August 4, 2013


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Custer, SD
Bridgeport, NE 10:41 AM 8/4/2013
Hot Springs, SD 6:50 PM 8/4/2013
0 mph
Turkey Towers


Targeted the Black Hills area for afternoon initiation of isolated, upslope supercells. Hiked Black Hills noting towers going up over elevation rises. Headed east to catch developing storms, but lack of lift or capping prevented updrafts from maturing. Called it a cap bust and stayed in Hot Springs for the night.

Crew and Equipment

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




Our fourth day out on the plains, and Brindley and I only had one good chase day so far. We were hopeful again this day, but chances looked meager at best. We were hoping to get some isolated supercells off of the Black Hills, SD area where the rise in elevation can provide enough upslope flow for storm initiation. High resolution models seemed to support this, and SPC even entertained us with a 2% tornado threat. We left Bridgeport, Nebraska making for southwest South Dakota. We decided to spend the early part of the day hiking the Black HIlls, as Brindley and I had never been there before. Heading toward Sturgis, we also knew that the motorcycle traffic would be getting thicker and we'd have to factor it into our chase planning.

6 miles NNE of Custer, SD
3:18 PM
Brindley and I drove into Custer State Park and decided to hike around the Cathedral Spires at an elevation above 5,000 feet. It was quite the drive to get up there on twisting narrow roads. Brindley did the driving on the way up and had to have a smoke to cool some nerves before we went on our hike.

6 miles NNE of Custer, SD
3:26 PM
Cumulus were building over the Black Hills during our hike. Conditions were looking promising for a chase later.

Cathedral Spires
6 miles NNE of Custer, SD
3:32 PM
The weather changes rapidly at high elevations and this was evident in the changing skies and light on the rocks we were hiking around. Watch how the lighting changes dramatically in the next three shots, taken only minutes apart.

Cathedral Spires
6 miles NNE of Custer, SD
3:34 PM

Cathedral Spires
6 miles NNE of Custer, SD
3:51 PM

Building Cumulus
6 miles NNE of Custer, SD
4:02 PM
We started our hike back down to the van. The cumulus continued to build.

Upslope Tower
6 miles NNE of Custer, SD
4:13 PM
A tower was going up to our north. It was time to get back on the road.

6 miles NNE of Custer, SD
4:16 PM
Brindley and I hiked back down to the van. I drove us on the way down. The roads were lined with motorcycles. Luckily we made it through one of the one lane tunnels before about 30 motorcycles showed up in the opposite direction. We had to wait briefly for an accident though, where it appeared a biker had gone off the road. We followed lines of dozens of bikes out of the park and headed west to get downstream of the developing convection, passing some bison on the side of the road along the way.

Turkey Tower
7 miles SSW of Fairburn, SD
6:13 PM
We stopped at a gas station where the Black Hills gave way to the open grasslands and watched a tower going up, immediately downstream of it and in its shadow. Lighting turned out to be much better several miles south of the tower, however. We pulled off the highway to shoot a time lapse of it. Our updraft was just a turkey tower and didn't have any real hope of becomign a real storm, but the lighting was phenomenal making for a very photogenic scene.

Updraft Death
7 miles SSW of Fairburn, SD
6:23 PM
I shot raw video on the 60D, which was a first for me on a chase. It turned out fairly well (see above video). We stayed until the updraft started to fizzle into nothing before we decided to head into nearby Hot Springs for dinner and a room
So close to Sturgis, I thought for sure that we wouldn't have a chance of finding a room anywhere nearby. Although all the major chain hotels were booked and their prices had skyrocketed, the mom and pop motels and privately owned hotels still had vacancies. Apparently people don't like to or both to book rooms there, and much of the traffic nearby had already moved to Sturgis. We got a room at an old hotel right off the downtown area with a giant rock sitting in the middle of the restaurant. Brindley and I strolled the town before grabbing dinner at the hotel: $9 filet. It took an hour and a half to get our food, despite only about a dozen people being in the restaurant, but it didn't matter. We had patio seating on a beautiful night and a bottle of wine so just took our time enjoying the evening. Our waitress even gave us a tour of the town afterwards. Amazing.


Another spectacular cap bust for the 2013, but Brindley and I managed to have a lot of fun on this chase and had some really pretty skies. Hiking the Black Hills is was an adventure, the turkey towers we saw were quite photogenic, and hanging out in Hot Springs was one of the highlights of the year for me. It's a great town and we'll definitely be back I hope. Severe weather wise, it was a bust across the region with just some elevated hailers moving through in the early morning hours.

Lessons Learned

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