May 15, 2017: Mon Day 1 - Departure/Travel Day: After vacillating for days a last minute decision was made to start my chase vacation as the setup for Supercells and tornadoes in Kansas for the following day was too hard to resist. I Drove to Greenfield, Indiana under nice sunny skies for the first leg of my trip to the plains. Some severe storms did occur in the TX PH while I was in transit, but no tornadoes. 804 miles.
May 16, 2017: Tue Day 2 - Travel Day/Chase Day: I left Greenfield about 5am in order to reach southwest Kansas by late afternoon. This area along with the Texas Panhandle was prime for Supercells and potentially tornadoes. Fortunately I arrived just as storms were initiating and was able to make my first intercept south of Minneola, KS. Unfortunately it soon became apparent that the best convergence along the Dryline was about 120 miles to my south in the Texas Panhandle, but there was still potential for SW KS which was under a tornado watch box. The storms in southwest Kansas stayed mostly HP in nature with some reports of rain-wrapped tornadoes. Another problem was competing storms, so no one storm ever became dominate. I targeted one cell that had been a little east of the others and had a good shape on radar at times. This one produced a few tight wall clouds, but with little motion. I left this one go and waited for the next (and last) supercell to move in from the southwest. This one had a little better structure, but was still very wet as it drifted off to the northeast. I took the first three images below from Highway 283 south of Minneola. I then followed the south flank of this storm to near Kinsley before letting it go. I took the last photo looking north towards Kinsley at about the time a rain-wrapped tornado was reported. Not exactly the day I had in mind, but it got me out the door and started on the 2017 season. Total travel and chase miles for today: 842 miles
May 17, 2017: Wed Day 3 - Down Day: With no severe weather threats in my favored area today was a day to rest up from all the driving the last two days. Spent the day and another night in Dodge City, Kansas which would be a good starting place for the following day. Minimal miles driven.
May 18, 2017: Thu Day 4 - High Risk Day - Kansas: My hopes dwindled for this day when it was upgraded to a high risk of severe weather, which all too often leads to a bust for me. Still, the chances of a discrete supercell with a long-track tornado was there and that possibility could not be ignored. I left Dodge City after lunch and drifted south. The risk area covered a good portion of western Oklahoma as well and storms would likely form there first ahead of the Dryline. I met up with the Tempest Gang in Ashland, KS and we then headed east towards a developing cu field. By early afternoon several storms erupted to our south in OK and a PDS (Particularly Dangerous Situation) warning was issued for western OK. It wasn't long before the same warning was issued for southern portions of Kansas in the vicinity of the warm front. Towers were going up to our north along the warm front, but at the same time the anvil canopy of the storms to our south was overspreading southern Kansas. We went as far east as Medicine Lodge before heading north towards a new storm forming near St John that was developing a nice shape. That one may have produced a tornado but was soon joined by many other storms forming along the WF...and they were all moving north away from us. We broke off from this attempt and headed a little east towards Sylvia before diving back south towards a couple of nice cells coming up from OK and cut through a torrent of rain along the way. These storms cycled quickly and now it looked like our best bet was to head back west towards where we started, near the surface low south of Dodge City...about 70 miles. We finished up the day intercepting a tail end storm near Bucklin, but it was weakening fast. Other than a couple of pretty shelf cloud features the camera was never removed from its bag. Woodward, OK 396 miles driven today.
May 19, 2017: Fri Day 5 - Severe Storms - NW Texas: It appeared that my the best chance of seeing severe storms today would be to either head east into central/eastern Kansas or south into northwest Texas. I really was not excited about either prospect considering storm modes may once again not be discrete in nature. Storms were already ongoing in Texas but these would be moving out of my target area by early afternoon and giving just enough time for the atmosphere to recover for a second round of storms to develop close to the frontal boundary. There was a tornado watch box with a cluster of severe and tornado warned storms well to my south between San Angelo and Abilene just about all afternoon, but it would take me another two to three hours to get there and I'd likely wind up behind the storms. My best bet was to follow my original plan and wait for something to form ahead of a nearly stationary cold front. I was sitting and waiting west of Guthrie when two small cells went up to my west about 5pm CDT. I took a picture of the southern cell (first image below). By the time I got to the intersection of Highway 82/83 I had to choose between these two cells. The one to my south was the stronger of the two, but was getting stretched out...but did become severe warned (see second image below). The one to this storm's immediate northwest was smaller, but much more compact on radar, so I decided to stick with this one. It put on a nice show for little while as I moved east along Highway 82 stopping frequently to look back to my WSW at the base structure. I happened to stop just as the storm produced a small wall cloud and brief funnel as seen in the last photo. This correlated well with what was being shown as an area of tight circulation on GRLevel. Again, not the big supercell the HRRR model depicted in this area on almost every run, but it did have a pretty good handle on where a second round of storms would break out late in the day. Childress, TX 450 miles or so for the day.
May 20, 2017: Sat Day 6 - No Storms - Positioning Day: Today was another day to mostly relax and re-position closer to where marginally severe storms may occur tomorrow...possibly in or near the northwestern Texas Panhandle. I stopped a few times along the way to snoop around some old farmsteads, and found a rather small school bus that had found its final resting place south of Jericho. I also stopped a couple of times to enjoy a wide expanse of Cumulus Pancakus clouds that stretched to the horizon across the endless vista of the Texas Panhandle. Dumas, TX - 180 miles
May 21, 2017: Sun Day 7 - High-Based Storms - Far Northeast New Mexico: A fun day was spent playing around with some high-based storms, some severe, to the north of Clayton, New Mexico. I saw the first sign of convective towers around noon looking north of town. These were forming in the Boise City area and often times the first towers turn out to be the strongest and/or the most persistent storms of the day. I watched these weak storms line out and initially was not interested in pursuing them. But the western edge of the line suddenly pulsed up nicely as seen in the first image below and with nothing else going on at the time figured I may as well get moving north for a closer look. I had enjoyable views of the updraft towers on my way north along highway 406. I stopped just short of the rain/hail cores near Seneca to photograph some high storm base structure, then drifted back south as new storms formed to the west. I played with these for awhile along a gravel road west of 406 that included some old farmsteads. I finished up the day south of Clayton on one last cell, but like the others this one pulsed rather quickly as well. Clayton, NM - 270 miles driven for the day.
May 22, 2017: Mon Day 8 - Severe Storms - East Central New Mexico: Another fun day photographing a bunch of severe warned storms. The first serious cell went up about 50 miles to my west while I was hanging around the Clovis area. I knew the better stuff would likely occur later and farther south, but this one was looking pretty good on radar. It was still early, about 1pm MDT so figured may as well give this one a try. It looked really good on my approach but weakened some by the time I got into position (see first image below). I spent the rest of the day circumnavigating around the House, NM area going from one severe warned storm to another. I photographed my last storm looking west at a weakening storm that was located north of Fort Sumner. Like the others, this one pulsed and really looked good for about 45 minutes or so before slowly decaying. By this time (around 6pm MDT) most all the storms in the state were moving south or SSE. There were a couple of tempting ones to chase, but the area of interest was already 50 miles to my south and these storms were moving away from me. Giving the time to get into position these two would have no doubt gone down hill as well. Finished up the day in Tucumcari with pretty sunset colors north of town. Tucumcari, NM - 395 miles.
May 23, 2017: Tue Day 9 - Travel/Re-Position Day - Castle Rock, CO: I decided to head north to visit with my son and family for a couple of days, which would put me in good position for storm prospects in eastern Colorado and western Kansas for the end of the week. I stopped a few times along the way to photograph a railroad bridge in Logan, New Mexico and a couple of water towers in the remote towns of Mosquero and Roy, NM. Castle Rock, CO 365 miles
May 24, 2017: Wed Day 10 - No Storms - Relax Day - Castle Rock, CO:
May 25, 2017: Thu Day 11 - Supercell - Yuma, CO: The severe set up was perfect for an eastern Colorado chase which meant my son would be able to join me for the day. Our plan was to pick up the initial cells near Fort Morgan, about an hour north of his home in Castle Rock, and then stick with them eastward to about the Kansas border. We both wanted to be back in Castle Rock by days end, but figured we'd have some fun and at least see a severe storm by mid-afternoon, and that is exactly what happened. We followed the initial storm development near Fort Morgan as it move northeastward. Eventually the storms consolidated into three cells, then two, and then one that became severe near Sterling. We stayed on the south side of this one just as a new storm began to rapidly form nearly overhead (see first two images below). It was time to get south as the storms were now moving more to the east and southeast. We dove south to Akron and then east on 34 to Yuma to get ahead of storms that were now just to our north with new ones forming to our southwest. It was decision time which way to go, and we choose a new cell to our southwest which was taking on a nice shape on radar. That would become our target storm and it turned out to be the storm of the day for us as it put on a nice show for awhile (see last three images below). Once this one weakened we set our sights on the next storm to our southwest, but upon arrival this one weakened as well. The one we had been originally on reorganized as it moved east to the Kansas border, but we knew it would take us farther and farther east into Kansas. It was time to let things go and head back west. All and all a fun day with just about 400 miles driven. Castle Rock, CO.
May 26, 2017: Fri Day 12 - Supercell - Strasburg to Bethune, CO: I watched the first towers go up to my west while hanging out in Strasburg. I decided to keep moving east along 36 to stay ahead of the developing storms. By the time I reached Last Chance the southern cell had a decent updraft base and there were no competing storms to the south, so this looked to be the main show. I went north of Last Chance about 3 miles on 71 and found a spot with a great view to the west. I waited here and watched for nearly an hour as the storm continued to strengthen and become severe warned...it was moving slowly ENE at 15mph. Most folks raced north, but not sure why as I had a great view of the updraft base and wall cloud behind the precipitation core---much farther north and this would not have been visible. The wall cloud tightened up and I set up my tripod anticipating a tornado, but it never happened. I lingered here enjoying the structure as the storm slowly drifted across 71 to my north.
It was time to move east as the storm was beginning to turn to the ESE. I headed east to Lindon and then north on a gravel road to get closer to the storm's base...and then followed the storm east and south on a network of gravel roads that afforded me great views of the chaotic updraft base area. My first view below was of an deep RFD cut and dissipating wall cloud that had earlier looked ready to produce a tornado while I was still traveling east on 71.
I then returned to highway 36 and the rolling mob of chasers heading east towards Anton. I stopped a couple of times, but at great risk of being able to get back into the constant rolling traffic jam. I should have gotten images of the hordes but just didn't feel like it at the time.
The supercell was starting to cut off the eastward traffic on 36 near Joes, so headed south at Kirk, CO. I found a spot to park and took a few images of the leading edge of the storm which was now moving to the SE. By this time the storm had been tornado warned for some time, but never did see a tornado even though I had a good visual 90% of the time. The storm was also rather HP'ish by this point.
I then headed several miles south to get well ahead of the storm before cutting east on a gravel road. I figured there should be some decent cloud structure to look at and was not disappointed! A beautiful shelf cloud feature came into view and by this time the herds had thinned and I enjoyed these views in a more relaxed fashion. Definitely the storm of the day and a fun day (except for the hordes) before heading back to Castle Rock for the night. 360 miles driven.
May 27, 2017: Sat Day 13 - Supercell - Kim, CO: Supercells appeared likely in the weak upslope flow across southeastern Colorado near the New Mexico/Kansas/Oklahoma Panhandle border region. I waited in LaJunta as the first cells went up about 50 miles to my west near Pueblo. As this one slowly drifted east, a new and stronger one formed near Walsenburg to my southwest. I kept my eye on this one as the one to my west approached my area until it was directly north of my location. By now it was severe warned and had some interesting base structure, but the entire storm was imbedded in overcast skies. I just didn't have a good feeling about this one and decided to head south on 109 towards Kim figuring I could get a look at the bigger cell that was moving into that area. That area had more sunshine and warmer temperatures as well. Along the way a new cell went up and threatened to cut off my path with hail, but I managed to skirt by with only being hit with some small hail and heavy rain. I went through Kim and then continued west on 160 as the race was on to intercept the supercell before it would cut off 160. It was still severe warned, but no longer tornado warned at this point. The storm had a real beastly appearance as I got closer and I only had time to stop for a few quick images before getting blasted by 60-70mph winds out of the north and tons of nickel to quarter size hail...which was mostly soft. I stopped for awhile near the intersection of 389 before turning around and heading back east. The temperature had dropped to 43F! There was a stretch on 160 about 4 miles long that had received a 3-4" layer of hail covering the road. By now the storm had continued southeast of the highway into an area with no roads. As of 7pm MDT there were still more supercells to chase, but these were too far east with too few roads to catch them. Another fun chase day on the high plains of Colorado! Returned to Castle Rock with 425 miles driven for the day.
May 28, 2017: Sun Day 14 - No Storms - Relax Day - Castle Rock, CO:
May 29, 2017: Mon Memorial Day 15 - Weak Storms - Pueblo, CO: I was not expecting much today, so can't say I was disappointed. I drove through some rain and soft hail as I left Castle Rock, but that would be the last precipitation I would see on this day. I then hung around the Pueblo area hoping that something would form nearby by late afternoon or early evening. A few weak storms did go up nearby, but they could not sustain their updrafts very long and were certainly not photogenic. Stronger storms did go up initially near the CO/NM border, but that was another 100 miles south and these storms were moving away from me to the southeast. Later a few stronger storms formed near the CO/KS border, but again too far away and moving away from me near sunset. It was nice to see the colorful dying storms on my way back to Castle Rock, but difficult to stop and photograph anywhere close to I-25. 295 miles driven today.
May 30, 2017: Tue Day 15 - Weak Storms - Colorado/Kansas Border: My original target was somewhere south of LaJunta...maybe the far southeast corner of CO. By the time I arrived at Fowler there were towers going up to my south, and one isolated one well off to my ENE. I knew that one was in a pretty good area of instability and started edging in that direction. A call from Bill Reid (who was nearby) said it looked pretty good and that it should stick around for awhile. That was all the encouragement I needed to head in that direction. The storm was moving very slowly to the southeast, so within an hour I was close enough to see what was going on from the town of Eads. Unfortunately, the storm started to weaken as soon as I got there (see first picture below). A couple of new small cells went up about 20 miles to my north. I wanted a closer look at these so I drove about 10 miles north of Sheridan Lake on 385 and waited. As expected the base was rather high, but not entirely uninteresting (see second image below). Soon after I met up with Bill, Chris and the Tempest gang and we followed this cell south and east, but it soon weakened. A second cell to the north looked better, but it wasn't long before that one croaked and needed to be abandoned as well. Meanwhile, the cell we left earlier was starting to look better again with a more structured base, so back after that one once again. I followed this cell several miles south of Tribune and took a couple of images just before it started falling apart (see third image). Meanwhile the remnants of that cell to the north was drifting by to my east and briefly produced a faint double rainbow. Not a spectacular day, but not a total waste of time either. This would be my last image of the day before heading north to Goodland, Kansas for the night. 444 miles driven.
May 31, 2017: Wed Day 16 - Supercells - Northeast Colorado: There would be an almost stationary boundary parked northwest to southeast across far northeast Colorado into northwest Kansas, with modest moisture and southeast surface winds bumping into this front. Winds aloft were adequate to get a storm rotating and things were shaping up to be a good storm structure day. I headed to my target area of Wray to Sterling and then hung around Wray until early afternoon. By mid-afternoon a cumulus field developed with turkey towers just west of town, so I moved a little west to near Eckley. Again I waited. I was right on the boundary and had strengthening southeast winds while towers were building nearly overhead. Finally one became dominant to my immediate west and continued to grow for the next hour...it was barely moving east (see first image below). Eventually, this one became severe warned as other storms developed to my immediate north and east. I decided to head back east a little and stopped to film a pretty updraft base to my north (second image below). Meanwhile the original storm to my west was getting much better organized and starting to turn south. I headed back to Wray and then south on 385. While heading south another storm became severe warned to my east and I stopped briefly to have a look (see third image below).
I then cut back west through the small hamlet of Vernon to get a better look at my original storm, which by now had become a supercell. I had a brief window of time to take a series of photos from a gravel road network before other storms began filling in and ruining the show.
I then went back east to 385 and could see the flared base of another supercell off to my southeast. This one had a large wall cloud and looked like it could tornado. I started to go for this one, but intervening storms and the road network told me this was not going to work. I headed back to Wray hoping for some behind the storm mammatus or colors, but no luck. I decided to head back to the one remaining cell which was still severe warned that was approaching Goodland, Kansas. As I was driving east on I-70 I noticed a white wall cloud off to my northeast that had an occasional CG. I thought I'd give it a try since there was still some ambient light and nice color along the northern horizon, and the bolts were all nicely branched---perfect, as this is the only formula I use any longer for shooting lightning. I pulled up to a RR crossing on a very muddy road near Kanorado to try for some bolts. They were far and few between and it was no fun standing in the cold wind blown rain, but I did manage to capture the following three images. Goodland, KS - 325 miles for day.
2017 Chase Summaries
June 26, 2017: Monday Day 1 - LP Supercell - North Central Kansas: Nancy and I were heading west on I-70 through Kansas eyeing an isolated supercell near Salina that had just become tornado warned. This storm was out of range for us and was diving to the southeast which would take it even farther away in the short time left before sunset. Meanwhile some weak storms went up nearly overhead south of Manhattan. I stopped to check an interesting base to our north via a side road, but it was soon apparent this effort was not worthwhile. We jumped back on the interstate and proceeded west. Radar was not showing much of interest nearby, but when I glanced out the window I saw a nicely sculpted storm cell shaping up to our immediate northwest! As often happens, the weak radar returns were not showing what was in the sky as this developing storm was predominately updraft at the time and dropping little if any precipitation. We jumped off at the next exit in hopes of finding a better vantage point for photographs, but unfortunately this was the exit for Junction City which offered nothing but trees, wires, and other obstructions (see first image below) The storm was moving to the SSE and fortunately we did have a good south option...highway 77. We drove a few miles south of town and then east towards the town of Skiddy for nice open views of the updraft tower and storm base to our north. From there we continued south and east to the small community of White City where we photographed this pretty storm cell right up until sunset. The backlit storm structure was gorgeous in front of the setting sun and unbelievably we saw no other chasers the entire time of our chase. We then headed west under the updraft to get a look at the other side of the storm, but the entire updraft fell apart right after sunset. We then continued on to Russell, Kansas for the night.
June 27, 2017: Tuesday Day 2 - Severe Storms - Holyoke, Colorado: The best prospects for severe weather appeared to be in far northeast Colorado...first forming along the Cheyenne Ridge and then drifting to the southeast. All we had to do was drive a few hours west and then north from west-central Kansas in order for an storm intercept by mid-afternoon. The storm mode was mostly that of line-segments with imbedded supercells and severe warnings for wind and hail. Many chasers were farther north out ahead of the advancing line but I chose to stay closer to the southward edge of the advancing line of storms...figuring things may be a bit more photogenic. We did find a pretty cell that was located to our north and was south of the rain core near Holyoke as shown in the first image. We then moved a little farther east to stay ahead of the advancing storm line and witnessed a wet-microburst take place just to our north. The progression of which is depicted in the last three images. We stayed with the storms and moved east to near the CO/NE border where we left one of the gusty storms move over us before calling it quits at the Imperial Inn in Nebraska for the night.
June 28, 2017: Wednesday Day 3 - High Plains Storms - Idalia to Anton, Colorado: Another day in northeastern Colorado where severe storms were expected, but little chance of any tornadoes forming. Nancy and I watched a weak storm form and die near Idalia (first image) before moving farther west along highway 36 towards Anton and another isolated cell that appeared to be strengthening. We took a few photos of this one and received a call from Matt Crowther who was on the other side (west) of the same storm. Seemed we were again the only chasers out and on this particular storm. We met up later along Highway 36 and watched the sunset before calling it a night in Burlington. Another storm rolled through after we went to bed, but I opted out of doing any lightning photography. Matt went south of town and got some pretty shots of lightning lighting up a mammatus field.
June 29, 2017: Thursday Day 4 - Supercell - Punkin Center Colorado to Ulysses, Kansas: It was time for Nancy to spend some time with the granddaughter in Castle Rock, so I hurried west from Burlington to drop her off and then beat the clock to the rapidly developing towers back to my east. It knew this would be the storm of the day and was luckily able to beat this developing storm back to Limon before cutting in front of it on my way south to Punkin Center. I hung out there briefly before continuing south to Karvel where I took my first image of storm base what was now a full-fledged supercell. I then continued south and east along a network of gravel roads stopping here and there to watch the storm and take photographs. The second image below was taken south of Arlington and looking west on my way to Highway 50. I then headed east on Highway 50 towards Lamar and stopped just outside of town when the storm morphed into an LP briefly as shown in the third image which was looking due north. The storm gathered strength as sunset neared and the fourth image below was looking back to my west as I approached Holly Colorado along Highway 50/400. I then once again met up with Matt Crowther and Vince Miller near Johnson City, Kansas and we watched the storm's cinnamon swirl base to our west from a little east of Ulysses. The storm appeared to have weakened some as it drifted off to our south and east (last image). We then headed back towards Johnson City and watched another severe storm approach from our west as nightfall approached on our way to Elkhart for the night, but this one died just as we entered town. A great chase day with one supercell that lasted nearly 7 hours!
June 30, 2017: Friday Day 5 - Supercell - Northeast New Mexico: Today was similar to yesterday in that there would be one long lasting supercell to chase all afternoon and well into the evening. Matt, Vince, and I had lunch in Clayton before heading west of town to photograph some of the old buildings in and around Mt Dora. We could see storms going up well to our west and these would be coming our way before long. We filmed the dark skies to our west south of Grenville, and then continued south along 453 for another photo-op of the approaching supercell (second image below). We then continued south to highway 56 and east back towards Clayton. We made a few brief stops along the way as the approaching structure to our north was putting on a nice show from time to time. It was at one of these stops a tornado began to form in front of a clear slot but never appeared to reach to the ground (third image). The storm began to cut hard south and I couldn't waste any more time making photo stops. I blasted to Clayton and then south on Highway 402 in order to stay ahead of the storm. The photo with the windmill was taken several miles south of Clayton looking to the WNW at the approaching cell. The storm was heading into Texas and we cut east near Armistead with the storm and took the fifth image below from the Texas side. From here the storm began to go downhill as sunset approach, and I took my last image of the decaying storm to my north on our way to Channing, Texas. It was at this point that we met up with Bill Reid and the Tempest guests. We chatted for awhile and then all headed to Dalhart for the night.
July 1, 2017: Friday Day 5 - Pretty Skies - Castle Rock, Colorado: The plains would be mostly devoid of storms for a day or two so it was time to head back to Castle Rock and visit with family and pick Nancy up for the trip home and maybe another day or so of storm chasing along the way. When I arrived at my son's place near sunset there were some weakening storms moving off the mountains and headed to our east. It wasn't long before a rainbow formed, followed by a very nice display of anti-crepuscular rays!
July 3, 2017: Monday Day 6 of chasing - Shelf Cloud - Holyoke, Colorado to Haigler, Nebraska. Although the prospects were not high for supercells and tornadoes, we would at least have storms to photograph on our way home. We intercepted a line of storms near Holyoke that were producing a nice looking shelf cloud. We stayed with the southern edge of the shelf cloud area south to Wray and then east to Haigler, Nebraska before calling it quits. Our last night on the plains for this trip would be spent at the same place we spent the first night a week earlier in Russell, Kansas. A short trip but each day was filled with storms along with time spent with family...perfect!