Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Dumas Day.....What a day!!

So I'm definitely a bit behind on blogging, but this day truly deserves its recognition. On Tuesday, May 18, our deployment lead us to Dumas, TX, just northwest of Amarillo, TX. This ended up being a very impressive supercell and came dangerously close to dropping a tornado over the town during rush hour.......not good at all. Luckily, only a funnel cloud was reported as it made it's monstrous treck across the middle of town, although others were reported east of town. Our deployment was relatively uneventful at first in that we didn't really have any challenges with terrain or power lines, but traffic was somewhat of an issue, given the time of day and the fact that it is a fairly major road. We did, however, struggle with the placement of our last probe as we had approached town. We aren't really able to deploy in areas like that as it presents the danger of flying debris damaging the probes, should a town be unfortunately struck. We also are not able to get the proper "exposure" to the instrument. What this means is that if there are, say, a lot of trees near a deployment, the wind speed and direction can be greatly affected by those obstacles and can skew the data actually recorded by the probe. The wind could be enhanced or hindered and thus we would not get a true sample of what actually happend within the storm as it crossed the array. This, among other things, is why we look for wide, open areas in which to stake our probes.

As for the storm, it had a very impressive structure as it crossed the array, with a large hook echo headed straight for Dumas. Large hail had already been reported from this storm at this point in time, not to mention the fact that it could have produced a tornado at any point in time as it approached Dumas. It was somewhat disturbing that during our deployment, the tornado sirens within Dumas were NOT sounding off, which worries me a bit. If the storm had dropped a tornado, it could have been even worse given the rush hour traffic and many people could have possibly been left without enough time to take adequate shelter. As we finally reached the south side of town, we found a good deployment location and dropped our last probe. Once we were finished, we basically sat there, watching and waiting to see what would happen. Luckily, no tornado was produced within town, but either way, the town was rocked with high winds and hail. As the supercell finally passed, we were able to make our way back to the north to our first probe. Thankfully, we saw no damage to anything within town, but we reached a point just north of the center of Dumas where marble sized hail covered the roadways. You could even see fog covering the fields as the hail was sublimating, or turning from a solid directly into a gas. Our first probe was unfortunately separated from us by a huge ditch full of icy hail-water......which is just as much fun as it sounds. One of my team members was able to capture a few candid shots of the pick seen above, so enjoy! The probe deployed closest to the north side of Dumas still had golfball sized hail stones and the nose cone on the propeller anemometer was broken off, not surprising given the hail. Some of the other StickNet teams were slightly more unfortunate as they encountered baseball sized hail. Let's just say that day lead to a pretty late night of fixing damaged connectors and replacing pieces of instrumentation on the probes. That's what baseball and tennis ball hail can do if caught outside.

Overall, this day was probably one of the most successful deployments so far for all of the VORTEX2 teams. Everyone was able to sample the storm from start to finish and collect very good and very valuable data. Our specific deployments were textbook and our team definitely could not have done a better job that day. It was a proud day for all researchers involved and hopefully we will be as successful in the future for the 2010 season.

Well, I guess that's all for now. After a full day of traveling, I'm kind tired ;) Until the next one....


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