April 8, 2013


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Colby, KS
Wichita, KS 9:24 AM 4/8/2013
Colby, KS 10:41 PM 4/8/2013
Burlington, CO
0 mph
Updraft base and tower


Upslope play in northeast Colorado/northwest Kansas. Targeted the Goodland to Colby area for afternoon initiation of high based supercells with marginal tornado potential. Retargeted Burlington, CO to catching initiating upslope storms and caught high based storm north of town by late afternoon. Storm exhibited gorgeous corkscrew updraft base and convection. Moved in closer after brief, dust whirl tornado was reported, core punching from the west and encountering severe hail. Called it a chase just before dusk and headed to Colby, KS for the night.

Crew and Equipment

Chase partners: Jennifer Brindley Ubl, Sean Casey, Jennifer Casey, Brandon Ivey, Adam Lucio, Jonathan Williamson, Alec Scholten. Equipment: Canon 60D, Canon t2i, Canon EFS 10-22, Canon EF 50mm.




Monday, April 8, was Jennifer Brindley Ubl's and my first day out with Sean and Jennifer Casey chasing with Team TIV and our second day chasing on this plains run. We met up the night before in Wichita with Brandon Ivey, Philil Sherwell, a journalist from the Sunday Telegraph, Adam Lucio who would be driving the TIV, and Jonathan Williamson and Alec Scholten. Brindley and I would be driving the van, "Nebraska Jones" behind the TIV as a support vehicle with Jen Casey and Philip, riding with us. There looked to be a couple targets for our first day out. The better tornado parameters, instability, and moisture were definitely on the dryline/triple point in south central Kansas into Oklahoma. The capping inversion looked super stout, however, so storm initiation was questionable at best. Brandon made the call to play the upslope target in northeast Colorado/northwest Kansas where moisture was substantially lower, but storm initiation looked much more likely. The upslope target can produce tornadoes with lower moisture due to the higher elevation, and moisture advection was forecast to continue through the evening, so we were hopeful we might get a tornado at our target anyway. We assembled in the hotel lobby and then got our vehicles ready to caravan for the chase. Sean wired in a couple of radios into our vehicles, Alec getting a nice duct tape job on the outside of his new Rav4, and then we were rolling. We picked up Brandon at his house on the north side of town, who would be navigating and forecasting for the TIV with Adam driving. Heading north on 35 Sean gave us a radio callsign for our vehicle: “Bubbles” because of the acrylic dome camera enclosure on the roof of the van. We wore the humorous nickname with pride the rest of the trip.

TIV vs. Wienermobile
10 miles SE of Colby, KS
2:38 PM
We plodded our way up 135 and then to 70 west heading for the upslope target making a couple of stops along the way. In remote western Kansas I spotted a weird looking vehicle up ahead (not the TIV). It was bulbous and orange and after a moment I realized what it was: the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. How hilarious to have the TIV and Wienermobile driving together on the same highway. Sean called for us to get ahead of them so that Brindley could snap a picture of the two crazy vehicles driving side by side. The woman who was driving the Wienermobile was geeked to see us as we passed, and Brindley captured this amazing and funny shot as we sped ahead.
We continued on past Colby and Goodland, KS heading into Colorado before finally stopping in Burlington to grab some lunch and fuel. Upslope storms were just starting to pop to our west and we waited for them to mature a bit. Sean and Jennifer posing for a photo:

Chaser Convergence
Burlington, CO
4:34 PM
Meanwhile, Tim and Paul Samaras stopped by to say hi and we had a nice little chase convergence in the McDonald’s parking lot.
Sean and Philip grabbing some lunch in the TIV:

TIV and Upslope Storm
7 miles N of Burlington, CO
5:32 PM
With the anvil stretching overhead we decided to move out and get in position on the storm, which now sported a severe thunderstorm warning. We drove north out of town and stopped on a little turnout and let the storm come to us. Moisture was still quite marginal at this location and the storm was high based. The structure would be pretty but I suspected we wouldn’t get any fully condensed tornadoes or even substantial lowerings out of it. Winds were howling out of the east and the air was fairly cool. I ducked in front of the TIV to stay out of the wind and keep warm. Cloud to ground lightning started as well, with sporadic bolts striking out of the storm in various spots a few miles around us.

Moving Under The Storm
8 miles N of Burlington, CO
5:55 PM
We moved north a couple miles to readjust our position under the storm. The turbulent rain curtains of the forward flank looking ominous up ahead were more bark than bite:

Corkscrew Updraft
9 miles N of Burlington, CO
6:12 PM
We stopped on a dirt road just off the highway, the updraft base passed just to our west. The view was spectacular. A corkscrew updraft extended overhead like a spiral staircase. It was some of the prettiest low precipitation supercell structure that I had ever seen. The lightning was picking up now, and Brindley braved it to get this shot from an adjacent field while the rest of us waited in the vehicles.

Amazing Structure
9 miles N of Burlington, CO
6:13 PM
I tilted the camera turret up a bit and went as wide as I could go with the DSLR to capture the structure, the top of the TIV just making it into the frame. It was a beautiful sight and it made for a great time lapse.
Sean watching the storm organize from the TIV:
Adam offering up a funnel shaped chip in hopes of coaxing the storm into producing:
Dramatic TIV/Sean shot:

Convection Time Lapse
9 miles N of Burlington, CO
7:08 PM
The low levels of the storm weren’t organizing too much. There was no wall cloud or RFD clear slot, so we decided to let the storm scoot off to the north and continue to time lapse structure, figuring that we wouldn’t be missing a big tornado show. As the low level clouds cleared we got a gorgeous view of bubbling convection on the updraft tower.
Shooting the storm:
Of course then a tornado warning comes in with a reported brief landspout tornado. The report told us that it was just a little dust whirl tornado, and we hadn’t missed much. Still, with the storm tornado warned and reports coming, we could no longer sit several miles to the south of the storm watching it recede, so we piled back on to the road and moved in for the intercept.

Core Punch
12 miles WSW of St. Francis, KS
7:56 PM
I figured the storm would probably deteriorate as we moved in, seeing that the cap was supposed to return with a vengeance at around 7 or 8pm, and indeed the storm did start to look more junky and elevated as we got underneath it. We core punched the cell from the west, heading back into Kansas and encountered a barrage of severe hail in the process. The stones were mostly an inch or so in size, but they were super hard and compact and struck the van with tremendous force. The sound was impressive and we had to shout over it to Be heard. It was one of the loudest hail barrages I’ve been in. Even though I had been in larger hail, I was worried the force of the hard stones might actually break glass. I shouted to everyone in the van to watch for glass and to cover their electronics in case we did lose a window. We made it through the hail core with only a couple of small dents, however.
We stopped on the side of the road and ran around scooping up hail stones as the storm pushed off to the north and the hail stopped falling. We measured a couple of the stones at 1.5 inches. The last of the dusk light was waning and our storm was looking more and more junky, so we decided to call it a chase and start heading in the general direction for tomorrow’s play: southeast. Everyone was exhausted, however, so we didn’t make it past Colby, KS and decided to stop there for dinner at the Village Inn and a room.


The Burlington, CO storm wound up being the storm of the day as far as chasing was concerned with the dryline cap busting, and the only other tornadoes after dark on the cold front. The tornado the storm did produce was a brief, dust whirl, and while it counted for those who captured it, we weren’t sorry we gave it up for our structure time lapse shots. Our first day out with Team TIV was a blast with lots of great photo ops and chase adventure.

Lessons Learned

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