Colorful Colorado Tornadic Supercell – May 21, 2014

Finally spring has arrived!  I swept off the dust on the old Baron Mobile Threat Net unit and reactivated my subscription and tuned up the technology in my chase vehicle…now I’m ready to chase!  Anticipating that May 21, 2014 would be a Denver Cyclone Regime I planned ahead and was ready to head out early for a fun first chase of 2014.  Adam Boggs was also up for heading out and so we planned the rendezvous at Brighton. Adam, a fellow chaser, is an incredible navigator and can keep an eye on the sky while I drive which is so much better than chasing alone!

I anticipated due to the higher dewpoints that it would be a hazy day and likely that the supercell modes would be HP.  This is somewhat dangerous to chase as often any tornadoes are rain wrapped and you have to be right there to witness them.  So our strategy for the day was to get directly in front of the storm and let it chase us, getting a great view of the structure and possibly seeing any tornado that was not rain wrapped.

Several cells popped up over the high country but quickly merged into one large supercell southwest of Denver.  All the cells northwest of Denver were quickly vanishing as they came onto the front range, so there was only one play, the Denver Supercell.  Chasing in a city is simply dangerous, hence why we were waiting just NE of the city for it to come to us.  Adam and I intercepted this storm as it was “putting down tornadoes” in the Aurora area, we were north of DIA.

NOTE:  Click on any image for a larger view…on some photos I upped the brightness a bit because it was very dark under these storms.

Colorado Supercell SW of DIA

Here the Supercell went Tornado Warned for the first time

Adam taking a snapshot

Adam taking a snapshot

We repositioned getting closer.  With the sun behind the cell from our vantage point, the colors were really starting to “pop”.  The contrast with the newly green wheat fields were making this storm spectacular.  There were planes still landing at DIA as this storm encroached; eventually folks at the airport went to shelters and there was so much hail the snowplows had to clear the runways.

Supercell near DIA

Supercell near DIA

Mature supercell

Mature supercell

As with any chase, it is a game of get into position, take some pictures and take in the beauty of the storm, then reposition again, and so on.  The next tornado was reported in Watkins.  We were about 3 miles NE of there at this time and didn’t see any tornado, obviously it was rain wrapped.  However with our view directly in the path of the storm the colors were amazing!  If you’ve ever heard about the “clouds being green” when there is hail near; this is what they mean…

Supercell with tornado near Watkins

Supercell with tornado near Watkins

We were just mesmerized by the colors of the storm at this point in time.  It was likely the most beautiful supercell I’ve witnessed from a color perspective!  The pictures just don’t do it justice!

Fantastic colors of this tornadic supercell near Watkins

Fantastic colors of this tornadic supercell near Watkins

Gorgeous colored tornadic supercell

Gorgeous colored tornadic supercell

Once again we repositioned to keep the storm from pummeling us with big hail and potential tornadoes.    We figured since this beast kept putting down tornadoes (that we didn’t see even though we were “right there”); we’re bound to see one if we continue with our great position.  Unfortunately there was just too much moisture…

Supercell-2032

Tornadic supercell continues to put out some incredible colors

Nasty supercell

Wouldn’t want to be in this core…

For most of the chase thus far, and especially at this time, the clouds were churning and swirling but there was no tight visible rotation to call into the National Weather Service. Since we weren’t core punching and were ahead of the storm all day, we couldn’t report any hail events either.  There were enough chasers on the road and only one storm that we figured any severe event would be witnessed and called into NWS.

North of Bennett this lowering caught our eye; but again not enough visible rotation to call it a funnel.  This is about a mile or two away.

Fantastic feature although no visible tight rotation

Fantastic feature although no visible tight rotation

colorado supercell

Looking away from the core of the storm; incredible colored inflow!

Looking straight up.  Colors everywhere!

Looking straight up. Colors continued to be amazing!

Great looking structure

Great looking structure and interesting “finger”…

Simply said...WOW!

Simply stated…WOW!

Looking NE at the inflow Beaver Tail

Looking NE at the inflow Beaver Tail

As we were driving Adam suggested we stop to take some pictures as there was something behind us that wasn’t normal.  The rain band had taken on an eerie look.  It must have been due to lighting with the position of the sun and our position.  Anyway, the colors were still phenomenal and we got this unique rainband shadow thing next to the core of the storm!  Cool!

Weird but cool cloud shadow?

Weird but cool cloud shadow?

Wonderful contrast of this supercell!

Wonderful contrast of this supercell!

Excellent storm, excellent chase!

Excellent storm, excellent chase!

All in all, this was a fantastic chase.  Although we were in great position with this tornadic supercell all afternoon, we never did see any tornadoes even though 8 were reported.  I suspect they were rain wrapped and only visible if you were “right there”…but it is odd that going through a city that no pictures have turned up yet given nearly everyone has a camera.  We’ll wait and see what the final count ends up being later this year when the NWS finishes its analysis. We only got into the hail a couple of times with the largest being larger than quarter size…otherwise a perfect chase day!

This supercell was overtaken by a line of storms coming north and that is when we threw in the hat.  We ended up in Fort Morgan, had some dinner, and had a relaxing drive back to Brighton where we first met up.  Looking forward to more great chases this spring!

A Selection of Photographs

I was going through some photos that needed processed and found some that I really liked, so I thought I’d share them.

Lake George Fluorite with a red heart (needs an acid bath)

Lake George Fluorite with a red heart (needs an acid bath)

Fun bicolor smokey quartz

Fun bicolor smokey quartz

Mount Evans, downhill of Deadman's Curve above

Mount Evans, downhill of Deadman’s Curve above

Deer in the yard in Larkspur

Deer in the yard in Larkspur

Smokey Quartz - Bi-color double terminated crystal

Smokey Quartz – Bi-color double terminated crystal

 

Saccocoma tenella from the upper jurassic

Saccocoma tenella from the upper Jurassic

Elk herd near LarkspurElk herd near Larkspur

Larkspur Bobcat

My only bobcat sighting in the neighborhood

Garden of the gods owls

Garden of the gods owls

 

Grand Lake flowers and bee

Grand Lake flowers and bee

Grand Lake flowers

Grand Lake flowers

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose – Looks like a horse

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Grand Lake Moose

Mount Antero Phenakite double terminated crystal with Aquamarine

Mount Antero Phenakite double terminated crystal with Aquamarine

Mount Antero Phenakite double terminated crystal

Mount Antero Phenakite double terminated crystal

Lake George Fluorite with a red heart (needs an acid bath)

Lake George Fluorite with a red heart (needs an acid bath)

Colorado Amethyst

Colorado Amethyst