Started our last chase day of the 2018 Season in Ogallalla and needed to stay south and close enough to Denver for tomorrow flight home. A very broad area of risk with the NAM much more aggressive than the HRRR for this day. Moisture was lacking in the risk area with the better dewpoints way off to the east suggesting the overnight risk would be more severe than the day risk. We headed west towards Pine Bluff and watched a Storm go up over our heads, last day Hail fun was on order and we took Quarter Sized hail for a good 15 minutes just West of Pine Bluff as the Storm went Severe.
More Storms were starting to form further south so we just kept stair stepping down the line until we go to just west of Sterling. None of the storms today were Supercells but just Pulse Storms, they did have some great Cg Lightning though and John managed to pull off this shot which was pretty much the last shot of the Season at Stoneham. See you all in 2019
Started the day in Colby (KS) and Models were quite consistent with where Initiation might be along a wind shift and stationery boundary. We had lunch in Culbertson (NE) and went towards Holyoke where first signs of Initiation was occuring. The Storms were really struggling maybe due to so much smoke in the atmosphere from the Southern Colorado Fires. Another area of Storms had initiated near North Platte around 75 miles to our North East and these looked more robust and crucially they were in Temps of 85 with a 74 Dewpoint. We probably hung around the Colorado Storms too long but made a break for the Nebraska cells and as soon as we did it went Tornado Warned, the Velocity was very broad and elevated, I pretty much knew these were going to be LP Supercells when we finally got a visual on them and so they were. We headed North along Highway 83 from North Platte towards Stapleton and got our first visual on the base, a sculptured Barber Pole LP Supercell which even had a Funnel Cloud hanging from it upon arrival. New Storms had also by now gone up to our west and these also had elevated funnel clouds. The show really got started at Sunset when we had at one point 3 LP Supercells spinning away and spitting out some amazing Clear Air Cg Lightning Bolts (A Photographers Dream) Pics below are from John Finney of both Supercells at Sunset and just after dark.
The Peach Sunset colours were spectacular
As darkness came upon us the Lightning Continued
Started the day in Chadron (NE) and had a target of NE Colorado. Models once again were handling today pretty badly and once again we had stratus inhibiting surface heating. One area that did get some surface heating and an Outflow Boundary was about 200 miles to the East near Hastings (NE) and here a localised Tornado threat occured, and like a lot of the 2018 season if you were lucky enough to be within an hours drive then you would have been on the Jackpot today. We stuck to our guns and watched an area of clearing down near Yuma so headed off south along Highway 385 through Holyoke and Wray towards 3 developing Supercells, the southern most of these was trying to move SE towards a NW Moving Ouflow Boundary near Burlington. Finally our chase was on.
Radar Picture above shows our Supercell really close to intersecting the Boundary shown in Light Blue. For a time we noticed rotation and a few attempts at funnels, but it was already clear the storm had ingested the boundary and was now on the move increasing its forward speed to 55mph and gusting out quite quickly.
We headed down to Burlington and then east towards Colby, even doing 80mph we still could not outrun the Storm which was now picking up most of the field around us and creating a huge Haboob. It made for some interesting driving with all manor of objects being thrown over the road around us. We decided with little chance of Lighnting to head to Hays and let the storm roll over us. A really tough chase day once again!
Started the day in Dickinson (ND) with a Chase Target of the Gillette to Sundance area of Wyoming. A pair of Supercells initiated and tracked quite fast to the East and started to haul rapidly towards us at 40mph. The Northern Storm was on a track to go very close to Devils Tower so we headed North from Moorcroft and took up position. The Storm was quite grungy but we still managed some amazing pictures. Pic Below from John Finney.
That storm was dropping Golfball Hail just North of us so we scooted south to the Southern Storm down winding Mountain roads towards Sundance. The Structure was very nice and the hail was the main concern.
The Storm took a turn to the south so it was now a race to get out of the way of 80mph wind driven Baseball Hail, we took a few to the side windows but escaped, other were not so lucky further north losing windows in the process.
Pic Below from John Finney of us escaping South
We let the 2 Northern Supercells go and made our way South towards the Nebraska/South Dakota Border where the Models showed a tail end charlie storm around 7pm. Some Storms along the way kept us entertained and we stopped at points to shoot Lightning over the Black Hills near Hot Springs.
We kept an eye on the Storm to our South West and when it did a hard right turn it almost immediately gained a Tornado Warning, we noticed on our journey south a Cone Funnel half way to the ground. Again we stopped at the border to shoot some structure. Pic again by John Finney
Again a Cone Funnel formed but it was yet again sooo close to dropping a nice Tornado in front of us. Mother Nature really has had it in for me this year.
A little after the above picture was taken the Storm gusted out and produced an amazing Hail Dump just to our north. We finished the day in Chadron (NE)
Today would be the last big day of the Season and I was feeling confident. HRRR Had numerous Tornadic Supercells on its early runs and we left Rapid City early with a Lunch Stop in Bowman (ND). I was still undecided on what play to go for even at 2pm. The Set Up showed Low to Mid 70’s Dewpoints wrapping North around an area of Low Pressure moving North East from NE Wyoming into NW South Dakota for around 6pm. It also showed a lifting Warm Front which disected a South Eastwards moving Cold Front over Montana. The way I have been taught is to go for the wrapping Moisture around the Low as this nearly always produces Tornadoes. Easy Huh ??
The First Storm of the Day went up in the Perfect position and sat stationery for about an hour, this was definately riding the warm front, the give away was when it did a Left/Right Split and the Right moving Supercell moved due east along the front. Our approach showed a strong Updraught indeed.
I still had a nagging feeling though, we were near Killdeer by now which was about 150 miles North of the Approaching Surface Low. But surely if our storm and another further south west went up both would produce. We ploughed on and sat just South of the now Stationery Supercell. The only thing lacking early in the storms life cycle was the low level rotation which was pretty non existant, the inflow was however really impressive at around 30mph sustained. Finally after an hour of watching the Storm the rotation increased and we had our first attempt at a Tornado. A snaky funnel reached down half way to the ground but no touchdown. Pic Below From John Finney
We moved a little further south and the Structure really started to take shape now as well.
Still no touchdown and no Tornado Warning yet either. Another few stops further south showed a rapidly rotating White Mesocyclone just 500 feet off the ground, and now our storm was tornado warned finally.
Pics Below by John Finney
The above picture shows if something had put down we would have been staring at a very large Tornado from such a strong Meso. But a little after the picture above the cause was over with the Storm seemingly leaving the Boundary after about 5 hours sat on it and we got blasted with cold Outflow winds. This storm had more rotation than I had seen in most other storms but did not produce a Tornado when the conditions were perfect, it just goes to show we now little about why some storms produce and why the majority dont.
A great chase none the less.