Brian A. Morganti

2014 Chase Summaries

Starting May 19th, 2014....

May 19, 2014:  Mon - Day 1 - Departure/Travel Day :   A later start  for me than usual due to a lack of storms thus far.  However, a few isolated storms have been occurring in the high plains of WY/CO/NE during the last few days and the prospects of this pattern to continue into the coming week was enough to get me out the door.  Greenville, IL 784 miles

May 20, 2014:  Tue - Day 2 - Travel Day/Chase Day - Genoa to Bethune CO Supercell :  My plan for today was to at least get close to the slight risk area somewhere in northeast Colorado, a long drive from Greenville, IL.  I left early, so I was able to make it to the Colorado border by late afternoon, and by that time a storm had already formed and prompted a severe warning just east of Denver.  Fortunately it was slow moving and I was able to make it first to Limon, and then north on highway 71 for an intercept.  The storm was now moving to the southeast and I was able to stay just ahead of the southern end of this storm via a gravel road network about 10 miles north of I-70.  The storm started to exhibit some nice structure and had occasional wall cloud lowerings in the area where GRLevel was showing TVS markers.  I cut south to Arriba to stay ahead of the hail core and then east on I-70 to get well ahead of the storm which was now just off to my north.  Just as I entered the Interstate I saw two white vans doing the same, it was Bill, Bob, Rook, and the rest of the  Tempest gang!  It was nice to meet up with all my old friends again!  One of our last film stops was near Stratton where we got slightly clipped by the hail core.  A few of the stones measured somewhat larger than golf ball size.  We then trailed behind the storm on highway 24 and stopped a few times as it was cutting off our path to the east. Finished the night in Goodland, KS 964 miles in all. 


May 21, 2014:  Wed - Day 3 - Aurora CO to Last Chance Supercell :  My second day of the 2014 season and another nice supercell to photograph!  The Denver Cyclone was in play today and as usual storms formed prior to noon over the front range west of DEN.  We soon had a target storm and decided to get as close as possible which unfortunately meant getting into some heavy traffic volume in Aurora.  We stopped briefly in a parking lot facing west and had an awesome view of a large area of rotation just across the highway.  A tornado warning had just been issued and we were pretty certain that a tornado had extended to the ground near the center of the rotation.  A review of our images and video revealed a dark cone shaped tornado near the center of the large circulation (first image below).  We had to move quickly to our east and soon became involved with hundreds of other chasers who were also traveling east via highway 36.  At first we had some great structure views mostly back to our west, but eventually things got messy and we ended the day earlier than we had hoped.  Finished up in Stratton, CO with a little over 400 miles logged for the day. 


May 22, 2014:  Thu - Day 4 - Strasburg CO Severe Storm :  After the last two days today proved to be a complete letdown.  The prospects for severe storms and even a brief tornado looked decent for northeast Colorado, similar to yesterday, but not near as good due to weaker wind shear.  A few storms went up early near the Palmer Divide and I was in good position to follow these slow moving storms...but although they prompted severe, and even a one time tornado warning, none of them really looked all that great.  I got east of the storms along highway 36 and waited for something to get better, but nothing ever did.  By late afternoon it became obvious it was time to call it quits.  Oh well, from the looks of all the spotter icons I was far from alone. I drove back through Strasburg and just west of town highway 36 was closed due to flooding.  I headed west on I-70 and then south on I-25 to Castle Rock to stay at my son's home for the night with thoughts of heading south tomorrow for Day 2 and in particular Day 3.  The following image was the only one taken today, looking west towards Strasburg during the late afternoon.  258 miles---Castle Rock, CO.

May 23, 2014:  Fri - Day 5 - Torrance County NM Supercells I left Castle Rock for the long drive south into east central New Mexico with anticipation of seeing at least one severe storm in the slight risk area.  I wound up seeing not one, but four great looking storms with each exhibiting supercell structure during their life cycles!  The mid-level flow was rather weak, but as long as a storm could remain at least semi-discrete the structure would become rather photogenic.  I targeted my first storm by mid-afternoon southwest of Vaughn near the town of Cedarvale along highway 42.  The storm was severe warned and moving northeast at 30mph.  I was able to take a few photo-ops on a gravel road network between Cedarvale and Duran, but by this time the storm had lost it's supercell status and began merging with other storms moving in from its southwest.


I then drove back north on highway 54 which paralleled this storm's movement to the northeast.  I cut back west on highway 60 towards Encino to have one last look at this storm as it was moving off to my north, but by this time it had become rather messy and strung out.  However, I could see some decent base structure coming into view on a new storm coming in from my southwest that was more or less following the path of the departing storm.  I got off highway 60 and set up to watch and photograph this now severe storm as it approached and then also moved off to my north.  This one had nicer structure overall and exhibited a wall cloud from time to time.


Okay, now this is started to be fun!  As this storm departed I could see the base of another one coming in from the southwest.  I decided to get a little closer by heading west on highway 60 to Encino and then south on a road that leads to Duran.  I traveled about two or three miles south looking for a good flat view to my southwest and set up shop waiting for this nice looking storm, which was now severe warned, approach my position.  This one was the best one so far and put on a great show with nice structure, wall clouds, and more CG's than the previous two storms.  It also had good ESE inflow but it was quite cool with a dewpoint reading of 49F.


While watching this storm off to my west I could already see the base of yet another storm moving in from my southwest!  This would be my fourth and final encounter for the day, and the best was saved for last!  I headed a few miles south towards Duran where the road curves sharply to the southeast and the westward view gets blocked by high  mesas.  I found a good open view to my southwest and again set up to enjoy the approach of this severe warned storm.  The structure was somewhat similar to the previous storm, but there was a lot more lightning and a large area of hail could be seen being pushed north well ahead of the updraft area.  The storm also was moving a little more eastward in my direction and it wasn't long before I could start to hear the hail roar.  A quick look at GRLevel revealed I would be safe for a little while longer, but was surprised to see a new compact cell racing north towards me directly from the south!  I knew I had to get out of there fast, but the road back north would soon be overtaken by hail from the storm I was watching.  Unfortunately, my escape route south would now also be impacted by hail from the storm racing north from the south!  If I wanted to stay east of these storms I had to get back to highway 54, but that meant cutting it real close to the incoming hail core.  I almost made it to Duran when I saw the white hail shafts rapidly blocking the view of the mesas to my SSW and the first pings of hail started to hit my truck.  I only needed another full minute to get to Duran and 54, but it was too late as I began to get pummeled by an intense hail core.  Fortunately, most of the hail was only nickel size with a few quarters here and there...but it still took me 7 miles and 6 minutes to head far enough northeast to be out of it completely.  The north moving storm (perhaps a left split) was moving twice the speed of the other storms when it crashed into the storm I had been filming.  The result was total destruction of the two storms, but it was now getting rather dark the storms were merging and lining out.  I continued heading north towards Santa Rosa and stopped briefly just south of town for a few obligatory lightning photos, but they were infrequent and a little too far off to my west.  About 550 miles today, ending in Santa Rosa, NM.


May 24, 2014:  Sat - Day 6 - Late Day Storm TX/NM border near Carlsbad Caverns NP :  My initial idea was to stay in the Roswell to Artesia area with the thought of capturing an isolated storm or two similar to what happened yesterday.  However, more robust storms appeared likely farther south into far SE NM or SW TX given the better moisture and upper level support that would be bolstered by a late day wave coming through that area.  By early afternoon a tornado watch box had been issued for far SE NM and severe storms soon erupted well off to my south and east in parts of the southern TX PH.  I figured I better continue south to Artesia and Carlsbad, but then decided to head east at Artesia towards Hobbs as I was getting nervous that the main show might just be the stuff going on to my east in TX.  Either way, I figured that would keep my options open to either target a northeast moving storm in the TX PH, or position myself to the east of any storm that would form later to my west.  I gradually grew less interested in the messy stuff going on to my east, and started to drift west from Kermit to Mentone.  Some cloud tops and weak radar returns were showing up on radar to my west, so I continued in that direction.  By the time I reached Orla lightning strikes were being indicated on GRLevel.  With only a little over an hour of daylight left I decided to take the only route west towards these storms via road 652.  I could soon see the anvil from a storm off to my west and more activity beginning well off to my northwest.  By the time I approached highway 62/180 I had a pretty good view of what soon became a severe warned storm.  I stopped for a couple of photo ops, but mostly just to enjoy the solitude of this storm in a remote area with very few other chasers around.  The storm was moving northeast along highway 62/180, so the views weren't that great looking back to my southwest at this storm as I headed to Carlsbad.  I headed east towards Hobbs from Carlsbad on the same highway, which now runs more easterly and apparently is the same route these storms like to follow.  I stopped several times to look at the lightning, but although a few of the CG's were spectacular they were rather sporadic and difficult to target in the camera's lens. Finished up in Hobbs a little before the tail end of the last storm passed by just to the north of town.  509 miles.


May 25, 2014:  Sun - Day 7 - Supercell Beauty near Carlsbad NM:  Today was similar to yesterday in that I seemed to drive in a big circle winding up almost back where I started in order to find a great storm.  Although severe storms were likely close to my starting point in SE NE, conditions appeared more favorable farther south near an outflow boundary and dryline intersection in west Texas.  I drove south to Monahans and by noontime a severe storm already formed south of Fort Stockton.  Like yesterday a tornado box was issued for a good part of west Texas, only a little farther south.  My original plan was to hang out in Monahans, but given the ongoing severe storm and tornado box I decided to head a little farther south to Fort Stockton.  I sat there for a couple of hours watching a line of towering cu struggle off to my west along the dryline.  I was just about to give up and head back north when one of the towers suddenly looked promising.  I headed west for a closer look, but the tower soon anviled out and faded. Several new updrafts started to do the same thing and nothing looked very good.  Meanwhile, farther north an occasional isolated storm formed in a severe watch box that stretched north from southern NM.  A call from Bill Reid indicated it was a little warmer up there and any storm in my area might be working on recycled air from last nights big area of convection.  And much like yesterday it might be a late show.  I headed back north towards the far southeastern corner of NM and could see a promising tower as I approached the town of Jal, NM.  This looked good for awhile, but by the time I reached Eunice all that was left was a rainbow.  I met up with Bill, Chris and crew at a convenience store in town  as a new area of cumulus was percolating off to our west.  Bill spotted a new cloud top on GRLevel about 50 miles off to our west and it immediately became apparent that we needed to head in that direction fast!  We left Eunice via highway 176 which eventually led us right to the storm!  The storm was moving slowly and all the images below were shot from within a few miles of the intersection of highway 176 and 62/180, or about 30 miles east of Carlsbad, NM.  And similar to yesterday, the storm followed highway 62/180 eastward back to Hobbs.  Hobbs, NM - 368 miles.



May 26, 2014:  Mon - Day 8 - Severe & Tornado Warned Storms - Southern Texas PH & South:  Another day that started out with a large MCS to our east with outflow boundaries pushing back to the west.  I hung out with Bill, Chris, and the rest of the Tempest gang and after lunch in Seminole we headed south to Andrews thinking about the outflow boundary to our south.  But there was excellent moisture and surface winds converging right into our area beneath a maximized southwesterly mid-level flow with towers already going up a little to our north.  We decided to target a cell about 20 miles to our north and soon had a severe storm to observe.  This storm lined out a bit as it drifted eastward as new towers erupted on its western flank as shown in the second photo below.


We then plotted a course eastward from Andrews to stay on the south side of one of these storms that soon became tornado warned.  We cut north towards Patricia on highway 349 to get a closer look at the ragged wall cloud with plumes of red dust reaching skyward.  It was around this time that a brief rope-like tornado was reported and may be visible in the photo below.

We then went south to highway 176 and traveled west through Tarzan, and then cut north at Lenora to get another close look at this east-southeastward moving storm.  Although the views were dramatic at times the storm was becoming outflow dominant.


We then dove south to I-20 and westward a bit before exiting at 165 to look at the next warned storm coming in from our west-northwest.  We stopped to observe this storm a couple of times before continuing southeastward to Garden City.  We then opted to continue south of town rather than risk the hail core that would impact the highway going east of town.  The first photo below was taken from northwest of Garden City, the others were taken from highway 33 south of town looking back to the northwest or north.


We then took Tower Road east which zigzags east and north to stay with a series of severe and tornado warned storms that were to our north with the hopes of reaching Sterling City before the hail core would overtake the road.  We stopped to take a photo of a sun lit storm tower to north and again of the storm base just before reaching our south option 163.  The show was pretty much over after that, even though more storms were moving in from the west. Now we had to deal cutting through these storms on our way to San Angelo for the night.  About 400 miles for this day.

May 27, 2014:  Tue - Day 9 - Positioning Day - Travel North:  I decided to blow off the slight risk in south central Texas in favor some high plains storm activity in the coming days.  I drove from San Angelo, Texas to Fort Morgan, Colorado in a little over 12 hours, and will need to drive even farther tomorrow to the best storm indices near the Montana/Canadian border.  The decision will be made tomorrow morning as to how far north I am willing to drive, and a lot will depend on how great the tornado risk will be.  I could easily be satisfied with a nicely structured storm farther south as I don't look forward to another day of marathon driving.  I'm sort of beat after the last few days. I did manage to see some lightning from distant severe warned storms well off to my northwest, so technically I can say that this is the 8th consecutive day that I have witnessed a severe storm.  720 miles for today.

 May 28, 2014:  Wed - Day 10 - Severe Warned Storms - Eastern Montana:  Given the long two day drive to get up here, this certainly wasn't the day I had been hoping for.  I made it to Miles City by late afternoon soon after a severe watch box had been issued just to my west.  I could see the anvils from a small line of cells to my southwest, one of which was severe warned.  I wasn't all that much interested in these storms at the time since either these or other storms farther north would eventually be moving into a much better shear and instability environment a couple hours drive to my north. But road options are far and few between and they often lead 60-80 miles in the wrong direction needed for storm intercepts.  The best option at this point was to head northwest on highway 59 towards Jordan, and then east on highway 200.  That would give me good access to the severe storms coming in from my southwest (as shown in the first photo below) should they really develop as they moved northeastward, or lead me to another road option north towards Glasgow for the bigger storms coming in from north central Montana.  Meanwhile a second severe watch box was issued north of the original one, and I really wanted to be on those storms northwest of Lewistown.  But they were 175 miles away as the crow flies, but would take over 3 hours given the road network and navigation around the Missouri River.  With only a little over two hours of daylight remaining that wasn't an option.  I had to stick with "my" storms and hope they would intensify as they moved northeast, but they never really got well organized.  I could easily have blasted ahead of these storms, but there just was no point.  Instead, I used the last hour of so of light to hang just behind the storms looking to photograph stormy scenes and lightning.  Meanwhile the bigger storms to my northwest were still over 125 miles away, lining out and becoming weaker.  Again not the day I was expecting, but it could have been worse.  Had a large isolated sculpted supercell or two formed along with a couple of tornadoes and had I not made the trip knowing that I could have, that would have definitely been worse! Another 728 miles driven - Glendive, Montana.


May 29, 2014:  Thu - Day 11 - Severe Storms & Evening Supercell - Southwestern North Dakota:  I spent the first part of my day visiting Theodore Roosevelt NP, since it didn't appear that I would need to travel too far east to stay ahead of the slow moving CF.  I took the driving loop around the southern extension of the park whilst keeping my eye any TCu that might pop up to my east.  Upon seeing the first small towers bubble ahead of the CF I headed east on I-94 and snapped the fourth image below as I approached the line of Cumulus near Dickinson.


I got ahead of these now storms at Richardton, and exited to take a better look back to my west.  I could see the large anvil of a now severe warned cell that was approaching from my southwest as shown in the first image below.  I then went closer to town to take a few more images of the intensifying line of convection to my west. After that I continued east of I-94 a few more miles and stopped near Hebron to take a few more images of the stormy skies to my west.


I then continued east and exited at Glen Ullin.  I took one last image of the storm moving off to my north (last image above), and then set my sights on the storms that were developing to my south.  I traveled several miles down highway 49 and sat for a while watching the tail end of a new line of storms that were forming behind the cold front, but a new and isolated Cb began to form right on the cold front just to my west as seen in the first photo below.  I targeted this storm, which soon became severe warned as it moved northeast towards the town of Beulah.  This storm was definitely the best of the day as it took on supercell characteristics and put on quite a show for awhile.  It had a dark lowering beneath the base and GRLevel was indicating a TVS marker during the time these images were taken. The final images below are looking WNW from highway 49 about 8 miles south of Beulah.  Unlike yesterday, today turned out better than expected.  Bismark, ND with 335 miles on the odometer.


May 30, 2014:  Fri - Day 12 - Brief Tornado - Central South Dakota:  My goal for today was to head south into South Dakota and then west towards Montana to be in better position for the following day's severe weather threat.  There was a chance of severe weather today along the nearly stationary frontal boundary that was draped across central SD and then south-southwestward into Nebraska.  I contemplated chasing somewhere in the Badlands, but as I headed south the central part of SD was upgraded to a slight risk area and soon an MD was in place as well.  I was right on the western edge of the MD, and with no particular place to go I decided to hang out in the Gettysburg area and see how these storms to my east would progress.  I could see the towers not too far to my east and continued to monitor radar trends.  There was one storm that was briefly severe warned about 25 miles to my west that was nearly stationary and prompting flash flood warnings.  By mid-afternoon I decided to get closer and take a look.  Not much exciting was happening so I searched around for a few artsy photos with a stormy sky background.


I then drifted back west to the intersection of highway 47 & 212 a little east of Seneca where I had been sitting for quite some time.  The almost continuous north/south line of storms was now just off to my east with a stronger cell on radar showing up about 20 miles to my south.  I was just about to head in that direction to take a look when a tornado warning popped up for that cell.  It certainly didn't look very tornadic on the base reflectivity scan, but the base velocity scan on GRLevel did show a broad couplet.  I clicked on the text for the tornado warning which indicated an EM relayed a report that a tornado was spotted on the ground.  I blasted south on 47 and could see nothing but uninteresting cloud bases and heavy rain shafts just off to my east.  About 15 miles south I began to see the makings of some base cloud structure and possible wall cloud through the obscuring rain shafts directly to my SSE.  The full structure soon came into view and it was quite a contrast to all the other murk that I had been seeing all day!  I hurried to the intersection of highway 47 & 26, which is about 18 miles north of Highmore,  and immediately got blasted by strong RFD winds (33 sustained, gusts to 43) coming out of the SSE which was blowing plenty of dust into my eyes.  There was a large clear slot slicing in from the west right to a cylindrical/barrel-shaped wall cloud that extended about half-way to the ground about 1/4 mile to my SSE.  I could just barely make out a brief dust plume under this feature and slightly to its east.  I probably saw a brief connection to the ground at this point as the system continued moving north. This storm was slightly west of the other storms and seemed to riding the stationary boundary northward and gobbling juicy inflow streaming in from the northeast, almost opposite of what is usually observed.  The storm became a little less interesting as it moved off to my east and then north, but I following it back north again on highway 47 in case it would try and produce another tornado...but it was not to be.  Finally left everything go around 8pm and drove west to Belle Fourche, SD for the night.  488 miles for today, and like yesterday a much better day than anticipated!


May 31, 2014:  Sat - Day 13 - Beautiful Supercell - Miles City, Montana:  My best chance to see a great looking supercell today appeared to be somewhere in southeastern Montana based on the best combination of southwesterly mid-level winds, southeasterly surface winds, and maximized instability.  I left Belle Fourche with a first goal of Broadus where I would evaluate things further.  By mid-afternoon towers were already going up to my west and radar returns were numerous from north central Wyoming north through east-central Montana.  I had to make a decision at the intersection of highway 212 & 59...go west or go north, which would likely make a huge difference in what I would or would not see on this day.  Towers looked a little perkier to my north and backed surface winds looked better as well, but I could have just as easily flipped a coin as there were strong storms in Wyoming that would later be heading northward across the Montana border.  I headed north keeping my eye on one isolated Cb that was growing nicely about 25 miles west of Volborg.  The views west weren't that great so I continued about 20 miles north of town before I stopped and watched this storm for awhile.  It soon split, and sputtered...but I could see some hard convection occurring well off to my northwest.  GRLevel indicated a severe storm about 60 miles to my NNW, or about 25 miles WNW of Miles City.  I headed in that direction figuring I might be too late for the show, but soon realized this storm was more or less growing in place at the tail end of other storms to its north, and it was looking better and better on radar as I got closer to Miles City.  I could see this was the real deal as I made my way through the town of Miles City.  This was no mushy storm, it was now tornado warned and a flanking line of hard towers going up behind the main updraft area.   I couldn't wait to get through town and northwest on highway 59, finally a Montana road that would lead my precisely where I wanted to go!  As I gained elevation north of town the storm's rain free base and a small defined wall cloud with little funnels dangling below come into view.  I continued about 10-12 miles north of town and stopped where I had an excellent flat view to west-northwest.  I didn't want to travel any farther north and risk missing some amazing structure obscured by any anvil rain.  Besides, if a tornado formed I'd have an excellent view from where I stopped, and the storm would be heading right to me!  GRLevel continued to show a nice couplet on the base velocity scan and it is possible that a brief tornado could have occurred, but I could not see rotation or dust on the ground from my vantage point, possibly my video will show something more when viewed on the big screen. The following images were all taken along highway 59 a few miles north of Miles City.  I'll add more images of this storm at a later time to document its life cycle a little better.



The hail core was getting awfully close to Miles City so it was time to get back through town and then either head back south of highway 59 or east on 12.  Highway 12 seemed the best option to keep me ahead of this storm.  I didn't like the idea of heading south on 59 where I would be right in front of other strong storms moving in from the west, not to mention limited data connectivity and the radar hole not showing what is going on.  I stopped a few times to look back at the storm, but it was becoming much weaker as it had a lot of competition from other storms and the loss of daytime heating.  Made it back to Belle Fourche for the night with another 458 miles logged for the day, but all in all a great day!


June 1, 2014:  Sun - Day 14 - Isolated Supercell - Julesburg, Colorado:  My original plan was to head south to near the southwest Nebraska/Kansas border area, but the outflow boundary from the previous night's MCS had been pushed south farther than I expected.  That meant that most of supercells would be down in Kansas, a little too far south for me to reach in time, but figured I'd still be a le to catch something at the tail end of the boundary that was hung up near Burlington, CO.  I reached the Nebraska Panhandle by mid-afternoon and as storms were beginning to form well off to my west.  I contemplated sticking around for these storms but opted to continue south figuring these would be moving into the more stabilized air left in the wake of the MCS.  By the time I reached Imperial, NE I had safely placed myself 100 miles from the nearest storms!  I could see the updrafts of two large cells to my south but they appeared to be struggling.  The storms back to my northwest were getting stronger and heading in my direction and an MD had just been issued for a small area to my northwest.  It was an easy decision to head west out of Imperial and then north at Holyoke, CO to reach these storms...and better yet, a more isolated cell that had formed on the tail end of a line of severe-warned storms to it's north.  I had a good visual on this storm from north of Julesburg and set up just west of town to watch it approach my position, as shown in the following images. 


As the hail core approached I dashed back through town and then back south on highway 385.  A second cell formed on the southern flank of the storm I had just been photographing and soon became the dominant cell.  I encountered a small hail core from this cell on my way south and then stopped to take a few images as these cells moved off to my east.


I then cut east from Holyoke on Highway 6 to watch the sunset illuminate the storm as it continued to drift off to the southeast.  It put on quite a pretty show for a while, but quickly weakened as the sun set.  A nice way to finish the day, a pretty storm that yielded plenty of photo opportunities with nary another chaser around!  525 miles- Imperial, NE.


June 2, 2014:  Mon - Day 15 - No Storms - Ogallala, NE:  My 13 day streak of witnessing at least one severe storm each day was broken today.  There was a slim possibility that a storm might form late in the day coming off the Cheyenne Ridge or forming somewhere in far northeast Colorado, but it was not to be.  Hung out in Sydney, NE for awhile, then drifted south towards a mildly interesting Cu field, but these never developed. Met up with Bill Reid and his group later in the day and we are all staying in Ogallala tonight which should be a pretty good place to start out from for tomorrow's risk of severe storms including tornadoes.  About 200 miles driven today.

June 3, 2014:  Tue - Day 16 - Supercell Structure Storm - Bayard to Lewellen, NE:  Although the moderate risk for severe storms and tornadoes was somewhat tempting across central Nebraska, the higher photographic reward would be much more likely farther west across the high plains of Nebraska.  Models indicate more isolated storm activity in this area and a first guess target was near Alliance.  I met up with Matt Crowther & Vince Miller in AIA for lunch and to study data.  The HRRR model had backed off somewhat on a big supercell moving into NW NE, and Chadron was already behind the outflow boundary with cool northeast winds.  An MD had been in place and a tornado watch for all of western NE was soon issued except for the far northwest corner.  There were some towers going up to our north and northeast, but a better and more isolated tower went up to our south just west of Bridgeport.  It was starting to look pretty good so back south we went for an intercept.  By the time we reached Bridgeport it no longer looked very healthy.  A decision would need to be made to stay put and wait, continue east towards the back edge of the convection initiating along the outflow boundary to our northeast...or consider stuff that was moving in from Wyoming.  The surface obs said to go east a bit, and that is what we did.  Some stuff to our northeast looked like it would be our target storm, but now that dang cell moving in from Wyoming was starting to look mighty good on radar and visually as well!  So, back west we went and retraced the 30-45 minute drive we just made from our decision spot!  But it didn't matter, this storm was isolated, moving parallel to highway 26 and coming right at us!  Maybe the HRRR was right all along.  We reached the cell near the town of Bayard, which is just north of Chimney Rock.  The storm was severe warned and moving rather quickly to the southeast....and it wasn't long before it was tornado warned.  We snapped a few images and then bolted back southeast on highway 26 stopping a couple more times to take some quick images...the hail was getting mighty close.  The last image below was taken while driving and looking north at the approaching hail core while we were attempting to beat the hail east via highway 92 between Northport and Broadwater.


We just made it to Broadwater and blasted east a couple of miles when we stopped to take the first image below.  The hail could be seen coming down the road to our west...we had to move and luckily only got hit with a few stones, maybe marble size or slightly larger.  Once we got about another 5 or 6 miles ahead we quickly stopped for more images, then the hail core would soon be nipping at our heels and the whole process would continue all the way to Lewellen.  Some of the best structure, including some rotating funnels were viewed in the Lisco to Oshkosh area as seen in the photos below.


At Lewellen we took highway 92 around the north side of the lake in order to stay as close to possible to the southern flank of this supercell.  At times it looked to be weakening and then it would pulse up and take on some nice structure like the bell-shaped updraft cylinder as shown in the following images.  There was also a neat inflow/shelf cloud feature attached to the base of this storm that was streaming in from the south.  Unfortunately, the hills were becoming problematic and often times the best structure would occur when there just was no good place to stop and set up for photography. 


After these structure images were taken the cell started to go down hill pretty fast.  I captured a few more images from the Lake McConaughy bridge crossing as the remnants of the cell drifted off to the southeast.  As the sun set new towers were going up well to our east, but we were not interested in going after those except for a few quick images from afar...we were well satisfied with our pretty structure storm, with very few other chasers seen in the area.    390 miles - Ogallala, NE again.  


June 4, 2014:  Wed - Day 17 - Western Nebraska Supercells:  The setup was again good for late day supercells in the high plains of WY/NE/CO with good upslope flow, sufficient moisture and adequate upper level wind support.  The target area looked very similar to yesterday...head to the Sydney to Scottsbluff area and wait for storms to initiate first off the higher terrain in Wyoming and then later in western Nebraska.  Storms had formed by mid-afternoon in Wyoming and I headed from Sydney to Bridgeport to intercept this east-northeastward moving storm.  By the time I reached Chimney Rock the storm had weakened and there was no need to go any farther.  I hung out around Chimney rock waiting for more storms to form nearby.  Within an hour one formed nearly overhead and I began to move eastward to stay ahead of this nicely developing storm.  It soon took on supercell characteristics, but as the storm moved to the east my only road option (26) runs southeast which took me farther away from the storm's base.  Unlike yesterday, my views were confined mostly to the updraft region.  I stopped several times between Northport and Lisco to observe this storm but it eventually grew weaker as it mover farther away to my north. 


I then cut north for about 10 miles on a good unpaved road at Lisco and watched new storm development to my north. There were also ongoing severe warned storms to the north of the newly developing ones but I opted not to go after those.  There was only about 90 minutes of daylight left and there was a new and isolated cell forming about 100 miles to my WSW in Wyoming that was moving ESE to between Scottsbluff and Kimball.  I figured I have just enough time to intercept this storm before it got totally dark so I started heading back west.  I had a good visual on this storm and the new ones developing to my north.  At Bridgeport I cut south and then west on route 88 and stopped to take some photos of the Courthouse & Jailhouse Rocks with the storms towers to their north.  I also had a good view of the updraft base and large anvil area of the storm to my west as shown in the following images. This storm had a persistent wall clouds and some connection to the ground at times that was more than likely rising scud. 


I was fast losing my light and tried to beat this and other rapidly developing storms with hail cores west to the highway 88 and 71 intersection so that I could dive south...but it was too late.  Fortunately, I managed to avoid the largest hail cores.  The lightning was incredible with these storms as I was driving though the heavy rain and small hail!  I dropped south a few miles on 71 and these storms moved off to my east I finally cleared the heavy rain.  I decided to pull off on a gravel road to shoot lightning from this departing storm, but by now most of the lightning was cloud imbedded.  However, a new storm had formed to my west and was starting to show some lightning activity.  I waited until this cell got closer and managed to capture a few images with just a hint of the remaining sunset colors.  All in all another fun day with only 298 miles on the odometer.  Kimball, NE.


June 5, 2014:  Thu - Day 18 - Kiowa to Lamar Colorado Supercell:  The setup looked perfect today for a classic Palmer Divide supercell or or two to form and move southeastward, and that is exactly what happened.  We reached Last Chance by mid-afternoon and a storm had already formed about 50 miles to our west.  Matt, Vince, and I briefly contemplated heading west on highway 36 for an easy intercept but quickly figured if this storm would really develop into a supercell it would be moving southeast before long.  We continued south towards Limon and then a few miles west on Highway 86.  The storm was evolving nicely into a supercell and coming southeast right towards our position, but we had plenty of time to take some photos.  We then headed back down 71 to stay ahead of this storm, stopping a few times along the way for photographs. From there we took a series of paved and mostly unpaved roads east and south through Karval to near Haswell and eventually south to highway 50.  The storm put on a good show during this time near Haswell pulling in lots of dusty inflow and scary lowerings, around the time that it became tornado warned for the first time.



When we reached highway 50 near Las Animas we cut east towards Lamar and were immediately treated to a fantastic elevator style updraft tower on the backside of this supercell.  The show was brief as low clouds quickly obscured the view.  We were able to get ahead of the storm a little west of Lamar and I managed to snap off a couple shots of the storm to our north just as it became tornado warned for the second time (3rd image below).  The final stop was made just west of Lamar a little after sunset looking back at the storm as it transitioned into LP structure and put on a nice display of CC lightning.  Another day of high plains fun with about 330 miles traveled ending in Lamar, CO.


June 6, 2014:  Fri - Day 19 - Supercells - Northeast New Mexico:  Kind of a crazy day, the first half spent chasing with Matt Crowther and Vince Miller.  Our plan was to head to Clayton, NM and then west towards any developing supercell by early afternoon.  Storms had already formed to our west and one was producing a tornado near Trinidad, CO...too far for us given the poor road network.  At least three other supercells were forming about 60 miles to our west, and each one looked like they could be our target storm as we headed west out of Clayton.  The southern most of these cells became our target storm and we spent the next hour or so navigating a series of paved and unpaved roads for an intercept near Roy, NM.  The storm had some nice features and structures at times, but new storms were beginning to form just about everywhere.  One right behind our target storm, and others nearly overhead and to our southeast.  I took the following images just before we blasted southeast on highway 39 towards Mosquero. 


This storm and others kept us moving southeast to the intersection of 102 and 420.  I stopped to take a look back east and decided to head straight east on 420 to stay ahead of the storm while Matt and Vince continued north.  This proved to be a big mistake for me.  Although I was able to stay ahead of the fast filling storm behind me, I had no road option to escape the ever expanding and northward propagating hail core from a big cell that rapidly formed to my south.  I tried in vain to outrun it to the 420 north option, but got clobbered pretty good for about 3 or 4 miles by nickel to quarter size hail.  Fortunately no glass was broken, but I added a quite a few more hail dents to the collection.  By now the entire area to my south had filled in with two or three tornado warned supercells and I found myself on the wrong side of these storms!  There was just no opening to get back to the south side of these storms, so I continued north towards Clayton trying to figure out what to do...there was still nearly two hours of useable daylight left.  I finally turned around and headed back towards the western most cell which was still tornado warned figuring I might still have a chance at that one.  But it wasn't long before this storm weakened and I had to pause again.  There were some awesome mammatus clouds overhead and I could see a small isolated LP storm forming off to my west.  I targeted this cell via a gravel road network and had fun filming the mammatus, the weakening storm to my south, and the LP storm to my west.  I finished up the day filming pretty stuff in and around this LP storm before heading back to Clayton for the night.  430 miles.



June 7, 2014:  Sat - Day 20 - Mothership & LP supercell, Roswell - New Mexico:   I was determined today not to get stuck north of any storms and hedged my bets on storms that would form farther south in New Mexico by late day.  I could easily see the outflow boundary from last nights convection that was nearly stationary to my south as I headed towards Tucumcari.  About 10 miles south of town I watched a nearly stationary storm develop, but then did nothing for nearly an hour.  An MD was issued for this area and this storm was mentioned.  Met up and chatted with Roger & Elke Edwards, Charles Edwards, Bruce H. and Sam B. while waiting for this storm to do something.  A new cell looked promising about 50 miles to my west near Fort Sumner, so I headed towards that one.  It looked better than the storm I abandoned, but it too soon weakened and died.  But there was a much larger storm about 75 miles farther west and it was moving southeast. I figured this might be the big one of the day as I plotted a course south and east for an intercept north of Roswell.  The storm prompted a tornado warning at about the time the first photo below was taken from near the intersection of highway 20/285.  This storm and a new cell on it's heals were moving slowly to the southeast paralleling highway 285, so it was just a matter of following this highway south...stay ahead of the storm, and take photos until these storms crossed highway 285 north of Roswell.  These storms were pulling in nice warm inflow from the southeast.  There weren't many good pull off stops and I had to jump fences and gates, nearly killing myself in the process so as to avoid those damn awful utility polls and wires from ruining my images!  The storm became quite a beast north of Roswell during the early evening producing amazing structure that including a massive layered barrel updraft region. It was about at this time that I felt the heat blast from a close lightning strike...I could smell the ozone, not sure exactly where it hit but bolted back to my truck just as another one hit!


Behind this amazing structure there was a second supercell tagging along.  This one was more LP structure and in itself was quite photogenic!  Finished up the day photographing this cell and the barrel shaped updraft of the departing lead cell from near the highway intersection of 285/70 just north of Roswell at sunset.  Tons more images, but those can come later.  420 miles, Roswell, NM


June 8, 2014:  Sun - Day 21 - Final - Supercell & Late Day Stormy Skies, Roswell to Tucumcari - New Mexico:  Finished up my final chase day with another nice supercell west of Roswell and some pretty prairie scenes near McAlister, NM.  Had a hard time deciding on heading south from Roswell for what might be the best storm of the day, or north in the direction of home for a possible tail end storm near I-40.  Starting driving north about 50 miles, then changed my mind after seeing the latest HRRR model and receiving phone call from Matt C.  Drove back to Roswell to fill up on gas and have some lunch.  While doing so an early cell went up in the heavy cloud cover about 60 miles to my northwest.  This storm quickly became severe and had a darn nice shape on radar.  Headed back to Roswell then west on 70 about 20 miles to a high point to wait.  Charles Edwards was there, and Matt, Vince, and Mike U. soon joined the group.  We hung around about 45 minutes watching the storm develop and move in our direction.  It put on a decent show with a rotating wall cloud at times and it looked like it was about to produce a tornado on more than one occasion, but no cigar.  The hail core would soon cut off our path back east and everyone left to stay ahead of this storm.  I hung back not wanting to have the storm push me all the way south to the Texas border, which would mean several more hours for the return trip home.  I snapped a picture of the departing cell and hail cores and then headed north towards Tucumcari. 


I just about made it to the tail end cell near Tucumcari near sunset when a bunch of low clouds filled in obscuring my view of the storm, it didn't matter since I could now slow down and film a pretty roll/shelf type cloud that rapidly developed just to my north.  I found several wind mills to film in the foreground, so a great photographic ending to a very successful trip overall!  Tucumcari, NM 340 miles.


June 9, 2014:  Mon - Day 22 - Departure Day - Missouri Low-Topped Storms:  A long mostly uneventful drive back towards Pennsylvania except for the low-topped storms that developed along a boundary in Missouri.  An MD was issued as I was traveling through northeastern Missouri and several very low base, low top strong storm developed.  The MD mentioned the possibility of tornadoes, but I wasn't going to stick around waiting.  The storms were mildly entertaining and helped pass the time on the long ride homeward bound, but I never once felt compelled to stop and take out my cameras.  I was then plagued by light to moderate rain for the next several hours.  Tucumcari, NM to Greenville, IL - 918 miles

June 10, 2014:  Tue - Day 23 - Travel Home  Day:  Another long weary day of driving with a good part of the time again encountering light to moderate rain along the way.  Other than a few isolated and widely separated showers and thunderstorms in central PA, the last stretch home was mostly uneventful...which was fine by me. 

Of note for future comparison, the average nightly rate paid for hotel stays was $70.00 and the average daily gas expense came in at $86.00.  Highest per gallon was $3.89 in Illinois and least was $3.25 in Oklahoma.  Gas prices started dropping dramatically from Missouri westward, as usual.  Total actual miles driven for this trip 11,529, which may vary from estimated cumulative miles totaled above.  All in all a great trip with lots of quality photo opportunities that could be quickly seized upon with ease from my own vehicle.   

2014 Chase Blog - Part 2

Starting May 26th, 2014....

June 26th, 2014:  Thu - Day 1 - Departure/Travel DayNancy and I left home by 1pm and made it to Vandalia, Ohio by 9pm....wanted to get a good night's rest for the long drive to western Kansas tomorrow and the risk of severe storms in that region.  This will be a long shot to reach the eastern fringe of the slight risk area even with an early departure, but should have a chance of at least seeing something before nightfall.  First 500 miles behind us today. 

June 27th, 2014:  Fri - Day 2 - Travel Day/Severe Storm - Scott City, KS A very long travel day that ended with a brief chase to near Scott City Kansas for a severe warned storm after sunset.  We passed by Hays and our hotel for the night around 7pm but decided to continue west towards storms that had formed to our northwest and ones that might form ahead of the Dryline to our southwest.  The stuff to our north was rather junky and moving away, so I had no interest in going after them, although Nancy's "Boxer Cloud" feature north of I-70 was rather interesting :-).  We held up briefly near Wakeeney watching radar for storm development to our southwest.  Some new storms were forming and it seemed we might just have enough time to at least see some structure and lightning if we got moving again.  We cut south on 83 from Oakley to north of Scott City at the highway 4 intersection.  We stopped to look at some interesting mammatus to our west and then the shelf cloud feature from the most intense storm that was now just off to our west and moving northeast.  We then headed back east on route 4 towards Hays and had almost continuous lightning to our north and from new storms back to our west.  1081 miles in all!  Hays, KS.


June 28th, 2014:  Sat - Day 3 - Travel to Denver Day:  No storms, just a day of travel to pick up the van in Denver and get ready for the start of the tour.  300 miles

June 29th, 2014:  Sun - Day 4 - T9 D1 Orientation - Tornado Warned Storm - Portsmouth, IA:

Another long day of travel Sunday with not a lot of photo opportunities. Picked up the new tour group in DEN, blasted east across all of Nebraska hoping for something to form in the eastern part of the tornado box, but CAP too strong. Continued towards the persistent area of new storm development north of Omaha that was moving ESE into Iowa. Gad, I had to go into Iowa, but witnessed the nice updraft structure of the "tail-end" cell moving towards Portsmouth near sunset. Wanted to stop for photos, but hook-echo suddenly developed on our target storm and our storm became tornado warned...first "capable" then "confirmed". Could see the base heading north on highway 191 and possible upper portion of tornado ahead of clear slot---we only needed 8 more miles to the action area!BUT, damn hills, trees, and a three minute construction light all conspired against us. So, only got a couple shots driving on our approach and upon arrival when the cell was rapidly dying.  We got glimpses of the wall cloud and upper portion of probable tornado above the hills and trees while driving north on highway 191.   Below shows our storm as we approached and as it departed. Close to 700 miles driven. Avoca, IA


June 30th, 2014:  Mon - Day 5 - T9 D2 - Tornado Warned Storm - Bethany, MO: 

After having had enough of the big messy storms in IA I headed south to my second "favorite" place to chase...Missouri lol ! Less worked over air down there, and finally intercepted an isolated supercell just north of New Hampton just as it became tornado warned.  Like yesterday, hills and trees obscured our view of the tornado all the way to the ground.  Followed the storm east to near Princeton before letting it go, and then back west to blast through a thin line of severe warned cells before calling it a day in St. Joseph, MO.  There's a lot more story to this day, but those details will have to wait for another time.  389 miles


July 1st, 2014:  Tue - Day 6 - T9 D3 - Stormy Skies - Model, CO: 

Chase prospects were slim for this day but we managed to find some stormy skies north of Trinidad Colorado, with one storm even going severe just to our west! A perfect backdrop for photographing some of the old houses in the ghost town of Model, so a day that ended up pretty much as expected! A long drive of 698 miles, but was necessary if we wanted to see any kind of storm activity in the high plains for the next few days.  Trinidad, CO. 


July 2nd, 2014:  Wed - Day 7 - T9 D4 - Marginal Storm, Old Houses, & Ft Union National Monument - Wagon Mound, NM: 

Another day of marginal storm activity mainly over the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico, much of which was blanketed with a heavy cloud cover and showers until early afternoon. Even a trip to the top of Mount Capulin was a washout!  I then headed south to brighter skies and we managed to find one pretty storm cell west of Wagon Mound, NM.  We then went in closer look, but the storm had weakened.  We found  some "old building" to photograph in the small town of Ocate which sits in a broad valley amidst some rocky escarpments.  The few storms that later formed were rather weak and moved south over the mountains to our west.  We finished up the day visiting the massive Fort Union remnants north of Las Vegas, NM...a must see for anyone visiting that area of the state!  The size of this complex is overwhelming to say the least.  Las Vegas, NM 296 miles logged for the day.


July 3rd, 2014:  Thu - Day 8 - T9 D5 - Severe Storm, Tornado Whirl, and Awesome Lightning Display - Limon, CO: 

A great day in the Limon Colorado area!  First watched nice towering Cumulus form over the mountains to our west heading up I-25 in the Trinidad area.  Had to stop in TAD to replace MIFI power cord and have engine checked for overheating problem (overheating/overflow of antifreeze at the top of Raton Pass - 7800').  A nice Cb went up directly overhead as we had lunch in TAD, and the continued north on I-25 searching for a storm to form or move east of the I-25 corridor.  Finally found one forming just east of I-25 near Colorado Springs at this point was  the only storm in Colorado that made it east of the front range. Storm went severe, and was initially only moving east at 15mph. Updraft area north of storm as we headed into Limon on highway 24 after we cut through the northern edge of the hail core (nickel to quarter size hail for 15 minutes...nice base structure to our immediate south on the northern flank of storm.  Was then able to get ahead of this storm by blasting south on 71 to just barely beat the eastern flank of the hail.  It was at this point when we observed a cinnamon swirl wall cloud directly overhead and a dusty tornadic circulation on the ground about 150 yards to the west of highway 71.   Later left this storm go as another severe storm formed north of Limon...then finished up the day with lots of lightning fun on this severe warned storm and a fabulous display on another severe warned storm that later formed directly to our north of our film spot about 15 miles NNE of Limon!




July 4th, 2014:  Fri - Day 9 - T9 D6 -  Marginally severe storms - Nebraska Panhandle:

Another day of chasing the general thunder area, with the best chance to see a storm going severe likely in the southern Nebraska Panhandle. We found a line of hard towers going up near Kimbal with one cell going severe a little to our south. We investigated this cell but the base was mostly uninteresting. We then turned our attention to a massive Cb bomb that exploded to our north near Bridgeport. We took a few images on our approach but the storm croaked upon our arrival. We later got into a cluster of storms near sunset south of Imperial, NE with one cell going severe and pushing out tons of dusty outflow. Finished up in Goodland just in time for fireworks displays, both natural and made made.


July 5th, 2014:  Sat - Day 10 - T9 D7 Final -  Pretty Storm & Lightning Display - Clayton, NM:

We finished up our last chase day near Clayton, New Mexico with a pretty storm near sunset and an awesome lightning display! This was yet another day with only general thunder prospects across the high plains. My target was a small ribbon of Theta-E/CAPE axis that went SW to NE cutting across far SE Colorado. We hung out in Springfield, CO for until mid-afternoon, then briefly got lured north by a "sucker" storm that was north of Lamar. That one croaked and we turned around and headed back towards our target area as small towers went up to our south, but these soon croaked as well. There was one last hope with a cell that went up about 50 miles to our southwest near Clayton---IF it could hold together. It did and actually became the best storm in a 300 mile radius! The storm stayed strong as we got west of Clayton, but the base was not all that interesting and we got stuck under light to moderate anvil rainfall upon our approach. We then headed back through town to get into a better position as new rain shafts developed to our south. I headed for a high spot on some gravel roads and set up shop to enjoy the show for the next two hours until well past sunset. The storm slowly drifted south and east of our position, but offered numerous photo ops and was a great ending for our tour group!


July 6th, 2014:  Sun - Day 11 - T9 D7 departure -  DEN - Castle Rock, CO:

No events on this day...Kim started her drive back to Texas with the overheating van and Nancy and I hung out and got some much needed rest at our son's house in Castle Rock.

July 7th, 2014:  Mon - Day 12 - Pretty Updrafts & late day lightning! - Castle Rock, CO:

Another day to relax and spend time with family.  After a visit to Pikes Peak we had a nice BBQ lunch and then hung out and relaxed the rest of the afternoon.  Some late day storm towers went up to our north and a short walk into the yard was all that was needed to capture some lightning images.  Nice to just walk back inside after the "shoot" and not have to drive for an hour or two to a hotel.