Reports and updates from the WeatherHolidays Storm Chases
Author: Paul Botten
Hi - I am 44 years old and from Essex in the Uk where I live with my wife and 3 daughters. I have been storm chasing in the USA since 2004 and here are all my chase logs from those years including the Desert Monsoon in Arizona and also notable events in the United Kingdom.
We started today in Burlington and NE Colorado looked very good again and SPC Agreed putting a 2% Tornado Risk in Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas. Storms would fire along a boundary but Moisture would not be as good as Tuesday with only Mid to High 50’s Dewpoints and Temperatures in the High 80’s. Large Damaging Hail would be the main threat but if a storm could remain discrete then Supercell Structure could be the main show. After a slow start with storms struggling with a stronger than expected Cap we found ourselves a little bit out of position near Sterling and a storm that quickly became surface based fired about 50 miles SE ironically just north of Burlington. The Supercell looked really nice from the west but the main problem now was getting on the right side of it to the South East.
We took a dirt road once our storm went Tornado Warned and started to see some very large hail on the ground some of the stones were 3″ that would certainly make a mess of our cars so we gave the main core a wide birth and ended up down the east side of the Storm along Highway 385 again through Burlington.
Some of the Large Hail Below
Our Position trying to get South East of the South Moving Supercell
Once South of Burlington we got about 10 miles SE of the Storm and watched in awe at some incredible structure that would not be out of place in June.
We moved along with the Storm towards Cheyenne Wells but darkness was rapidly approaching
The structure continued into the Night
We had a bit of a scare at Sheridon Lake when our road was closed at the Railway crossing and had to head back north into the Storm which again had been Tornado Warned but managed to head west and watch the storm drift away to the South. An incredible day ended at Limon with a big decision on wether to head back to Arizona tomorrow or chase one last day in Kansas.
We started today in Dumas and left towards our target of Burlington (CO) for some Supercell action and along the way the SPC Upgraded the Risk area to Enhanced for 45% Hail and 5% for Tornadoes. This was a solid May/June Set-Up occurring in August. Great South Westerly flow at 45knts, a deepening area of Low Pressure and high 60’s dewpoints into North East Colorado, this Set Up was screaming Tornado Potential.
HRRR was showing Initiation around 3pm with South Eastward Moving Supercells which would eventually form into a Bow Echo which would race across Kansas so the trick was to get on Storms Early. After passing through Lamar we noted a Supercell already ongoing at 1130am near Ogallalla and what looked like a solid Storm firing up near Sterling. Storms were firing around 3 hours early so after arriving in Burlington to gas up we grabbed a quick lunch and headed North on Highway 385 and sat around 15 miles North of there watching the Storm of the Day gain a Tornado Warning and start to come into view. It had an amazing low base and we had screaming 40mph hot South East winds going into it.
And it wasnt long before a huge Cone Tornado had dropped to the ground near the Town of Joes (CO) our only problem was we could not get near to the Tornado from our vantage point due to lack of roads. Quickly another Tornado dropped down and we now had Twin Tornadoes ongoing.
The Radar below shows our position looking at the Hook of the storm.
We re-positioned further south towards Burlington to keep up with the storm and Tornado number 3 dropped much closer to us.
More storms were starting to fire up at this time and it was starting to get messy already and this was happening at 4pm. A Storm to the South West of the Tornado producer near Bethune was dropping extreme hail and we later learned that the Colorado State Record Hailstone had gone with a 5″ Stone being verified but NWS Goodland the next day.
I decided the chase was pretty much over at this point as storms were going Outflow Dominant so decided to pick our way out of the mess and get south to shoot some pretty green skies over some Sunflower Fields we had seen earlier.
We stopped west of the line of storms to shoot some lightning and ended the day in Burlington ready for another chase in exactly the same area for tomorrow.
Having arrived into Phoenix on the Sunday we took the executive decision to head east for a week due to the Monsoon Season looking like a Nonsoon Season like it had for most of the 2019 Season. Models were showing little to zero storms in the whole State and with digging SW Troughs spreading Westerly dry air it was looking like a shutdown for at least a week. So we headed towards the Texas Panhandle for a General Thunderstorm Risk stopping off halfway in Albuquerque and picking up storms around the Dalhart area. Storms today were typical pulse type storms with very few Cg Lightning bolts until a boundary or two fired off more substantial storms around 7pm. The Towering Cumulus below were just North of Dumas.
We got into position just North of Dumas along Highway 287 and the Storm started to get a little bit more active as darkness was happening and the cloud tops cooling.
One last Storm around Dusk moving up from Boys Ranch which went briefly Severe had some really nice Sunset Colours and Melvyn managed to get the best Cg Shot of the Day.
A really nice Start to the trip and after a team meeting we decided the next 4 days coming up offered some really nice Supercell Chances so we have decided to stay for a week back in Tornado Alley for an extended Season.
We started today in Camrose with the PASPC highlighting both Alberta and Saskatchewan as areas of interest. A surface Low was moving NE to be situated over Edmonton with a Cold Front trailing off to the South and South West and a Dryline from the Low heading off SE through Saskatchewan.
Models were insistent on the Dryline firing off some decent cells around 3pm so we headed east into SAS. We noted a line of bubbling TCU and these duly grew into Supercells so we set off to intercept and sit in front of a stunning Classic Supercell with a Field of Canola in front of us which Canada is famous for at this time of year.
The storms looked very tornadic until they seemed to cross into some cold air and started to congeal into a mess but our attention was drawn to a stunning Anvil from a storm south of Saskatoon which gained a Tornado Warning as well over the radio. We set off but the Intercept would prove impossible with Regina Lake cutting off any east road options and storms started to grow upscale at that point as well. It was a great learning curve though today and shows how chasing in Canada is not only possible but beautiful with its scenery. We ended the day in Regina and not before we got some stunning pictures of the Sunset and Mammatus under the Anvil which was moving away east into Manitoba.
And that draws to a close our Canadian Chase for 2019
We started today in Great Falls with a Target of Alder Flats to Drayton Valley.
After lunching in Calgary we headed much further North and West to chase building Upslope Storms in the Foothills. One thing that was worrying me today was the delayed shortwave and its impact on pushing the storms out of the foothills and into the better moisture. Dewpoints of 64f were present which is quite rare for this far North and West. The first Supercell west of Alder Flats was pretty much stationery and never quite made it out of the hills but looked pretty.
We re-positioned further North and East to a great little viewpoint above Winfield and watched 3 Storms lined up but yet again they all struggled when they left the hills. This one was had the best structure below
We decided to head a bit further east in readiness for the last chase day which had some really good chances at a few Tornadoes in Saskatchewan and this day ended up being quite a bit lower than our expectations.
We started today in Wheatland and knowing our last 3 days would be on the Canadian Prairies along the way we stopped off for some possible Lightning to the west of Billings. Storms were generally very weak for most of the day but just before Sunset a storm initiated near Big Timber and as an added bonus gained Supercell status.
And a lovely Sunset in front of the Rockies near Great Falls to end the day
After a travel day on Thursday we were in a good position in Sioux Falls and upon waking the SPC had issued a rare Moderate Risk with a 15% Hatched Risk for Tornadoes with a Strong Tornado Likely. One major problem today was going to be the EML with a fairly substantial capping inversion at 700mb. A deep area of Low Pressure sitting across Central South Dakota would move NE Into Central Minnesota by 00z with a Modified Outflow Boundary from this Low draped west to east across Minnesota into Wisconsin.
We got into position for about 3pm and located the bubbling boundary, Temps were 92f with an 80f dewpoint, Elevated Supercells were ongoing north of the boundary with strong NE Inflow into these storms around the St Cloud to Alexandria area, these storms would have less chance of producing a Tornado so we sat and waited and waited and waited. Around 5pm it became clear we were staring a Cap Bust in the face.
We headed to Marshall for the night licking our wounds but had the payoff of elevated Storms affecting the Hotel very early the next morning which produced some lovely Asperatus Clouds and a nice Roll Cloud.
We awoke today in Spearfish (SD) and SPC had a Slight Risk for Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota so we knew we did not have to venture far today. Storms would initiate over the Big Horns of Wyoming and track east. HRRR was insistent on a couple of Supercells maturing near the Black Hills of Wyoming and South Dakota in the early evening with more of a Tornado threat once the Low Level Jet kicked in. After a leisurely lunch at the Green Bean Cafe we headed North and West to check out Devils Tower knowing this would be near the expected zone of storms and as we got there at 2pm Storms were already under way about 40 miles to our west. We set up cameras for timelapses and watched as the storms headed in our direction. Numerous Cg Lightning was seen from an elevated viewpoint.
We watched the few couple of Storms move to the east behind Devils Tower but this was just the beginning of an amazing Structured Supercell which would evolve around 4pm.
Just after the above picture was taken the Storm that had been Severe warned north of Moorcroft was now heading straight for our location an what a sight this became with a Structured Classic Supercell with Striations sitting in front of Devils Tower.
One of my favourite pictures of the trip taken below.
The Storm then took a SE Turn towards us so I knew we had to re-position to the south and get onto another Supercell heading east from Gillette along the Interstate which we would intercept near Moorcroft. We still had time to snap a few more pictures of the storm we were about to let go though.
After driving back SW towards Moorcroft for the next Supercell we were greeted to another beautiful structured Wyoming Supercell.
We headed east through Upton to keep in front of this storm but that was about it for useable roads and with Rapid City Radar being down all day from a lightning strike the day before we let the storm run over us obviously not knowing what sort of hail it had in its core. The storm at this time was also starting to look very tornadic with some strong rotation. We got blasted with Ping Pong ball sized hail for a good 5 minutes which turned the roads into a winters scene.
As the Storm moved into the Black Hills and east of our position we were treated to a stunning Hailbow.
The Storm was now out of reach the other side of the Black Hills so we ended the day where we started at Spearfish and later learned our storm had dropped a Tornado just 4 mile east of our location at Four Corners (WY) snapping Pine Trees in the process – So near once again but a great days chasing all the same. Tomorrow will be a travel day ahead of an expected big risk on the 19th in Minnesota.
We awoke today in Conrad with a huge drive ahead of us through Billings and further east into SE Montana. SPC had put up a 2% Tornado Risk and an Enhanced Risk for Severe wind Damage as storms congealed into an east moving MCS later on that day. We grabbed a quick lunch in Billings and it was straight onto the Storms picking up the first Supercell of the day near Harding. We then took the east road from there towards Broadus and stopped before the Pine Forests to watch this storm for a while.
Our next intercept location would be much further east as there really are no viewing points around the Custer National Forest and also zero Internet in the Indian Reservation. As we were travelling east the above Supercell had died a slow death but renewed regeneration on the southern side had fired off an ENE moving LP Supercell and we were in a great position over much better terrain to watch this storm moved towards us.
The Stunning Montana Prairies afforded us unobstructed views of this Supercell. Picture below from John Finney
We re-positioned further east and grabbed another image whilst the car was moving trying to get another stopping point.
Storms were now firing all over the place and congealing into a line of storms so we stopped 1 last time near the town of Hammond for some Lightning photography before letting the storms overrun us on our trip down to Spearfish for the night. John Finney managed to capture this stunning Cg Lightning Bolt behind the Hammond Post Office
After picking up the 3 Cars and kitting them out it was only fitting to start the Canadian Stormchase just north of Calgary before we headed south for 5 days in the US because an active pattern the week previous was coming to an end for Canada as the Jetstream was buckling back southwards into Montana and the Dakotas for the week ahead. Storms today were of the Non Severe variety so we headed around 50 miles to the North West and watched a few storms. One or two of them had some nice lightning and a little bit of structure but it was clear once they left the higher terrain they were struggling so we called off the chase around 6pm and headed south into Montana to stay the night at Conrad (MT) in readiness for a much bigger day across SE Montana for Tuesday. A really nice Start to the trip though.