Cyclone Road


Monday, June 19, 2006

I called XM at 12:19 PM (according to their own records) attempting to disconnect my subscription to the Responder package and successfully concluded the transaction about 75 minutes later.

I was transferred five times, told that the "cancellation department" was the only group who could terminate my account. But after each transfer, I was dumped back into the general customer service queue where after hold times of around ten minutes each I was told, yet again, that the "cancellation department" was what I needed. I talked with both American and Indian representatives, and I talked to one supervisor who gave me a 219 phone number and said I'd have to call myself. This turned out to be Barons where the cheerful young lady who answered shared my bewilderment. Of course she didn't have any access to my XM account. "This happens all the time," she said. "They're not very bright."

So I started over. Finally, I reached someone who seemed to know what he was talking about, but of course he also could not disconnect my service. He transferred me again, and at long last I talked to the "cancellation department."

Here's the important part of this post: 800-998-7900 is the direct line to the deeply secretive XM cancellation department. Hopefully posting it here will save others some time. I'll investigate any alternatives to XM for 2007.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

On Friday, Robert Hall and I drove all the way to Guymon Oklahoma via Childress, then returned to Denton on the "Northwest Passage" through Woodward and Oklahoma City in the same day. We spent about sixteen hours in the car and came away with very little for our efforts outside the fun of playing a tough forecast puzzle. I'm pretty sure we didn't solve the puzzle, or even if a solution existed, but that's the best I can say for the chase. We positioned ourselves to the northeast of the dryline arc (there was no real bulge as the GFS had optimistically depicted) along the northernmost tier of counties in the Texas Panhandle. The dryline showed up nicely on the AMA radar as a fine line convergence boundary and we found backed surface flow with some small moisture pooling. Once again, despite the advection of a thin layer of new, gulf moisture, our boundary layer dried rapidly during the afternoon through mixing. Even our little slice of moisture pooling in the Oklahoma panhandle went bust and the cells we chased were sloppy multicellular junk.

Today, Robert and I recruited Eric Nguyen to join the folly and we headed for Wichita Falls where we all hoped that even if the shear was weak and the surface conditions scattered, we could conjure a storm between the outflow boundaries from overnight convection, mongo CAPE values derived from projected 70F dewpoint pooling along and south of the Red River, and at least marginal deep layer shear between thirty-five and forty knots.

Of all the days in 2006 I expected Saturday would be best inoculated against the mixing plague because moisture return was so vigorous for thirty-six hours prior to the event. Last night, on our way home, Robert and I noticed elevated, puffy cumulus racing north on the strong low level jet. Southern plains chasers recognize this as a sign that the Gulf of Mexico is wide open, streaming moisture into the warm sector, and it is almost always an auspicious portent.

Except in 2006.

In 2006, our dewpoints dropped like the atmosphere was slipping off the Earth and into the vacuum of space. Sometime around 20z or 21z, Wichita Falls plummeted from 70F Td to down around 63F. I couldn't believe it. Then more stations dropped, even those in Central Texas along the original path of the New Moisture Express. Yes our 850 winds were veered and dry and of course extreme June heat in Texas facilitated vertical motions, but wow! Like Friday, we bolted north, this time taking refuge along an outflow boundary where moisture and easterly surface flow seemed to be preserved from the ominous scouring. Small cells fired in a line along the boundary but they were multicellular garbage of the highest order. We theorized that subsidence from an early jet streak was playing havoc with our lapse rates and that our cold air advection in the midlevels was lagging behind--a key ingredient for the day's success. Surface winds relaxed to five or ten knots.

We returned to Denton and enjoyed a big meal at Johnny Carino's. We went to the bookstore and after leaving there, noticed new storms to the west and southwest. I checked radar when I arrived home and watched the small, isolated storms develop some rotation on the backside, and was about to walk away from the computer when a tornado warning for Mineral Wells came at 8:10 PM. This was a big fat surprise and I bolted back into the truck to engage a storm closer to me in Wise County. I assumed that whatever conditions had induced a tornado down south couldn't be too dissimilar here (unless it was a specific outflow boundary) and so I played around in the wind and rain for another 90 minutes, wasting even more gas and entrenching 2006 in my memory as the biggest piece of shit chase season imaginable. I'm happy to say I hung with it and exchanged punches until the bitter fucking end, but now that it's over (and for me, it's so over...let me count the ways), I can't say I'm sorry.

Good riddance.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I've spent the ten days since my last post writing and reading and monitoring the medium range forecasts for a possible last few chase days. Teaching in a university is a sweet gig--I'll never argue otherwise--but if you don't spend the "free" time of summer writing and trying to publish, the gig won't last. I didn't request any teaching assignments this summer because I planned to finish a story or two and work on the novel-that-ate-my-thirties. I'm off to a fair start since I returned from chasing. Much of my reluctance to chase the setups lately comes from the good writing momentum I've accumulated as much from the forecasts themselves.

Several friends have found photogenic supercells in the high plains, including Montana and Wyoming. The last few days produced striated LPs and impressive shelf structure there and on the Colorado Front Range, too. The chase season continues for people still in the field, and while tornado chances are consistently weak because of shallow moisture and persistent mixing, storms in these modestly-sheared environments are striking.

The forecast for late next week shows consistent height falls over the northern plains. Yet we still lack the lee side troughing to advect a resupply of deep moisture. Worse, last night's EC suggests the ridge will rise again as the jet scurries back into the northern plains and southern Canada on days 8 and 9. After this morning's ensembles, I don't see a chase in the next ten days, after which climatology closes the curtain and turns on the house lights for chasers living in the southern plains. July and August setups are typically extremely conditional under a strong cap. They're great when they go, but if you don't live in the neighborhood you can't drive 1000 miles on those rare summer chances where shear and instability threaten the well-established inversion.

It looks like the end of my chasing this summer, then, barring some major change in the next several days. If I can finish more important projects, I'll produce a chase video over the winter since I have three years of unreleased footage and a little more experience with the editing process. As for this blog, I guess an update twice a month or so is reasonable, with the pace increasing closer to Fall and any potential October chasing.

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