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

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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.

NOTE:  Click on any picture for an enlarged and higher resolution version (they look better larger). 

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!


  1. Nice storm photos for sure! I’ve taken quite a few photos of those crepuscular and anticrepuscular rays mainly when I’m driving either to or from my parents in Eastern Colorado. It is surprisingly hard to get good photos of anticrepuscular rays perhaps because of trying to meter them in the sky in relatively low light conditions as it is either near sunset or sunrise. One of my early weather photos was a huge anvil top thunderhead taken with a yellow filter on B/W film on a rangefinder camera.

    Did you get vehicle damage from that large golf ball hail during your chase? I had some hood damage from a hail storm in Lakewood last year that occurred during the night but no hail remained in the morning when I saw the hood.

    We had a club visit to Devils Head last Saturday, I was probably the second most experienced person there and showed them the spot where I found the amazonite. I found quite a bit better color when I dug about 10 yards away from that spot. When I washed the small amount of material I collected that day, I think I actually have a partial topaz crystal that was found in that spot. I need to get a small digital scale so I can measure the SG of the material to see if it is indeed topaz. The striations look about right for topaz. Some of the internal fractures look like possible cleavage planes.

    The highlight of the day though was telling a couple to try digging at the base of a tree that was growing out of solid bedrock in that area with the massive large feldspar and quartz on the left side of the 4wd road next to Topaz Picnic area I’m sure you have seen that area, it is basically real hard rock mining. Anyway the guy was digging out the rocks and soil in front of the tree trunk that was curved away uphill. He reached his hand into a perfect cavity on the underside of a 3 foot long rock mass and pulled out 6 to 9 nice smoky quartz crystals The largest was about 3 inches long. Naturally to say they were both thrilled as this is their first visit to the area. We managed to chip the rock mass loose so we could turn it over. The cavity was only about a foot across in hard rock and the tree root was nowhere even close to it. A nice haul for such a small cavity and great luck! I haven’t even found a pocket like that myself!


  2. James…as far as the hail, i did get some minor dents, but my vehicle holds up pretty well to big hail. The worst of it was the cell northeast of Co Springs…I beat most of the hail in the cell I was chasing…but there were big ones as I was passing through.

    Cool about the Amazonite and potential topaz at Devilshead. i did go up a couple of weeks ago, mainly prospecting in all new areas for me and did not score anything worthwhile this trip..except a fun time digging of course. i would love to see some pictures sometime. I hope to start getting up there more as my spring has been very busy with family and other activities. I am heading up to Ruby Mountain over the fourth and we will see what i can find there with the kids.

    we should dig sometime…my email is dave@ …

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