June 21, 2010


Initial Target: Kimball, NE
Departure: Lincoln, NE 9:00 am CDT
Arrival: Goodland, KS 12:00 am CDT
Intercepts: Otis, CO Burlington, CO
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: Severe (1 inch estimated)
Wind: Non-Severe (not measured)
Features: Updraft Tower
Miles: 736


Upslope play across eastern CO and the WY/NE/CO corner. Initially targeted Kimball, NE area but moved into northern CO after cells initiated to the south. Intercepted middle cell near Fort Morgan, CO as it went tornado warned but noted no decent supercell structure. Lost data and moved west after tail end cell, but it quickly died. Raced back east after dominant supercell, came into back end and core punched south of Otis, CO noting tornado look-a-like. Came out southern flank behind storm and reported damage to grain bins. Called it a chase heading for Burlington, CO to spend the night. Witnessed explosive convective development in twilight lighting with copious lightning. Followed storm in Kansas where it quickly died.

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.






My second day out on the plains for this trip, Monday looked like it would have some good upslope play across the WY/NE/CO corner. I initially targeted Kimball, NE and made my way there from Lincoln, NE where I had spent the night from the previous day's rather lame chase.

Storms initiated to my south and I headed down highway 71 in Colorado, just as I had done on June 10. Three cells had gone, up and I wound up catching the middle one near Fort Morgan. A tornado warning went up for the storm, but I was unable to find a decent point of attack or supercell structure as the storm looked mostly like a rainy mess. Thanks to craptastic ATT cell coverage I also lost data. I was able to make a call out to Adam Lucio and he directed to Tail-End-Charlie on the back end of the line. After encountering a bright white hail shaft on the back end of the storm, it quickly fell apart. I wound up racing back east trying to catch the middle storm, which had become dominant. Looking north from I-76 at the back end of a supercell:

Heading towards Yuma, I decided to punch the core of the storm in an attempt to get into a better viewing position on the storm. Heading south through Yuma I was an interesting lowering that looked like a huge funnel crossing the road in front of me. I wasn't able to make out any rotation though so I'm pretty sure it was just a big chunk of scud. It was rather dramatic looking, however the rain prevented me from getting any good shots of it.
I punched through the core of the storm only encountering some half inch hail at best and some gusty winds. Once on the southern side, the structure looked mostly outflow dominant, turbulent and cold with no good updraft structure. I did come out on the back end of the storm, however, so I was pretty much out of position to chase the storm as its fast eastward movement would leave me behind. Looking east at the back of the storm and a rainbow:
Some gust fronts fanning out from the southern flank of the storm with a dark precipitation core to the back left:
I took a hilly gravel road east trying to keep up with the storm. I encountered some damage along the way though. A grain bin and had been flattened and blown across the road in pieces. I stopped to report the damage on Spotter Network. Looking west at the roof of the grain and some piece of it:
Looking east at the main part of the grain bin that was originally across the road to the left. I'm not sure if it was tornadic or straight line winds that caused this damage.
Back on the road I knew my chase was pretty much over. The Colorado sky was beautiful that day though so I decided to start making my way down to Burlington, CO to get some dinner and spend the night, grabbing pictures of the photogenic sky along the way. Different layers of clouds and virga:

Looking north at some cloud bases and cumulus being kicked up underneath:

Pink rows of cumulus while heading south to Burlington.
I got my usual footlong Subway BMT in Burlington. In the parking lot I spotted a white Mercury Tracer hatchback just like the one I used to have: the Shibster.
While eating my sandwich and checking some data in a hotel parking lot, I saw off to the east a thunderstorm going up like a bomb. The convection was rock hard and exploding before my eyes with numerous flashes of cloud to cloud lightning. The twilight lighting lit up the convection in surreal colors too. The site was mesmerizing and I quickly raced to get the robotic camera dome cleaned up and recording again. Check out the video at the top to see this amazing storm timelapsed.

The storm went up in otherwise clear air so there was an amazing view of it. It looked like it initiated where two outflow boundaries from previous storms collided, squeezing out the last bit of instability left in the atmosphere that the previous storms didn't use.

I decided I better go after this storm and headed east on I-70 into Kansas for the intercept. A base started started to organize as I crossed the border and Goodland issued a severe thunder storm warning on it. However, just as quickly as the storm went up, it quickly collapsed, probably using up the last bit of instability left. I stopped just west of Goodland to get a few lightning shots of the storm as it died.

I found a farmer's turnout into a field just south of 70 and spent the night under mostly clear skies with dieing storms off to the north and east. Another great night camping out in the plains.


With no tornadoes and very little in the way of storm structure, this chase should have probably been a bust. The gorgeous Colorado scenery and cloudscapes, followed by the surreal twilight storm near Burlington made up for what the earlier portions of the chase were lacking, however.



Lessons Learned: 

  • Don't use ATT for data in eastern CO.
  • Watch for gorgeous storms and cloudscapes after the chase is over.