Colorado Tornadoes

Originally forecast to be in the Wyoming/Nebraska Panhandle into South Dakota areas, the severe weather threat dropped into Northern Colorado on the morning of June 12th.  The Storm Prediction Center issued a Particularly Dangerous Situation moderate risk with a tornado watch extending down into north central Colorado.  Here is some wording from the watch:

   The NWS Storm Prediction Center has issued a

   * Tornado Watch for portions of 
     Northeast Colorado
     Western Nebraska Panhandle
     Southeast Wyoming

   * Effective this Monday afternoon and evening from 110 PM until
     800 PM MDT.


   * Primary threats include...
     Several tornadoes and a few intense tornadoes likely
     Widespread large hail expected with scattered very large hail
       events to 4 inches in diameter likely
     Isolated significant damaging wind gusts to 75 mph possible

   SUMMARY...Isolated intense supercell thunderstorms are expected to
   develop across the watch area this afternoon.  Giant hail and strong
   tornadoes will be possible in the most intense storms.

Hazard Tornadoes EF2+ Tornadoes
Likelihood High High
Severe Wind 65 kt+ Wind
Moderate Moderate
Severe Hail 2″+ Hail
High High

I have not seen wording like this for Colorado in a long time, if ever…”Giant hail and strong tornadoes…”, and “scattered very large hail events up to 4 inches likely“.  Wow!

I drove Highway 85 north from Aurora.  By the time I was in Brighton they were saying baseball hail had fallen in Pierce from the southern storm.  The most southern cell wasn’t big but did look like it had fantastic storm structure.  Unfortunately I was too far north to see the structure clearly.  I was tempted to drive SW towards Loveland and check it out, but seeing the supercell in front of me kept me on it!  

Photo viewing is recommended in higher resolution, just click on the photos.

Barber Pole Supercell

The barber pole structure on this supercell was very tempting to spot from a better location, but I wanted to stay on the stronger storm!

The first tornado warning (radar indicated) appeared while I was east of Ault on the supercell I was on.  There definitely was a defined wall cloud and everything looked “right” with the storm, it was just a matter of time.

Lowering wall cloud on the southern side of the supercell. It was tornado warned at this time just north of Briggsdale.

You can see the rotating wall cloud and funnel .

This is taken outside of Grover looking northwest, the tornado was down near Hereford.

The tornado was on the ground for 16 minutes and did some structural damage (one road was closed due to debris/powerlines in the road).  It was rated EF-2 with 111-135 mph winds.  

Tornado showing mesocyclone.

The ropeout phase was pretty amazing, look how long and needle thin the tornado vortex was!

I stopped just east of Hereford as the hail looked pretty amazing laying everywhere. Hail didn’t pile up on the ground like some storms, but it was everywhere and the smallest size was around quarter sized!  Then there were stones up to softball size laying around!  I am fascinated by large hail and spent some time just checking out these amazing ice crystals! 

I found a good article that explains white versus clear ice.  

Example of how the hail was lying around everywhere! Not covering the ground, but big stones!

On radar the storm still had an intense velocity couplet after the tornado!

Driving towards Bushnell out of Pine Bluffs I saw another tornado touchdown but only for a minute.  As I headed east of Bushnell, I saw a tornado NE of town; but there were no easy spots to pull off so I just watched it as I drove.  When I finally found a pull-out from the road, a train went by blocking my view for about 5 minutes.  After the train, I caught the rope out.  Looking back to the NW, I saw another tornado but was never able to get a good picture of it!  

Rope out NE of Bushnell, NE.

I ended up calling it a day near Chimney Rock as I watched the amazing mothership sail off into the distance!  



July storms

Been out chasing and spotting storms a couple of times in June.  I also got a call from the NWS about a storm passing through Larkspur, but of course we were away from home in Englewood and I could only spot from afar…

This first storm system was June 13th.  I was all over this day, playing the southern part of the Palmer Divide and then heading to Northeast Colorado calling it off around Yuma.

Yoder wind farm and wall cloud

This storm had a huge wall cloud that was dragging the ground, but I couldn’t see any rotation. There was plenty of rotation with these windmills, though, near Yoder.


The storm changed quite a bit near Calhan, a nice little scud cloud swirled up and then disappeared into the storm.


The two cells collided and became tornado warned near Fort Morgan.

Brush Inflow

As the two cell collided in Morgan County, this was the initial inflow component to the storm. It had been tornado warned for about 30 minutes at this time.

Brush Colorado Tornado Warned Storm

The storm I followed off the Palmer Divide collided with another storm in Morgan County. Thus there were two inflow sections to this storm for a while, this was the second, over Brush while the storm was tornado warned.


Severe warned storm near Akron.

Akron Inflow

Right under the inflow scud, I love this part of the storm as the clouds are low and quickly moving as they form and then get sucked up into the storm

Cloud painting near Yuma.

Great cloud textures with this storm near Yuma.

Upward Streamer Lightning

Caught some lightning near Last Chance; this one was cool as there was a tower and some upward streamers and cloud to cloud lightning. I can’t believe they didn’t connect; they did the next time!


On June 19th a set of storms formed on the Palmer Divide.  There were two storms where I lived.  The first was a bit north and was great viewing from the back porch.  Most bolts were in the cloud, every now and then a spike would be seen and I was able to capture several of them.  The last storm that formed west of me was putting down very little lightning and didn’t show much on radar.  The lightning was good cloud-to-cloud anvil crawlers though.  I timed them, they were between 4.5 and 5 minutes apart, on average.  I was able to capture one, and it was the last one of the storm which dissipated overhead!


A spike coming directly towards the camera.

Larkspur lightining

One of the few remaining bolts from this short-lived cell.


Larkspur anvil crawler.

The last lightning from this storm as it sparked overhead!

As this storm died, I jumped in the car and headed back out to check out the previous storm from one of my favorite lookouts in eastern Douglas County, about 15 minutes away. The storm became severe warned for half-dollar sized hail, but in spotting it I only saw nickel sized hail.  Watched the storm until after midnight as it entered Elbert County and then headed home.

Fireflies and lightning

East Douglas County, you can’t see them, but the field was filled with fireflies!




Eastern Larkspur Barn

A cool barn I pass just east of Larkspur. It is pretty this time of year!

Another storm came to me on June 28th.  This one had some neat lowerings that were right overhead.

Larkspur storm

Looking straight up in the front yard.

Larkspur Storm

Same formation but from the back porch.

larkspur storm clouds

Loved the colors and motion of this storm!


This storm put down some lightning and light rain at Devils Head, but didn’t end up doing much other than looking spectacular as it flowed across the Palmer Divide.  Taken from Jackson Creek road, overlooking Castle Rock.


April 26 2016 Thunderstorm

Limon wind farm

Thunderstorm over the Limon Colorado wind farm.

With a strong low pressure system active over the region, there were forecast isolated thunderstorms in NE Colorado; with a Moderate Risk posted through Central Kansas and Oklahoma.  If there were any storms coming off of the Palmer Divide I decide I would chase them; but the system didn’t appear active enough in Colorado to chase too far from home.

Leaving work in East Aurora I noted there was a storm forming on the Palmer Divide, around Kiowa.  Looking at the velocity couplet of the Doppler radar I decided this storm was worth checking out.  I decided to take the long way home from work and head east.

A call home provided me with the information that along the Rampart Range it was snowing, and the temperature leaving work was 47 degrees; not optimal for thunderstorms; but the storm forming outside of Kiowa had rotation and many lightning strikes.  Odd things happen in the spring in Colorado!

I decided to get in front of the storm in the hopes of getting a time-lapse of it coming at me; there were low level clouds to the west of the storm so that seemed like the only view available.  So I went to Last Chance and then south into the Limon wind farm.  I was able to get in good position and directly in front of the storm.  It was 50 degrees and mostly cloudy in front of the storm, but the storm was still producing a good amount of lightning as it approached; and obviously hail as seen with the white curtains.  As the storm went overhead, it started to hail about marble size and covered the ground with about an inch deep.  As the storm passed over, with the change of temperature, the hail and rain turned to snow.  This was the first time I have been able to see lightning while it was snowing; I’ve heard snow thunder before, but not seen lightning.  The air temperature after the storm was 36 degrees.

On the drive home there was some great cloud structure and some fog from the weather that produced all the snow along the mountains; which provided some surreal views.  As I got home there was 3 inches of snow that had fallen.  Again, crazy early spring storms on the high plains!

Snow virga

Virga clouds SE of Kiowa, likely snow

Castle Rock sunset

West side of Castle Rock at sunset, almost looks like sunset at the beach!

Pikes Peak

Raspberry Butte in the foregrounds Pikes Peak peeking out of the clouds

April 25 2016 First Thunderstorm of the Spring

We’ve been having an active spring with some large multi-day snow storms.  There were forecasted storms for the afternoon into the evening and the early evening was dry, yet cold.  It didn’t seem like thunderstorm weather.  But about 7:30pm, a storm formed near the Air Force Academy moving northeast.

As the storm entered castle rock it started to produce lightning and hail.  A true thunderstorm!  I tried to hang out on the periphery of the storm to get out of the rain and have more to see; but the shape and direction of the storm didn’t have a dry option.

Castle Rock hail

Nickel sized hail on the SW side of town

In the hopes to get out of the rain/hail I jetted north with the target of the Castle Pines area, I have a couple of nice vantage points in that area that were hopefully west of the storm and providing some cool views of the lightning.  As I was driving through Castle Rock the hail got quite big, I’d estimate quarter size, but it was rather soft and mushy.  The National Weather Service issues a Severe Thunderstorm warning for the area due to this; I wanted to size the hail and provide a report; but I was not in a good position to stop.

After the storm passed over I was able to get some lightning shots; but due to it still raining I couldn’t use a tripod, but the lighting was too close for me to get out of the car.  I watched the storm as it moved over Aurora and then another cell formed to the south and east, heading east of Parker.  Lots of great in-cloud lightning illuminated the storm and sheets of rain.  Although not a supercell or a huge storm, it was fun to watch the first thunderstorm of the year here on the western Palmer Divide!

Castle Pines Lightning

Cool lightning both over Castle Pines

Tangled Lightning

Cloud to cloud lightning protruding out of the back end of the storm, likely looking directly into a bolt appearing as tangled electricity.


Parker Lightning

Lightning over south Parker

Parker Lightning

Lightning over Parker

Larkspur tornado warning – June 6, 2014

138 PM MDT FRI JUN 6 2014  
* UNTIL 215 PM MDT  

Of course living in the country you don’t hear sirens; but I heard the low rumbling of thunder coming our way; and the radar scans were getting more and more impressive as this storm drifted SE towards Larkspur. I chased the storm for less than 20 miles and then watched it as it produced a lot of hail into eastern Douglas County. Given that the storm mode was a line, I didn’t chase it–there were many tornado warned storms today across Colorado producing several landspout tornadoes.


Looking north from the back porch…


Just east of Larkspur

Reminds me of June 15, 2009...

Reminds me of June 15, 2009…

Producing great structure and hail; but no funnels I could see

Producing great structure and hail; but no funnels I could see


Dish farm


A few lowerings were seen; but nothing that resembled a funnel cloud.


Pronghorns wondering what the heck I was doing…


A gentleman’s chase…no more than 15 miles from home, less than an hour.



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.

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!

June 17, 2011 Kit Carson County Supercell

Today was a fun chase. Started off on a cell from Parker to Agate, then a brief stay with a cell over Limon, but decided on tail-end Charlie and hit up the storm near Rush. It became TVS warned as I was intercepting and it looked great! Followed this cell all the way to Cheyenne Wells where it started to tap into the moister air and had to fly south to beat the building core. Great lightning that evening around Hugo too!

Nice looking lowering

Nice looking lowering

lowering south of Limon

Just south of Limon on Hwy 24, interesting lowering

Storm as it passed over Limon

Storm as it passed over Limon, you can see the hail “color” in the clouds

Tail-end Charlie; need to catch the southern storm!

Tail-end Charlie; need to catch the southern storm!

Tornado warned southern storm

As I got closer to the Southern storm; it went Tornado warned at this time

Directly east of the southern storm

Directly east of the southern storm

Southern supercell building

Southern supercell building and coming right at me

Radar of the southern supercell

Radar of the southern supercell

Southern supercell getting close

Just about ready to head South and then East

Gustnado - Kit Carson County

This was reported as a tornado, I call it a gustnado and would not have reported it

Blooming Cactus

Supercell starting to form a shelf cloud

Supercell starting to form a shelf cloud

Supercell core with lightning

About 2 minutes away from big hail, I took these lightning shots in the core

Supercell core with Lightning

About 2 minutes away from big hail, I took these lightning shots in the core

Interesting clouds

Interesting feature on the cell northeast of me; this looked like a small tornado before this, but it was too far away to confirm.

Awesome shelf cloud

Awesome shelf cloud

Awesome shelf cloud

Awesome shelf cloud

smoke from burning oil well

Smoke from a burning oil well

Then the storm got dirty!

Then the storm got dirty!

Shelf clouds

Shelf cloud from the second storm as it was shaping into a MCS, time to bail

June 11, 2010 Crazy Supercell in Adams County

Another big day for weather. The estimated Instability (CAPE values of around 2000) were not as large as the day before, but there WERE going to be big storms. The storm that formed around 3:00pm over Golden that put down 3″ of hail on the ground (and 1″ hailballs) I believe was the straw that broke the camel’s back and prompted a tornado watch for all of eastern Colorado. I was getting off work and looking west the storm was just going to go north of us. So I decided to check it out, since I was there and all….

Radar of the Supercell

Radar of the Supercell as it was Tornado Warned

As I got out of town I heard the storm was Tornado warned, but Radar (not visual), so I figured I’d stay on this. I got north of Bennett and parked for a while.

Radar of the Supercell

Supercell East of Denver

I drove north a bit and the storm was looking pretty mean so I jumped out and started to take some picture and film. I heard that there were funnels reported near Barr Lake (just north of my location) as well; so everything was looking ripe.


Suspicious cloud - could not detect rotation

This looks very much like a tornado--but could not detect rotation

Could not detect rotation

For all of these shots, some looked like tornado(s) to me, but I couldn’t detect if they were rotating. There were no confirmed tornadoes in the SPC reports; so either I’m the only one that saw these (doubt that) or they were not tornadoes…I can’t report them as tornadoes unless I’m sure, which in all cases I wasn’t…



Very suspicious looking clouds...

Very suspicious looking clouds....

Very suspicious looking clouds...

Very suspicious looking clouds....

I suspect the ominous looking formations I was seeing were something like this, and with a hill in the way they appeared to be on ground but perhaps weren’t. Regardless, really great structure and clouds!

Very suspicious looking clouds...

Nice Clouds....

Scuddy Mess

What a Scuddy Mess!

Outflow being recycled

Nice outflow cloud getting sucked back into the storm

While south of Prospect Valley, I was watching the storm with a volunteer firefighter and we saw this. Not sure what to make of it; it looked very ominous but I could not detect rotation. Cool structure for sure!

Outflow wall cloud?

Not sure what to make of this. It was in the outflow of the storm, but look at the structure it had as it was sucked into the storm.

Nice little hook

Nice little hook.

This was embedded in the rain, but it was weird…and suspect!

What is this?

Haven't figured out what this could have been, any ideas?

Then I saw this…which is very ominous! Not sure if it was rotating though, so can’t call it a tornado…but it sure did look that way!

Lacking Visible Rotation?

Only lacked visible rotation; but it was pretty far away.

This was neat. There was an outflow that was hitting the ground and then getting sucked back up into the storm. This was visible for over 15 minutes, and was very visibly moving.


Outflow cloud getting sucked into the storm

The structure of this storm was worth the price of admission for sure!

Structure is awseome

Structure was awesome!

Just south of the storm was some surreal clouds.


Surreal clouds


Surreal clouds

What a day. Ended up not feeling too well (headache, sure it was allergies) and so I decided to head home. I ended up merging with a storm in Strasburg that put down some 2″ hail. Yikes! The overall structure of this storm was great. An awesome chase!

Awesome Supercell

Awesome Supercell and Chase!

Chase: Holy Hailballs Batman

June 10-13 were big and weird weather days here in Colorado. On June 10th, upon the drive home, a huge “mothership” supercell formed over central Douglas county.  I had left my SLR camera at home but did have a video camera, so all of the pictures of June 10 were either video capture or from my phone.

Supercell taking on Mothership structure

Talking with Scott Bennett who lives under this beast he stated that it was awesome with lots of rotating scud directly under this thing. I decided to chase for a while–but having some work to get done at home I knew it would be a short chase. I took this shot just east of Parker, south of County Line Road (Arapahoe/Douglas/Elbert area).

Supercell structure

I suspected big hail so I didn’t want to punch through this thing to get on the other side; so I decided to follow it (having a great view and good contrast). I saw several large rotations (funnels) in the clouds and lots of cool structure. I’m sure from the front this beast looked like the mother of all motherships. I decided that the storm was far enough north of my road to jump in front of it, I came over a hill and saw this…

No Rain, BIG Hailballs everywhere

I hit the brakes to get out and look at these things. Note that I saw NOTHING smaller than 1.5″ and no rain…that was weird.

Holy Hailballs Batman

I was almost with the storm when I saw this, so I thought twice about trying to pass it; there was no rain at all but hailballs everywhere, so these were obviously flying out of the south side of this storm. Given that these probably fell in the last 5 minutes, and looking at the homes I was passing with huge holes in their windows, smashed windshields on parked cars, and the frequency of these things laying everywhere, I decided punching through this stuff it would be too big of a risk.

Big 3 Inch Hail

Big 2.5 Inch Hail Everywhere

I followed the storm to Deer Trail and then realized I couldn’t get in front of it so I went home. Note there was a Tornado 4 miles NE of Deer Trail reported; I was probably watching it but being behind the storm I didn’t see it. But the structure, rotation and big hail were worth the trip. I saw some photos from the front side of this storm and it was incredible mothership structure; too bad I was too chicken to tempt the hail and get in front of it 😉

Castle Rock Sunset