2007 Chase Summaries

June 1, 2007  -  June 17, 2007

Brian A. Morganti

JUNE 1, 2007:  Fri - Day 29 (T3-6 Final) Supercell - Clovis, NM:

Today we were targeting an area somewhere in the far western Texas Panhandle for possible early afternoon storm initiation.  We stopped for a while to study data near Bovina (south of Friona) when a couple of cells to the northwest of Clovis caught our attention.  One of those cells was beginning to intensify so the decision was made to at least get closer to investigate.  As soon as we caught up to the base, the storm began moving SE and then nearly SSE.  We had good roads to the south that kept us just ahead of the precipitation core, but we were overtaken by the hail core every time we stopped to film the updraft region back to our north.  The storm was rapidly becoming more organized and the CG activity increased dramatically. 


Just north of Portales we observed rapid cloud base rotation nearly overhead.  We stopped to watch this for a minute or two before diving south through town in order to avoid the approaching hail core. 

As we were traveling east on highway 83 about 5 miles southeast of town we were slammed by strong winds from the north launching huge clouds of red dust across the road.  We were also being pummeled by nickel size hail and the gusty north winds made it hard to hold the van steady.  But what was that strange rumbling sound !?  Uh-oh...a flat tire!  We quickly pulled over and radioed to the rest of the group what had happened.  It was hard to hear over the pounding hail, but they came back to help us out...end of chase, sort of.  We had to ride out the strong winds, rain, and hail for about 15 minutes before we could tackle the problem, but at least any tornadic circulations had moved off to our east.  Brett removed the tire for repair and the lead van  took it back to town for repair or replacement.  The storm had weakened at this point, but gave us an impressive mammatus show for over an hour as it slid off to our east.  We were able to get the tire fixed and back on the van before dark and then booked rooms in Shamrock, TX for the night.  400m


JUNE 2, 2007:  Sat - Day 30 - Preparation Day:

No chasing today since we needed to bring the T3 guests back to OKC, return the rental vans, and prepare for the T4 guests arrival tomorrow.  A slight risk was in place for the TX PH, and of course---a tornado formed near where we chased yesterday.  Oh well, nothing we could do about it.  OKC 175m. 

JUNE 3, 2007:  Sun - Day 31 - (T4-Orientation):  Marginally Severe Storms - Hereford - Plainview, TX:

We weren't able to chase the moderate risk in SW TX, so we opted to at least try to get on a few strong storms in the west central TX PH.  After replacing the old tires on our van and giving the T4 guests their orientation, we packed up and headed towards AMA.  By the time we reached Shamrock a severe watch box was issued for a good part of the NE TX PH region.  Severe storms formed in the NE TX PH and NE NM, and the ones in NM appeared to be the best ones to target.  We were able to intercept the leading edge of a broken line of storms just west of Hereford, TX along FM 1068.  The shelf cloud structure was briefly interesting, and the lightning activity increased as the storm moved closer.  We then headed south and east towards Dimmitt and experienced hail to dime size while cutting through the storms northeast quadrant.  We finished up just west of Tulia filming some neat shelf cloud structure illuminated by lightning.  A fun first day for the new arrivals!   PVW 430m.


JUNE 4, 2007:  Mon - Day 32 - (T4-1):  Pretty Storms - Kim, CO:

Today was mostly a day to reposition north in anticipation of the next potential for severe later in the week.  The higher terrain of NE NM and SE CO once again appeared the most likely place for storm initiation, so we decided to head in that direction in hopes finding some nice looking storms above the scenic landscape.  A few weak and high-based storms had already formed by the time we reached Capulin and more storms to our north in CO were moving southeastward.  We stopped to film some daytime lightning (with marginal success) north of Branson, then skirted east past the approaching core along highway 160 near Kim.  The storm briefly pulsed east of Kim and put on a nice base structure and lightning show for about 30 minutes.  Later, a few more pretty sunset views ended the day.  Lamar, CO 487m. 


JUNE 5, 2007:  Tue - Day 33 - (T4-2):  Position Day, Weak Pathetic Storms - NB PH:

We needed to continue north for Wednesday's target so we decided to plot our path northward thru NE CO and the NB PH.  Sufficient speed and directional shear thru 500mb, a breakable CAP, and a nice moisture axis extended thru this area, so one or two supercells appeared likely.  Our hopes were high when an MD for eastern WY, NE CO, and the western NB PH was issued followed by a SEV WW.  A few storms pulsed and quickly fizzled north and west of Scotts Bluff.  We continued north towards Chadron when a second MD was issued just to the east of the existing watch box, but all the storms to our west and north were dying and a heavy cirrus canopy hung overhead...hmmm.  Ended up in CDR and as of 10pm MDT there were still no storms to be found anywhere in NE.  500m. 

JUNE 6, 2007:  Wed - Day 34 - (T4-3):  Severe Warned Storms - NW SD:

A very frustrating day indeed.  We started the day in Chadron, NE with a target of Valentine, NE in mind.  The 15z RUC convinced me to abandon my SC SD/NC NB target area and head for NW SD where the CAP was weaker and winds were progged to turned easterly by late afternoon.  We cut north from Gordon, NE and had to later re-route due to a road closure on highway 73 south of Kadoka.  We headed north on route 44 west of Wanblee and then thru part of the Badlands Ntl Park on our way to Cactus Flats on I-90.  After reviewing the 18z RUC I was still convinced to head north or northeast of the surface low.  I couldn't quite decide whether to head due north and then east towards my target of Faith, SD---or due west via I-90 and then north.  I chose the former and by the time we reached Howes a cell had developed to the SW of where we had just been in Cactus Flats.  Each radar scan looked better for this cell and it soon became apparent that it may produce a tornado.  Too late for us as it would take well over an hour (back thru another road construction area) to get back to the cell.  All we could do was watch the impressive mammatus field from this storm roll overhead. 

I agonized for awhile in Howes before excepting the fact that I couldn't get back to this cell in time for any tornado, and then continued north to Faith.  New cells showed promise north of Sturgis and I could intercept those along highway 212, unfortunately these quickly became part of the ever increasing broken line of storms stretching from MT/WY ESE thru SC SD.  We headed back east and south and intercepted one cell that briefly pulsed to our west and took on supercellar characteristics.  Soon after a bow echo developed just to our east and north and blasted northward, show over for us.  600+miles.  Plankinton, SD. 


JUNE 7, 2007:  Thu - Day 35 - (T4-4):  Isolated Dryline Storm - SE KS:

I chose not to chase east in the high and moderate risk areas of WI/MN/IA for the usual reasons including the very fast storms motions.  The 00Z and 12Z NAM indicated storms would be able to break the CAP farther south ahead of the DL in SE KS/NE OK by late afternoon or early evening, and any storm that could develop would not be moving near as fast as the ones farther north.  I was somewhat surprised to see the early morning 2% tornado risk for this area from SPC, but later outlooks raised the risk to 5% and then to 10% hatched.  We made the long drive south from Plankinton, SD to just north of Kansas City by mid-afternoon where we intersected the boundary and crossed thru a southwestward developing line of storms.  We continued south to Ottawa, KS while keeping a close eye on the tail end sheared over cells.  We briefly thought about staying with any tail end storms in this region, but the high CAPE air and the prospect of more isolated storm development farther south kept me moving.  Around 6pm CDT we watched a few small Cu fighting the CAP to our SW and south from a high point along highway 166 near Cedar Vale, KS (mid-way between Arkansas City and Coffeyville).  The TCu's to our south were beginning to show promise and finally broke the CAP at around 7:45pm. 


We flanked this northeastward moving storm to its north via highway 166 and were able to slip through the developing rain core and get on its southwest flank near the town of Sedan, where we briefly met up with Martin Lisius.  The storm had a couple of bases at that point (one to our southwest and one to our northeast), but overall the storm was becoming better organized.  We watched a few large scud tags attach themselves to the base between Coffeyville and Independence, but no real wall cloud ever developed.  By this time we had lost most of our light and the storm was picking up speed and slipping off to our northeast where it later became severe, and then tornado warned.  A long drive with not much to show for the effort, but at least we found one decent storm to chase in our target area.  Perry, OK 913m.


JUNE 8, 2007:  Fri - Day 36 - (T4-5):  No Storms - Position to AMA:

With no severe storms to chase we visited Palo-Duro Canyon south of Amarillo and then had dinner at the Big Texan.  Saturday will be the last full day for T4 and we might have a shot at seeing a severe storm within a few hours drive of AMA before heading back east towards OKC.  AMA 400m.

JUNE 9, 2007:  Sat - Day 37 - (T4-6 Final):  Raton Mesa Supercell:

Today was the final day for the T4 folks to search for a decent storm and at the same time be able to arrive back in OKC for their afternoon departure flights on Sunday.  A slight risk was out for SW NM, which was way too far, but there appeared to be enough shear and moisture for a supercell to form in the high terrain of the Raton Mesa.  By the time we reached Clayton, NM the slight risk for severe had been extended to cover all of NM and part of SE CO and vigorous convection was well under way to our west and north.  Also, a cell to the southwest of Springer began to look very promising on radar.  Since this cell was out in the sun with no competitive storms nearby we decided to blow off our plans to drive to the top of the Capulin Volcano and keep moving west.  This storm was barely moving to the ENE and soon prompted a SEV warning for Mora County, NM.   We stopped a few miles south of Springer to watch the storm develop a bit and marvel at the huge mammatus canopy overhead.


We then drove a few miles south of town to watch the storm take on supercell characteristics just to our west before heading east on highway 58/412.


We were able to get a few more decent views of the storm as it moved ENE as it paralleled our east route to the north, but the storm remained high-based and began to weaken by the time we reached Gladstone.  Yet another enjoyable chase in the Raton Mesa.  AMA 500m. 


JUNE 10, 2007:  Sun - Day 38 - Position Day:

We had the T4 folks back to OKC by 1pm, finished up our chores and headed north by 4pm.   We stayed at the Super8 in York, NE with thoughts of heading west or NW Monday.  York, NE 400m.

JUNE 11, 2007:  Mon - Day 39 - Cheyenne River Indian Reservation - NW SD - Supercell:

Bill Reid and I had a good day today intercepting a supercell that formed in our target region near Faith, SD.  I'll insert my photos into the following summary that was written by Bill and posted to CFDG:

Brian Morganti and I left York, NE around 9 a.m., unsure at the time whether we would target western NE (around Ogallala, perhaps) or blast NW-ward towards NW SD and SW ND where upper flow was much better. At Gothenburg, after a look at the 15Z RUC, we elected to try for the western Dakotas. We saw a decent theta-e ridge progged from about Rapid City to Lemmon, SD, and figured that this area was not too much of a stretch drive-wise to reach by 5 or 6 p.m. With only a couple of quick stops and a fast lunch in Valentine, we managed to come up on a developing storm at Faith, SD, from the east with perfect timing. This cell went up on the northern edge of a hot and dry air punch, as RAP and PHP both had upper 90s by mid-afternoon. Faith was about 88 over 65 with nice SE winds of about 20 knots as the cell developed to its SW. The SPC meso page indicated SB-CAPE values of about 4000 J/kg, so we were anxious to see what this thing could do in what seemed to be a pretty favorable environment. The downside was that mid and upper level winds were on the weak side.

Just SW of Faith the cell gained strength quickly, and featured a very large and ragged, though rather high, base. A little clear slot and some decent rotation developed in the updraft base very near Faith, but did not persist for long. This was, for the most part, the way things went for the next hour or two as we would get some mod-high based "action" areas with some rotation, but these would not lower much nor would they last very long. However, the cell which passed close to Faith and followed us east down 212 had a great circular and supercellular look to it for about an hour. Thereafter, things became much more linear and disorganized, and briefly HP-ish.


We had several good stops east of the cell for photography and time lapse, replete with plenty of CG activity in front of a greenish, nasty-looking sky. Though there was really never a tornado threat, it was an enjoyable chase and a fun storm to photograph.


We are in Mobridge tonight, with eyes on the NE Sand Hills tomorrow. 613m

JUNE 12, 2007:  Tue - Day 40 - Timber Lake, SD - Severe Warned Storms:

Once again Bill wrote up a nice summary for our chase day in NC SD and again I've plugged in my photos below:

This chase day was largely uneventful and tedious, despite a large tornado watch. A large swath of cloudiness covered most of the Northern Plains during the late morning. When storms started to develop around noon in northeast Colorado and southern Nebraska despite the mid and high-level clouds there, it figured to be a lousy day. It was.

Brian Morganti and I started the day in Mobridge, SD. The forecast area for us was somewhere in the middle third of SD. Supercells and tornadoes were possible, and NC SD looked as good as anywhere else up and down the C and N Plains. We had a late breakfast and then went west 30 miles to hang out at Timber Lake. A lot of high clouds limited our sunshine, and some weak convection was moving towards us from the south, in the Pierre area. Was this convection going to be the main show? By around 3 p.m. we figured that we better go back to Mobridge just in case it got stronger. As we got to Mobridge, a couple of isolated cells went up in some sunshine near Timber Lake. We went back to Timber Lake and viewed a very low and roundish storm base, with an even lower black thingie hanging beneath that. The black lowering was changing shape quite quickly, but any rotation was weak. This feature looked like it meant business----for about two minutes.


Then the entire base and cell became strung out and weak. We followed it north to U.S. 12 near McLaughlin and gave up on it.


Meanwhile, the linear stuff was nearing Mobridge and we figured we might be able to "eek" out something east of this junk. The junk only got junkier as we approached and got ahead of it near Redfield, well SE of Mobridge. A few lightning bolts near sunset got us out of the vehicle and we set up the tripods. This effectively put an end to the lightning.

The highlights on this day were the two minutes with the scary lowering near Timber Lake, and, and, and thatís about it. Photography was a bust practically all day as all of the cloudiness made for a very dull sky.

We are in Huron, SD, tonight.  367m

JUNE 13, 2007:  Wed - Day 41 - Position Day to ND:

Today Bill and I took a leisurely drive from Huron, SD to Mandan, ND.  We stopped to photograph several old buildings along the way including an old school house just west of Blunt, SD.  We also stopped by an old auto graveyard along gravel road 7 in the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation where the owner indicated he had a collection of 600 cars!  We took photos of a few of the more interesting relics, but cut our visit short after being eaten alive by the local mosquito population.  297m.



JUNE 14, 2007:  Thu - Day 42 - International Border Storms:

When we woke up in Mandan there were two areas to consider for convective activity in North Dakota:  one in the southeast corner of the state and the other in the northwest.  We went with the northwest target since it was closer and tornado potential was minimal either way.  However, there was a disturbingly large area of mid and high-level cloudiness invading western ND, right over our cold front, which was to be our focus area for storm development.  So much for pretty updrafts in the sunshine.  Bill and I headed to Minot and then WNW to Kenmare to meet the cold front.  The scenery along the way was quite enjoyable, despite the somewhat depressing overcast.  Radar showed some shower activity west and north of Kenmare.  As we drifted west of Kenmare we observed a few laminar-sided, bell-shaped lowerings which were protruding beneath the dense mid-level overcast.  These were rotating updraft bases...but they were behind the cold front, above cool (62F) northwesterly winds!  Radar showed a couple of cells about 75 miles to our NNE that might be a little east of the front across the border in Canada, so we headed north through Bowbells to Northgate. 


We wouldn't be able to intercept those, but we could intercept a storm that might form a little farther south ahead of the front.  We were well behind the cold front by the time we reached the border crossing and had to wait at least 20 minutes before we were granted access into the foreign country.  We traveled north about 15 miles, then east another 30 or so miles through Oxbow and Carnduff in order to get east of the stratiform rain.  A few new thunderstorms had developed in the meantime back down towards Kenmare (still behind the cold front, unfortunately), so it was time to head back to the good-ol' USA.  We enjoyed the close lightning and thunder crashes as we crossed the border, and thankfully the wait at the border was much shorter this time.  We stopped to film a pretty scene near sunset (which was at 9:55 p.m. CDT) about 20 miles north of Minot as new storms began to develop just to our west.  We could see new rain shafts forming just down the dirt road...would we get a light show to photograph against the sunset colors?  Yes, but the dreaded mosquito population was eagerly waiting to eat us alive!  Eventually the winds picked up and the mosquito threat diminished enough to allow us to get a few decent CG photos in the fading light.  We repositioned farther south for one more CG photo-op before calling it a night in Minot.  357m. 

        this time, passports are not mandatory for entering Canada or re-entering the United States.  The border guards took both of our driver's licenses and checked us out before allowing us to proceed.  Both sides asked what we were doing and where we planned on staying for the night.  We explained that we were chasing storms and that we weren't certain where we would wind up.  The Canada-side station was concerned primarily that we might want to sell our equipment in Canada.  The U.S. guard said that a photo I.D. and a birth certificate were the ideal forms of identification for U.S. citizens to return to the U.S., if one did not have a passport.  However, just a valid driver's license will work------at least for now.   

JUNE 15, 2007:  Fri - Day 43 - Central South Dakota Storm:

After spending a few hours under a dreaded cloud canopy, Bill and I had a very pretty storm to chase today in central South Dakota.  Our photos and Bill's summary follow:  Pierre 432m. 

Brian and I began the day in Minot. Our cold front from the previous evening was well down into central South Dakota, where a slight risk of severe wx was forecast. We werenít keen on any particular target area along the front. Tornado prospects were again near zero, so we also were not too excited about chasing. Adding to the general malaise was the thick deck of mid-level clouds which plagued us most of the day.

We had lunch in Bismarck and then decided to go west on I-94. This decision was made more with the Day 2 chase in mind (somewhere in the eastern half of Montana), while thinking that perhaps we could find some lightning to photograph towards sunset in extreme western SD. In our minds it was more of a positioning/scenery day than a chase day.

We went south through Hettinger and entered NW SD (north of Bison) around 5 p.m. It was about this time that we saw some weak echoes on the Threatnet radar along the front in SD to our distant SE. The closest one was exactly 100 miles away to our SE, west of Pierre. There was plenty of daylight left, so we began heading east and south and east again (through Faith and Howes) to get closer in case something got really strong. The storm was puny for quite a while, but it persisted, so we kept on driving towards it.

The storm looked pretty pathetic for the first 2 hours or so that we had it in sight. It was moving ESE at about 20 mph, and since we did not have a direct route to the southeast, it took about 3 hours to get close to the back side of the cell. We closed in quickly on the cell as it moved SW of Pierre, and it was about this time when the updraft appeared most powerful and dramatic with a full compliment of sunshine reflecting off of it. We stopped a couple of times to snap pics.


Near sunset we were just south of Pierre and heading south, and the darn cell was starting to accelerate eastward and weaken. We never did get in front of it, but we had a good show in the bright light (and eventually soft light) behind it. What was most surprising was that no warnings were issued by the NWS for this seemingly intense updraft. We aren't even sure whether the cell was a supercell or not.


JUNE 16, 2007:  Sat - Day 44 - Northeast Wyoming - Severe Storm:

We intercepted a severe warned storm just east of Gillette, WY along I-90.  The storm weakened before later gaining strength as it neared the WY/SD border where it became tornado warned.  We were traveling through the heavy core near Sturgis on I-90 where a semi tractor-trailer was blown over just south of the tornado report.  The best of the show was likely the pretty shelf cloud as we approached Gillette, but we had to turn around quickly as we got blasted by the storms approaching outflow.  We had a tough time traveling east with this storm along I-90 due to heavy wind-driven rain and we just couldn't get ahead of it, and by the time we reached Sturgis we had run out of daylight.  We then chatted with Verne Carlson who was reported to be stranded along I-90, but he had things under control by that time.  We then proceeded to Pierre, SD for the night.  650m.


JUNE 17, 2007:  Sun - Day 45 (Final Chase Day) - Grand Forks, ND "Supercell in the Murk":

What a frustrating day Bill and I had!  A nice supercell formed in our target area along the warm front near Devils Lake, ND...but lots of low clouds and fog shrouded the base from our view.  The following amusing summary was written by a very giddy Bill Reid while we were driving south today on I-29:

To those of you who had wished they were up in eastern ND on Sunday:

You didnít miss much.

Computer models were painting a pretty nice picture for late Sunday, with a closed surface low west of Grand Forks, nice easterly winds north of a warm front, dew points near 70F just south of the front, and very favorable flow aloft. Brian Morganti and I motored north from Pierre, SD, to Dawson, ND, east on I-94 to Fargo, and north to Grand Forks. We were right on the warm front at Grand Forks from about 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mushy, low-topped cumulus did not seem too interested in becoming storms. Finally, around 7:30 p.m., a few towers were trying to go up to our northeast, a little north of the front, and a new cell was developing just south of Devils Lake, 80 miles to our west, right on the front! There was a problem, though. It was cool and cloudy just north of the front. Allow me to expand on this. IT WAS TOO BLOODY COOL AND CLOUDY JUST NORTH OF THE FRONT AND IT WAS COOL AND THERE WERE LOW CLOUDS AND IT WAS MURKY AND THERE WAS BEEPING AND FLASHING, AND THE COOL CLOUDS WERE BLINKING AND FLASHING AND THEY WERE BEEPING IN THE COLD CRAPPY MURK NORTH OF THE FRONT AND WE WERE UNABLE TO SEE JACK SQUAT AAAAAAAAAAArgh.

Hang on, Iím getting ahead of myself here. We elected to target the cell near Devils Lake to our west. At Larimore, west of Grand Forks by about 25 miles, we found ourselves north of the front, in weak northeast winds. The temperature had plummeted to about 69F, and very low clouds were floating around willy-nilly. We dropped south to Northwood on 18. This put us back near the front, with low clouds to our north. We could see the stormís updraft tower to the WNW as we headed west to McVille on 15. But wait! Here come the low clouds again, lower than ever! The warned-cellís storm tower disappeared from view. We were 25 miles southeast of a perfectly good supercell, and it was moving east along the front, AND IT WAS BLINKING AND IT WAS FLASHING ABOVE THE COLD FREEZING MURK NORTH OF THE FRONT AND IT BLINKED AND IT FLASHED AND WE WERE BEEPING AND FLASHING WHILE IT WAS FLASHING AND BLINKING AND IT WAS TOTALLY OBSCURED AND ALL WE SAW WAS LOW OVERCAST AAAAAAAARRRRGH.

Anyway, a new storm was developing well south of the front, near Jamestown. Since the Devils Lake storm was invisible from the surface of the Earth within 20 miles of it, we headed south on Highway 1 to check out the Jamestown storm. We emerged from the low cloud murk and into the nice warm and humid air near Binford, and were afforded a view of the nice storm tower and back-sheared anvil of the elevated Devils Lake storm, about 25 miles to our NNW. It had a good look on radar. It was odd driving away from a powerful storm which was in a Tornado Watch.

The Jamestown storm also had a nice look on radar for a couple of scans. The surface winds at Jamestown were not exactly ideal, though----southwest at 8 mph or something like that. The NWS severe-warned the cell, and then the next one just to its NNE in Griggs County. We got in front of the Griggs County storm at Hannaford. There was a decent updraft base and plenty of CGsÖthe quick staccato kind that suggest a very severe storm. We were not impressed by the base, though. There was little or no rotation apparent, and the cell quickly fell apart. Which is worse: a) driving 500 miles and not being able to see a supercell which is right next to you, or b)driving 500 miles to see a severe storm croak, or c) both a and b?

The Hannaford storm dropped a pea-sized hailstone on us, and it was dark, and we dropped down to I-94. The light show was pretty good, but most of the bolts were shrouded by clouds and precip. We went east to Fargo and south a little and found ourselves in the path of a bow-echo-like feature. Near Hickson we were blasted by heavy rain and strong westerly winds. I pulled the SUV to the side of the Interstate and stopped. The vehicle was rocked quite strongly by the winds, and we noticed a gust to 61 mph on Brianís wind speed display. Speeds could have easily been stronger a little prior while we were slowing down to stop. I phoned in the wind speed report to NWS Grand Forks, and only minutes later their wx-radio statement mentioned our 61-mph wind speed measurement!

The storm moved on and we found a room in Sisseton at 1 a.m.  711m

Interesting Factoids for May/June 2007:

Miles logged while chasing on my own:                 11,112

Miles logged while chasing with Tempest:             12,025

Total Miles:                                                         23,137

Average miles per day:                        472

Total days on road:                              49

Total days in chase mode:                    34

Severe storm intercept days:                 19

Tornado intercept days:                         2

Average time to bed:                         1:30 AM

Gas prices paid:                               Ranged from $2.79 to $3.43 with average of $3.03.