June 8, 2018


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Wall, SD
Rapid City, SD 12:08 PM 6/8/2018
Rapid City, SD 10:41 PM 6/8/2018
Interior, SD
0 mph
Wall Cloud, Cloud to ground lightning


Slight risk warm sector play over the Black Hills and Badlands. Targeted developing supercell over Badlands but were unable to intercept before it congealed and fell apart. Captured cloud to ground lightning shots at dusk.

Crew and Equipment

Chase partners: Jennifer Brindley Ubl, Phil Bates, Anton Seimon, Tracie Seimon, National Geographic film crew. Equipment: Sony AX100, Canon 60D, Samsung S7 Edge.




Friday, June 8 we were in Rapid City on our last day of team research operations for the season. Anton and Tracie struck a deer the night before and spent the morning recovering the van from Montana. They were then able to score a rental from Rapid City so that they could participate in the day's chase. Meanwhile, a crew from National Geographic television was shooting us for a segment they were running on the Explorers show. They wanted to interview Anton and shoot us in the field. Not only did Anton and Tracie recover from the accident without missing a beat on the chase, but they even managed to get a rental that was the same make, model, and color as their van so that the TV show was consistent. Brindley, Phil, and I met up with some of the crew as storms fired early off the Black Hills. An upslope supercell took shape, even sporting a wall cloud. The storm sat over the high terrain, not doing too much. Anton seemed unconcerned with it, having seen many such storms over the years, which get going over the hills and the sputter once they move off into the plains.
Our target was to the east over the Badlands, where we hoped for more of a conventional tornadic supercell play. The Badlands are orgeous but are a roadblock for chasing. Our target storm was taking shape near Interior, forcing us to drive through the park for the intercept. Even though we were just thru-traffic, we had to stop at the National Park Service gate and pay entrance fees for all of the vehicles in our convoy: two chase vehicles and two vehicles from National Geographic. The Nat Geo crew covered the entrance fees, even though they couldn't even shoot in the scenic locations without a permit. We drove straight through without stopping, making the fees seem like kind of a waste, but we were happy to support the park service. Storms were building over the iconic landscapes while regular tourist traffic was ongoing.
By the time we snaked our way through the winding roads of the Badlands, the storm had already congealed into a lackluster MCS. We basically called the chase from a tornado research operations standpoint and let the National Geographic team get some pretty sky shots and do some more interview work with Anton and Tracie. Brindley and I shot the team and the storms with our own cameras in the meantime while Phil setup his Red for time lapse shots of mammatus.

Cloud to Ground Lightning
4 miles ENE of Potato Creek, SD
9:31 PM
The Natioanl Geographic crew was done with their work by dusk, just as small pop up storms were firing overhead. Terrific cloud to ground bolts of branching lightning were prolifically shooting out of the small bases. It was a real safety hazard. We quickly said our good byes, Anton instructing us to stand on one foot to lessen the chance of current flowing all the way through the body in case we were struck. Then we jumped into our vehicles for shelter. I was able to put my tripod out through the window and snag a few lightning stills with the DSLR on a timer. The gorgeous dusk light, slightly elevated position, and quality of the lightning made for some of my best lightning shots ever.

Cloud to Ground Lightning
4 miles ENE of Potato Creek, SD
9:33 PM
We drove back into the Badlands, hoping we could continue shooting lightning from a safer distance, but the show was pretty much over by then.


Our last team chase for the season was pretty much a bust in terms of tornado and supercell play. The gorgeous South Dakota landscapes, skies, and amazing lightning shots we came away with made the chase for me, however.

Lessons Learned

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