Jun 1, 2011: Wed - Day 20 - T4B/Blum (Day 4) - Severe Storms - SW Nebraska:
We drove straight south from Valentine, NE to McCook to be near where the best axis of instability and wind shear appeared to be located. By mid-afternoon we had an area of agitated Cu off to our ENE and figured storm initiation would likely occur in that area soon. We drifted east and soon had a target storm developing to our north, but we also had a larger area of storms developing about 50 miles to our south that were already severe-warned. The storms to our south looked better organized, but the cell to our north was much closer and moving away from us. It seemed to make the most sense to target the closer storm with thoughts of returning to the stuff to our south since those storms would more or less be coming in our direction. We played around with the northern storm for hours until it got better organized, and eventually became tornado warned. We were out of position on the sparse road network northeast of Lexington a few times, but managed to get back to the base a few miles north of Lexington where we were able to view a decent wall cloud for a few minutes before it was obscured by new convection coming up from the south. We dropped south and then west on highway 30 to watch the main updraft core fizzle out. Meanwhile there were plenty of beastly looking cells on radar well to our south in northern KS but these were too far away to catch before nightfall. We then headed west and north to get in position for the Day 2's target area and observed a few nice updrafts along the way until well after sunset. Back in Valentine, NE 550 miles.
Jun 2, 2011: Thu - Day 21 - T4B/Blum (Day 5) - Pretty Storms - NW South Dakota:
No time for a detailed summary now, but we did manage to find some pretty convection in NW SD in the Thunder Butte Area. We hung around and watched a line of towers develop west of Faith in an area of decent convergence until storm initiation finally occurred by early evening. The stronger cells developed on the north end of this line and quickly raced northeast into ND. We figured we couldn't catch these before dark and opted to watch the south end of the line for new development. The south end of the storm towers to our west put on a nice show, but never got strong. We finished up the day by intercepting a storm well to our south near Hayes, SD that would have been quite pretty while over the Dakota Badlands. It was spitting out fantastic anvil CG's to our south just as it was getting dark, but these quit shortly after we set up our cameras. Murdo, SD 501m
Jun 3, 2011: Fri - Day 22 - T4B/Blum (Day 6-Final) - Severe Storms - Northwest Kansas:
Although there was no slight risk for us to chase on our way back from South Dakota, the NAM, RUC, and HRRR all showed an area of precipitation breaking out in an area of weak convergence in far west central Kansas. We had a straight shot south so and the timing was such that we should be able to intercept any northeast moving storms in western Kansas by late afternoon. Our plan worked out pretty well, by the time we reached Oberlin we saw the first radar returns about 75 miles to our southwest. We dropped south to Oakley and then WSW on highway 40 for an intercept to have a look at two cells that were slowly strengthening to our southwest. We headed for the western storm just as the eastern storm became severe warned. Shortly afterwards our storm was severe warned as well. We hung around for a bit filming some decent looking structure before heading back towards Oakley to sample the lead storm and then get ahead of both storms a bit east of Oakley. It was nearing sunset and the colors beneath the storm were starting to get nice. A few distant CG's could be seen as well. We then went about 10 miles east to see if there was any structure to be seen above the low intervening clouds, but could see nothing worthwhile. I was about to head back for a better look at the increasing lightning shown on radar when Bill Reid called me to say the lightning was getting really good with the late day colors. Unfortunately it was getting late and we had a long drive east to Salina with an early departure the next morning in order to get back the guests back to OKC for their departing flights. Oh well. Salina, KS 640m
Jun 4, 2011: Sat - Day 23 - T4B/Blum (Departure Day) - No Storms:
Changeover day to get the guests back to OKC and prep the vans for the next tour. OKC 300m
Jun 5, 2011: Sun - Day 24 - T5 (Orientation/Position Day) - Weak Storms - Eastern Colorado:
Our best chance to see any storms on our long journey northward to Montana or the Dakotas for Day's 2 prospects was to head northwest towards Colorado from OKC. We weren't expecting much except for perhaps a little lightning and some blowing dust from very high-based storms, and that is pretty much we found near Eads. A tiny cluster of weak disorganized storm cells had formed in an area of meager moisture and weak convergence. I guess overall it was better than a "sharp stick in the eye". After a brief photo-op we blasted north to our lodging for the night in Fort Morgan, CO. 600+ miles for today.
Jun 6, 2011: Mon - Day 25 - T5 (Day 1) - Severe Storm - Western SD:
Once again we were hoping for a nice supercell somewhere in eastern Montana or western SD within SPC's slight risk of severe. Tornado chances were minimal, with a better chance in Montana particularly in the Billings area. That area would shut us out for Day 2 which looked to be in extreme eastern South Dakota or NW MN, and there did look to be some chance for supercells to develop in the high dewpoint area converging somewhat north of the Rapid City area. We made the final decision to stay with the SD target during the late afternoon and hung out just west of Belle Fourche watching and waiting for something to happen. A few pathetic looking storms had formed in Wyoming, but these were fighting the CAP and didn't last very long. Another area of convection was occurring over the Black Hills south of Rapid City and a cell in this area looked rather promising as it moved northeast. This became our target storm by early evening and we were able to get in front of it via highway 34 east of Sturgis. At one point the storm bowed-out a bit producing gusty winds and offered some semi-interesting base structure. At sunset the storm moved north of highway 34 and we had a pretty view looking back west at some better structure. Lightning activity at this point was mostly imbedded, but soon got better as we moved north towards Faith. Along the way we watched CG's repeatedly strike a radio antennae and after a quick pull off I was able to capture one of these events. By the time we reached Faith (around 10pm I think) the storm was to our north a kicking up a lot of dust in town. We also noticed that it had gotten quite warm and this was the first time I had ever experienced a "heat-burst". Bill measured a temp increase to 91F and reported this to the NWS office in RAP. Mobridge, SD 649m
Jun 7, 2011: Tue - Day 26 - T5 (Day 2) - Strong Long Lasting Storm - south central to southeast ND:
We weren't really that interested in heading into the deep woods in MN if we didn't have to and instead targeted the area just east of Bismarck, ND where models indicated a supercell or two would likely form by late afternoon. After having a nice leisurely lunch and a photo-op in Dawson, we drifted west a bit and hung out a few miles west of town watching the sky and radar. Some ongoing cells were struggling a bit and moving northeast in our direction, and one of these cells to our southwest was starting to look like it had potential. We dropped south from Sterling to get ahead of this storm and were able to dodge thru the core of heavy rain before heading east at Hazelton. That began a journey that would last for the remainder of the day. We followed this storm's southern flank all the way east to nearly the MN border at sunset. As we entered the core from the west on several occasions we were able to observe a brilliant full arch rainbow. Once we got out in front of the storm we had beautiful views of intense blowing dust lit up by the bright sunshine. The storm was never severe warned and there was another storm about 50 miles back to our west that looked to be stronger at times that was severe warned and at one point even tornado warned. We figured we could always go back to that one, but there really wasn't any need to do so. A fun storm to chase, but again not quite what we expecting for the day. Wahpeton, ND 419m
Jun 8, 2011: Wed - Day 27 - T5 (Day 3) - Northeast Kansas Bust:
We raced south from South Dakota in hopes of finding a decent storm along a more or less stationary boundary somewhere in northeast Kansas in an area of high CAPE and decent 500mb flow aloft. Storms initiation held off until early evening along this boundary, but unfortunately for us they occurred too far to our east in Iowa and farther to our southwest in central Kansas. Topeka, KS 609m
Jun 9, 2011: Thu - Day 28 - T5 (Day 4) - Severe Storms - Northeast Kansas:
Yet another day when things didn't quite work out as we would have liked, but at least we didn't have to travel very far. We hung out in Topeka until early afternoon then drifted north towards the Nebraska border when conditions seemed better for Supercells and possibly a tornado. We then hung out at various stops near and along highway 36 waiting for something to happen. By 5:30pm we had an area of congested cloud towers off to our east and we headed in that direction. By 6pm convective initiation had begun and we had several good towers to choose from off to our east. One directly to our east was dominating the sky and became our target storm. It took us about 30-45 minutes to get into a good position to view the updraft base and by this time we were well into Missouri. The storm looked to have great potential with a shallow wall cloud and a possible RFD cut, but soon fell apart as it raced north of the frontal boundary into more stable air. We later went after the west end of a cluster of big messy storms off to our east, but this proved fruitless as new convection was forming nearly overhead and blocking our view of these storms. We did see a few very pretty updraft towers lit up by the setting sun along the way, but intervening clouds and haste to get to the bigger cells did not allow for any photo-ops. Much farther west in western OK and eastern CO other chasers had much better luck with their cameras, no tornadoes but very pretty storm structure. Cameron, MO 268m
Following image of our target storm as it was becoming mature off to our north:
Jun 10, 2011: Fri - Day 29 - T5 (Day 5) - Supercells - Southeast Kansas:
We were able to intercept two nice Supercells today and had good views on each looking north from our approach routes. To save time, I'm sure Bill won't mind if I copy his summary below:
"We targeted the boundary in SE KS which cut through Elk County. Mid afternoon surface data suggested a weak surface low not too far from Wichita, and convergence was pretty strong along the weak front. CAPE values were near 3000 and 500 flow was west at 40 knots, but surface winds on the north side of the boundary were very weak. We waited for initiation for quite a while near Howard, and around 6 p.m. a storm tower went up to our north. It went severe SW of Yates Center, and we caught up to it at Buffalo, west of Chanute. The base was rather high and precip-free for the most part, with a classic RFD cut and moderate wall cloud on the north side of the clear slot. The supercell cycled a few times during the approach to Chanute. On occasion a lowering with the wall cloud came about halfway to the ground, but overall rotation in the wall cloud was generally weak to moderate. Perhaps if inflow on the east side of the cell had been better, the storm would have been much better able to produce a tornado. It looked like ours tried two or three times, but it didn't pull it off. As the storm neared Chanute, it went downhill fast and wound up with a scrawny but pretty bell-shaped updraft. We noticed that the next cell to the north had a top of 61k feet and a Doppler tornado warning, so we went NNE to catch it, near Moran and Bronson. This thing's updraft appeared quite beastly, but then it kind of slowly weakened once we got 5 miles or so south of it. Still, the base was well organized with a very persistent wall cloud and the occasional scary appendages that were teasing the ground."
The first two images are from the first storm near Chanute, and the last two are from the storm near Bronson. Eldorado, KS 503m
Jun 11, 2011: Sat - Day 30 - T5 (Day 6 - Final) - Tornadic Supercell - Liberal KS:
Once again I'll post Bill's summary below since it is way late and I need to get some sleep---here are a few images from today's incredible chase! The first two images were taken west of Liberal looking to our southwest:
The following two photos were taken looking west from 6 or 7 miles south of Liberal:
The following image shows the low-contrast view of a tornado to our NNE 2 or 3 miles (estimated) ESE of Turpin, OK (Beaver County) at around 7:50 CDT:
These final two images were taken looking west from near Elmwood, OK.
Bill's summary follows...
It was very nice to have a forecast verify and
for things to work out just about as planned ----- though a bunch of luck was
involved and things kind of fell into place and right into our laps. I thought
that some nasty supercells would move ESE from about Baca County into Texas
County this evening, with the best ingredients coming together in the OK PH
around sunset. Stuff went up pretty early in SE CO and approached Baca County,
with the nice Kim supercell nearly stationary. We were just getting out of
Greensburg after a late lunch as the Kim cell was getting good --- about 200
miles too far east! We plugged away westward, aiming at the Kim cell in case
nothing else happened. A CB went up fairly quickly to our southwest when we were
a little NNE of Liberal. It was close to or on the boundary, and it was easy
pickins for us. The Kim cell instantly became a distant memory for our crew. We
got up close to the east side of the new storm south of Hugoton, on the E-W road
that goes west from LBL (3 miles north of OK). The cell was very high based,
with the occasional downburst of precip. The cell split once, and the south
split stopped moving NNE and started to slowly drift east along the KS/OK
border. GR Level showed a 4-inch hail marker in the core a few miles to our SW,
so I decided that it was no longer a good idea to sample the precip core.
Jun 12, 2011: Sun - Day 31 - Van Prep Day - OKC:
No storms nearby to chase today...needed the entire day as usual to return the guests to OKC, clean and service the vans, etc. 145m
Jun 13, 2011: Mon - Day 32 - T6 (Day 6 Arrival Day) - CAP Bust NE KS > Pretty Storms - Emporia, KS:
With a mid-day departure from OKC I had to choose the best reachable target in either extreme northeastern KS where explosive storm develop might occur IF the CAP could be broken, or somewhere west of Wichita where mostly high-based weaker storms were likely to occur. Do I take the guests for almost a sure thing to see a storm to our west, or go for the big potential farther north and risk seeing nothing. Why not do both!? We arrived in Holton, KS by early evening with only a small Cu field visible along the way. This quickly evaporated and we were left we severe clear skies. By 7pm it was rather evident visually and on SAT that the CAP was going to win. Meanwhile there were some weak to occasionally severe-warned storms off to our southwest in my original target area west of ICT. A call from Bill confirmed what I was thinking---head back south for an intercept of these cells near Emporia and at least we may get some pretty stuff and/or a bit of lightning near and after sunset. And that is pretty much what happened. An enjoyable way to end the day. Emporia, KS 450m.
Jun 14, 2011: Tue - Day 33 - T6 (Day 1) - Storms - Cameron, MO :
Today looked to be a better day for the CAP to break a little farther east than the day before across northwest/north central Missouri. We watched an area of Tcu form over the same area a little east of Cameron by late afternoon. Each updraft seemed to get a little stronger, but it was apparent that their were once again capping issues. When things looked like CI was near, I took the group back into Cameron for one last pit-stop before the chase was on. Along the way Tank and I kept our eye on a large tower just off to our south figuring this might soon become our target storm. There were a few radar returns about 70 miles to our NW, but these cells seemed to be struggling as well...but I was more interested in the area we were in at the moment, I could always intercept those storms later since they were coming in our direction. We were able to easily get in front of our young storm along highway 36 several miles east of Cameron. It looked pretty good at one point and even spit out a nice CG. But that was about as good as it got. The storm struggled and cycled as it moved off to the northeast and we let it go north of Chillicothe. A storm to its south looked better but the best storm was now the tail end storm on a broken line well to our west. But that cell soon croaked, so we circled back to the southern cell. It was now getting dark and up until this point none of the cells was ever severe warned---so here we were in the west central part of a 4 hour old tornado box with several cells and nothing severe. Obviously there were capping and/or forcing issues. Several new cells erupted all around us as we dropped south to sample the core of the southern cell in Chillicothe, but only a few small hailstones were encountered. The storm looked ugly on radar and there was nothing to see visually in the darkness as it finally became severe warned and raced off to the northeast. Cameron, MO 341m
Jun 15, 2011: Wed - Day 34 - T6 (Day 2) - Severe Storm Beauty - Hoxie to Edmond, KS :
Although I wasn't overly optimistic to see a good storm yesterday, I knew we had a shot somewhere in far NW KS which would also put us in pretty good position for Day 2. The NAM and RUC were both showing a small area of uncapped modest CAPE, 30-40kt westerly flow at 500mb and converging surface winds near Colby, KS by late afternoon. After a grab and go lunch in Marysville, KS we hastily headed west on highway 36 and then dropped south to highway 24 to Cawker City to visit the (yes) world's largest ball of twine. I got the group unraveled from that stop rather quickly and continued west. Radar was already showing a small cluster of cells about 100 miles to our west and we could clearly see the anvils well above the horizon. As we approached Hoxie there were four semi-discrete cells to our west and south and the two northern cells had severe warnings. Not bad for a general thunder area! I liked the look of the northern cell to our immediate west and got into position a little north of town along highway 23 for our first photo-op of this ENE moving cell.
We then continued north to near Leoville where we took one more quick look at the storm. GRLevel was showing a 2" hail marker just to our WNW and I knew we had to get north to eastbound highway 9 pronto. By the time we reached the intersection of highway 9/23 we started to get hit with some marble size hail. We blasted east on 9 and were quickly hit by mostly quarter and some half-dollar (1.25") hailstones which I reported to the NWS. The stones were somewhat soft, so I wasn't too concerned but was glad to clear the hail about 3 miles down the road. We then took another film stop along highway 283 a couple of miles north of Edmund. We wouldn't beat the hail core north this time so I opted to let the storm go as it drifted off to the east at 40mph. We observed a nice full arch rainbow, but the structure was becoming rather mushy as the storm weakened. All in all a great chase day from a photographic perspective! McCook, NE 501m
Jun 16, 2011: Thu - Day 35 - T6 (Day 3) - Supercell/Outflow - East Central Colorado :
I originally targeted the Cheyenne Ridge area near the Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado border but I wasn't liking what I was seeing as we approached Kimball, NE by mid-afternoon. There were several storms moving mostly ENE off to my west and northwest, but they were already congealing into a cluster of storms and fast heading into the Nebraska Sand Hills to my north. I started to target the southern most storm to my west when I zoomed out on radar and noticed a young isolated cell about 110 miles to my south west of Limon, CO. I then got a call from Matt C. who said that storm was starting to look pretty good and that I may want to get down there since that storm would be moving into better conditions then the ones to my north and west. Good...I'd much rather target this isolated cell to my south then what appeared to becoming junky stuff off to my north. We intercepted the northern core of the cell near Last Chance and it was spewing out tons of outflow and dust to our south. We managed to skirt by the core and only encountered a few quarter size hailstones on our way south to I-70 via highway 71. We had a heck of a time staying east with this storm which was now just to our north even while traveling at 75mph eastbound on I-70! We were in very strong north winds and blowing dust for at least 30 minutes until we were finally able to get ahead of the outflow. We took our first photo-op at the Vona exit and were able to look back at the large base and shelf cloud structure of this severe-warned storm off to our WNW.
We only had about 5 minutes before the strong outflow hit us and we had to blast east again. Our next stop was at the Bethune exit where we ran into Matt C. and Vince M. filming the storm. We probably had our best look at the storm during this time before heading east into Kansas.
By the time we reached our next photo stop in Kansas the storm was becoming less interesting as it was beginning to weaken and line out. We tried for a little lightning after sunset north of Goodland but the lightning was way too infrequent and distant. 631m Wakeeney, KS.
Jun 17, 2011: Fri - Day 36 - T6 (Day 4) - Nicely Structured Supercell - East Central Colorado :
Short: After intercepting a couple of developing storms southwest of Limon we dropped south to intercept a very nicely sculpted supercell that was located near Calhan, CO via a gravel road off highway 71 between Limon and Punkin Center. The earlier intercept photos follow:
The following photos were taken starting on CR46 looking west towards Calhan, followed by images going south on highway 71 and then east on highway 94...with the last image taken looking south from highway 40 near Cheyenne Wells.
Jun 18, 2011: Sat - Day 37 - T6 (Day 5 - Final) - Tornadic Supercell - Arkansas City, KS to Copan, OK :
Logistically we had to be back towards OKC by day's end, so that made picking a target in SC/SE Kansas simple. High CAPE values along the nearly stationary boundary with a breakable CAP almost assured a few big storms would could up by late afternoon or early evening. We saw the first distant towers go up well to our east as we approached Kingman, KS. There were two towers to choose from and the one to our ESE looked the best visually and was starting to take on nice shape on radar. We cut south at Kingman and then continued east and south towards Wellington and then to Arkansas City where we were able to catch up to the cell's northern core.
Fortunately the storm was only moving east and ESE at about 25 right along the KS/OK border. We had a good east option via highway 166 but really needed to be south in OK but there were just no good road options there. I figured we could cut south just ahead of the storm's core on highway 75 to Bartlesville, OK and get a good look at the oncoming storm base. The dang thing sure had a classic supercell look on radar and had already prompted Doppler indicated tornado warnings. We were only a few miles from our south option when I saw a couple of tornado reports from other chasers to my south---DANG, we were so close. We cut south on 75 and soon saw the base structure come into view, but now the cell was cycling and didn't look all that good. There was a shallow wall cloud, but nothing close to being tornadic at the time, which was good since we couldn't find a good spot to stop because of all the trees. After two failed attempts to stop on side roads, Tank spotted an open field area along a road to our east. We drove in about a 1/4 mile and stopped along a north/south dirt lane to set up and watch the approaching storm. It now was taking on a nice rounded flying saucer shape.
At 9:08 we observed several suspicious funnel-shaped lowerings and shortly thereafter what may have been a more distant tornado as revealed in the the second photo below.
The storm was now drifting slowly off to our northeast and we spent the next hour and a half or so filming the lightning a various suspicious wall cloud lowerings illuminated by lightning off to our north and then east. All in all a great way to end the tour! Bartlesville, OK 454m
Jun 19, 2011: Sun - Day 38 - Changeover Day - Sculpted Supercell - Cambridge to Alma, NE:
After picking up Nancy at the OKC airport we quickly blasted north in hopes of intercepting storms either in NC KS or far NW KS or SW NE. The NC KS area was an easy reach but I had concerns if storms would be able to form at all given the very high 700mb temperatures of around 14-15c. By the time we reached Salina a small cu field developed nearly overhead and before long an impressive tower could be seen looming above this congested area. I hesitated a bit because of the parameters this developing storm would be moving into, but I had concerns it would fight the CAP for awhile and would pull us too far east for our trip to DEN the following day. I tried to ignore it and blasted west to what I was fairly certain would be a better show along the western edge of the frontal boundary near the CO/NE/KS border. Soon several cells developed in this area, but we still had nearly a two hour drive to get into position...and that would be right around sunset. We cut north from I-70 at Wakeeney and then continued north all the way to Arapahoe, NE. South of Arapahoe we were treated to a marvelous display of mammatus and made one very brief film stop just south of town.
We then cut west on highway 6/34 thru Cambridge and had a great view of the Supercell right in front of us. There had been several tornado reports by this time but it was the structure that commanded our attention. I found a high point along a gravel road and took several images before being pelted by some marble size hailstones.
We then blasted east to stay ahead of this now ESE moving storm and took another film stop to look back at a very prolific IC/CC lightning show south of Arapahoe. Farther south and east towards Alma we finished up the day filming the nicely sculpted updraft structure of this storm illuminated by lightning---a very long but fun chase day! Alma, NE 560m
Jun 20, 2011: Mon - Day 39 - Travel Day - No Storms - Missed out on Big Tornado Day in NE:
We were in pretty good position when we left Alma, NE to intercept potentially big tornadoes nearby later in the afternoon, but we needed to be in Denver that night for the start of the next tour the following day. Had I known for sure how good the day was going to turn out for photogenic tornadoes I may have opted to have not gotten any sleep that night and just driven through the night in order to arrive in time for the next morning's orientation meeting. But it's too late now and I missed what appears to be the event of the season for sure. Denver, CO 370m
Jun 21, 2011: Tue - Day 40 - T7B (Orientation Day) - No Storms to Chase:
With no storms to chase and no particular place to set up for Day 2 we meandered north to Scotts Bluff, NE for a bit of scenery and a way too long dinner before heading to our rooms for the night. Between missing out on the event of the year two days ago and a miserable start to this tour I'd surely be heading for home right now if it were possible. Scotts Bluff, NE 300m give or take a 50 or so.
Jun 22, 2011: Wed - Day 41 - T7B (Day - 1) - No Storms - Scenery and Positioning Day:
We drifted north to be in a better position for potential Supercells somewhere in Eastern Montana on Day 2. Along the way we visited Carhenge, Ardmore SD, and Devil's Tower in Wyoming. Not a bad day overall considering there where no storms to chase. Photos to be posted after I get back home. Belle Fourche, SD 401 miles.
Jun 23, 2011: Thu - Day 42 - T7B (Day - 2) - Quasi-Linear Storms - Roundup to Forsyth, MT:
The day worked out more or less as expected---head a bit west and north into east-central Montana to catch storms moving off the higher terrain and then ride them back east closer to the Day 2 target. By early afternoon a severe watch box was issued primarily to the northwest of Billings where numerous storms were on-going. We hung out a bit in Miles City and then headed west via I-94 and highway 12. Along the way we stopped by the old Varanda schoolhouse which included several old buildings, cars, and buses nearby.
Although there were TCu nearby, it became apparent we needed to keep moving west to intercept the storms coming out of the watch box if we wanted to see a storm before sunset. We intercepted our first cell a little west of Roundup which at the time had pulsed a bit and displayed some nice base structure along with several nice CG's.
We then headed back east on highway 12 hoping to stay ahead of the now developing line of storms in hopes of getting some shelf cloud structure. We made several film stops while heading east and had fabulous CG displays back to our west, most of which missed my open camera shutter. The shelf cloud structure was nice at times but as darkness fell the storms intensified and began picking up speed.
Rain began to fill in overhead and the winds were a bit too strong for any farther film stops as we approached Forsyth. After seeing no storms for the last three days this day was not a disappointment. Miles City, MT 507m
Jun 24, 2011: Fri - Day 43 - T7B (Day - 3) - Severe-Warned Storms - Lusk, WY to Chadron, NE:
Today's setup for storms was very similar to the day before...watch for storms forming over the higher terrain to our west and strengthen as they move east into a better environment. We were able to intercept an isolated and somewhat linear storm moving east towards Lusk and then stay ahead of it via highway 20. The storm had produced quite a CG barrage just as we were leaving town, but these diminished by the time we were able to make our first film stop. Near Van Tassel, WY we stopped to look back to our northwest at some nice base structure that had formed near an area of rotation that was showing up on Threatnet.
We then blasted east to stay ahead of the precipitation and the views to our west were very similar to yesterday's...shelf cloud views lit up by the bright eastern horizon with occasional nice CG's. We broke off the chase at Chadron and then went back west for possible anvil crawlers and/or mammatus behind the storm. There were other weak storms coming in from the west which gave us a few nice CG's to look at, but the anvil crawlers were few and far between. Chadron, NE 482m
Jun 25, 2011: Sat - Day 44 - T7B (Day - 4) - Severe-Warned Storms - Lusk, WY to Kadoka, SD:
For the third day in a row our strategy was the same...watch for storms developing off the higher terrain to our west, move east and strengthen, and then stay with them the best we could via a sparse road network. We picked up an isolated storm that formed to the southwest of Lusk as it moved towards our position a little north of town. We had a good view of it looking southwest as it began putting down numerous, but somewhat distant CG's. We took a few photos before heading back into town and then east on highway 20, much like the day before.
There wasn't much happening on our way east, but the northern of two storms back to our west offered a little structure just before we reached Chadron, NE.
After that we continued east and then north into SD pacing storms to our north and south which were severe-warned most of the time. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to look at during this time but there were some occasional CG that were impressive. Of course, once we stopped for photography they quickly went into hiding. We made one last attempt well after sunset south of Kadoka, SD but the CG's were a bit distant and sporadic and the show was cut short when rain moved in from our west. Kadoka, SD 394m
Jun 26, 2011: Sun - Day 45 - T7B (Day - 5) - Murky Storms - Ainsworth to St Paul, NE:
I knew we were in trouble as soon as I woke up and saw a bunch of on-going convection occurring in a good part of our target area across south central SD and north central NE. The moderate risk did little to bolster my hopes for the day's prospects. I hooked up with Bill and the gang and we headed east on I-90 to Presho and then south to Nebraska to get ahead of a cluster of storms that had prompted severe warnings near Valentine. We encountered increasingly murky conditions as we navigated in front of these and newly developing storms to our south near Ainsworth. We had to get in really close to the approaching core in order to see any base structure and/or any rotation which was showing up on ThreatNet and GRLevel. We then spent the next hour or so heading south in the core of what was now becoming a line of storms stretching from the main storm to the south-southwest. Fortunately, the hail didn't get much larger than quarter to half dollar size. The tail end of the storm continued to prompt tornado warnings and was our only chance at seeing something worthwhile, assuming we could see anything at all! We made one last attempt at this by heading west on I-80 from Grand Island. It was tough to decide if the effort would be worthwhile since we would likely have to drive deep into SE NE in order to stay with this storm. After driving about 20 miles east we decided to turn around and head towards the sunnier skies to our west...in hopes that something would form along the outtflow boundary to our south or that maybe something would form ahead of the on-going storms to our northwest. Either way it was a long shot and we finally gave up and called it a day east of Kearney where we headed for dinner. All in all a most frustrating day. Cozad, NE 576m
Jun 27, 2011: Mon - Day 46 - T7B (Day - 6 Final) - Pretty Storms - Larkspur, CO :
Not a lot to tell about this day. We were ready to actually "see" some storms today after the mess we had to deal with yesterday, so we set our target for some storms coming off the front range in central Colorado or possibly far northern NM. There was a little more instability in the southern target and that area was in SPC's slight risk for severe. However, it was also a couple hours farther south then we really needed to go in order to see a decent storm. As it turned out convection had already begun to develop by the time we reached Limon, so we headed southwest via highway 24. Towers were building nicely to our northwest along the way with new updrafts developing over the same area and subsequently becoming better established. We found a high point west of I-25 near Larkspur and watched a nice cell develop to our west.
We watched this cell weaken as it moved off to our east, but a new and stronger cell soon developed to our west. We then headed a bit farther west to be a bit closer to the foothills and watched this nicely structured storm approach us from the west.
We then went north to sample a bit of the hail core and measured a 1" hailstone which we reported on the Spotter Network. After that we set up for what we figured should be a pretty nice show as the storm drifted off to our east near sunset. We spent the next hour or so filming this departing storm which was a real treat for the eyes! It was nice to slow things down a bit for the final day of this tour and enjoy some truly beautiful storms. Castle Rock, CO 457m