Distance driven today: 737kms | Total so far: 9404kms
Today seemed ultimately disappointing, but only because we knew what we were missing further south.
The plan was to cruise slowly S from Salina towards Wichita. Based on the official forecast, we were already pretty close to the hot spot. The Discovery Channel crew (producers of TV series, Storm Chasers) were still milling about around the TIV outside, so we mustered the courage to have a chat and scab some photos and video of the battered beast.
The Discovery team were friendly and welcoming, very happy for us to investigate, so kudos to them! Their own meteorologist was guiding them S to Wichita also, so we heeded their advice.
About fifty kms down the road, we were thrown the decoy that screwed the rest of our day. A line appeared on radar back to the W of Salina (where we'd just come from). Of course, like moths to the flame, we turned around and headed for it. There looked to be a weak guster attempting to form on the base of the now receding storm.
More weak activity was forming in a line behind the lead cell as it drifted NNE.
Storms were also intensifying to our S with mammatus visible.
We were in a gap between to the two lines of storms, but the S end was heading for us so we headed NE to stay ahead.
The N system had moved off and it was now a game of staying ahead of the S system and hope that it developed into something exciting. A little guster looked to be forming! We kept ahead and watched it grow:
Some flooding around Tipton from recent storms was not a good sign. We saw this quite extensively around this area.
Our storm was honking along as we struggled to stop for photos and stay ahead of it. Hopes, however, were fading as lightning was virtually non-existant.
The damn thing managed to keep itself just strong enough to keep stringing me along. This was definitely not an all or nothing storm.
Since arriving in the States we've seen lots of abandoned houses. According to the Lonely Planet guidebook, many of the people who initially settled the Great Plains faced great hardship and isolation, which literally drove them crazy. Others up and left, resulting in the many failed homesteads. Consequently, only the fiercely independent people could thrive here and that born-and-bred rugged individualism is apparently still alive in the Plains today.
One particular house around Beloit really attracted our attention:
I thought we'd outrun our storm but it was making ground on us. We'd decided at this point to abandon it and try our luck on the great stuff that had been firing, and continued to do so, a couple of hours S. Unfortunately, it didn't look like our local storm was going to improve (until we left it, of course).
... and eventually got a to a point where we couldn't resist stopping around Newton.
Our southerly storm, with accompanying lightning, was now visible, particularly the upper levels being blown far N:
But typically, and not entirely unsurprisingly, it released its final lightning strike fifteen minutes before we got into position. There was little left but some smeared cirrus and stars.
Applebee's was a sign we'd seen a lot, so there was nothing left to do but order a surprisingly fabulous "Bourbon Street" steak (complete with vegetables - gasp!) and delicious mojitos! Together with the delicious decor, the night wasn't completely wasted.