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
Onwards to Alberta tomorrow
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.
Today was the final day of the Tornado Season for us and it was a travel / chase day back towards Colorado from Montana. The bigger risk area was over in Eastern North Dakota so we would be reliant on storms forming off the Rockies in the General Thunderstorm Risk area and we were not dissapointed picking up some nice storms around the Cheyenne area and Northern Colorado before sunset. We headed south through 2 storms and sat just south of there watching quite prolific Cg Lightning and the Gust Front of the back storm sat in front of the Rockies north of Greeley.
Re-Positioning further south I took a Pano of sweeping rain which came out really nice
And as the sun was setting through the storm the colours got even more intense
And finally everything went into a blaze of oranges and reds just before we finally called it a day on this last storm of the Season. A fitting end to a really active season
Started and ended the day in Billings for this chase, it looked like a repeat of yesterday and SPC upgraded from Slight to Enhanced on the 16z Update and also increased the Tornado potential from 2% to 5% with some quite bullish wordings as well about Tornadic Supercells. We headed to Lewistown for some lunch and then found an amazing spot to view storms from west of Christina, this spot had 100 mile views to all directions and is one I will keep bookmarked. Storms started firing and a Tornado Watch was issued but storms seemed to be struggling initially and it really did not feel humid at all, the low 60’s dewpoints certainly were not anywhere near yet but some readings further east near Glasgow and Miles City were showing low 60’s readings. Our first look at a storm rolling by to the west showed an elevated looking storm which was rapidly decaying.
Numerous other strorms were forming and also looked benign clearly moisture issues were evident, the other problem we had today was storm speed with them moving at 50mph to the North East.
The best looking storm of the day was near Christina and we followed this until we could keep up
But it was ultimately a lost cause and this became a very underwhelming day stormwise as the northern part congealed into a bowing complex moving into Canada and the southern segment died out as sunset came. Managed to grab a last picture of the storms moving away before we headed back to Billings.
We started today with High Hopes of grabbing a Montana Tornado with the SPC agreeing with a 5% Tornado Risk and an Enhanced Risk posted for Central and North East Montana. Low 60’s dewpoints and 50kts of Bulk Shear would easily see Supercells forming around 3pm onwards. We grabbed a quick lunch at Uberbrew in Billings and headed North West towards Harlowton and put ourselves just east of a line of Supercells the best of which was located just west of Lewistown. We headed North after a quick top up with fuel and passed through Judith Gap and our Storm went Tornado Warned. Our first look at it was good with a decent Wall Cloud and inflow winds screaming into it. Was Montana going to break her duck with my lack of Tornadoes in the state.
The Storm approached Eddies Corner and almost in an Instant started to gust out – Aaaaargh not again surely and to make matters worse the storm we had just left went tornado warned to our South West and quickly produced a cone tornado that was hidden by a hill that sits just west of Judith Gap and our position was blocked from the Tornado that was just 10 miles to our South West. We headed back south getting around the mountain to take a look at the Supercell which had just produced a quick Tornado and the structure was very nice indeed. Rotation was pretty non existant by now though
The Storms were now rolling east through areas of Montana that contained no road options so it was time to reposition much further east to get back in front of the storm, our guests were starting to see just how hard it is too chase in Montana with lack of road options and mountains everywhere. When we finally got back in front of the Supercell a few hours later just before Sunset it looked even better structure wise and regained its Tornado Warning.
Nice Structure was heading towards us
The storm tightened up but ultimately could not produce a Tornado for us, we let the wall cloud go overhead and positioned ourselves to the west of the storm watching it move away to the east with lightning flickering as dusk set in and a nice waterpump in the foreground.
Ended the day in Billings ready for another Montana chase on the 28th coming up.
Today was a travel / chase day from Nebraska all the way to SE Montana to be in a good position for the next few days and some decent 60knt South Westerly 500mb flow impacting the Northern Plains from a stationery Trough parked out west and with moisture streaming north it was looking good for the last 3 days of the trip. Models today had a few Supercells initiating along the Big Horns of Wyoming and Southern Montana and had these tracking east into SE Montana and NW South Dakota into the early evening so our plan was to connect with these storms in the early evening mainly for Lightning opps. After a lunch in Alliance we continued on and booked rooms in Belle Fourche knowing that the storms should be impacting this area but still had time to venture into SE Montana to have a look at the storms before they chased us back to the hotel, the Mammatus in the forward flank was stunning.
Storms had already congealed at this point so we headed back to the hotel and watched lightning for about 2 hours impacting our hotel, I even managed to get some Cg’s on my Canon which I will upload at a later date.
After our travel day on Monday we awoke in good position in South Central Nebraska and to the News that we had an Enhanced Risk and 5% Tornado Risk in South Central Nebraska and North Central Kansas. Storms would form along a stationery boundary today with near 70f dewpoints residing to the south of this zone.
We grabbed lunch in Grand Island and headed down to developing towers near Hastings (NE) At around 3pm the first storms of the day were initiating and we got into position to watch the developing Supercell. Not long after another more potent storm was forming so we core punched the first to be in position between the 2 Supercells. The one to the east had some nice structure but the one to the west looked really good with some decent rotation and inflow winds.
There was a point as this storm was sat stationery on the front that it could produce a nice tornado and things were looking good with incredible low level rotation but not long after the above picture as taken the storm took a big jolt to the South East and started moving at 40mph clearly having left the boundary and blasting us with outflow winds and the storm becoming a HP Outflow Dominant beast. More storms at this point were forming rapidly clearly from gusting outflow from this storm and already even at 530pm a generated cold pool was making these storms grow upscale into a complex of bowing storms. We kept on stair stepping down towards the Kansas and Nebraska border to keep in front of the storms.
At Mankato we decided to head back north towards Superior (NE) and sit just north of the complex watching lightning as it raced away towards the South East, we knew that the last 4 days were going to be in the Dakotas and Montana so this was a good idea, some of the Lightning when we stopped was incredible and with a Hailbow as well made for some lovely pictures.
There was still time for a stunning sunset with decaying LP to our west before we ended the day – A really great Photography day for Tour 5 today
Now the long slog North!