June 10, 2010


Initial Target: Kimball, NE
Departure: Scottsbluff, NE 8:00 am CDT
Arrival: Akron, CO 10:00 pm CDT
Intercepts: Grover, CO Last Chance, CO
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: Non-Severe (not measured)
Wind: Non-Severe (not measured)
Features: Wall Cloud, RFD Gust Front
Miles: 227


Upslope setup across WY/NE/CO corners. Targeted Kimball, NE for best shear, waiting all day in town after spending the previous night near Scotts Bluff. Storms initiated in northern Colorado and went south for the intercept. Intercepted supercell with wall cloud but storm failed to produce and became elevated. Targeted Tail-End-Charlie by Last Chance, CO but missed tornadoes by a half hour, core punching the storm and coming out under huge occluded rain free base. Followed storm until nightfall, stopping for night where chase ended in eastern central CO.

Crew and Equipment:

Solo chase.  Equipment:  Kenwood TH-F6A Tribander, Dell Inspiron Laptop.  Kyocera data card and router, Holux 236 GPS, Robotic camera dome with Sony XR-520V.





Thursday was my third day out on a multi-day chase trip. Upslope storms were forecasted to fire over the WY/NE/CO corner and shear was markedly better than the day before leading to enhanced probabilities for supercells and tornadoes. I targeted the Kimball, NE area as it had good road options and seemed to be well situated between the instability and shear gradients. I had spent the night before just north of Scotts Bluff, NE. There had been some flash flooding in the area overnight and I awoke to road maintenance truck trying to get past my van, which was parked on a gravel road. I jumped in the driver seat and took off.
After sleeping in the van for the second night in a row, I wanted to clean my self off. Driving south out of town I was looking for a remote spot where I could take a hobo shower and not be disturbed. I drove several miles away from town, before turning east down an unpaved road and took that for several miles before turning south again on a single lane path. I was miles from the nearest ranch building. It was totally deserted. "No one will bother me here," I thought to myself. I got out a couple gallons of water, some shower stuff, laid out my clothes, and was just about ready to hit it when I got this creepy feeling that I was being watched. Probably just paranoid, I stopped and scanned the horizon, and spotted something sticking up from a hill quite a ways off. "Its gotta be just a tree stump or fence post," I thought to myself. But I watched it for a few moments and it was definitely a moving figure, shifting its weight from side to side.

Great, some rancher had spotted me and is now wondering what the hell I'm doing on on his land, and now there was this awkward moment where we are staring at each other from afar. "Well, I better get out of here," I thought, so I packed up my stuff and was just about to jump in the van and leave when I thought, "heck, let me get a picture of this guy first before I go." I got my still camera, went full zoom, and snapped off a few shots. I zoomed in on the LCD screen. It was a damn antalope. Well, now I knew I was the only person around for miles so I got out and took my shower, with the antalope still standing there watching me.

I headed down to Kimball, NE and found a hotel with open wifi where I could setup and check data until initiation. I picked up my usual foot long subway BMT and sat at the hotel watching the RUC and rapid refresh runs come in. I was soon joined by chasers Terrance Cook and crew, whom I'd met on April 6 earlier in the year, and Stan Rose whom I'd met on June 5 the year before. A chase tour group had spent the night at the hotel as well and I talked to a few of the guests before they departed. We all shared chase stories and thoughts on the day's setup. It appeared cape would be maximized over Colorado, but I still liked the the shear to the north where we were, even though it appeared most chasers were setting up in Colorado. Storms initiated just to our south as well as much further south across central CO. This was the critical decision time: which storms to go after? We all departed going our own ways, although I think we all picked the northern cells nearby. I wanted to stick to my guns as I still liked my target, and maybe I would catch something the majority of chasers wouldn't that day.
The storm was tracking just south of Wyoming in Colorado, I headed down highway 71 into Colorado and then west down an unpaved road for the intercept. A nice rain free base came into view and I stopped a few miles out to the let the storm mature and come to me. Things were looking great. You can see some scud here starting to get sucked into the base of the storm.
Mudpuppy and the storm organizing with a lowered rain free base and some scud underneath.
The scud became rooted and we had a developing wall cloud just as the storm went tornado warned. It couldn't get much better I thought. A growing supercell that could drop a tornado at any time, on the gorgeous Colorado high plains, and not another soul in sight.
This is about when the storm and wall cloud looked the most robust. Meanwhile, storms almost 100 miles to the south were maturing and gaining tornado warnings of their own. I was a little worried that the anvils from those storms would encroach on my storm, killing the instability as they blocked the sun heated inflow into my storm.
I moved east to keep ahead of the precipitation falling out of my storm as the tornado warning continued. The wall cloud looks like it has dual tail clouds here, but its also starting to look a little more scuddy.

The wall cloud bulking up a little here as the downdrafts on the storm probably picked up:

The storm is probably starting to go elevated and outflow dominant here. You can see the updraft base and tower is retreating and being sculpted by the downdrafts while the wall cloud starts to fall apart or transitions into more of a roll cloud, being kicked along by outflow.
Looking up and west, there were some neat streaky precipitation curtains wrapping around the storm.

The storm was now becoming more and more bizarre looking with an undulated base and neat shapes in the tower.

Cloud to ground lightning was increasing here and there some cows in the nearby fields that were quite spooked and mooing loudly.

This storm is practically alien at this point and I hadn't seen anything quite like it. The smooth shapes are probably a result of the remaining updraft forcing up stable air from below while the downdrafts wrap around carving out the neat shapes. This storm was shot in terms of dropping tornadoes, but with the intriguing structure I had trouble abandoning it as well as giving up on my original target, so I hung around longer than I should have.

A weird duck's bill like updraft base on a dieing storm:

I finally decided to give up on this storm as I made my way back to the main north south highway. I started blasting south towards the tornado warned supercells about 90 miles to my south while a tour group was just arriving on the storm I was bailing on. I learned later on that they had been stopped for speeding and given a ticket and were just now arriving on this storm as it was on its way out.

I blasted south, bending the speed laws myself, as tornado reports started to come in on Spotter Network. I was missing the show. I didn't make it south in time to beat the storm crossing my highway, so I wound up core punching it. I went right through the core, somehow managing to miss any large hail, and came out underneath the rear flanking downdraft's clear slot. Luckily there was no tornado on the other side to greet me as I emerged from the core. The base on this storm was just massive, one of the largest supercell bases I've seen, and the roads were now thick with chasers including the Vortex 2 armada.
The storm still had great structure, and I hoped it would put down one more tornado so I wouldn't have completely missed the show. It never did, however. I wound up following the storm until dark, getting caught up in the Vortex 2 hoards. Right at dusk I finally just pulled off the side of the road and let the swarms go past from every direction, and wound up spending the night right there. That's the great thing about camping out in the van. I can just stop and call it a night immediately where I end the chase.




I got on a couple of nice supercells, one had a nice wall cloud and otherworldly structure as it died, and the other exhibited a huge, dramatic clear slot and occluded base. I was happy with the catches, but I actually wound up missing a couple of very photogenic cone tornadoes that the second supercell dropped before I could make it down there. I was about a half hour late to the show. Missing the tornadoes made this chase a border line bust as it looked like it would be my best shot at a tornado for the trip, but the supercell structure I witnessed and meeting up with other chasers earlier made it worth it for me so I won't label this chase a complete bust.



Lessons Learned: 

  • Know when your storm is going elevated and when to retarget to more promising/unhindered targets to the south.
  • The hills have eyes