June 3, 2014


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Grand Island, NE
Springfield, IL 4:44 PM 6/2/2014
Moline, IL 10:12 PM 6/4/2014
Valley, Broken Bow, Oconto, Lexington, NE
60 mph
Gust Front, Gustnado, Outflow, RFD Clear Slot


Warm front setup across central Nebraska. Targeted Grand Island for afternoon tornadic supercells. Moved northeast to catch updrafts coming off dryline, but stout capping killed them. Retargeted mature tornado warned HP supercell north of warm front and embedded in MCS. Noted gust front, and gustnadoes, but abandoned storm due to lack of visibility, HP mode, and traffic. Retargeted new development to west near Broken Bow noting impressive cloud of outflow dust under unzipping line of cells. Moved to Tail End Charlie near Oconto noting Rain Free Base and severe hail, followed by sunset thunderstorms near Lexington.

Crew and Equipment

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




The first plains chase of June 2014 looked like it was going to be a big one, with strong to extreme instability and westerly flow aloft creating a very potent setup across central Nebraska. Shear profiles in the warm sector looked great for tornadic supercells with a warm front draped west to east across Nebraska into Iowa. There was some question about capping in the warm sector, however, and whether training clusters of elevated storms north of the warm front would interfere with the setup.
Brindley was in for the chase, and we had the team assembled for our first plains run of June. We met up in Davenport the night before, stopping in Iowa City for some veggie rolls right off the campus on a beautiful late spring night. We were rolling the next morning and making for a target of Grand Island, Nebraska, where we could check data and adjust along I-80 if necessary. We stopped at a truck stop gas station with a large food court on the south side of town. A couple dozen other chasers had the same idea and the east side of the lot was lined with chaser vehicles. We chatted with old and new friends including Brandon Sullivan, Jon Williamson, Nick Nolte, Tony Laubach and crew, Caleb Elliott and many others.
We sat in the lot for hours. There was some question about where storms were going to pop with robust cumulus development running east and west along the stationary warm front. Outflow boundaries were surging southward from an MCS to the north, and the tornado parameters were spiking to our west with exceptionally high values. We bummed around watching visible satellite loops until we finally decided we better head west and then north toward a line of cumulus coming off the dryline where the tornado parameters were higher. We headed down 80 and then north out of Kearney up to the tiny town of Hazard to await initiation. We sat atop a dusty hill on an unpaved road watching the western skies as gusty winds rocked the van under sunny, hazy skies.
High res models showed a north south line of cells erupting near us. Their tracks through the warm sector would be ideal for discrete tornadic supercells. Right on cue, cells fired to our west, convection going up in the hazy late spring skies as a line of turkey towers. The capping remained stout, however, and the towers failed after only a few minutes, the updrafts collapsing. The models were able to nail the timing and location, but not the storm evolution. Meanwhile, a mature MCS was training to our north on the cool side of the warm front. One of the embedded cells became dominant, picked up supercellular characteristics, and gained a tornado warning. We were holding out for a better play in the warm sector, but after awhile it became obvious that the air south of the warm front would remain capped and the only play nearby would be this messy HP supercell. We reluctantly went after it, fearing ground scraping, low visibility bases and knowing we'd probably fall behind as the cell raced eastward.

Gust Front
7 miles NNW of Loup City, NE
4:40 PM
North of Loup City, NE we had a visual on the storm. A huge gust front extended southward from the storm, scud hanging underneath. We feared the storm would be partially elevated being north of the warm front where the air at the surface is cooler and more stable. The scuddy gust front was not easing our concerns.

Into The Core
9 miles WNW of Wolbach, NE
5:11 PM
The east-southeast moving storm crossed our stair stepping road network. We punched the gust front and drove into the rear flank of the storm for a few minutes, trying in vain to get ahead of it and into a viewing position within the storm's narrow inflow notch. Heavy rain and wind buffeted the van as the dark gust front went overhead and swallowed us.

Gustnadoes and Outflow
3 miles SW of Wolbach, NE
5:20 PM
Scott Bennett and Mike Brady wound up behind us, we drove east and north for a ways, chatting on the radio, watching the low visibility storm to our north. Scott commented on how the chaser convergence traffic wasn't that bad, but as we crested a hill I could see a line of headlights in the rearview mirror that stretched as far as the eye could see. Some of the traffic was probably local, but there were hundreds of vehicles in a line running south of the storm.

We weren't making any forward ground on the storm, due to its fast movement and the traffic. It also appeared to be losing its form on the radar. Despite the continuing tornado warnings, we decided to abandon the storm. We weren't ever going to have a decent view of anything tornadic on it. We turned south and headed out under the gust front. A wall of dust with big plumes and gustnadoes extended out from the storm. Tornado reports started to come in on the storm, but were likely these outflow inducded dust plumes.
The gust front stretched the scud overhead into tall points. It was a striking visual, starkly backlit by the bright skies to the south. A cop stood in the road waving and pointing at the traffic. I'm not sure what his intentions were, perhaps trying to direct traffic around gustnadoes? We drove slowly around him while huge plumes of dust continued to fan out to the south.

New Storm
7 miles WNW of Ansley, NE
6:22 PM
We abandoned the circus of traffic and gustnadoes, heading west toward newly developing, yet unwarned storms, while the tornado warned MCS tracked toward Omaha. Approaching Broken Bow, the line of cells filled in as a solid north south line. We paralleled a train as we came into town, another dark and menacing gust front approaching our position.
We turned south making for Tail End Charlie but not before we drove under the gust front. The sky turned dark and another wall of outflow dust started to cross the road up ahead.

Severe Winds
6 miles ESE of Broken Bow, NE
6:24 PM
The dust whipped across the road carried by severe winds probably over 60 mph. The tail lights of the car ahead of us were blotted out and van rocked in the dust storm.
We headed down to Tail End Charlie near Oconto and waited for it on some unpaved roads. A rain free base came into view but was difficult to shoot as we sat in the rain. As the base moved overhead we got pinged by some severe hail. We waited it out and then got out to gather some of the larger stones from the grass. Several of the stones were golf ball sized

Lexington Sunset Storm
2 miles SSE of Lexington, NE
8:50 PM
As the storm drifted east of us, it fell apart and we decided to call it a chase. We headed south toward Lexington to find some dinner, passing a few northbound chasers. We grabbed dinner at a Mexican restaurant and afterwards were greeted by a gorgeous sunset with small storms to the west.

Sunset Convection
2 miles S of Lexington, NE
9:00 PM
We headed to the southwest corner of town to time lapse the sunset. Some lightning crackled overhead and we were buffetted by some cold outflow from the line of storms to the north. It was a photogenic end to a day filled with all kinds of storms and severe weather except tornadoes.


The chase was a bust in terms of tornadoes, but intercepting dramatic gust fronts, gustnadoes, severe hail and wind definitely made up for the lack of tornadoes. Numerous tornado reports came in on our initial storm intercept, but they appeared to all be outflow, scud, gustnadoes, or rain wrapped swirls in the core of the storm. The storm did go on to do millions of dollars in hail and wind damage as it tracked across eastern Nebraska. It was a devastating storm complex even without the big tornadoes. Our catches out west, while more modest were more enjoyable for a storm chasing standpoint as they were more photogenic with less encumbering traffic.

Lessons Learned

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