Chase: June 7, 2012. Palmer Divide – Calhan Tornado

After yesterday’s strange and incredible lightning and hail storms today was shaping up to be another severe day.  The NWS ended up putting a Tornado Watch box over the NE corner of the state at 11:00 am; it was muggy due to the moisture from yesterday and more coming that was trapped in the Front Range area due to fronts, and an upper air disturbance was passing over giving some extra lift.  Shear and helicity all looked good for supercells and potential tornadoes.

I left about 2:00 and headed east on Hwy86 as my target was Kiowa, or more like Agate/Byers area.  I wanted to sit on the north side of the divide and chase whatever fired from there.  As soon as I was past Kiowa a promising cell started to form right around Byers.  On my way there two other cells started to form to the SW–although these didn’t show up on radar they were looking really nice; but I went for the maturing cell and stopped on Hwy 36 about 10 miles east of Byers.

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Supercell of the day as I was approaching from Kiowa.

As I was watching the storm east of Byers, this hit me.

The cell was back building and went tornado warned near Byers.  I was expecting the cell to take off and I was in good position for that; but it ended up moving south.  I then jetted toward Deer Trail and eventually to Agate and south towards Hwy 86.  I figured I could get to Simla or even Ramah if the storm continued due South where the road network gets better.

Between Deer Trail and Agate the large flat rain free base produced rotation and a funnel cloud.  It also produced some amazing texture in the anvil/downdraft of the storm!

Great texture in the coulds with another cell to the south!

Funnel cloud formed SW of Agate

On my way south past Agate, the front end of the storm looked very suspicious and as I was driving it looked like a tornado could be occuring.  There was a tornado reported but I didn’t know this until afterwards; but I did take this shot of the scud.

Inflow/Outflow SW of Agate; I believe I saw a tornado around this time.

I traveled south to Hwy 86 (near where I started) and then west to the road to Simla.  I wanted to get to the road to Ramah, but there was no way without entering the core.  I traveled south until Simla and got some amazing, and I mean amazing, structure shots.  At this time there was a tornado down but I did not see anything from my vantage point.


This was a monster…and the structure was incredible!


Backhalf of this supercell; it was huge!


Looking Southeast…


This supercell was tornado warned at this time.


Incredible structure. Could that have been the tornado the sirens were blaring for?


Storm structure remains incredible as the storm heads towards Calhan.


Repositioned to stay ahead of the supercell!


Awesome structure, still!


Tail cloud plus incredible vault! Love the blue veins!

I then headed SW of Simla and chased until near dark.  I saw a funnel which ended up being a the Calhan Tornado.  I was able to chase about a mile east of the core for a while until I decided I needed to book it south to beat the core going west on 94 into Colorado Springs.  I ended up a little slow (due to the fast developing cell on the west side of this beast) and got into some golf ball sized hail.  The cell that formed over NE Colorado Springs also put down some half dollar sized hail.


Calhan tornado behind the rain!


Calhan tornado June 7 2012


Just after the tornado – I got back in front of the storm


Great structure in this supercell all day!


Overall, great day.  Saw two tornadoes, a ghostly mothership, and had a fantastic chase!

Chase: 6+6=12 day, Northeastern Colorado Lightning

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Finally we had a severe setup in Colorado; this spring has been mediocre at best thus far on any weather, especially severe. There was a Tornado Watch box issued for the eastern portion of Colorado and it would end up being a big hail day; especially on the Palmer Divide and Denver! I chased with Adam Boggs and we stayed pretty much out of everything severe; except the lightning. This was probably in the top 2 for sure lightning days I’ve ever experienced! It was simply spectacular!

Today was a weird day; Adam and I ran into unique events all day; which made the chase a lot of fun! The first unlikely event was when we pulled off and watched the storms track north over the Grover/Briggsdale area. Off in the distance down the road I noticed a small black dot; which appeared to be coming at us fairly quickly. I got out my 300mm lens and scoped it out, it was a dog, and he was hauling!

Stray Dog running down the road to get to us.

I’m nearly sure the dog was a stray; he was definitely a bit sketchy but did hang around us the whole time we were there. There were a TON of chasers out and he barked at every car he saw. He wasn’t very happy when we left which kinda broke my heart; but there was no way I was bringing him home nor having him in the car…something wasn’t quite right with him.

While the dog was hanging out with us; we got this timelapse of the storms to our west. There was a lowering and some minor rotation which is apparent in the timelapse; the supercell was definitely rotating which is what I was trying to capture.  One of these storms put down a brief tornado; although we didn’t see anything.

We were in the middle of nowhere when we saw what appeared to be a Chase Tour group of vans.  As we neared they beckoned us to stop and they had an issue…they had locked their keys in their car.  They were looking for a coat hanger which I didn’t have; but I went to a nearby fence post and got them some barbed wire.  Right as I was back with the wire they got the door unlocked with a car antenna and duct tape.  What was hilarious was “Plan B”…yet something else you don’t see every chase!

Working on getting the keys out of the locked vehicle…

Plan B

A bit further we stopped and watched a flock of pelicans lazily soar through the winds and also saw a cute group of deer.  Again not the average chase experience being in the middle of nowhere !

Caught some deer right after leaving the Plan B scene!

Flock of Pelicans where ponds are rare!

We continued on to Hwy 14 and entered the Pawnee Buttes near New Raymer and watched the storms track by and the great sunset!  We also got some more great sunset shots south of here as we were trying to make our way back to get some lightning from the southern storms.  We saw crepuscular and anti-crepuscular rays which was fairly rare (they ran horizon to horizon) and also caught a rainbow with a gas well.  The unique stuff kept coming.

Lightning near Pawnee Buttes

Lightning near Pawnee Buttes

Anti crepuscular rays looking east

Anti crepuscular rays looking east

Anti crepuscular rays looking east

Anti crepuscular rays looking east

Beautiful sunset

Beautiful sunset

Gorgeous sunset in Eastern Colorado

Gorgeous sunset in Eastern Colorado


As we headed south around Orchard the lightning intensified and was hitting everywhere around us!  Another something you don’t see every chase is a group of local farmers checking out the storm with multiple lightning strikes hitting all around them and watching them scramble to their vehicles in a frenzy!  Been there, done that!

Not much further down the road, around Wiggins, we ran into a field that was on fire; likely started by lightning.  We didn’t call in any severe weather today; but we did report this fire to 911.  I ran across the street to the house there to warn them of the fire that was spreading very rapidly due to the high winds.  First time I’ve seen a field fire that close due to lightning.

The lightning was great; so we went down the road a little and took these lightning shots!  Wow!

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Up close lightning near wiggins

Up close lightning near wiggins

Beautifully spiked lightning

Beautifully spiked lightning

Great lightning

Great lightning

My favorite lightning shot of the night...really close

My favorite lightning shot of the night…really close

An experiment as I entered Denver

An experiment as I entered Denver

I dropped Adam off in Hudson where he left his car and I drove home; at this time the lightning was spectacular in Denver/Aurora area.  I decided to drive through Aurora in case there was an opportunity to photograph in the Children’s Hospital garage (my work); but even though I would have gotten more amazing shots; I was getting tired an opted to enjoy nature’s light show on my drive home without that stop; these bolts were CLOSE on the drive!   This was again an amazing storm; in the tech center there was 2-3″ of hail standing on the ground.  By the time I was in Castle Rock the outlet mall looked like it got hit with a huge snow storm.  When I got home the storm passing through SW Denver metro was Tornado warned, at 12:30 at night!  That storm dissipated by the time it was in SE Aurora!  Really?  Definitely a bunch of odd, unique stuff; and likely the best lightning day I’ve ever had chasing!

Best part, the next day even looked better for severe storms!