May 24, 2015


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Springfield, CO
Garden City, KS 9:47 AM 5/24/2015
Dodge City, KS 9:35 PM 5/24/2015
Lamar, CO; Plains, KS
0 mph
Tornado, Funnel Cloud, Wall Cloud


Upslope play in southeast Colorado, catching HP supercell near Lamar before moving into southwest Kansas for nocturnal tornado play on new storms. Noted sculpted supercell and brief funnel north of Liberal and then nocturnal tornado near Plains before executing escape route and calling chase.

Crew and Equipment

Chase partners: Jennifer Brindley Ubl, Mike Brown, Sean Casey, Justin Walker, Herb Stein. Equipment: Canon 60D, Canon t2i, Canon EFS 10-22, Canon EF 50mm, Sony HDR-xr500v.




Our third day out on this trip chasing with TIV and Doghouse crews to shoot an IMAX movie, we found ourselves looking at a Colorado target for the third time. The Raton upslope looked to kick off storms on the NM/CO border. We set an initial target of Springfield, CO for supercells with an outside chance at a pretty tornado.


11:07 AM
Brindley and I departing Garden City, KS in Doghouse
Mad Mike Brown drives Doghouse on this run.

At Target

1:25 PM
We made it to Springfield with time to spare and grabbed lunch at the Subway before moving TIV and Doghouse across the street to await initiation. As usual, a small crowd gathered to see the TIV.
Dozens of storms chasers soon also descended on Springfield as it was the day's popular target. Brindley's original chase partner: Tony Laubach
Marcus Diaz
Vehicles and gadgets abounded at the Springfield chaser convergence.
Jesse Risley, fellow Illinois chaser
Storm chaser car show
The Raton Mesa started to pop so Justin Walker, Herb Stein, and I started to discuss intercept options.

5 miles SSE of Lamar, CO
3:42 PM
We hopped on a line of three storms heading northeast toward Lamar. The supercell we intercepted was already in a high precipitation state, which was disappointing, but not unexpected given the weak shear we had to work with. A lowering was visible to the west as we approached, however.

Possible Brief Tornado
5 miles SSE of Lamar, CO
3:43 PM
A lowering under the wall cloud tightened up with some vertical motion and slight rotation. A chaser reported it as a tornado on Spotter Network. It was difficult to confirm from our position a few miles to the east. If it was a tornado, it was a brief dust whirl type spin up underneath this lowering, as the rotation looked too slight for this to be a well defined funnel.

Another Possible Brief Tornado
6 miles SSE of Lamar, CO
4:13 PM
We moved in a for a closer view heading west down a dirt road into the HP supercell's inflow notch. I reached out the window to pull Doghouse's hail guard down over the windshield as we approached a glowing white hail core. Vertical motion on the lowering was impressive but we didn't see any more signs of a tornado. We started coming back east to stay ahead of the storm as the hail core caught us. Stones with tennis ball sized diameters bounced off the steel guards and roof, each with a loud THUNK or DONG. We turned south on 385 to make a desparate play punching the RFD core from the north coming in through the inflow notch. We had another rapid finger of condensation to our southeast, another possible brief tornado. One of these features likely was a brief tornado so I wound up counting one for the storm.
The storm would stay a solid HP, not presenting much of any chance at a photogenic tornado, which was our entire reason for being out there. We stayed ahead of it for awhile, shooting structure.
By early evening southwest Kansas was starting to light up with new storms. One of the cells went tornado warned and it was a mad scramble for everyone in Colorado to head east for the intercept including us. Light was rapidly fading, however, and TIV decided to call the chase since they couldn't shoot any longer. Doghouse was given permission to chase on our own, however, and we went for it. Three cells were moving north out of Liberal. and we stair stepped our way down making for "Tail End Charlie". The middle cell made us stop, however. A sculpted supercell with prominent horseshoe shaped updraft and even a small cone funnel protruding in the middle caught our attention. The edges glowed pink in the last of the sunset light. We were transfixed watching the storm. A tornado would have been spectacular, but the tail end storm likely interfered with the inflow and our storm soon fell apart. We continued on down to Liberal to catch Tail End Charlie just as a tornado report came in.
The roads forced us to come in from behind the storm just as the last twilight faded. LIghtning illuminated some really dramatic stacked, laminar plates in the updraft. The alien structure made me think the storm was sucking up cool air at the surface and going elevated. This wasn't the case, however, as we would soon find out.
We tracked the storm northeast as a prominent hook echo and velocity couplet developed on radar. We followed just behind and south of the hook, being careful not to drive under this dangerous part of the storm in the darkness.

Nocturnal Tornado
1 miles ENE of Plains, KS
8:50 PM
Approaching Plains, KS we had a visual on a lightning illuminated wall cloud and then Brindley spotted something else straight ahead. This is an account I wrote just after the chase: A monster lurks in the darkness. Brindley peers through the inky murk. “Is that a cone?” It’s the start of a huge tornado. We move east to get out of the tiny town of Plains, KS to spot the beast. All of a sudden we are enveloped in a grey mist, a dense fog. We put on the brakes and jump out to get our bearings. Howling inflow hits our backs as we peer west inside a grey tunnel that ends in a black wall a few telephone pole lengths down the road. We have no view of what lurks beyond in the fog’s quarter mile visibility. The east-northeast inflow is a steady jet whipping tendrils of mist past our feet. A disoriented rat runs back and forth in the road. It might have been the stowaway that’s been hiding in Doghouse for the past five weeks, eating our energy bars and junk food, and chewing holes in our bags. After riding with us through hail barrages and Colorado blizzards, he finally decided he had enough and abandoned ship. He darted toward my feet and then dove into the grass. A black wall to the west and howling inflow, it was time to abort. We rolled Doghouse east away from the wedge. I wish we could have gotten a better shot, but our positioning just became too dangerous and folks were getting pretty frayed at that point.
We had gotten east of the circulation, playing too tightly in the dark, and wound up in the inflow portion of the storm. At that distance and with no visibility we had to take our escape route east and call the chase. The storm went on to produce some large, long track tornadoes, but they turned out to be fairly weak with most rated EF0. The large Plains tornado was likely wrapping itself in ground fog and puffing itself up to appear as a much more menacing violent wedge, rather than a broad, loose circulation. We caught up with the TIV crew in Dodge City where we had rooms waiting for us. The worst part was this storm was tracking toward us still, and I told Mike to be ready in case we'd need to evacuate, the tornado warnings and prominent velocity couplet still in progress. The storm passed to our south, however.


May 24 was a pretty prominent chase day between the large chaser convergence, supercell structure, and nocturnal tornado show. I was pretty bummed that we had missed much of the nocturnal wedge show after we had to take our escape route. However, after finding we had gotten a shot of the tornado, and learning that the night views were pretty sparse, and the tornadoes rated pretty lowly, I didn't feel like we had missed out on anything huge. For our film making mission, the day was largely a bust except for a couple of structure shots, but on a personal level it was a fun chase with an exciting, yet intense tornado intercept.

Lessons Learned

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