Wednesday 3 July 2013

Saturday 22nd June 2013 - WY/NE

The last chase day of the 2013 Tornado Season for us and exactly 1 year to the day from that bad experience when leaving the Wyoming Barrel Tornado for Tornado warned cells in Colorado, what made today even more spooky was the setup was near identical as well, so the first thing was to make sure I learned from last year, pick a target and stick with it.

Started the day in Scottsbluff and went for an early lunch, as we were eating a Tornado Watch was issued for Central and Eastern Parts of Wyoming, this already at 11am MDT.

My target for today was Wheatland (Wyoming) as it looked like Storms would erupt over the top of the Rockies and move eastwards into much more favourable conditions for Tornadoes and Supercells over the flatter parts of the Laramie Divide and more importantly the tornado producing County of Goshen County. This area like Baca County in extreme SE Colorado seem to be able to do magical things with Supercells, so today we shall see.

As we went Through Torrington towards our starting position a huge tower went up in the distance, I remarked at the time this would be our tornado producer today and that was not a bad guess. We reached Interstate 25 in good time and arrived at one of my favourite stopping positions about 15 miles North of Wheatland, looking south west an incredible sight over the top of the Rockies, an already Classic Supercell getting ready to move east into the much moister air, temps and dewpoints at this point east of Wheatland and Chugwater were 76/57 and with the Elevation of 5,000ft this was ample to get storms spinning given the other parameters on offer.

We blasted south to just south of Wheatland and watched as the Supercell approached, at this time we were 5 miles South west of Wheatland, the Storm really started to crank up at this point and the rotation about 1/2 mile in front of us above the road was going insane, you just knew we were minutes away from a Tornado at this point. It's not often you see such a classic mesocyclone spinning above your heads and certainly not within spitting distance of the Wyoming Rockies.

So could this be my first ever Wyoming Tornado about to happen and also if it did it would also be my Highest ever Tornado at around 5,400ft asl. Well the answer was yes!!
About 5 minutes after the above picture was taken a Tornado developed from a hidden Funnel cloud (Viewable from the West) which would have probably made it a Landspout Tornado, the condensation was clear to see spinning in the field about 1/4 mile down the road and just to our front left behind some water irrigation sprinklers.

This Tornado was only brief lasting a few minutes, we then went back east and caught up with the rotation just to the SE Of Wheatland, sporadic Golfball hail also started to fall at our location, at this point we met up with Matt Phelps from ETT (Reed Timmers Tour Group) My attention was already being drawn to a new Storm about 20 miles further South near Chugwater, so much like a dryline day we abandoned our tornado producing storm and dropped down the line. Our new Supercell was really starting to look the part as it headed eastbound across Goshen County and onwards towards the Wyoming and Nebraska Border.

We continued to follow this Storm and witnessed another very brief Tornado (On Video Capture) near Veteran (Wy). The Storm was now fully HP And with other storm interactions ramping up it was going to be very hard to dodge the hail and the cores around these merging Supercells. As the continued Tornado warned storm approached Springer it had an amazing Barrell shaped Mesocyclone spinning at rapid speeds, how this never put down a Tornado we will never know but if it had it would have been a very large Wedge at this point.

Things were now starting to get very messy, so I made the decision to abandon this storm and head south towards Pine Bluffs and the last storm in the line heading east from Cheyenne, when we got to near Pine Bluffs the strm looked very decent, we still had a few hours of light left in the day and there was no reason why this could not produce a late evening Tornado, our expectations were still very high. We even had our Tour 5 Picture taken in front of it she looked so good.

As we got to Kimball we took a South road (Yes That One Again!!) and then stopped about 5 miles in front of the Storm for some Lightning Pictures, the fading evening light was just about do-able at this point and the storm was pinging out a Cg every 5 seconds which made it pretty easy. The below shot is a 2 second exposure at F22 With an ISO Of 200.

The storm was now moving more to the East South East so we re-positioned further east towards Sidney and then headed back north towards the Interstate, what happened next took us all by surprise, whilst we were setting up for more Lightning in the core to our North and watching the rotation also to our North, about 1 mile to our East an incredible Landspout Tornado quickly formed and churned away for about 5 minutes, the Funnel Cloud was clearly visible and as we were just to the West of this we had a perfect viewing position.

It really was an amazing end to an amazing Season and literally the last piece of chasing we had left in us before the trek back to Denver the next day. So not only did we score our first ever Wyoming Tornado today, we also got our highest and our first Nebraska Tornado for 5 years, you always knew Nebraska was going to have the last word for the 2013 Season and that State treated us very well.

Thursday 20th June 2013 - N Dakota

3 days to go for the 2013 Season and it was nice to finally get rid of Colorado and Nebraska for a little crack at the Dakotas. Our chase target for today would be on or near the triple point which was pretty much bang smack on the South and North Dakota Border due north of Pierre.

The journey up was eventfull with construction slowing us down for a good 30 minutes, we finally got onto a very nice looking Supercell about 15 miles into North Dakota that was sat stationery and did so for about 4 hours, we took a bit of a risk on an unpaved road and ended up literally under the rain free base of this storm, at once the rotation started to crank up and it looked like someone had put a x10 Timelapse on a video recording, funnels were dropping everywhere and it seemed like the Supercell had 2 different mesocyclones within its base.

To our North we were all quite shocked to see this over a hill, the giveaway for it not being a Tornado was the motion was static and it was just a big area of scuddy clouds being drawn up into the leading edge of the gust front, but it sure looked pretty anyway and would have fooled quite a few people into a report.

Our position at the time of this picture above on Threatnet was showing as this below

With the storm still dragging in pretty impressive inflow it still had a decent chance to produce, we went east about 5 miles and found a high point and looked back, another 3 funnels were observed to our west and with the storm now edging Southwards we knew it was only a matter of time until we would be back into South Dakota again.

With light and day waning and with the Storm now becoming quite a HP Outflow monster it was time to depart and head back south for our last few chase days which were looking like Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska again.

LCL's were dragging the ground in the picture above, we also had readings of 82/72 on the t/d spreads. Spent the night in Wall ( S Dakota) well placed for the next few days.

Tuesday 18th June 2013 - Colorado

The first Denver Cyclone day of the year - Woohoo!...............And it could have been soooo much better than it turned out, but even so we had a great stormchase with the DCVZ.

When we awoke in Burlington there was only one thing on my mind, wise words from Stuart Robinson a few years ago told me to head straight to Bennett or DIA (Denver International Airport) as these areas always see one of the biggest storms initiate along the front range near Downtown Denver and head North-Eastwards towards this point and most Landspout type Tornadoes occur near these location.

Easy Right ???

Well it would have been if the EF1 Landspout Tornado had waited just another 30 minutes and we would have been right there to witness it scooting across the runways of DIA.

Our start of the day did not get off to a great start with a flat battery on the rental car, the nice deputy sherriff of Burlington came along and gave us a jump start to get us on our way, lunch in Limon was followed by some shopping for half and hour.

Whilst all this was going on our little storm west of denver had left the security of the front range and exploded into life dropping the Tornado before 2pm Mountain time! DOH!

We spent the next few hours stair-stepping down the Denver Cyclone and actually got onto another 4 Tornado Warned Storms, a few had funnels, one of them near Kit Carson wrapped up so much I could not believe a tornado had not reached the ground, the wall cloud was spinning right in front of us, but quite quickly the storm was morphing from inflow to outflow and could not get the right balance for a photogenic tornado, what it did have in it's outflow stages was some great shelf cloud structure.

We followed this storm all the way back to Burlington again and finally ate Chinese at our Hotel/Restaurant there.

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Monday 17th June 2013 - Colorado

This was almost a carbon copy day to the 16th but a little further east and a slightly better chance at a Tornado today. We had lunch in Ogallalla and headed westbound towards Kimball.......Again!

Small storms and lots of them were vying for supremacy for a few hours so it was the waiting game. Finally 2 Supercells sorted themselves out near Sterling and Brush so it was south we went for a hopeful intercept, along the way both Storms became Tornado Warned and seeing as we were on the North West side an intercept would be quite tricky, amazing Mammatus filled the whole sky on our approach to the storm down that same road south from Kimball.

After about 30 minutes we got into a position to see the workings of the storm but from the west and south-west side only, just south of Interstate 70 we saw some very fast rotation with areas of scud clouds being ripped to shreds in an almost tornadic circulation, tonnes of dust and sand were being kicked out of the storm, we followed the storms east towards Burlington and ended the day with a pretty rainbow shot and a view of the chase vehicle for this year.

Sunday 16th June 2013 - Nebraska

Started the day in Sterling and knowing that my good friend Dave Ewoldt was in town and was chasing this risk it was too good an opportunity to miss when we arranged to chase together. Dave has been chasing in the USA For nearly 32 years and he also mentored me in the 2008 Season, when an opportunity like this turns up you grab it with both hands as the chance to learn even more on a chase day is too good to pass up.

His target of Ogallalla was an inspired choice, upon reaching there the first towers to explode and break the cap were literally 5 miles SW Of this location, even then Dave was not happy about heading south to take a look at this already Supercell. The better risk for tornadoes would be further north near a South-Westwards moving Outflow Boundary and any storm that goes up near there and crosses that boundary would have a much better chance of going tornadic (And so it did as we would later find out with a Tornado near Hyannis)

We went south and east to the small town of Madrid and watched the Supercell morph very quickly from a Classic Supercell to a Massive HP Supercell Hail Machine, at the point of the following picture it was spitting out 4" Hailstones.

We were also watching a line of mushy storms moving North East from Eastern Colorado towards out storm and worried they would interfere with ours. At once Dave said lets go and head north, a quick look at his radar confirmed the Outflow Boundary had already interacted with a storm SE Of Chadron and already dropped a tornado almost at once. A few storms in between that storm which was 100 miles to our north were moving towards the outflow boundary so it was north back towards Interstate 80 we went, our target storm was near Arthur, we got to it in quick time but as soon as this reached the boundary it promptly died.

Another healthier looking Supercell about 30 miles further north was the next target, this had some cracking LP Supercell structure but once again this struggled as it moved east, something just was not right now which was earlier.

Onwards we kept chasing the storm towards North Platte but apart from putting on a little bit more structure ultimately the storm was in its dying phase, so we cut off the chase after trying to get Ian and Dave hit by hailstones (That failed as well LOL) The Storm literally vanished within 30 minutes.

Saturday 15th June 2013 - Colorado

After the great success of the Warm Front day yesterday (14th) we found ourselves with 2 targets today, one in Iowa and the other in Colorado, we had overnighted in Council Bluffs but the decision was made for the huge boring blast across Interstate 80 towards Colorado and hoping storms would hold off until the early evening, also the next few days looked like classic high plains chase days and some upslope magic.

After driving for what seemed like an eternity we approached the intersection in Western Nebraska where the I-76 & I-80 Branch off in different direction, some storms were already rolling into the Western Nebraska Panhandle from the Cheyenne area so we went west towards Kimball and intercepted some storms that were on a south-eastwards heading, this road would become a much used road over the next week. The Supercell on its approach was on a weakening, pulsing stage and did not look that great so we got just east of it and let it nearly over-run us, I say nearly because at the most crucial point we heard hail roar above our heads and it was clear this storm was going for one last push and almost at once some golf ball sized hail started to hit the car, we headed south pretty quickly and got out of the core, others who came past us were not so lucky with numerous cars suffering cracked windscreens driving past us. Upon reaching Stoneham we looked back and saw some pretty decent structure on this LP Supercell which was about 10 Miles to our North East.

We followed this storm towards Sterling where it was in its final throws of the day and was losing all radar reflectivity, it gave us one final show whilst we were eating dinner with that classic flying saucer dying LP Supercell stage.