May 22, 2014


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Denver, CO
Denver, CO 10:56 AM 5/22/2014
Kit Carson, CO 7:51 PM 5/22/2014
Denver, CO
0 mph
LP Supercell


Upslope chase near Denver. Watched LP supercell form off foothills near Denver and become tornado warned as it approached Denver International Airport. Cell dissipated as turkey, so chased severe warned multicellular clusters before calling it a chase and heading for Kit Carson 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..




My second day out on an extended trip chasing upslope storms in the high plains, Brindley and I found ourselves on the morning of May 22 in Denver. Shear profiles were less favorable than the previous day, but moderate instability, upslope flow with dews in the 50's looked to provide ample moisture and lift for afternoon storms. Supercells with the potential for a brief, isolated tornado, perhaps of the landspout variety were possible, but multicellular clusters looked to become the dominant storm mode later on. We hoped to catch a spout or some supercell structure closer to initiation, however.
We picked up Brad Goddard from his hotel and drove him out to a tow truck awaiting in Bennett so he could retrieve his car. It had spent the night buried in mud off an unpaved road where his chase had ended on the previous day. Afterwards, Brindley and I grabbed some lunch with her folks who live in the area, and Tony Laubach, friend and fellow chaser who was also chasing in the area.

Foothills Initiation
9 miles NE of Aurora, CO
2:47 PM
After lunch, we headed out toward the airport to watch storms coming off the foothills. We found a little spot on a service road south of the airport. Looking southwest at upslope updraft bases:

Fledgling Cells
9 miles NE of Aurora, CO
3:05 PM
Small updrafts were springing up all around us and we watched the entire sky, waiting for one of them to hopefully become a dominant supercell. Looking east at a small line of low topped cells:

Upslope Storms
9 miles NE of Aurora, CO
3:05 PM
A wide angle shot showing the developing storm's updraft base, precipitation falling to the north, and distant mountains.

Updraft Base
9 miles NE of Aurora, CO
3:24 PM
I set my camera up to do a long sequence still time lapse of the storm. It was more than 15 miles away, but with the airport and Denver in the way, we wouldn't be able to easily navigate closer to it and then keep up with the storm, so we waited for it to come to us. The great thing about eastern Colorado, however, is that you can see for dozens of miles in any direction thanks to the super clear, thin air, flat terrain, and high contrast convection. Brad Goddard was able to get his car free of the mud and met up with us on the unpaved service road.

Cloud Layers
9 miles NE of Aurora, CO
3:25 PM

LP Supercell
9 miles NE of Aurora, CO
3:35 PM
The updraft base appeared to be twisting like a slowly turning barber pole. The rotating updraft had little precipitation falling underneath it: a low precipitation supercell. The weather service detected the rotation on the radar and issued a tornado warning for the small storm. The sirens sounded at the airport, which we could hear from a couple miles to the south.

Turbulent Skies and small LP
9 miles NE of Aurora, CO
3:49 PM
The airport was tornado warned for the second time in two days. The skies were in stark contrast from the day before, however. Yesterday featured ominous black skies beneath a huge HP supercell. Today the skies seemed almost benign, with a pretty little LP twisting away in the distance.

Withering LP
9 miles NE of Aurora, CO
3:51 PM
Even as the tornado warning continued, the storm started to wither, shriveling up as it continued to spin. We watched from a distance as the updraft tower died, leaving behind an orphaned anvil as the warning was dropped.

Ragged Mammatus
2 miles WSW of Bennett, CO
4:22 PM
Some low, ragged mammatus underneath the low top of a nearby cell.

Upslope Clusters
2 miles WSW of Bennett, CO
4:23 PM
Familiar looking upslope multicell clusters were starting to form, which is how we expected the day to progress. They appear turbulent with streaky dark bands of rain. They're photogenic but the cold pools that fan out from the clusters typically kill off the tornado potential and leave only cold, outflowy, and elevated storms.

New Updraft Base
2 miles NNW of Byers, CO
4:41 PM
We headed southeast toward some new updraft bases, hoping to get away from the cold pools and to new cells that were still drawing in warm inflow from the clear air to the south.

Storm Run
2 miles N of Byers, CO
4:48 PM
One of my typical sprints into the field whenever we stop to watch a storm...

We watched the clusters of storms for awhile before they all appeared to be gusting out and merging into one big mess. We called it a chase and started heading for the next day's upslope target, which looked to be down toward New Mexico. Brad joined us as we headed southeast making for Kit Carson.

Skies Over Kit Carson
Kit Carson, CO
7:50 PM
A small town at some crossroads, we stopped in Kit Carson for dinner and a room. Overhead: some mammatus from an arc of storms that had formed to the east.

7:53 PM
We usually have good luck with the mom and pop motel joints. They're cheaper, usually clean, and have the most character even if they're not the most modern. Realizing that Brindley is a smoker, the older couple running this motel insisted on giving us a smoking room, even though we had requested non smoking and were adament there would be no smoking in the room. I didn't want to spend a night with a clogged nose from staying in a stuffy smoking room so I decided we were going to walk away if that was the rule. We were the only folks staying there, so the owners caved and gave us the non smoking room. The rooms were great though, and the one open restaurant had a great salad bar, just our style.


The tornado warned LP supercell was a neat catch for this chase, even if viewed at a distance. The skies were gorgoues and made for some decent time lapse. The lack of more robust supercell structure beyond a distant updraft base, or anything close to tornadic, pushed this chase into the bust category, however. These more relaxed upslope chases can be a nice change from the stressful HP tornado chases that we're more often dealing with, and the chase was still an enjoyable one and a fun time with friends and family.

Lessons Learned

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