and eastward, but those winds are gradually weakening as the trough moves eastward. And while there is plenty of warmth at the surface to bubble moisture upward, it will be capped by similarly warm air aloft in many places, preventing the warm air from rising into cold air high in the sky for tall cumulonimbus clouds to build into storms. But these imperfect pieces are starting to align, and are likely to yield some level of severe weather, particularly Friday and Saturday. Exactly where and when is something our student chasers must unravel. And while the overall pattern is unlikely to yield a widespread severe weather outbreak, at least as we see it now, there will be probably be localized areas of enhanced spin that could produce a few, maybe just 1 or 2, rotating storms known as supercells, and perhaps a few tornadoes. Finding those is what we’re out here to do .
We’re in York, Nebraska, after a 2-day drive from Blacksburg. Some storms are possible on Thursday, in Nebraska or one of its bordering states, but any activity will likely be scattered and probably not severe or only marginally so.
Looks like some nice weather has settled into Southwest Virginia for a few days after Monday’s floods.