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.

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This was a monster…and the structure was incredible!

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Backhalf of this supercell; it was huge!

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Looking Southeast…

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This supercell was tornado warned at this time.

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

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Storm structure remains incredible as the storm heads towards Calhan.

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Repositioned to stay ahead of the supercell!

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Awesome structure, still!

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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.

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Calhan tornado behind the rain!

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Calhan tornado June 7 2012

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

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Great structure in this supercell all day!

 

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

April 26, 2012 – Sterling supercell and Peetz lightning

Time to shake the rust off the gear and mind; it’s storm season again!  Coordinated with Adam Boggs and chased with him today.  Always great to have his custom software aboard and his excellent navigation skills.  We knew today was going to be a slight risk and that the upper level trough was not necessarily going to be timed correctly with daytime heating max; and there appeared to be somewhat of a cap in place too; but still felt there could be something worth chasing.

We met in Aurora and headed east on I-70 and then US 36; our target was around Anton area…at least to wait and see how the day progressed.  The cells in our area had a difficult time with the cap and were eroding…we decided to hit the cell about 45 minute north forming around Sterling…southern Colorado looked nice but it was more than we wanted to drive given we wanted to be back in Boulder by 2am.  Driving north on 63 was uneventful until we were about 10 miles south of I-76, and then nice looking mothership supercell appeared!  We stopped and took some photos; Adam got some great timelapse with his new nifty camera showing this mothership spin like a top!

We decided after getting about 15 minutes of timelapse to follow the storm north as it was getting close to dusk and the lightning was awesome.  Of course, as our luck would have it; as soon as we found a nice perch and got the equipment set up (and the sunlight dim enough for several second exposures) the storm died and lost its lightning!  But there were other cells just west that were producing some nice lighting and we got a couple of shots.  I love the colors around dusk so we shot some photos and the headed west to get closer to the cells producing better lightning.

We ended up in the massive wind farm just west of Peetz on the Colorado/Nebraska border and had a bolt hit the tower next to us (that was scary); we ended up driving to get out of the rain and set up in between three cells and got some great lightning shots.  Most of mine were out of focus; still getting use to the new lens I bought (focus on infinity does not work when shooting lightning and each lens has its sweet spot approaching infinity for crisp focus).  But viewing the lightning in the middle of the massive wind turbines that went on past the horizon was excellent fun!

The drive home had some wicked lightning along I-76.  Down south near Lamar were a couple of tornadoes after dark; so it was a severe day in Colorado.  We got some small hail near Brush; but that was the extent of the hail we saw.

Overall, great fun chasing with Adam, and a great start to the 2012 season with a rotating mothership supercell and some fun lightning!

Supercell as we got close

Supercell as we got close

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Peetz Lightning

Silver Lining Tours Master Class 2005 10-day Tornado Chase Tour – Day 9 – Mothership

Day #9.  June 15, 2005.  West Central Kansas.

Video (2nd part of the storm video):

This was a down day for most chasers, but our guides strutted their stuff
today by forecasting west central Kansas as a target.  The mid level had a
lot of moisture coming up from Amarillo into West Central Kansas and there was a
lot of dry desert air coming up over Colorado forming a dry line with nice
instability once you got into Kansas.  We drove from Kearney Nebraska and
arrived at Colby Kansas at noon.  We hung out there until 5:00 when we saw
the first storm of the day blow up, and boy did it in a hurry.

We had to drive east to catch up with the storm and experienced some minor
hail on I-70 along the way.  After going south right where the Trego Center
tornado was on Day 3 (June 9th) we knew that area was in for another intense
storm.  We actually drove by where the tornado was and saw much destruction
to trees and even flipped over flatbed trucks.  We parked along a small
country road and watched this beautiful mothership supercell evolve.  I
have always wanted to see a mothership and was blessed with a super high quality
storm structure today.  We hung out with two farmers who were really cool
and calm as this beast passed over their homes.

Eventually this put down a very weak tornado right before it was overwhelmed
with a squall line that had developed over eastern Colorado–very similar to the
supercell from Day 1 in South Dakota.  Then all hell broke loose and we had
to run for our lives (well, not really, but there was large hail and intense
winds that would have wrecked havoc on our van).  The storm quickly
swallowed us up and we narrowly escaped it after almost 2 hours of being very
closely chased.  I’m positive this storm complex had to produce large
tornadoes and devastating hail storms; we’ll wait to see what the NWS report
says.

This storm was the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and produced the most wicked
lightening storm I’ve ever seen too.  For over 2 hours it was black as
night (but it was daylight still) with zero visibility due to blowing rain
(gusts were around 50-60 mph).  The lightening was intense in every
direction, probably 4-5 times per second.  I tried to video it but I don’t
think it came out.  You could see scary lowerings in the clouds through the
lightening at times.  What a treat from our mother nature!

There are a lot of pictures here because I am in awe of the beauty of this
storm…I couldn’t decide on which to show so I chose many.

This is the Rear Flank Downdraft blowing dust in the distance.  This is
an intense wind!

Lots and lots of rotation!

and finally a tornado.  This is called a truncated cone because the
condensation funnel didn’t ever go from the cloud to the ground, but as you can
see there is a definite tornado as seen by the debris on the ground.

You can see the tip of the funnel in the center, it actually isn’t the funnel
looking thing on the left, but that was rotating too!

Because of the intensity of this storm complex, there actually could be a
chase day tomorrow as well do to the outflow boundary generated by this MCS.

We thought we’d be sitting around on day 10 but that may not be true anymore.
Gotta love how dynamic the weather is!

Here was our escape route.  After leaving the tornado, we were right in
front of the golden box in the yellow.  The tornado is the where the letter
F is in pink near the center of the radar.  We had to navigate down the to
the right and down the green notch.