Saturday, May 24, 2014

Day 7: Homeward Bound

Well....our wishes for much better weather today weren't too fulfilled. Our excitement for the day- we finally got a hold of some decent sized hail.
We left Clovis, New Mexico this morning and made our way south aiming for the general area around Midland, Texas, hoping for some discrete cells to fire. We were afraid the several inches of rain that moved through the area overnight would rid any areas of possible instability, and we were right. We still pushed on knowing we could catch at least one storm or two. Once south, we locked eyes on the northern cell of a line, which was starting to veer off from the rest.
From looking at the VIL, Vertically Integrated Liquid, we realized there may be some good sized hail with it. From then on we played tag-a-long with the cell, sticking right behind it, looking for any fallen hail.
With that cell starting to die, and our other options looking unreachable and not very promising, we took a break to focus on the weather for the next few days. There's an Upper Level Low lagging over the Four Corners region (we were hoping for it to eject east faster) 
which is inhibiting a big chance for severe weather. Although there's a slight risk in the south-western Texas area through Memorial Day weekend, we've decided that chasing after shelf clouds and/or little cells that may produce hail isn't the most logical decision. So, after a week of getting the feel of chasing on our own, we're headed back east. Although none of us want to leave the Plain States, we're on the way back. 
The goal of this trip was to get our name out, see a tornado or two, enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature, and most importantly, have fun and stay safe. After making several new connections and gaining almost 100 more followers, sighting two tornadoes, and seeing some beautiful cloud structures, we feel accomplished. 
We will absolutely be back out west in the years to follow, and are already looking forward to it. We plan to stop a little north of Dallas for the night, and make it home in the next day or two. 
Thanks so much for sticking with us this trip; we hope its been as much fun for you as it has been for us! Until next year, keep up with the truck progression and our local chasing!

-Katie, Hans, & Travis

Friday, May 23, 2014

Days 5 & 6

Thursday, May 22nd
Our day yesterday was so uneventful, we forgot to blog about it. We left Limon, Colorado with plans to migrate south until we ran into something promising.  We found ourselves in Dalhart, Texas waiting to static punch an oncoming cell from a shelter. 
At first, it looked like we were in the perfect position to be overtaken by the heaviest rain and hail, but the storm had other plans. It started to back-build to the southeast and we were left with only strong winds and some rain drops. 
Disappointed, we headed south with plans to stay in Plainview, Texas for the night. On the way, we were pleasantly surprised when we drove straight into near blinding rain and pea-sized hail! Even though that doesn't sound too exciting, with our lousy day up until that point, we were happy for anything. We found an overhead shelter in Amarillo and waited out the heaviest rain, which was a blessing to the area which is facing a historic drought. 
After our fun in Amarillo, we headed south to our hotel for the night in Plainview, Texas. 

Friday, May 23rd
We got off to our slowest start yet this morning, pushing our checkout time down to the minute. We kept waiting for something, anything, to give us an inclination of where to head for the day. With no location seemingly better than another, we headed west to where the sun was already shining, hoping to find some towering cumulus. After a quick stop for lunch, we saw one reachable cell and decided to head for it with nothing to lose.
I can't tell you where we ended up because I've never felt so lost in my life. We ended up traveling 50+ miles on bumpy, muddy back roads lined with nothing but cactus and jackrabbits. 
Here are a few more pictures of the middle of nowhere. We continued to play catch-up with the cell to our north, waiting to encounter hail. Although we only ran into light rain, Travis and Hans still had a great time traversing the water-logged roads, as I sat passenger, fingers crossed that we'd make it to the next highway.

Here's a video of our adventures. Tonight we're stationed in Clovis, New Mexico waiting on clearing skies so we can hopefully see a historic meteor shower! Tomorrow is a new day, with anticipations for better weather. 


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Day 4: Denver Storm

We started off our day dropping southwest from Sterling, CO towards the Denver area.  Our plan was to camp out somewhere just east of Denver to catch storms once they crossed the metro area.  As you can see below, we weren't the only chasers with this plan (each red dot shows a chaser).  Several cells started firing along the eastern slopes of the Rockies shortly after noon (mountain time).

It wasn't long before the Storm Prediction Center went ahead and fired a tornado watch for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

We quickly got in position to intercept the southern most cell which became the most impressive one of the bunch.  It wasn't long before it was tornado warned.

The storm had pretty nice structure with a decent wall cloud and a huge rain/hail shaft on its northern side.  

At times, the storm had a large hook with signs of strong rotation.  It ended up passing right over the KFTG radar site east of Denver (big black hole below).  Rain wrapped around the southern side of the hook echo (and at times around the entire storm) preventing the best visuals into it at times.

At one point later during the storm, we watched a wall cloud rapidly form down to the ground.  It was amazing how fast this happened (from nothing to the picture below in about 30 seconds).

This ended up being the storm's last grasp as soon after, convection started moving in from the south and filling in-between (right over our location).  This cut off any safe viewing of the storm (probably wouldn't be able to see much with all the rain anyways) so we decided to bail southwest and call it a day.

Below you can see just how quickly the convection formed into one large clustered mess...

Overall...another good day.  There were quite a few reports of some sort of rain-wrapped tornado with this storm.  This seems probable based off radar imagery.  It will be interesting to see if the National Weather Service out of Denver/Boulder confirms one did in fact touch down.

You can find some of Katie's higher quality pictures here.  Today we'll be wondering south across eastern Colorado...conditions aren't looking the most favorable for tornadoes....but we'll see what we can find supercell wise.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Storm chase: Day 3

I'm a bit too worn out to write a long blog tonight (even though I most definitely could after nearly 5 hours of nonstop storm chasing).  
We wondered across far western Nebraska as cumulus clouds started popping to our west.  We ended up on some roads (more like trails) that definitely gave us the "out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere" feeling.
Yup, just us and the cows!
After filling up with gas in Torrington, we noticed a cell popping to our west that quickly went severe warned.  
We quickly made the decision we'd head that way since there didn't seem to be much going on farther south.  It strengthened pretty quick and soon had a bit of a hook on it. 
We were able to get into position and snap some shots of our first of many wall rotating wall clouds descend from the sky.
Below is a picture of the first cell wall cloud...
And another....
Another cell started forming off to the southwest of this one and we were forced to make a decision which one to go after... We opted for the most southern one since we figured the inflow would remain healthier on it.  
Once we were in position, we once again got amazing pictures of a rotating wall cloud.
At one point, we noticed lots of dust and dirt being picked up from the ground underneath it.  With it's position under the rotating wall cloud, it was possibly the beginning stages of a very weak tornado...some other chasers reported the same thing, but tough to tell with just how quickly it happened.
The spin up quickly resided but the wall cloud continued to impress.  At a few points it seemed as if it was trying to lower again and produce a funnel.

We played cat and mouse with this cell as it dived southeast...multiple times showing a lowered base before it would rise again. 

Towards late evening, the cell fell apart and we decided to call it quits and head to our hotel in silver, Colorado.. We will be within a couple hours driving distance of our chase zone in northern Colorado/southern Wyoming tomorrow.  Overall a nice day! -Hans 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Day 2

We left our hotel in Columbia, MO this morning around 9:30 am.  After a quick stop at a Wal-Mart  just west of there to grab a few supplies, we continued west on I-70 to Kansas City.  At this point, we opted to cut north on I-29 to get to our west route on I-80.

We felt like we had a chance at seeing some isolated storms develop somewhere just east of North Platte in the Broken Bow area.  Severe parameters looked pretty good, but it was just a matter of whether forcing would be strong enough to break the cap.  We were depending on lee-troughing which doesn't always come through (especially with such a stout cap).  The HRRR (high resolution rapid refresh) remained bullish most of the day with regards to storm development this far east.  We started seeing a few cumulus towers go up (both to our west and on visible satellite) late in the evening as we camped out just east of North Platte.  We found a great place to pull off the road on top of a hill which had a beautiful vantage point in all directions.

Unfortunately, the towers had a difficult time maintaining themselves and quickly died out.  Around the same time, we were keeping an eye on a few severe warned cells moving out of eastern Wyoming into western Nebraska.  Although they looked quite healthy, we were still a pretty good distance away and knew that catching them before sunset would be difficult.  We decided to wait a bit longer (maybe 10-15 minutes) just to give the cumulus overhead a shot to develop.  When they continued to die out, we decided to dart west with eyes glued to how the severe storms moving into western parts of the state would hold up.  We passed North Platte (where we had already booked hotel reservations for the night)  and decided to keep heading west towards the approaching storms since they really seemed to be maintaining themselves via radar.

We stayed on I-80 West and eventually saw the outer edge of clouds in the distance.

It was about this time that the northern cell of the two became tornado warned.
Due to rain in-between the two cells and a setting sun, we decided not to pursue the tornado warned cell and opted for the southern (severe warned) one.  We also figured this storm presented the better photo opportunities as there wouldn't be cloud debris on its southern side.  All things considered (a full days driving and the earlier cap bust in our original target area), we were pleased with the structure pics we's a few phone pics...will post the better ones tomorrow that Katie and Travis took with camera/go-pro.  For now, it's bedtime.  We've already logged about 1,500 miles....back at it again tomorrow!