June 23, 2013


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Fort Morgan, CO
North Platte, NE 10:46 AM 6/23/2013
Sterling, CO 12:33 AM 6/24/2013
Fort Morgan, CO Akron, CO
0 mph
Updraft base, wall cloud, possible spin up tornado


Upslope play in Colorado. Caravanned with TIV crew for afternoon initiation of supercell in northeast CO. Awaited initiation in Brush, CO before intercepting high based, outflowy but photogenic cells near Fort Morgan. Retargeted new storm at Akron and observed until nightfall noting HP structure, wall cloud, and possible brief spin up tornado or outflow dust.

Crew and Equipment

Chase partners: Jennifer Brindley Ubl, Sean Casey, Jonathan Williamson, Nick Nolte. Equipment: Canon 60D, Canon t2i, Canon EFS 10-22, Canon EF 50mm, Sony HDR-xr500v..




This was my third day out on the plains caravanning with Sean Casey and his TIV, Jonathan Williamson, and Nick Nolte. We awoke in North Platte, NE hopeful for a bigger chase than our previous two. Adequate moisture was forecast to flow upslope carried by easterly surface winds with some broad southwest flow. The combination alone is enough to create the needed lift, moisture and instability for storm development, and hopefully we’d have enough shear for supercells and maybe a tornado too. Our initial target was Sterling, CO to Fort Morgan, CO where the highest dews and best upslope flow was forecast.

Morning Preparations
2 miles S of North Platte, NE
10:56 AM
The TIV sure attracts a lot of attention. Every place it stops, a small crowd gathers to take pictures and ask questions. Jon and Nick answering a few for one curious local or traveler:

10:57 AM
Packing up the TIV, checking data one last time:

10:57 AM
Sean is the tank commander, leading through the open hatch in the top. Nick is ready and enthusiastic for another long day on the road.

10:58 AM
Sean Casey.

Lunch in Brush
Brush, CO
3:42 PM
We rolled toward our initial target, deciding to stop in Brush, CO for some lunch at the Pizza Hut. Sean tore up some Centipede on the arcade machine while we waited under severe clear skies. My regular chase partner, Jennifer Brindley Ubl, couldn't make it out for the start of the trip, but she was determined to not miss this chase trip. She flew out to Denver and was picked up by Tony Laubach. The two of them met us in Brush and Brindley joined our caravan.

Practice Deployment
Brush, CO
3:38 PM
While we waited for the weather to get going, Sean had Nick practice preparing the TIV for deployment into a tornado. A series of numbers would be called out, and Nick would throw levers that raised and lowered steel flaps and drove hydraulic spikes into the ground to secure the vehicle in high winds. It was quite the show for the local crowd that had gathered, and for us too.

Storm Initiation
Brush, CO
3:31 PM
Storm initiation, finally. Upslope storms were popping just east of Denver. We let them mature a little bit and then rolled west down the interstate for the intercept.

Streaky Rain Bands
The storms were high based without much structure in the bases. Streaky bands of rain came and went under the developing cells. It was classic upslope activity. It was pretty, but we didn't have any solid supercell structure yet.
South of Fort Morgan, CO we moved in closer, hoping to get a landspout tornado as the cells were still maturing. The dark streaks would often momentarily fool us, and we'd be calling out spout, but they were more than likely just rain bands.

Spout hunting:

Moving in closer to one of the dominant cells:

We stopped underneath the updraft base of one cell south of Fort Morgan along with a few other chasers including Tony Laubach. Updraft bases were still quite high, but that didn't mean we couldn't get a spout. Turbulent clouds roiled overhead:

The Colorado Jellyfish
10 miles ESE of Roggen, CO
5:16 PM
Light filtered through the storm in electric blue while the rain focused into tight little tendrils and the clouds boiled overhead. It reminded me of a giant jellyfish in the sky. The storm was amazingly beautiful, yet we still didn't have our big supercell.
A panoramic shot by Brindley, capturing the entire scene:

HP Supercell
3 miles ENE of Fort Morgan, CO
7:41 PM
We followed the cells east until they eventually lined out into short bowing segments. We got caught in a couple of them and punched through heavy rain and plowed through big puddles in the road. By evening, a much bigger cell was going up south of Akron and we headed in for the intercept. The storm presented itself as a large, high precipitation supercell. Rain filled the rear flanking core so we decided to stop several miles short of the storm and let it come to us, time lapsing its approach. Clouds of brown dust billowed across the empty dirt plain in front of us.

Other Worldly Dust Storm
Waves of dust overtook us. Nolte and Williamson used the TIV as a shield with their hoods up to get out of the howling winds and dust. The scene looked other worldly with the bizarre TIV contraption, and surreal landscape. It was straight outof Star Wars. Jawas and some sort of spaceship on Tatooine:
As the storm approached the temperature and dewpoint spreads decreased, the lightning activity increased. We setup for lightning stills and time lapses of the approaching supercell gust front.

10 miles SSE of Akron, CO
8:27 PM
As the gust front passed overhead we were blasted with outflow and some more dust. To our south, a kink in the gust front had developed with a lowering. It looked like a wall cloud, and chasers to our south did indeed report a rotating wall cloud. The storm went tornado warned. Underneath the wall cloud there appeared to be a bowl of dust for a short while. If it was a circulation associated with a rotating wall cloud, it would count as a tornado. We couldn't really confirm it at our distance though and the dust might have just been kicked up by outflow. At best it's what chasers would call a "bird fart" tornado. We didn't count it, but it sure got our attention. Our cameras were all still pointing at the approaching gust front and getting lightning to the west, however.
Before we could get cored by a tornado warned supercell, we decided to bail and call it a chase as night had also fallen. We ducked north and beat the core of the storm, heading into Sterling for rooms and dinner.


Still no tornadoes while caravaning with the TIV, but I don't think I'd count this chase as a bust. We got some supercell structure, beautiful storm and lightning shots, and had some excitment at the end. It was almost a tornado warned bust, but not quite. We didn't miss much across the region. A couple of landspout reports did come in, but I haven't seen pictures of them and assume they weren't much to see beyond what we saw in the streaky rain bands. It was a fun and well rounded chase, and probably the best of our trip on this plains run with the TIV.

Lessons Learned

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