August 1, 2013


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Valentine, NE
Springfield, IL 12:43 PM 7/31/2013
Hyannis, NE 10:11 PM 8/1/2013
Merriman to Hyannis, NE
0 mph
Funnel Clouds, Wall Cloud


Northwest flow event over north central Nebraska. Targeted Cherry Co., NE for afternoon inititation of discrete, se moving supercells. Intercepted tornado warned supercell near Merriman coming in on back end noting wall cloud. Hook sliced on unpaved road until rain in the hook cut our view off. Dropped south toward Hyannis noting 2" hail and rainbow. Caught two funnels between Hyannis and Mullens before storm gusted out.

Crew and Equipment

Chase partners: Jennifer Brindley Ubl. Equipment: Canon 60D, Canon t2i, Canon EFS 10-22, Canon EF 50mm, Sony HDR-xr500v..

Photography Courtesy Jennifer Brindley Ubl




Jennifer Brindley Ubl and I had been looking to do an extended chase trip in August. We were originally planning on the Monsoon down in the desert Southwest, but the conditions did not look optimal down there the week we wanted to go. We instead spotted a few days of northwest and upslope flow across the northern and high plains and decided to opt for a regular supercell chase instead. August 1 looked like our first good chance, with decent northwest flow across a moderately unstable airmass in the northern plains. It’s the kind of day where big, isolated supercells drift slowly southeast across the deserted expandes of Cherry County, Nebraska. So that’s exactly where we targeted. We left Springfield the night before and were passing Valentine, NE by midafternoon the next day.

Wall cloud coming into view
16 miles S of Merriman, NE
5:38 PM
Storms erupted to our west right on the South Dakota/Nebraska border heading southeast. We took the highway west out of Valentine for the intercept. The storm passed over Merriman and into the huge expanse of rolling hills southeast of there, where there are very few roads, and then went tornado warned. We passed through the forward flank of the storm on the way to Merriman, unable to get a good view of the base. With no option to get south in front of the storm, our only option was to come in from behind the storm, dropping south out of Merriman. We took a south highway and then picked an east unpaved, single lane sand road that wound its way through the small hills. To our southeast, a small wall cloud came into view.
We blasted east down the little sand road as fast as we could manage coming in from behind the storm in what is known as a hook slicing maneuver. The wall cloud to our southeast was small, but we had amazing contrast. A tornado at this moment would have been extremely photogenic and safely over the open plains. Behind the wall cloud some hail shafts made bright white bands on the back end of the storm. A gorgeous storm.

Wall cloud intercept
16 miles SSE of Merriman, NE
5:46 PM
We got almost even with the wall cloud, putting it just to our south-southeast before rain started to envelope our position and we lost out view. Despite getting on a tornado warned storm with a great view on one of the few roads in the county, our storm did not cooperate for us and held off producing the tornado.

Storm spotters
17 miles SE of Merriman, NE
5:50 PM
We made a vain attempt to get our view back by heading east, but we were now buried within the forward flank and hook of the storm as it continued to move to the southeast. Large puddles were collecting in low spots in the road, and I didn’t want to get stuck, so we stopped when we came to a farm to figure out our routing. Brindley spotted some kids watching the storm and us from a nearby barn. Their mother came out of the farmhouse with a towel over her head to see what was going on with the weather. She excitedly told us about the amazing view of the wall cloud she had, and warned us that the roads up ahead would be no good in the rain. We thanked her and turned around, heading for the southbound highway out of Merriman again.

Hail and rainbow
32 miles ESE of Gordon, NE
6:20 PM
Heading south, we clipped the back end of some flanking line cells and drove into one of those brilliant white hail shafts being directly illuminated by the sun. Two inch hail started to come down and there was a brilliant rainbow, so we stopped to get some pictures.
Brindley holding some 2+" hailstones. The largest that we had seen all year.
Our storm lost its tornado warning and looked a little less favorable on the radar and I figured that it was probably starting to gust out. New cells were firing to our west, so rather than trying to play catch up with our first storm, I decided we should make for the new development. We started heading west out of Hyannis making it several miles down the road. Brindley protested my decision, noting that our original storm was still discrete and was riding what appeared to be an outflow boundary. A couple minutes later a new tornado warning was issued for it. I was leading us astray, so I turned the van around and we raced back through Hyannis and toward our original storm.
We passed a storm chaser that had been pulled over by the police and a couple more that had stopped to watch the storm, before we came into the back end of the storm. We took a little sand road to get a bit south and closer to the updraft base, winding up in a very similar position to our initial intercept. There appeared to be another small wall cloud, but no tornado.
A panoramic shot by Brindley shows the updraft base and back end of the wall cloud on the right, the precipitation core on the left, and the beautiful scenery of north central Nebraska.
Another panoramic looking from due north to due south, showing clear blue skies to the north.
All doors and hatches open to shoot the storm, on a sandy little wildflower covered drive in the middle of nowhere:

Organizing wall cloud
12 miles WSW of Mullen, NE
7:50 PM
The wall cloud looked like it was starting to get its act back together. We had a great view of it too.
A small funnel cloud formed underneath it, a little point just left of center. It looked like it was far too small to become tornadic, but it certainly got us excited.
A telephoto shot of the small funnel.
The funnel roped out into a thin thread in about a minute.

Larger funnel
11 miles WSW of Mullen, NE
7:52 PM
The storm was moving away from us and our view getting cut off by rain again, so we got back onto the eastbound highway to catch back up with the storm. Within a couple minutes, Brindley spotted another funnel cloud between the trees and low hills. This one looked quite a bit larger than the last.
A little bit larger than the last, this funnel still looked like it was too small to be tornadic. We continued east looking for an unobstructed view of the ground underneath it, which we'd need to confirm a tornado.
Funnel over the sand hills: The funnel roped out within a minute or so like the last one. We continued east and got ahead of the storm, dropping south out of Mullen.

Decaying updraft base
20 miles NNW of Tryon, NE
8:24 PM

South of Mullen, we had a nice view of the updraft base to our west. The storm looked like it was starting to wind down, however. The wall cloud fizzled and the base fanned out into an unorganized mess. With that being the only prospect around, we decided to call it a chase and get a room for the night. We headed west back to Hyannis. Sunset colors and lightning lit up the western horizon. I wish I had a photo of it, but it was a fleeting moment and we didn't have our cameras running.

We found an 1800’s era hotel at the center of Hyannis and stopped in for dinner and drinks in the first floor restaurant and got a room on the second floor. We were the only people staying in the place and the staff had to flip the breakers on to power the hotel floor. The place had a ton of character and history. A great end to the chase.


This was a great chase for our first day out on the trip, and a very well rounded chase too. We had almost everything but the tornado and were close to getting one too. We did the best we could for our target area too. No tornadoes were reported in the state, despite the numerous tornado warnings and funnel clouds. Our hail encounter was also some of the largest of the year we'd see. The rolling hills and sandy roads of Cherry Co., are beautiful and our stop at the 1800's era hotel in Hyannis also made for a memorable chase.

Lessons Learned

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