JUN 28: Thu – Day 1 - Travel Day:
Severe Storms were occurring in Montana and the western Dakotas as we departed from home at 6:00 PM EDT. This would be the pattern for at least the next few days, so every hour counted if we were to be in position for any storms that formed later on Saturday. The thermometer read 92 degrees and the odometer read 172,465 as we pulled out of the driveway. The night was spent in Elyria, Ohio after driving the first 380 miles.
JUN 29: Fri – Day 2 - Travel Day:
Severe Storms were again forecast for our target region in western NE northward to eastern MT, but again there would be no chance of getting that far west before dark. However, this same region looked good for the next several days, so the plan was to continue as far west as possible so that storm interception could be possible later on Saturday. We drove 862 miles west to Seward, NE which was in the news just three weeks prior when a tornado touched down a little east of town. Tempest Tours captured their best video to date as this tornado churned up the countryside just to the north of their location, near Seward.
JUN 30: Sat – Day 3 - Chase Day Western NE PH:
We decided to stick
with our target area somewhere in the west/central NE Panhandle region. There
was a cold front approaching from the north, and we could already see distant
storm development well off too our north along the north-central NE/SD border.
These would likely become severe as they moved into more unstable air, but we
were interested in intercepting the more isolated severe storms that were likely
to initiate to our west. These should prove to be more photogenic. As we were
approaching Alliance via Highway 2 we were able to view an impressive Cb off to
our southwest. This cell was located near CYS and exhibited a beautiful
circular anvil and a very pronounced dome for
a short time. By the time we arrived in AIA the updraft had lost it’s punch and
the whole thing looked rather weak. We hung out around the AIA water tower for
over an hour keeping an eye on the weak updrafts that continued to form on the
"north" side of this storm as well as some bubbling Cu to our north and NW.
I looked in my mirrors and noticed that this
thing was really starting to explode! Bill and I both kicked ourselves a few
times for not hanging around back where we just came from, then turned around
and blasted back after this beauty. We were treated to gorgeous updraft towers
along the way, and these continued to change colors as the sun began to set.
We knew there was no chance of ever getting in front of this beast and finally
gave up the chase about 10 miles east of Chadron, NE along Highway 20.
JUL 1: Sun - Day 4 Chase Day – Nebraska to NE Colorado:
digested data in Chadron Sunday morning it became more and more apparent that we
had to head south. Temps and dp's were hovering around 58 degrees, and I had
the feeling the overcast and drizzle would hang around well into the afternoon.
Conditions were no better to our north, and there was still on-going convection
from the night before not too far to our east. But just to our south good
insolation was occurring and winds were screaming out of the ESE.
At Broadwater we turned north on a gravel road where we had a good look at a nice dark circular base and vault region just to the east of the base. There were also some nice bulbous gray mammatus and CC's to our east. The storm was coming south right at us so we moved a bit south for another photo stop which was cut short as a hail core was rapidly approaching. We were lucky to make it back to Broadwater before the really big stones caught up to us, but we did get pelted with a few 1"+ hailstones.
JUL 2: Mon – Day 5 - Nebraska Panhandle Sunset:
My target for today
was somewhere north of AIA in the Nebraska Panhandle, just north of the boundary
that was progged to be in position more or less along NE Highway 2 by early
afternoon. On my way to this area from CO, I encountered the first convective
towers just west and south of Sydney. I toyed with the idea of seeing what
would develop with these, but didn't want to "waste" any time on what I thought
may only yield multi-cell severe...not if there was a chance of Supercells
further north anyway!
An hour later I almost caught up with the closest storm, but unfortunately it was now quite dead. Another tower located to its NW was trying to punch through some old anvil debris, but looked rather mushy. I decided to head back west to AIA so I would be in better position for where I would like to be on Tuesday (NE WY/SE MT). I was able to film some struggling, but very pretty towers at sunset back to my east, and the setting sun was now colorizing that annoying cirrus canopy, so the day was not a TOTAL waste.
JUL 3: Tue – Day 6 - Toadstools & Ardmore, SD:
We hung out around the west central Nebraska Panhandle until early afternoon watching the skies and the data to point us in the right direction. Severe storms, possibly Supercells, were likely to initiate anywhere within a 150 mile radius of that location. Once the ugly system that brought clouds and weak convection across most of SD and central NE moved off to the southeast, the NE PH region warmed nicely and dp's remained in the low 60's, but dropped off to the low to mid 50's around 3:00 PM MDT. NWS reports indicated much higher dewpoints to our north, no doubt due to moisture pooling. North we went!
We approached the base of this developing storm on Rt 471 just to the north of the "town" of Ardmore, which consisted of six deteriorating and abandoned homes…hey-where did everybody go! We watched the base try to develop directly to our west for about 30 minutes. A weak two-tier shelf cloud formed on the SE part of the storm, as well as a few inflow fingers. The base was high and rather ragged, and the yellow sky below the base was interspersed with several dark rain shafts and an a few infrequent CG's.
We then moved a few miles east on Rt 2/71 and set up our cameras again at a high point in the Oglala Natl. Grasslands. Here the storm put on a nice show, but never got severe…highest wind gust recorded was only 38 MPH. However, the storm was becoming stronger and we had a blast filming colorful rain curtains/CG's to our north, a mammatus field, and clear blue skies and the rolling green grasslands to our south, AND a beautiful rainbow to our NE and SE! The best display of lightning came a few miles further to our east, here I was able to capture on video a large beautiful double CG strike against a red-orange rain shaft that filled the entire sky immediately to our NW. That show was soon over, but we were then treated to an almost continuous light show on our way to Chadron, NE. We later filmed a large updraft tower being lit up internally by CC's as well as an occasional, but somewhat distant CG strikes from mid cloud to ground.
JUL 4: Wed – Day 7 - Lusk, WY to Scottsbluff, NE Chase:
always nice to wake up dead center in the middle of SPC's slight risk area, but
I still felt compelled to move west and north from CDR. Northeast WY looked
primed for initiation, so we headed west to Lusk, WY and then north on Highway
85. An early afternoon data stop near Lusk still indicated storms would
initiate off the Bighorn Mountains and could quickly become Supercells. All the
data and discussions told me to keep going north, but the sky was telling me to
turn around and go back...there was a very distinctive line of Cu and TCu
forming nearly overhead that stretched out to the horizon in a narrow corridor
back to my ESE. Hmmm...maybe I better check a 1km SAT and radar image. There
it was, an isolated cell right where it should be in SW Campbell County and
moving SE into strong SE winds and mid 60 degree dp's. I had to check this one
out, but I kept looking over my shoulder at that agitated Cu field that was
looking better with each glance.
JUL 5: Thu – Day 8 - Montana Micro Bursts, Bad Roads, & No Rooms:
I wanted to get back to Montana at least once during this trip, so I guess I got my wish today. Along the way we experienced incredible temperatures (verified on two instruments). Temps between Broadus and Miles City ranged between 99 and 103 with dp's in the mid 60's!!! We arrived in Miles City about 4:30 pm MDT and a quick look at the radar indicated cells were beginning to initiate to my west and north. Also, SPC had just put out an MD for that same area. The bad news was that Supercells no longer appeared likely, at least until sometime after dark. The main threat now appeared to be high-based storms that would yield micro bursts at best. I decided to continue NW on RT 59 and try to intercept the lead storm that was tracking northeast and just entering northern Rosebud county. As we approached Angela we could see dark rain curtains and CG's about 20 miles to our WNW. We drove another few miles and stopped at a pull-off at a high point along RT 59 just 1/2 mile north of Rock Springs.
We were filming lightning at
this location when Nancy yelled out "look what's coming"! We had earlier seen
some distant dust plumes, but now a large white one was racing like crazy right
at us…I filmed a bit and yelled "jump in the truck"! Tumbleweeds, dust, grass,
etc. blasted us from the west as my anemometer soon recorded a peak wind gust of
58 MPH (which I reported to GGW).
JUL 6: Fri – Day 9 - Nebraska’s Long Lasting Rainbow:
Since SC and CA were out of reach today when I woke up in Gillette, WY (each had tornadoes) I targeted the area between Douglas, WY and BFF. A data stop in Douglas just before 3:00 PM MDT indicated SPC had just issued an MD for most of the eastern Plains of WY and parts of the western NE PH. A Severe Watch Box was issued at 3:00 PM for all of eastern WY extending into the extreme SE NE PH. Dewpoints were a bit lower than yesterday, but still hovered near 60 degrees. Radar showed the best cells were already located in southern Albany and Platte County and were moving ENE with very little activity going on to our north. It was fairly easy to intercept the lead cell just east of I-25 on Highway 26 near Guernsey. That storm was really struggling to gain strength, but since there was nothing else happening I committed to follow this storm to the east...all the way to NE. This storm was never going to become severe, but it did put on an occasional burst of CG activity. The best occurred just south of Morrill around 6:00 PM. The storm underwent sudden death about 20 minutes later and we took off after another non-severe storm to our north.
We finished up the day just north of Mitchell filming the longest lasting rainbow I have ever witnessed. This thing was persistent for over 40 minutes and went thru the various stages as a double rainbow, full arch, and an intensely bright iridescence stage looming above the sunlit Sand Hills with a dark sky beyond.
Today really looked primed for severe storms early on, so I'm not certain what went wrong...timing of the vort max, shallow moisture, weak low level support, I'm just not sure. Not much excitement from a storm chaser's perspective, but as an avid weather photographer, I was well satisfied! Only 289 miles logged.
JUL 7: Sat – Day 10 - Western Nebraska Panhandle (Again):
up my 2nd 2001 chase trip to the Plains Saturday in Alliance, NE which
coincidently is where I started it last Saturday. The western PH and a good
part of the eastern Plains of WY once again had a slight risk of severe with
initiation to occur over the Laramie and Bighorn mountains and subsequently
moving ENE onto the high Plains. I was already in a great position since we
woke up in BFF.
By late afternoon radar showed storms were beginning to move NE off the Laramie Range, so we headed a bit north on Highway 71. We watched an area of bubbling Cu and turkey towers almost directly overhead about 15 miles north of BFF. In fact, it was the same elevated area from which I had filmed that lightning show 14 hours earlier.
As expected, a SEV watch box was issued around 5:00 PM and once again we found ourselves just about in the middle of it. The strongest storm (confirmed on radar) started moving into the area just to our northeast…an easy intercept on Highway 71. We had fun filming CG's off to our NW over a broad green valley and an intense wet microburst framed by a deep blue sky just off to our east.
However, the best show occurred just to the south of the Agate Fossil Beds Natl Mon when a second storm had formed just to our east and developed a tight cylindrical updraft tower on the SW part of the storm. This tower had a "hard" look to it and exhibited a round and compact base. Scud tags began to rapidly attach to the base and a small wall cloud took shape, but we where moving into position at this point so I can't confirm any rotation. A couple of minutes later the whole thing died, but new storms where forming everywhere as sunset approached. Further to our east we were treated to a wet-microburst descending from the base of a developing storm. Another nighttime MCS was definitely in the making.
The showed continued all
JUL 8: Sun – Day 11 - Departure Day:
We departed Alliance around 9:00 AM MDT and headed east for the longest one day haul of our trip…961 miles! Around midnight we were just approaching our motel in Danville, IL when we noticed some nice CG activity just off to our south. I couldn’t resist and just had to try for a few more lightning captures. We drove about 12 miles south off the interstate to a nice dark area, but were only able to make a few captures…things died down rather quickly once we were set up.
JUL 9: Mon – Day 12 - Arrive Home:
Just another long boring ride home from Illinois. The last 683 miles were non-eventful and seemed to drag on forever. I was able to handle some business calls along the way, so the transition back to reality had already begun.
Total Miles Logged for Trip Two: 6499
Total Miles Logged for Trip One: 9082
Total Chase Trip Miles for 2001: 15,581
Average Miles per Day Trip Two: 541
Total Days on Road Trip One & Two: 31
Total Days in Chase Mode Trip One & Two: 18
Total Days Severe Storms Intercepted
For Trip One & Two: 15
Weather Set-up during Trip Two
The tail end of the same frontal boundary (a quasi-stationary front) provided a focusing mechanism for storm initiation each day of Trip Two. Also, the surface flow remained easterly with a NW flow aloft each day. A slight risk of severe occurred daily from the eastern Plains of WY into the Western Nebraska Panhandle and sometimes extended northward into SW SD or Eastern MT and as far south as NE CO.
Surface dewpoint temperatures generally
exceeded 60 degrees and daily high temperatures at or above 90 degrees were
common throughout the area. Most days saw a severe and/or tornado watch box
issued that was centered somewhere on the western NE Panhandle region.