April 26, 2012 – Sterling supercell and Peetz lightning

Time to shake the rust off the gear and mind; it’s storm season again!  Coordinated with Adam Boggs and chased with him today.  Always great to have his custom software aboard and his excellent navigation skills.  We knew today was going to be a slight risk and that the upper level trough was not necessarily going to be timed correctly with daytime heating max; and there appeared to be somewhat of a cap in place too; but still felt there could be something worth chasing.

We met in Aurora and headed east on I-70 and then US 36; our target was around Anton area…at least to wait and see how the day progressed.  The cells in our area had a difficult time with the cap and were eroding…we decided to hit the cell about 45 minute north forming around Sterling…southern Colorado looked nice but it was more than we wanted to drive given we wanted to be back in Boulder by 2am.  Driving north on 63 was uneventful until we were about 10 miles south of I-76, and then nice looking mothership supercell appeared!  We stopped and took some photos; Adam got some great timelapse with his new nifty camera showing this mothership spin like a top!

We decided after getting about 15 minutes of timelapse to follow the storm north as it was getting close to dusk and the lightning was awesome.  Of course, as our luck would have it; as soon as we found a nice perch and got the equipment set up (and the sunlight dim enough for several second exposures) the storm died and lost its lightning!  But there were other cells just west that were producing some nice lighting and we got a couple of shots.  I love the colors around dusk so we shot some photos and the headed west to get closer to the cells producing better lightning.

We ended up in the massive wind farm just west of Peetz on the Colorado/Nebraska border and had a bolt hit the tower next to us (that was scary); we ended up driving to get out of the rain and set up in between three cells and got some great lightning shots.  Most of mine were out of focus; still getting use to the new lens I bought (focus on infinity does not work when shooting lightning and each lens has its sweet spot approaching infinity for crisp focus).  But viewing the lightning in the middle of the massive wind turbines that went on past the horizon was excellent fun!

The drive home had some wicked lightning along I-76.  Down south near Lamar were a couple of tornadoes after dark; so it was a severe day in Colorado.  We got some small hail near Brush; but that was the extent of the hail we saw.

Overall, great fun chasing with Adam, and a great start to the 2012 season with a rotating mothership supercell and some fun lightning!

Supercell as we got close

Supercell as we got close

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Cherokee Oklahoma Selenite – Spring 2012

We’ve been wanting to do this trip for a while; so we decided to embark on a long 3-day weekend trip with my dad and my kids to go Selenite digging in the Great Salt Plains in North-central Oklahoma.  I did some calling around and because of the oil boom and the Wynoka Rattlesnake Festival no hotels were available except in Enid; so we opted for a place in neighboring Anthony Kansas–the Anthony Motel & Cafe.

The Cafe was closed and I think we were the only non-oil industry guests at the motel; but it was nice enough…we got the Harley room so who could ask for more? Got there Friday evening and hung out in the room and went to bed early.  Drove south to Cherokee OK on Saturday morning and headed out to the Salt Plains.  Being a storm chaser as well; I was amazed that we were in the center of the high risk area; so we kept our eye open for building storms all day…

The wind was brutal; about a 30-40 mile southerly wind all day that picked up about 3:00pm…so we decided we had enough digging and decided to leave.  Of course, like everyone else, we lost several things that blew out of the back of the truck and we couldn’t catch them it was blowing so hard!

We dug all day and found that the Selenites were a couple of inches below the ground.  Hunter discovered that if you dug near the standing water you’d find crystals right away.  They said to dig a hole in the sand, let it fill with water (we are at the water table) and then use a bucket or can to wash the sand from the walls.  This did work and crystals did fall into the murky, sandy water; but we discovered that the Crystals exist right at the interface between the sand and clay usually; so we ended up just digging horizontal about 3″ below that interface and then pulling out the crystals on the top of the sand rather than in the water…seemed quicker and easier.  You can either set out the crystals in the wind to dry; or just toss them in a bucket…we did both.

There appeared to be several types of crystals.  Those that formed in the sand, we called them “Sandy”.  Those that formed in the clay that were larger and brownish.  Those that formed in clay that were bow-ties of sand in clear crystals, we called them “bow ties”.  Those that formed in both sand and clay; we called them “changlings”.

Note that digging this way you have to be careful with your shovel as it is easy to break or bend it…we bent one of ours and another person there broke their metal shovel.  The clay is stiff and heavy; so go easy.  Daphne discovered the “motherload” of the day which put us into the great clusters and bow-tie crystals…of course this was just before we wanted to leave so we ended up staying an extra hour…but it was worth it.

Storm Prediction Center issues a high risk; we were in the center of it!

Storm Prediction Center issues a high risk; we were in the center of it!

We went home and saw the storms forming on radar…the ones that looked to impact our location of Anthony were at the time near Woodward, OK; which is where several folks died.  The storm directly impacted Cherokee where we were all day (note that when we drove through every carwash and other bay was taken by cars already).  I decided not to chase the storms given I was with the family and in Erin’s truck (hail damage was not an option; plus some of the side dirt roads would not be good in her car) so we decided to hang out in Anthony.  About dark; the storm came through and we took refuge in the local funeral home basement; which was the normal storm shelter after the sirens started blaring!  The kids got a good experience of what it is like to be a citizen in tornado prone areas (they’ve been on several chases with me prior…so they know that side too; which isn’t as scary).  The twister went about 4 miles SE of town on its way to Wichita.

On the way home Daphne wanted to see “tornado damage” so I chose a route to put us through where I read there were touch-downs.  We saw some damage near Hudson which was relatively minor; albeit still scary!

Overall a great trip, some amazing crystals and chased by a storm on a high risk day in the heart of tornado alley! Great fun!

Rural small town propaganda.  Obama Care wasn't popular with this guy and his junk

Rural small town propaganda. Obama Care wasn’t popular with this guy and his junk

Rural propaganda

Rural propaganda

Our hotel in Anthony Kansas, the "Harley Room"

Our hotel in Anthony Kansas, the “Harley Room”

Just south of Cherokee, Oklahoma

Just south of Cherokee, Oklahoma

Entrance to the state park

Entrance to the state park

Driving into the salt flats; used to be trees and winter wheat everywhere...

Driving into the salt flats; used to be trees and winter wheat everywhere…

Just in case you dig up some old military heirlooms

Just in case you dig up some old military heirlooms

Tornadic storm after the core passed just south and east of Anthony.

Tornadic storm after the core passed just south and east of Anthony.

Tornado thrown sheet metal into a power line

Tornado thrown sheet metal into a power line

Some of the nicer clusters of bowtie selenite

Some of the nicer clusters of bowtie selenite

More clusters of selenite

More clusters of selenite

Nice bowtie selenites

Nice bowtie selenites

Cool cluster of selenite

Cool cluster of selenite

We brought home two classifiers filled with crystals!

We brought home two classifiers filled with crystals!

Some of the nice selenite finds

Some of the nice selenite finds

Interesting selenite crystals, not the normal "bowtie" blades

Interesting selenite crystals, not the normal “bowtie” blades

Cool clusters of selenite

Cool clusters of selenite

Some of the larger bowtie selenite crystals

Some of the larger bowtie selenite crystals