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

Palmer Divide Supercells and Lightning

NOTE:  As always, click the images for full HD size…

June 5, 2014:  It’s been a somewhat slow chase season thus far, which by most people’s opinion is a great thing. Despite that, early June always has good storms to look forward to here in the Front Range of Colorado. The Storm Prediction Center issued a slight risk and a Severe Thunderstorm Watch over the Front Range. Adam Boggs once again was able to meet up and we decided to chase. The only storm that looked interesting was coming out of SE Aurora and Adam and I started near Bennett on this storm.

The storm was initially heading SE but soon took on a more southern route and followed I-70 on its western side and then went south and east of Limon. We chased through Arapahoe and into Elbert counties and ended up getting in front of the storm near Hwy 24.

Just as we got in front (South) of the storm near Simla

Just as we got in front (South) of the storm near Simla

Continuing south we zig-zagged in front of this storm staying just minutes outside of the initial hail and right in the gust front.

Driving in the gust front we were in many dust storms!

Driving in the gust front we were in many dust situations like this that crossed the road in front of us!

Out in front we saw several “gustnados”, or dust devils created by the gust front of the storm; plus there were several times that we were driving in the dust storm, which was moving briskly at about 40-45 mph.  There were some interesting cloud formations but given we were so close to the core of the storm it was hard to view the more global structure of the storm.

We were chased by the hail and wind from this storm all day...

We were chased by the hail and wind from this storm all day…

Eventually we hit Hwy 71 and gave up on this storm as we didn’t want to end up in Kansas.  The storm eventually produced a tornado about an hour after we left it.

Thick rainbow action...

Thick rainbow action…

There were new storms firing and we decided to head into Limon for some dinner and then chase whatever looked good; hoping to eventually get some nice dusk/nighttime lightning shots heading back to Bennett where Adam had dropped off his car.  The storm that put out 1″ hail near Parker was heading our way but was about an hour out.

This storm as it approached had neat structure so we watched it until it dissipated.

New cell as it approached - likely over Rush

New cell as it approached – likely over Rush

ElbertStormJune5-2968

ElbertStormJune5-2971

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Hail finally passed over us; nickel sized was the largest.

Hail finally passed over us; nickel sized was the largest.

We then headed home via Hwy 86 and put ourselves in front of the 2nd to last line of storms for the night.  We caught some spikes; but most of the light show was in the clouds.

Anvil crawler over the Palmer Divide

Anvil crawler over the Palmer Divide

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Finally on the way home after departing ways with Adam, there was a nice line of storms from SW Denver down through what looked like Woodland Park.  The Anvil Crawlers over SW Denver were awesome.  Once I got home I realized that we could get some action here; so I started downloading photos and keeping an eye on the sky.  About 12:30am the last storm came just north of us and I was able to catch some of the spikes just north of us by several miles.  These were really bright and took some adjustment to get photographed (the first ones were all washed out until I fine tuned the aperture of the camera); and like the storms earlier in the evening most of the strikes were in the cloud.

I’m trying out some new open exposure “by hand” techniques sitting in the protection of the car.  ElbertStormJune5-3552 ElbertStormJune5-3557  ElbertStormJune5-3571 ElbertStormJune5-3594

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Overall, a very fun chase day!

05-28-2013: Last Chance Adventure

I’ve been wanting to get out and chase for a while now.  Today was looking like the best day I could go out this week, but the action appeared to be heading into the Nebraska Panhandle and I just didn’t want to make that drive for what appeared to be a mediocre risk.  After pondering if I should go out or not, at about 2:30pm I decided to call it off for the day; unless by some lucky reason I could find a close to home cell.

About 3pm I looked at the obs and radar and noticed a small set of cells forming just east of Colorado Springs.  Storm motion would take these cells NE and I figured I could intercept them about Limon.  As they worked their way out on the plains the dew points and shear would get better, so I figured why not; if nothing else it would shake the rust off and ensure all the equipment is still working.  So I headed out with the destination between Limon and Last Chance on Hwy 71.

The storm was moving fairly slow and I was able to take some county roads and check out the storm pass slowly by from a nice vantage point on the ridge that Hwy 71 follows.  The wind farm was directly to my SE.  I ended up moving about a mile south of Last Chance to catch up to the storm for dusk lightning shots.  The storm was fizzling out so I left it about 9:15.  About 250 miles, nearly 8 hours.  Not bad for the first chase of 2013!