June 1, 2010: Tue Day 26 - T5 Day 2 - Evening Storm - Colby, KS:
I stuck with my target near the tri-state border of CO/NE/KS and blew off the moderate risk farther east across Nebraska. As we were driving north of Atwood we noticed a cu field building nicely to our south. A storm soon formed about 30 miles to our south and briefly took on very nice structure with a big circular anvil and beefy updraft towers on it's western flank. We dropped back south to investigate but the storm quickly fell apart. We then turned our attention to an isolated cell about 100 miles away near Sterling, CO. It was getting late but figured we could reach it by sunset. By the time we reached Bird City this storm also began to fall apart, so it was back to our original broken line of convection to our east. As we neared Colby a very pretty updraft began to form to our north and we stuck with this storm for the next hour or so until well after sunset. It gave us some decent structure views complete with mammatus and cumuliform updrafts lit up by the setting sun. We were hoping for a light show after sunset, but the storm only managed to produce a few interesting IC displays. Finished up in Wakeeney, KS for the night - 446 miles.
June 2, 2010: Wed Day 27 - T5 Day 3 - Supercells - Grant, NE & Colby, KS:
I blew off the slight risk down in the TX/OK Panhandle in favor of the better 700mb flow coupled with a moderate CAPE axis in western NE, plus it would leave us closer to the Day 2 target. We had lunch in GLD just as a storm began to develop about 100 miles to our NNW. This storm would be heading into the CAPE axis so we loosely targeted this storm for an intercept near Ogallala. The storm was moving SE and we were able to intercept the forward flank of the storm along a gravel road network to the northeast of Grant, NE. We were just keeping pace ahead of the core when we observed two or three very robust gustnadoes, which I later called in to the NWS in North Platte. We left this storm go as it weakened a little north of Hayes Center after it had given the us the best it had to offer.
We then turned our attention to a semi-discrete cell moving into KS from near Burlington, CO. We cut south on highway 25 towards Atwood, KS as the storm approached Benkelman, NE effectively cutting off our original path to the storm via highway 34. We now had a good view of the storm to our west as we were on a collision course somewhere to our south between Atwood and Colby. The show got better and better as we approached Atwood and the structure became fabulous just north of Colby. We set up on a nice dirt lane for a photo-op when several V2 vehicles parked directly in front of us, no doubt thinking this was okay since their cause was obviously of a far higher order than ours. I ordered everyone immediately back in the van and blasted another half-mile down the gravel road for an unspoiled view. The storms looked like complete junk on radar but the updraft base structure was among the best I had ever seen---what a great chase day! 514 miles - Wakeeney, KS---again.
June 3, 2010: Thu Day 28 - T5 Day 4 - Supercells - Platte, SD & Santee Indian Res., NE:
Today the best chance of seeing a great looking supercell and possibly a tornado appeared to be the triple-point play somewhere along highway 44 in South Central, SD. By the time we arrived in Gregory (se of Winner) some elevated convection had formed just to our south. We continued to drift each monitoring this activity which was beginning to look better with time. I also wanted to get farther east in order to be a bit ahead of anything that would form back to our west. One cell to our south soon began to take on supercell characteristic and began moving to the NE. We targeted this storm and were able to make an easy intercept south of Corsica. It pulsed and the show was over, so we let it drift off to our east.
A new storm formed to our southwest and was heading in our direction. We watched this one for a while until it split. We could only see the left-split storm which was briefly entertaining, but it soon became apparent we needed to dive south and east in order to get ahead of the now southeastward moving right-split storm. This would be a bit of a challenge because of the poor road network and lack of river crossings into Nebraska. We finally got in front of the storm just north of the Niobrara River crossing into Nebraska. The storm had been tornado warned but was now downgraded to severe, and was developing some nice shelf cloud structure on it's forward flank. We were running out of daylight and I knew there was no way to get south of this storm in time, so I elected to show the guests a nice shelf cloud by blasting east on highway 12 through the Santee Indian Reservation. Once we got far enough ahead of this now bowed-out storm we were able to take a couple of very brief photo-ops of one of nicest shelf cloud structures I have ever seen. A fun chase day overall---545 miles. Yankton, SD.
June 4, 2010: Fri Day 29 - T5 Day 5 - CAP Bust - Nebraska:
I started the day thinking we had a pretty good shot at seeing another nice supercell somewhere in south central Nebraska or possibly even north central Kansas. The CAP was strong but very high CAPE values and modest southerly winds against a weak boundary seemed sufficient to break the CAP by late afternoon or early evening. We hung out at Elm Creek until late afternoon without a sign of convective clouds visible within 150 miles. The best bet seemed to be to get farther west into slightly higher terrain where there was a Cu field---a long shot but worth a try. By the time we got to North Platte there were a few showers showing up on radar about 100 miles to our NNW. We drove about 45 minutes north and found nothing but a bunch of elevated junkus...more or less what I expected given the very warm 700Mb temperatures. It soon became obvious that nothing would get going until well after sunset, so we headed back for a BBQ dinner in North Platte and called it a day. 427 miles.
June 5, 2010: Sat Day 30 - T5 Day 6 Final - Travel Day -North Platte NE to OKC:
Had we chased any storms today in IA or CO we would have ended up 12 hours away from OKC, so there was no choice but to make the 11 hour drive back to our base hotel. Along the way we visited the Twister Museum in Wakita, OK and took a group photo by the Water Tower. 632 miles for the day and 3313 total for T5.
June 6, 2010: Sun Day 31 Tour Changeover Day - OKC:
A day to prep and clean up the vans, backup images and video, do laundry (I really hate doing that) and rest-up a bit.
June 7, 2010: Mon Day 32 - T6 Arrival/Orientation Day - Stormy Sunset - Cheyenne County, CO:
After an abbreviated orientation we were on our way north by about 12 noon. We knew we probably had no chance of reaching the prime target area north of the Nebraska/Wyoming border but we figured we could at least catch a late evening storm somewhere in eastern Colorado if the CAP didn't hold strong. We reached Goodland, KS by about 7pm and targeted a couple of new cells that had formed east of Limon, CO. The best looking cell on radar briefly became severe warned and we were able to get ahead of it to the southwest of Burlington in Cheyenne County. We hung out for over an hour waiting for the storm to get its act together, but other than a few entertaining CG's the storm soon began to croak. However, it gave us a wonderful display of late day colors right after sunset before completely biting the dust. Burlington, CO - Appx 600 miles for the day.
June 8, 2010: Tue Day 33 - T6 Day 1 - Distant Storms - Wet Valley, CO:
Once again the CAP would be rather strong and would likely suppress any storm development until late afternoon or early evening. CAPE and ESE SFC flow looked decent in the Raton Mesa area, but 500Mb flow dropped off dramatically south of the CO/NM border. Another area to consider might be the Palmer Divide or slightly south and east along the CAPE axis that arced back to SE CO. So, we more or less played the middle ground and visited a couple of old building sites along the way. One interesting old building drew our attention in the little town of Arlington, CO where a nice older lady gave us a history lesson of the towns happenings over the last couple of decades. After having a nice lunch in Sugar City at a small town diner we continued our trek southwestward. While stumbling around an old ghost town we noticed towers going up to our south, west of Raton. We targeted those but gave up on them an hour or so later when they looked kind of lame. Parameters looked just as good to our west in the Wet Valley region west of Pueblo, an area we hadn't visited before, so we thought we'd give it a try. The scenery was great, but the storms never formed. The activity we abandoned to our south started to look better as did the storms moving southeast of DEN. We were more or less caught in the middle about 80 miles from either target with only a little over an hour of daylight left as these storms became either severe or tornado warned. We finally decided to head north but too late for any storm intercept. We ended up in Colorado Springs for the night. 440 miles.
June 9, 2010: Wed Day 34 - T6 Day 2 - Two Pulse Severe Storms - Southern Nebraska Panhandle:
After having lunch near Cheyenne, WY we decided to investigate a nice updraft tower to our east. We were able to drive east of this cell via I-80 but it didn't give us much of a show. Some new towers were going up to our north and one began to look really good both on radar and visually. We targeted this cell located in Morrill County by taking the exit at Sydney and heading north on highway 385. Unfortunately the cell went down hill fast and we gave up the chase and turned around when we reached the town of Gurly, NE. We then became interested in new storm activity down along the Palmer Divide east of DEN and headed in that direction. We first headed west at Sterling figuring on keeping our options open in case anything happened back to our north, but then committed the stuff along the Palmer. However, after a pit-stop in Brush, CO we noticed a new cell taking shape on radar back to our north in our original target area. This storm was almost twice as far away as the now weakening Palmer Divide cells but we figured it was our best shot at seeing a severe storm before it got too dark. Also, we had an excellent north option to take us right to the storm via highway 71. We had a lot of low clouds blocking our view of the storm on our way north but were able to reach the southern flank of the cell south of Scotts Bluff, but of course by now it had weakened somewhat from its earlier state. We watched the pretty updraft tower pulse a bit to our northeast with an occasional display of CC and very infrequent CG lightning before calling it a day and heading back south to the only available rooms in Kimball, NE. Appx 550 miles.
June 10, 2010: Thu Day 35 - T6 Day 3 - Structure Storm & Tornado - Last Chance, CO:
A longer report will have to wait until I have more time. Basically, we started the day in Kimball, NE and hung out there until early afternoon. We eventually drifted a little farther west and waited for things to happen. By late afternoon a line of weak convection was ongoing to our west over the mountains and was slowly drifting east. We considered the tail end of this convection briefly, but other storms forming to our southwest along the Palmer Divide got us moving south. Along the way one isolated storm formed to our southwest and looked pretty good...but after a couple of brief stops we elected to continue south to the better looking storms east of DEN. They were already severe warned and eventually one became tornado warned. By the time we reached our target cell, an even better looking cell to its south caught our attention. This one had no competition to its south so this became our new target storm. We cut east from highway 71 at Last Chance onto highway 36 and drove a couple of miles west until we had a good viewpoint to our WSW. The structure was fabulous and it wasn't long before a slender cone-shaped tornado took shape below the base. This lasted about 3 or 4 minutes, then dissipated. We were about to position east when a new tornado formed and also lasted about 3 minutes before fading out as a nice serpentine rope-shaped tornado. We then headed east on highway 36 and were able to take a few film stops looking back at the beautiful structure of this storm. We saw one last white cone-shaped tornado from just north of Anton before losing daylight. We then followed more or less followed the storm east for the next couple hours enjoying the light show and ended up in Imperial, NE for the night. A long, but great chase day---439 miles.
June 11, 2010: Fri Day 36 - T6 Day 4 Final - Supercell - Ramah to Genoa , CO:
Today was yet another structure storm day in
Colorado. To save time (and cheat), I'll copy and paste Bill's fine
summary of this day below.
June 12, 2010: Sat Day 37 - Tour Changeover Day - Wakeeney, KS to OKC:
Travel Day to return guests to OKC, van clean up, etc...385 miles.
June 13, 2010: Sun Day 38 - T7 Arrival Day - Outflowish Storms - Northeast TX Panhandle:
We dilly-dallied a bit in OKC awaiting for the arrival of one last guest that never showed (nor bothered to tell us they weren't coming). That no doubt cost us the tornado that occurred in northern Lipscomb County, TX. We needed about one more hour to get on the three storms that had initiated across the northeastern part of the Panhandle, two of which eventually became tornado warned. The northern one had confirmed tornado sightings and the "middle" storm may have had a tornado as well. By the time we arrived at the middle storm west of Follett it was clearly all outflow, the tornado threat had passed (first two pictures below). We got ahead of the hail core with this storm and waited for its arrival under a gas station canopy back to the east in Follett, but the core had weakened and there wasn't much excitement to be had. We then spent the next few hours targeting the southern "tail-end" convection but these cells remained rather weak and disorganized. We took a few pretty pictures at sunset of the tail-end convection west of Miami before heading back to Canadian for the night. 350 miles appx.
June 14, 2010: Mon Day 39 - T7 Day 1 - Messy Outflowish Storms - Southern TX Panhandle:
We left Canadian a bit earlier than originally planned when an outflow boundary well to our south threatened to fire off early convection once again. This time we weren't too late for the first storms, but they started off messy and outflowish and never really improved. We got in front of one of the first storms just west of Tahoka just as it began launching huge amounts of red dust eastward in our direction. We then dropped south to get on the southern end of this storm and ahead of others that were forming to its southwest, but without having much success. Meanwhile the storm we just let go to our north had a tornado report by V2, with little detail provided. For the next few hours we tried to position ourselves in front of the best looking storms, and while this process produced a few briefly interesting base structure views, it became quite tiresome after a while. Around 7pm we left one of the heavier cells roll over us and then headed northwest to Post, TX and then on into LBB for the night. Appx 500 miles without a whole lot to show for the efforts.
June 15, 2010: Tue Day 40 - T7 Day 2 - Weak LP'ish Storm - Tatum, New Mexico:
We hung out around the Hobbs, NM area for a good part of the afternoon watching towering Cu struggle against the warm temperatures aloft. About an hour and a half before sunset one tower to our west finally developed an anvil and looked good---but only for a few minutes before it split. The left split went north and quickly died. The right split remained nearly stationary for the next hour or so and briefly gave us some nice LP'ish looking storm structure near sunset. We played around under its small hail shaft before heading west towards a more potent cell that was moving north from the Carlsbad area. We weren't really targeting that storm, but it gave us a nice light show on our way north to Portales for the night. Appx 375 miles.
June 16, 2010: Wed Day 41 - T7 Day 3 - Marginally Severe Storms Armistead, NM to Sunray, TX:
Our original plan was to head north to perhaps the Nebraska Panhandle so an early start was needed. By 7AM we were on the way north but soon discovered that conditions were almost as good for a severe storm right on our doorstep somewhere in NE NM or the NW section of the TX PH. After hashing it over, we all agreed to hang out and hopefully find a severe storm or two to chase in a few hours. And that's pretty much what happened. By mid-afternoon a couple of cells formed along I-40 west of TCC and began drifting northeast. We hung out at an old church in Nara Visa watching things develop and then headed west for an intercept of these non-severe warned storms. We were able to get in front of these storms near Rosebud, but they quickly became outflow dominant and began pushing out a lot of wind and rain. Structure was so-so at best, but we kept going east into the TX PH as the merging line of storms began to strengthen to severe status. Near Dalhart a shear marker on MTN and a TVS on GRLevel indicated a tornado was possible, but had it occurred it would have almost certainly been wrapped in rain. We kept ahead of the line to west of Sunray where the line finally began to break apart and weaken. We then headed south to Dumas for the night and witnessed one more decent looking storm cell right before entering town. Along the way we noticed on radar that a large isolated and nearly stationary supercell with probable tornadoes was located about 12 hours to our north near Faith, SD. The tornadoes were confirmed by chaser reports and later by video. Oh well, there was no way we could have made that target on such a short tour. 415 miles.
June 17, 2010: Thu Day 42 - T7 Day 4 Final - Tail-End Severe Storm - Cedar Bluffs Reservoir - Utica, KS :
Well, for the second day in a row we had to grit our teeth and forget about another day of wedge tornadoes that would likely occur far to our north---way too far for us to even consider with our short four day tour, especially since this would be the tours last chase day. Instead, Bill, Keith and I took our group to the CF/Dryline boundary in west central KS. By late afternoon towers were percolating to our west and north and we began to position ourselves closer to these young updrafts. We soon abandoned the first cell near Plainville (north of I-70) and turned our attention to a couple of better looking cells well to the southwest of Hays. We were able to get ahead of a "tail-end" cell near the Cedar Bluffs Reservoir where Bill measured a wind gust of 66mph! The storm was high-based and rain-cooled air was descending from the anvil and sending up large dust plumes everywhere. Our best show came as the storm began to shrivel and die west of Utica as it began to take on LP structure. We then headed back to the east following the mammatus field that put on a nice color show for us until well after sunset. Dodge City, KS 566 miles
June 18, 2010: Fri Day 43 - DDC - OKC - Woodward, OK - Changeover Tour - Van Prep Day - No Chase:
We finished everything that needed to be done by about 6pm and decided to get a head start on our trip to Denver for the next tour. After driving 285 miles to get the guests back to OKC from DDC, we drove another 140 miles to Woodward, OK. Along the way a couple of isolated supercells with severe warnings taunted us from afar---one near Groom, TX and another near Liberal, KS. Both about 150 miles away and well out of our range with the remaining daylight.
June 19, 2010: Sat Day 44 - Woodward, OK - DEN - Travel Day - No Chase:
Once again we were out of range for tornado-warned supercells. This time about 150 miles to our east along I-70 in north central Kansas while we were in NW KS on our way to Denver for the start of the next tour. The crisp towers of the Cb's looked so tantalizingly close to our east, but we knew it would be impossible to get there, chase, and then back to DEN and be in any shape to start a new tour. We opted for the possibility of late day severe storms somewhere in northeast Colorado and continued west into a newly issued MD, but only a few weak "virga bombs" formed. Appx 566 miles - DEN
June 20, 2010: Sun Day 45 - T8E - Arrival Day - Tornado & Big Hail - Chugwater, WY:
We headed north to Wyoming immediately after orientation in hopes of intercepting a supercell coming off the Laramie Range. By the time we reached Cheyenne a tornado watch was in effect for our target area and a couple of cells were struggling north of Cheyenne. We plotted an intercept course via highway 85 which cuts northeast out of Cheyenne as the first cell struggled in the stratus overcast. A new cell formed to its west and was starting to look decent on radar, so we decided to head west on highway 313 towards the town of Chugwater (the first few miles have got to be one of the worst maintained highways in the continent). After driving a few miles west we could see a decent looking base come into view and MTN showed a shear marker on this base about 20 miles away. We could see the storm pulling in clouds from the northeast and the southeast as the base began to wrap up. A tight funnel soon appeared and worked its way about 2/3rds of the way to the ground. We stopped shortly afterwards and watched the storm for about 5 minutes before the first tornado appeared at approximately 4:24pm MDT. This tornado lasted about 1 minute or so before lifting as a truncated-cone. A minute or so later it became more elephant-trunk like in shape and again touched down. This one lasted until our departure at 4:29pm MDT as large hail began to splatter on the road. We blasted east in a futile attempt to get ahead of the hail core which was now apparently sliding south over the road in front of us---we had no south option as baseball, and some softball hail began to pound our vehicle. The windshield shattered and a few big stones banged onto the van's roof knocking off all the antennas. It wasn't long before the left rear side window was shattered followed by several more stones cratering the windshield. Luckily, Keith spotted a large farm shed with folks standing at the entrance and immediately pulled in for shelter. The folks in the barn saw our predicament and quickly moved their vehicles farther inside the shed so we could pull in the van. The roar of the large hail on the tin barn was absolutely deafening for the next 10 minutes or so as golf ball to baseball hail pummeled all around. I do my best to avoid large hail and hail cores in general so I guess my number was up. This was definitely my worst hail encounter in 14 years of chasing in the Plains. We then limped back to Cheyenne for the night with plans to replace the broken glass in the morning.
June 21, 2010: Mon Day 46 - T8E - Day 1 - Repair Delays - Back Edge of Storms - Yuma, CO:
We had to wait until about 3pm MDT until the van windows were replaced and this put us way behind the show for beastly tornadic supercells that moved into northeast Colorado. Keith and I made a valiant attempt to get ahead of the storms, but punching thru the hail cores was not an option. We finally gave up about an hour before sunset in Yuma, CO. We hung back a bit until the storms moved just east and south of our location so that we could take photographic opportunities of the departing storms. We had quite an anvil show and could easily see explosive new towers going up to our south, a real bummer since there was no way for us to get in front of them. Finished up in OGA.
June 22, 2010: Tue Day 47 - T8E - Day 2 - Cap Bust - Eastern NE:
After much indecision on whether to target the nearby Nebraska Panhandle or the much farther away eastern target near the Missouri River, we chose the later. Meteorologically, the stage was set for explosive thunderstorm development in this area IF the CAP could be broken. It did not and we wound up seeing no storms. We briefly crossed into Iowa towards a few updrafts, but these soon died as other more enticing ones formed about 75 miles to our northeast. It was now nearing 8pm and those storms were moving away from us, so it was time to head back west. Some severe storms moved into south central NE from KS and began to move ENE, but these were well over a hundred miles away and it was now nearing sunset. We finished up our day in Columbus, NE with 500 miles on the odometer without any storms to show for our efforts. I should have stuck with my "high plains bias" rather than going for the "all or nothing" target farther east---at least there would have been a nice storm to play with.
June 23, 2010: Wed Day 48 - T8E - Day 3 - Position/Travel Day - No Storms:
No storms were expected today across the plains states so we used the day to travel west with thoughts of where storms might form during the next few days. There was a slight risk of severe storms forecast for eastern CO for Day 2 and a slight risk for severe storms on Day 3 in the western Dakotas. We positioned ourselves on the northern fringe of the Day 2 activity in the event we'd have to adjust farther north...which is where we would ultimately have to play the following day. Along the way we took a few photo ops in NE CO, including the old Sugar Refinery in Ovid, CO. 406 miles - Sterling, CO.
June 24, 2010: Thu Day 49 - T8E - Day 4 - CAP bust/Position Day - No Storms:
When SPC's slight risk of severe was removed from eastern CO, Keith and I figured we may as well start heading north towards NW SD. This would put us in better position for the following day and farther north might just be a tad cooler aloft to allow for a couple of storms to form. Moisture was in place with sufficient shear to support supercell development if the CAP could be broken in this 15% slight risk of severe region. However, without any support at the surface or aloft no storms formed and we were once again skunked by strong capping inversion. Oh well, at least we got to photograph a cluster of neat old farmstead structures near Devils Tower...but the images will have to wait until I am in a better mood and back home. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day. Three days with no reachable storms is about as much as I care to endure. Many miles driven - Rapid City, SD.
June 25, 2010: Fri Day 50 - T8E - Day 5 - Severe/Tornado-Warned Storms - SW MN:
We left RAP knowing we had to get east to at least the Sioux Falls area. Keith and I figured by the time we reached the MN border we would have a storm to target, and that's pretty much what happened. A cell had gone up east of the Brookings, SD in an area of high CAPE and strong flow aloft. We figured the best approach to this storm would be to cross the border via I-90 into MN and then NE via highway 23 towards Marshall, MN. The storm was basically moving east, but new storms began to form on its southern flank. Those cells soon led to the demise of the original target storm, but were closer for us to reach. As we cut east from Marshall a new supercell became interesting to our east. This storm put on its best show north of the town of Sleepy Eye with some interesting base structure and a rapidly rotating wall cloud---it looked very close to producing a tornado at one point. The storm soon became an outflow beast and continued to push us southeastward. We stopped a couple of times to photograph the approaching shelf cloud and structure, but the chance of seeing a highly visible and photogenic tornado was over. We eventually got back to I-90 near Blue Earth and headed back east as an unbroken line of storms moved towards us from the north. We let the worst of it roll over us near Worthington before heading into town for the night. As the line of storms moved south continuous thunder could be heard overhead. Later (well after sunset) an EF-4 tornado did considerable damage near Sibley, IA to our south as this line-segment of storms continued pushing to the SSE.
June 26, 2010: Sat Day 51 - T8E - Day 6 - Final - Severe Storms - Northeast NE:
We woke up in the middle of a moderate risk with a good chance of tornadoes, but hard as it was to do we had to turn our backs on this setup and begin our trek south and east as this was the last day or our tour. We needed to get back to at least the North Platte area for tonight in order to be able to make the final drive back to DEN the following day by noon. Our target area would be in an area of high CAPE close to the southern edge of the moderate risk in far northeastern NE. After having a nice BBQ lunch in O'Neill we hung out near Atkinson waiting for something to happen in the oppressive air. A tower went up to our south that drew our attention, but just as quickly as it went up it died. A couple of new towers went up to our south near Bartlett and we headed south on highway 281 towards these young updrafts. These cells became severe-warned and one of them put on a decent show structure wise, but only for a few minutes. Surface winds were rather weak and there was just no boundary or upper level support to kick things into high gear. We gave up on these storms and continued south, but found no other storms worthy of chasing.
June 27, 2010: Sun Day 52 - Departure Day:
This would be my last day on the Plains for the 2010 season. We bid the guests farewell and then finished up all our duties by early afternoon. There were some weak storms coming off the mountains to the south of DEN near the Castle Rock area and I figured they were worth a look before calling it a season. Other than a few CG's, not much happened...but that was exactly what I had expected. I just needed a couple hours of quiet time traveling the back roads one more time before calling it a season and heading back to reality.