Brian A. Morganti

2009 June Chase Summaries

June 1, 2009  -  June 19, 2009

June 1, 2009:   Mon- Day 27 -  T4 - Day 1 -  Storms NC KS:

Not a whole lot to report from this day.  We more or less stuck with my original target near NW KS until late afternoon.  After visiting for the first time ever the world's largest ball of twine in Cawker City, we drifted west to the Hill City area.  We hung out at an abandoned farmstead and watched elevated Cu build back to our east and southeast.  Although we still had light southeast winds at our location, the storms seemed to be forming about 40 miles ahead of the DL and merging with cells forming along the e/w orientated frontal boundary well off to our east.  I was a little reluctant to head back east, but figured it might be our only play.  We intercepted several marginally strong cells from Osborne to southward thru the Russell area before bailing south towards our Day 2 target.  Eventually a line of severe storms did form in NW KS near Colby shortly after sunset.  Liberal, KS 516 miles.


June 2, 2009:   Tue - Day 28 -  T4 - Day 2 -  Severe Storms TX Panhandle:

I knew we were in trouble as soon as I saw the first radar returns showing up at 2PM as we were approaching AMA.  Storms had initiated well to our south about 2 hours earlier than expected and now we would be in "catch up" mode.  We encountered small but severe warned storms as we passed thru the LBB area on our way southeast towards a couple of big storms that looked capable of producing a tornado.  We had a good road that paralleled the first storm's southern flank, but it took us over an hour to finally catch up near Snyder, TX.  The storm by then had weakened and was moving off to the east into an area with no roads.  Meanwhile, another large cell was nearly stationary just to the west of LBB, so we headed back for an intercept.  Of course, that storm also croaked upon our approach. Lastly, another severe and isolated cell beckoned to our northeast near Clovis, NM so we had one last shot at seeing something decent.  We were able to intercept this cell just west of Sudan, but again it went down hill fast as we approached.  We killed yet another storm!  We hung around watching an occasional brilliant CC display when an embedded smallish cell to our north pulsed in strength  We cut north on 303 and had fun punching through a swath of dusty red outflow beneath a whale's mouth canopy.  Farther east near the town of Earth we had one final color and light show in the setting sun.  Pretty, but not the day I had expected for supercell structures.  587 miles. Plainview, TX


June 3, 2009:   Wed - Day 29 -  T4 - Day 3 -  Pretty Storms - Raton Mesa NM:

The play for today was to head to the high country of the Raton Mesa in northeast NM and enjoy the beautiful scenery and perhaps find a pretty storm as well.  There was just enough moisture in the upslope flow to get a few storms going early on near Springer and these slowly began to drift eastward.  We enjoyed pretty updraft towers and distant stormy scenes along highway 64/87 near Capulin and took numerous film stops.  There were a couple of storm cells to our northwest so I decided to head north towards Kim, CO for an intercept and for what might prove to be a pretty show towards sunset.  Even meager storms can produce fantastic "stormscapes" in this region, and we were not disappointed on this day.  450 miles - Lamar, CO.


June 4, 2009:   Thu - Day 30 -  T4 - Day 4 -  Supercells - Limon to Peyton, CO

After reaching Limon I needed to decide whether to continue north towards the slightly better 500mb flow or stay put and watch for convective development off the mountains to my southwest in the higher CAPE air.  In the past I've missed plenty of great looking storms that had formed over the front range by being positioned too far north or east.  Shortly after having lunch, radar indicated a few returns to my southwest and I could see the tops of what appeared to be healthy looking updrafts.  I decided to blast south via highway 24 towards Simla which would put us ahead of any southeastward moving storm.  By the time we reached Rahma a beautifully structured LP was visible about 12 miles to our southwest.  We stopped to film the updraft near the town of Calhan, but the show was brief and the storm began to weaken as it moved farther east. 


For the next few hours eastern Colorado was mostly devoid of storms, but we could see some new updrafts forming to our southwest.  We headed down towards Peyton and hung out watching a linear storm form just to our north.  This storm eventually disconnected and the western storm remained nearly stationary and produced a few funnel clouds as reported by others.  The eastern cell drifted to the east and had a persistent wall cloud as well as an RFD cut on its western flank.  We followed this storm back to LIC where it began to fall apart just as a new storm formed back to our southwest. We went back west on 24 and watched this storm cycle to our north before ending our chase for the day.  264 miles. Limon, CO.


June 5, 2009:   Fri - Day 31 -  T4 - Day 5 -  Tornadic Supercells - LaGrange, WY - Dalton, NE:

Short: Witnessed the last few minutes of the LaGrange, Wyoming tornado including a beautiful "rope-out" as viewed from about 17 miles away near Harrisburg, NE.  Followed storms east to Dalton where an insane ground-hugging wall cloud was filmed just north of town. 

More Detailed Version:  Seeing the potential for a big day I had encouraged Bill Reid to come back early from his "break" in CA and had picked him up the night before after his sister drove him half way from the DEN airport to Limon.    The potential looked encouraging for tornadoes in the tri-state area of WY/NE/CO, so we headed north out of LIC with thoughts of an initial target somewhere in the vicinity of Weld County, CO.  Our 2 van group was hanging out at an old house west of Raymer, CO along highway 14 when the first radar returns showed up over the Laramie Mountains.  We figured that one of these cells, or even more new ones that would develop to their south would eventually have the best chance at producing tornadoes.  I was itching to head up the well-groomed gravel road that exited highway 14 just to our west that cuts through Keota, Grover, Herford, and then on up to I-80 just west of Pine Bluffs just in case the southern most cell would become the main show---it was starting to look better on radar with time.  Bill reminded me that it isn't always the best idea to travel on gravel roads on potentially big days unless really necessary so as to lessen the chance of getting a flat tire from sharp stones. He further added that he didn't see any reason to leave right now.   Heck, I knew this road like the back of my hand and it is so well groomed that one can easily travel at 70mph safely---BUT, I had gotten burned before by being impatient and not heeding Bill's sound and experienced we waited.  Eventually, it became apparent that the southern-most "Laramie Mountain" storm was going to become tornadic and that we had better get moving. 

We blasted north on highway 71 thru Kimball and soon had a good look at the storm well off to our west...and there were suspicious cone-shaped lowerings beneath the base.  Unfortunately, that is all we could see because of the seemingly endless sand hills between us and the storm.  We eventually found a decent dirt road that would lead us west closer to the storm, but the relentless up and down hills only allowed us an occasional glimpse of the base.  Finally the terrain flattened out and we could easily see the tornado off to our WNW.  We stopped and filmed the final five minutes of the tornado until the rope-out stage from a point about 17 miles east of the tornado.  I grabbed my little HD video camera and barrel-rolled under a barb wire fence and was immediately zapped on my back---ouch that hurt.  I took some hand-held video and soon became frustrated because I wasn't tripod mounted AND because I forgot my DSLR for still images.  I rolled back under the fence to retrieve my tripod and was ZAPPED again!  I returned with the tripod, rolled under the fence and yep, you guessed it----zapped again and set up for the rope-out stage.  But I forgot my still camera and had to go back to the van yet again (about 25 yards away) and swap my wide-angle lens for my big 70-200mm f2.8 and returned to my trippoded video camera.  I think by now I knew to keep my back low and did not get any more electrocutions!  Of course, by this time the show was over concerning the tornado so we packed up and headed west to get a much closer look at the base in case another tornado would form.  It didn't, but we had a great look at the base and where now prepared to stick close and follow this storm east for as long as necessary.  For the next few hours we continued east and set up shop numerous times to film what we thought for sure would be tornadogenesis.  There were a few times while traveling east that a tornado may have been spotted under the storm base to our north, but the big long-lasting tornado was not meant to happen again.  The best of the show occurred just north of Dalton when the largest and most menacing wall-cloud I had ever seen loomed large a mile or two just to our north.  The motion was insane and simply could not be captured on a still image (last two photos below), but the video captured the wild rotating/cascading motion nicely of this dramatic event.  All in all an excellent chase day for sure!  578miles - Colby, KS.



June 6, 2009:   Sat - Day 32 -  T4 - Day 6 Final -  Pretty Storms - Claflin, KS:

Bill Reid and I hung out west of Claflin, KS on a hilltop during the early evening hours watching a few weak storms struggle off to our west. GRLevel indicated a fine line boundary moving northward that eventually collided with the eastern most storm, which was rather weak at the time. This happened around sunset and sure enough the storm immediately to our west began to take on nice base structure as the CG activity rapidly intensified in the pink colored rainshafts off to our west. Another cell just to the southwest of this one became severe warned at about the same time for quarter size hail and 60mph wind gusts.

Looking at radar it was hard to believe these two cells were the only storms in all of Kansas---almost dead center in KS! After our pretty sunset photo-op we followed the storm's southern flank east along highway 4 to near Bushton and had another so-so lightning display for the next hour or so. Not a bad day, but somewhat of a let down after the previous mega-chase day in NE. Wichita, KS 378 miles.


June 7, 2009:   Sun - Day 33 -  T4 Departure & Belle Plaine - Conway Springs, KS Storms:

After a quick good-bye to all the guests, cleaning the vans, and getting caught up on a few things it was time to chase again.  There was an MD out for SC KS about two hours to my north, which was eventually followed by a SEV watch box.  I figured I might be able to at least capture some structure and/or lightning, so why not!?  There was a cluster of severe-warned storms moving northeast towards Wichita, but I was not able to intercept these.  I stopped at Belle Plaine to look at a pedestal updraft base with mammatus above when and a new storm formed to my west.  I headed towards that storm via route 55 and the base structure started to look downright interesting just east of Conway Springs.  I quickly found an off road film spot and was treated to some really nice structure as the storm base tightened up.  I then dropped south ahead of other storms in an attempt to shoot lightning.   Some of the CG's were great, but were widely spaced both in time and distance.  I then enjoyed an occasional light show all the way back south to OKC.  350 miles.


June 8, 2009:   Mon - Day 34 -  T5mini Orientation & Throckmorton/Haskell County Supercells:

After completion of the orientation meeting I whisked the guests south towards the Red River where skies with full sunshine had been cooking the atmosphere and big supercells were likely to form by early evening.  We intercepted the first couple of cells to our west between Archer City and Olney and later the leading edge of a much larger cell near Haskell, TX.  That cell briefly became tornado warned, but from our position it didn't offer much more than a nice CG display.  We finished up with a nice sunset near Throckmorton.  375 miles - Ardmore, OK


June 9, 2009:   Tue - Day 35 -  T5mini Day 1 - SE KS Supercells:

The moderate risk was in place for a good portion of SE KS and I liked the area just to the south or southwest of ICT for storm initiation.  We drove to Wellington with thoughts of driving west towards Harper, KS...but decided to hold fast as storms appeared likely to form to our immediate north and northeast along the boundary which stretched W/E across the state.  Messy storms from the earlier MCS were severe and tornado warned 75 miles to our east and we could see towering cumulus clouds forming to the west of this convection.  We moved a bit east to Winfield and hung around for a couple of hours waiting for things to happen.  By late afternoon a few TCu appeared and one to our immediate southeast showed promise.  We decided to follow this developing storm's northern flank with hopes of getting ahead, and then south of the updraft region.  The storm more or less followed highway 160 and after passing thru the developing core we were able to drop south at Moline.  We then cut west on a gravel road and waited for the storm to  move by to our north. It gave us a good show for about 20 minutes with plenty of scary lowering and intense CG's, but never developed a well defined rotating wall-cloud in spite of the warm SSE inflow.  We had one last look at what had become a partially rain-wrapped barrel updraft off to our east as the storm entered a poor road network area.  We finished up the day with pretty pastures and stormy skies near Wauneta, KS.  450 miles - Winfield, KS.



June 10, 2009:   Wed - Day 36 -  T5mini Day 2 - SW KS Supercells:

After driving across the state beneath overcast skies and occasional rain I really wasn't expecting much in the way of big storms for the day.  There was a little sunshine breaking thru by the time we reached Ulysses, and we could see a large tower poking above the low clouds to our west.  Radar also indicated a decent looking cell to our southwest near Campo, CO...but we decided to head straight west thru Johnson City to investigate this new storm.  It actually put on a nice show for awhile as we followed it back east thru Johnson and then got ahead of it one more time south of Ulysses.  After that our attention turned to a much larger storm forming to our SW.  This became the main show as we followed it eastward along highway 51 from Hugoton thru Woods to the intersection of highway 83.  The structure was fabulous at this point, but we were quickly overtaken by the core with no good eastward options.  A great day overall, especially considering the earlier prospects.  597miles - Lamar, CO

First four photos are from Johnson City storm.



June 11, 2009:   Thu - Day 37 -  T5mini Day 3 - SE CO Supercells:

Today was somewhat similar to yesterday in that we had low clouds overspreading the target area until mid-afternoon.  The first storms appeared on radar west of LIC and we headed north on highway 71 hoping that these or one's that would develop farther south would become our target storm.  By the time we reached Punkin Center a new storm lured us west, but it quickly fell apart leaving us nothing to chase.  A much more isolated and stronger looking cell was developing to our southwest near Pueblo and the decision was soon made to head after this one.  We took the road south out of Yoder and watched the storm develop to our west just north of Boone.  It was severe warned, and began to take on a more interesting look as it ever so slowly drifted in our direction at 15mph.  We let the young core overtake us and measure hail to 1 1/4" diameter which Bill Reid called into the Pueblo NWS office.  We then continued south and took a brief look at the backside of the storm as it moved off to our east.


A new storm began to develop to our south, so after taking a few pictures of that one we blasted east along highway 96 between the two. Photos are from "south" storm at initiation and then from points farther east.


After that we continued east via highway 96 and then highway 50 from Fowler.  We now had two alternating severe/tornado warned storms on either side of us and it was difficult to choose which one to be watching from time to time.  Photos here are looking west at southern storm as it drifted ESE in our direction.


The two storms began connecting their precipitation cores, but both still were rotating and offered tornado potential.  The southern one continued to offer the most structure wise from our vantage point as we continued eastward through Rocky Ford and LaJunta.  


But then the storm to our north began to get interesting once again.


As we continued east to Lamar the storms had finally merged into one big supercell and began to head off to our south right at sunset.  We took one last photo op and could see a pronounced barrel-shaped lowering on the rear flank of the storm.  It was again tornado warned, so we drifted a bit south of Lamar but had to stop due to road construction, darkness, and the heavy rain and hail that had overtaken us.  MTN indicated shear values as high as 123mph at the time.  All in all a fantastic chase day!  327miles Lamar, CO.


June 12, 2009:   Fri - Day 38 -  T5mini Day 4-Final - Oklahoma Bust:

A good part of Oklahoma had a potential risk of explosive storm development "if" the CAP could be broken.  This worked out well since we needed to get back to OKC either today or tomorrow morning at the latest.  What didn't work out was the CAP breaking before sunset.  We positioned ourselves a bit east of the DL and a bit south of an outflow boundary left over from the mid-morning MCS that moved through the area.  A towering cumulus cloud pushed into the sky just to our west and quickly sent out an orphan anvil.  It tried again...and again, but the results were always the same.  At one point it did have a small rain core and even a bit of hail, but the whole thing finally fizzled right before sunset.   So, no storm today...but not bad considering we had gone 4 for 4 up to that point.  486 miles OKC.

June 13, 2009:   Sat - Day 39 - Weakening Storms - Albany, TX:

After finishing cleaning and servicing the van Marsha was kind enough to drive me back to Martin's house in Arlington.  We got there at 5pm and I threw everything haphazardly in the van and didn't even hook-up any of my equipment.  It was way too hot and humid for that misery!  Martin showed me a good looking tornadic supercell on radar about 3-4 hours to my west so off I went.  This storm had produced several tornado warnings and had MTN shear values to 123mph.  Of course, by the time I got close enough a couple of hours later the storm had weakened somewhat, but a new and much smaller cell prompted a new tornado warning just to its south.  I was able to see a bell shaped updraft base ever so briefly before the whole storm started out flowing like crazy and sent out red dust clouds in all directions.  I called it a day and stopped at the first hotel I could find.  Albany, TX 190 chase miles.

June 14, 2009:   Sun - Day 40 - Long-lived Supercell - Haskell County, KS:

I made the long journey north from my previous nights stay in Albany, TX (north of ABI) and arrived in the northern TX PH just as an MD was issued to my north.  A couple of storm cells were moving ENE across Baca County, CO and I aimed for those as a preliminary target.  A tornado watch was soon issued for parts of the northern TX PH, eastern OK PH, and a good part of western KS.  A "tail-end" storm was moving right into the middle of the box and I plotted an intercept via highway 83 north.  I stopped a few miles south of Sublette to take a better look between 5:23pm and 5:35pm, about the time a tornado was reported by others.  There was a clear slot visible to my north and rain beyond but no tornado visible from my vantage doubt hidden by the rain core.  I then had to blast south and east to stay ahead of the storm which was starting to offer some very nice structure to my north.


East of Meade where highway 160 meets 283 there was a suspicious lowered area to ground level between 6:49 and 6:51pm...that may have been a tornado.  It was too far to my north to determine circulation, but appeared just to the east of a clear slot region in the following two photos.


I then headed a bit farther east on 160 but the storm began to lose it's visual appeal and had weakened somewhat on radar.  Over the next several minutes a couple of dozen bunch of chase vehicles blasted by my stopped vehicle playing catch-up, but I had lost the desire to follow this storm any longer.  I had some regrets later when it once again became tornado-warned and looked much better on radar.  I took a few more photos of the storm off to my east as I headed back to Liberal for the night.  556 miles.


June 15, 2009:   Mon - Day 41 - Western KS Supercells & Slapout Knockout:

I hung around Dodge City until early afternoon anticipating convective initiation ahead of the DL not too far to my west.  Winds began to back slightly to the SSE by 2pm and a few nascent cells had formed about 75 miles to my WSW.  I headed north towards Jetmore for a possible intercept, not fully sure if I wanted to stay south or blast to northern KS where the air was cooler and easterly winds might prove better for tornadoes.  But the towers were beginning to look better and had formed in a newly issued tornado watch box, so I cut west on road 156 towards the most northerly cell to my west.  I stopped near Kalvesta to take a few photos of the western storm which had a tilted updraft tower and spoon-shaped base, but little tornado potential,  before blasting back east and south in an attempt to get ahead of the "lead" and potentially tornadic cell.


I dropped south from Jetmore on highway 283 between the departing "lead" cell off to my east and another big messy storm off to my west.  I was just barely able to make it to highway 50/56 east of Dodge City before being overtaken by this storm which was now severe-warned.

A few miles east I stopped to look back at this storm and it had a large rotating forward-flank wall cloud punching out to my southwest.  It appeared to be very close to producing a tornado at one point but I had to continue east as I was getting slammed with powerful outflow and rain from the storm off to my northeast.  This was made evident shortly thereafter by an overturned 18-wheeler on the south side of the highway.  I continued on 50/56 to Kinsley and bailed south as the storms had connected and became one big "outflowish" mess.  I stopped south of Greensburg near an old house to take a look back, but there wasn't much to see...just blowing dust and stormy skies.

Meanwhile, I could see an impressive tower and large anvil well off to my south in the OK Panhandle and radar indicated two or three somewhat isolated and severe-warned cells in that region.  It was now about 7pm, so I figured I'd have one last shot at finding a photographic---if not tornadic storm before sunset.  I continued south and east and watched these cells dry up on radar one by one---except for one lone tower and anvil that had weakened but had persisted for quite some time to my WSW.  I stopped for gas in Buffalo and the tower still beckoned about 30 miles to my southwest, but was beginning to look a bit ragged.  However, radar indicated it was gaining in strength and even began to show shear markers!  Looking more closely at radar, there was a little piece of a storm in front of the main storm which was completely hidden from my view by the stupid updraft and precipitation directly in front of me.  I plotted a course west and south of this pathetic storm to get to the bigger one and could soon see a bell-shaped updraft base becoming visible through the rain shafts to my west.  I had to first drive west into increasingly heavy rain along highway 412, but managed to dodge any hail as I dived south from Slapout, OK.  A few miles south of town I was clear of the heaviest rain and had a spectacular view from a high point off to my west of this very pretty storm as the sun was setting.  The updraft tower was turning and tilting off to my north as the sun shone through rain shafts well separated from the updraft region.  Clear blue skies beyond help contrast one of the prettiest storms I had seen this season...or for that matter any season!  I turned around at one point and I saw that someone had pulled up next to me---it was Martin Lisius who had also blown off the KS storms and headed south to the OK PH. 


I then headed back north into Slapout and stopped to pick up a few half-dollar size hailstones, some of which were still falling at the time.

I figured the view should be pretty good from the west side of the storm since the air was nice and clear with no obstructing cloud interference, so I drove a couple of miles west on 412 to look back on this beauty.  It was a great ending to a very active, but tiring chase day.  Liberal, KS 460m


June 16, 2009:   Tue - Day 42 - Eastern CO bust & day to relax:

By early afternoon it became apparent that no storms would form on the southeastern plains of Colorado.  Dewpoint temperatures remained in the 40's and SPC's slight risk of severe was removed from CO with the 20Z update.  Oh well, that was a risk I was willing to take since I had no interest what-so-ever in making a 6-7 hour drive across the state for the possibility of severe in SE KS---or the marathon drive north to SE SD.  I've had enough of that noise for one season. I explored a couple of old houses and then called it quits for the day.  I'll start my journey home tomorrow and may or may not chase the elevated risk of severe along the NE/KS border.  I am well satisfied with the season I had and it's time for me to get home.  230miles Lamar, CO. 

June 17, 2009:   Wed - Day 43 - Tornadic Supercell Gibbon to Aurora, NE:

I was only kidding myself the day before when I mused about "I may or may not chase the elevated risk of severe along the KS/NE border" for today.  If I chased and busted I could have lived with that, but had I not chased...drove home and missed a big tornado day I wouldn't have been able to live with myself for the next several weeks---especially being aware of the fact that I had just traveled through that area earlier in the day at the end of nearly seven weeks chasing on the plains! 

I left Lamar, CO around 9AM with thoughts of reaching the central KS/NE border region by mid-afternoon.  This area was forecast to be on the northern edge of the CAP along with extreme instability, excellent wind shear with height, and a boundary or two to lift the juicy air aloft---all the ingredients were there for the possibility of strong and long-lived tornadoes.  By 1pm or so a couple of storms have developed in far southeastern NE about 150 miles to my east.  These cells rapidly became supercells and soon produced tornadoes, but they were hours away from me and moving away from my direction with no real chance of an intercept.  I hoped this was not going to be the main show of the day and by 3pm I stopped to top off the tank in Phillipsburg, KS and found myself drawn towards these ongoing storms even though I knew better.  I got a hold of myself and stopped at Smith Center (30 miles east of Phillipsburg) and looked at data again.  Things still looked good for later in the day a little north or even west of my current location.  In fact, a new tornado watch had just been issued to the west of the original tornado box over eastern NE.  I then headed back to Phillipsburg with thoughts of going north on 183 into NE.  Along the way I got a call from Bill Reid who was with Doug R.,  Scott W. and the Tempest Group and not too far to my north in NE and had similar thoughts as to where storm initiation may occur.  We kept in touch and could both see decent towers beginning to form to our north.  We eventually met north of Campbell, NE (south of Minden) and watched some towers grow and wither.  We continued north towards the intersection of the synoptic and outflow boundary and before long a cell showed up on radar about 20 miles to our north.  We had a good road leading towards the storm and soon had a visual of the base as we approached highway 30 near Gibbon.  One problem, there was a RR crossing just south of 30 and a very long and slow moving freight train approaching from the west that threatened to cut off our approach.  No, problem as we could just blast east a mile or two on a dirt road and then cut north to beat the train!  Except for another problem---a sign that indicated "road closed ahead" at our next north option...not good.  We had to turn around and again go east and north and this time we successfully crossed the tracks ahead of the ever approaching train.

At this point there was a large and impressive looking storm forming just to our northeast, and the original target storm which could produce a tornado at any moment was only a few miles to our northwest.  After some discussion of which storm to target, I took off for the initial storm via Ravenna Road going north out of Gibbon.  I could see plenty of scary lowerings beneath the storm to my west and if a tornado were to form it would be highly contrasted!  Meanwhile, the storm to our east continued to grow, but it didn't appear to be moving away...just sitting and growing in position.  Eventually, this storm actually began to retrograde westward and was actually being ingested by our original storm, which was now moving off to our north and was tornado warned.  After watching and filming this storm for several minutes the time came to get moving east.  A brief, but low contrast tornado soon became visible to our north in front of the precipitation core.  I stopped to shoot a few pictures of the overall storm base and then again blasted east.


We then blasted back south on Ravenna Road in order to get east of the storm along highway 30.  Unfortunately, there were no east options directly from Ravenna Road.  On the way south Bill radioed back to me to be careful as the state police were on the prowl.  I heeded his advice but later learned another hapless chaser got slapped with a $340.00 ticket for greatly exceeding the posted speed limit---ouch!  We lost sight of our storm while traveling south until we could once again go east and look back to our north.  Looking out the driver's side window on my way to Shelton I could see the upper half of what appeared to be a  cone tornado through the dang buildings and trees that lined the view north.  Sure enough, a couple of clear views north clearly indicated an elephant trunk tornado and a bit later I could see the rope out stage.  Why couldn't this have happened while we were much closer and stationary with our tripods set up!?  We continued through Shelton and then north on a gravel road in order to get back closer to the storm. Once again we were able to get close to the base and stop for photography, but the storm was cycling and not producing tornadoes at this time.  In fact, at one point it appeared the show might be over as the storm began to dump a lot of precipitation.  Bill and I crossed paths occasionally along the grid-work of gravel roads to the north of Shelton and Wood River as we tracked the storm eastward.


It was time to get east again, so we continued east to the Alda area and stopped numerous times when tornado genesis appeared imminent.  RFD slots became evident at times and we were blasted by warm RFD winds!  Structure was sometimes dramatic and an occasional rapidly rotating wall cloud would tease us to the point of holding our breath waiting for the tornado.  Frankly, it is still hard to imagine why these rotating wall clouds did not produce tornadoes, although some whisky dust swirls could at times be seen beneath the cloud base rotation. 


We had now stuck with this storm for a couple of hours and light was beginning to fade...but we knew the main show was still likely to come.  The Platte River south of Grand Island had cut off our east options so we had no alternative but to dive south and jump on I-80 eastbound in order to cross the river and find an exit back north ASAP!  Of course, while blasting east along the interstate the storm finally decided that NOW was the time to produce a very dramatic and highly photogenic tornado!  I was able to capture some of this on video thru the open driver side window while looking north between passing trucks and praying for a north exit NOW!  After a mile or so we had a north option at Exit 324 onto S418, or what is know as the Giltner Spur Road.  Driving north from the exit was like navigating a demolition derby as cars were crazily driving and parking in every direction.  The tornado could be seen approaching our road from the west as we found a safe spot to stop and pull off the road. It was now 8:59pm CDT.  I left my dash cam running so as not to mess with setting up a tripod and instead concentrated on digital still images.  A truncated bulb-shaped cone tornado churned up an intense dusty debris whirl as it crossed the highway about a mile or so to our north.  Power flashes could be seen as power lines were pulled down as the tornado crossed over to the east side of the highway.  We filmed for several minutes  at this location before again heading east to capture the last vestiges of this tornado, although another low contrast tornado was later observed in the low light off to our east.  After dark I again met up with Bill and crew to film the supercell moving off to our east as it was now putting on an incredible light show for us.  Although EF2 damage occurred with this tornado, luckily no serious injuries or deaths were reported.  Definitely a career chase day for me!  537 miles Grand Island, NE



June 18, 2009:   Thu - Day 44 - Iowa Bust:

SPC had a moderate risk of severe including a 15% hatched tornado outlook across most of Iowa for today, but I've never had much luck chasing in IA.  But, since it would be my last day chasing and Iowa was on the way home...why not?  By mid-afternoon I was heading north of Des Moines with thoughts of intense supercells forming by late afternoon across north central Iowa, so the plan was to park myself along I-35 somewhere in north central IA in "middle ground" and wait.  I hung around Webster City for about 3 hours in very steamy conditions and by 7pm or so figured it was going to be a bust.  Nothing was on radar and only a few small TCu could be seen off to my east.  I figured, I need to go east anyway so why not head for these and see what happens.  A persistent area of growing cumulus teased me north of the Waterloo area and these eventually became storms after sunset, but nothing impressive.  I called it quits around 9:30pm and headed south to Cedar Rapids for the night. 555miles.

June 19, 2009:   Fri - Day 45 - Iowa to Home:

I got up early and made the final 980 miles home by midnight.  There was a moderate risk of severe in place from Iowa all the way to western PA,  but I only encountered a few brief and weak storms along the way.