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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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!

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A spike coming directly towards the camera.

Larkspur lightining

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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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Late May Storm

There have been several great stormy days here in Colorado in early May; but my schedule has prevented me from chasing on those good days.  I’ve been itching to get out; and luckily we had a good day before we left for our family vacation!

Got several lucky shots of lightning

My son and I got an opportunity to head out on May 26th.  We targeted Limon and decided we’d then go where the storms popped up as the forecast was difficult.  The storms fired along the Colorado front range early in the day; and put down some hail, but those storms were moving due north and had already formed a line; so we punched through and continued to our target.  Once in Limon, we saw some development to the south and headed that way to check them out.

The weather was strange, it was pretty chilly (about 52 degrees) and nothing was going up discreet.  We stopped at the first storm and noted a wall cloud feature on a storm, so we watched it.  It did have a little rotation; but just as it was looking good the inflow got cut off and the storm turned into a massive rainy mess.  So we left it and headed Southeast towards the front end of the cells.

Early wall cloud, temp was about 50 degrees.

Early wall cloud, temp was about 51 degrees.

A small amount of rotation.

A small amount of rotation as this wall cloud continued

We were able to see a small, short lived funnel near Wild Horse and as we were heading south towards some great looking structure near Kit Carson the storm overtook us.  There was a tornado spotted from this cell but traffic was pretty hairy and we ended up abandoning that storm and heading north.  We saw some great lightning, Hunter actually saw a positive bolt from the top of a tower which is great; I’ve never seen one of those.  By the time we got north of I-70, the front edge of the storms were all out by the Kansas border, and we decided to not pursue those into Kansas and instead just watch the remaining daytime lightning south of Yuma and then head home.

A funnel was forming; I rushed back to the car to ensure Hunter could see it; but by then it had dissipated. It went about 1/2 way to the ground, but was just a small finger.

Here a funnel was forming, but I didn’t get a shot of it as it was 1/2 way to the ground as I was rushing back to the car to ensure Hunter saw it!  It lasted for just a minute or two; but the coulds were all active in this area.

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Interesting structure as the storm overtook us

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Aroya historic school house!

The Aroya historic school house was in use until the early 1960s.

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The greens are beautiful this time of year!

South of Yuma we caught up to the last lightning of the evening.  We parked next to a grain bin and under these power lines; ended up getting some great day lightning photos; I was holding the camera by hand and was surprised this technique actually worked as it wasn’t dark yet!

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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.

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Parker Lightning

Lightning over south Parker

Parker Lightning

Lightning over Parker

Castle Pines Lightning

The monsoon is in effect here in Colorado, like it always is in late-July and/or early-August (which I love) as I can capture some great lightning photos. Nice thundershowers each afternoon cool it down and make just fantastic evening/night conditions (and also keep the landscape green, which is a challenge here this time of year)! I was driving home from work which is normally 45 minutes but yesterday ended up being over 2 hours. As I was in the stop-go routine, an oncoming storm with very frequent cloud-to-ground lightning was encroaching. Luckily, the traffic ended up thinning out just in time to miss the core of the precipitation which would have made the drive even longer, ugh!

I travelled to the next exit and got off to take some pretty close, daytime lightning photos. This is with my cell phone, but surprising got some really nice shots! All of these bolts were between a mile and two away.

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Castle Pines Lightning

This one is interesting I feel because it shows the end of the initial discharge and the start of the second return stroke.

Monsoon Lightning Begins

The monsoon is picking up, several weeks later than normal, but it is here. Woke up to some thunder so I checked out the radar and sky and decided to take a small drive. Ended up a few blocks away from the house and was able to capture some nice lightning. The storm down SE of us was going bonkers with lightning, strobe light style, so I ended up driving south a ways to an overlook and watched. There were no bolts visible from my vantage point (the storm was 40 miles away) so I just sat in awe for a while and then headed home. Tomorrow night should be another good night, and we have the Perseids upcoming too, so probably will be lacking a bit on sleep this week!

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June 6 Chase :: Severe Storms over Eastern Colorado

For the forth day in row the atmosphere was primed for severe storms over eastern Colorado.  I got an early start and did the standard thing it seems…catch the first storm that popped up on the Palmer Divide.  That was a storm that went just north of Elizabeth following the same patterns as many previous days.  This storm would prove to be the storm of the day, tornado warned, and surrounded by chasers all the way into Kansas.

SW Bennett storm

SW of Bennett as this storm was getting organized

The temps were in the low 60s and the clouds were pretty high based.  Looking at the surface map further out on the plains was 75/55 and in some places 80/55, so I opted to split the difference between Last Chance and Brush to hit whatever storms seems to be using the more unstable air.

Baby Elephant cloud.

My mind always plays tricks on me. This looked like a baby elephant cloud.

The southern storm just didn’t look good to me, and it was forming in the cooler air, so I opted to head to the cell popping up SW of Fort Morgan.  As I arrived it was tornado warned, of course about 10 minutes after the southern storm was also TVS warned.  The Fort Morgan storm was very high based and appeared to line out rather quickly.  I left it and tried to catch up with the southern storm that was along I-70 approaching Seibert.

Fort Morgan Tornado Warned Storm

Tornado Warned storm over Fort Morgan. Trained Spotters saw a funnel.

The southern cell appeared to be hitting the cap and was dissipating quickly, and the convection looked like mush which I’ve never had much luck with approaching Kansas (I like to see rock-hard popcorn type convection in the towers).  I still had a ways to catch up to it so I opted to head for the new storm that was forming SE of Limon.

Genoa storm forming

This storm was heading east of Limon when the larger cell started to loose its convection.

I headed south out of Cope and nearing Seibert I pulled over to check out some of the structure of the approaching storm.  The radar showed this complex as a line of storms so I knew it probably wasn’t going to do anything severe (perhaps hail or wind), so I just decided to absorb the structure as it approached.

Genoa Colorado cell

Looking SW from near Cope, Colorado.

Arcus Roll cloud

This storm was lined out making an Arcus roll cloud

Some nice striations in the clouds

Some nice striations in the clouds

Just north of Seibert I stopped to check out this arcus roll cloud which was really neat.  These clouds are similar to shelf clouds but are detached from the cloud base.

Arcus Roll Cloud

Arcus Roll Cloud

Heading back home I got to see some neat rainbows and dying cell structure while passing the Limon wind farm, which I always love to drive past/through.  All-in-all a fun chase day!

Limon Rainbow

Bright double rainbow in Limon

Limon storm at sunset

Limon storm at sunset

Seibert Roll cloud

Arcus Roll cloud north of Seibert.

June 4 Tornadic Supercells

Today had another round of severe weather for the Colorado Front Range including Tornadic Supercells.  I left work a bit late today due to a pending deadline so I was behind the 8-ball all day, but still was able to see some really neat storm structure.

Storms had already gone severe warned by the time I left work so I had a good idea which one to jump on.  I was targeting the storm just west of Limon as I was heading east on I-70 and then the cell near Leader was just too impressive and I had to check it out.  This is common with me when chasing as my favorite part is the storm structure and not strictly tornadoes which is the focus for many chasers.

Leader Supercell

Here is the supercell as I was passing it on the interstate as it was near Leader

Leader Tornado Warned Supercell

Awesome storm structure as this cell was tornado warned.

As I approached this storm is was obvious it was getting smaller, both on radar and visibly to my eye.  It didn’t matter though, the inflow band and what I could see of the updraft were spectacular!  Within 30 minutes this storm went from Tornado warned to non-existent!

Dying storm near Hoyt

Awesome structure just east of Byers, however the storm is dying

Hoyt supercell dead

Watching this supercell dwindle into nothing in less than 30 minutes!

So back onto my originally targeted strom.  I made a few tactical mistakes that cost some time today–miss my chase partner Adam who was excellent at it–and ended up taking a few roads I have not done before.  Due to the amount of rain the dirt roads were mud and somewhat slick so it was slow going.  Sometime the shortest route is not the best route! 🙂  Meanwhile this supercell was putting down beautiful tornadoes with amazing structure.  Here is what it looked like from the back (north) side (it was moving south) which is a typical view as you are approaching a storm from this perspective!

Simla Supercell

Getting back onto my primary target, it has been producing tornadoes by this time.

But perseverance pays off!  I finally got on this storm a little before sunset.  It had already stopped producing tornadoes although I thought there was one more left in it…but it didn’t have quite enough energy even though the mesocyclone was spinning like a top!  The structure was jaw dropping, with a visibly rotating barberpole updraft.  And there were no other chasers in this location when I arrived (a treat from days like yesterday where there were 100’s of chasers converged in the same area).  Ended up being 4 chaser teams in my area, and we all got an amazing display from mother nature!!!

Kutch supercell

Finally caught up with this supercell. Amazing structure near Kutch.

Kutch supercell

Lucky daytime lightning caught.

Barberpole structure

As the sun started to set, the energy dwindled and the inflow started to fizzle out.  The tail cloud that formed made me thing it was going to produce another tornado in front of me, but it was just a little too late for that to happen.

Helix barberpole inflow

Nice helix barberpole inflow just before its death.

Colorado sunset

Amazing, colorful sunset

Mammatus Sunset

Nice display of Mammatus Clouds at sunset

On the way home Denver had a large severe warned cell stalled over it.  On the radio they were talking about the mass amounts of hail and continuous lightning.  The storm stretched the entire metro area so I jumped up to a spot I’ve been wanting to photograph lightning from near Parker and took a few shots.  The lightning was incredible but it was 98% cloud-cloud and only small spikes were coming out of the cloud in this one location.  Great to watch for about 20 minutes before I ended up heading home.

All-in-all, an amazing chase day, the structure of the Kutch supercell is one I will never forget!

SW Denver lightning, continuous lightning!!

SW Denver lightning, continuous lightning!!

Denver Lightning

Awesome lightning display over Denver

June 3, 2015. Douglas / Elbert County Colorado Supercells

Today the National Weather Service issued an enhanced risk of severe storms for Central and Northern Colorado, likely having Colorado Supercells on the menu!  My original thought was to wait near Prospect Valley and either hit the storms coming off of the Palmer Divide, or head into Northeast Colorado if the cells fired there.  A tried and tested strategy, and it worked once again today.

Larkspur supercell

Larkspur supercell as seen north of Kiowa.

Castle Rock and Franktown supercell

Larkspur supercell as it went through Castle Rock and Franktown.

I was in Bennett at about 2:30pm when the first cell fired up.  Because I was nowhere near home, the cell was over Larkspur put down quarter sized hail.  But this storm was the only play thus far in a good atmospheric environment and given the cap was strong I decided to head south towards Elizabeth and cut off this slow moving storm.  I ended up finding a nice location a couple miles south of Elizabeth and set up the camera for a time lapse.  The Larkspur storm slowly moved NE but it wasn’t tightening up and was obvious that it probably would only produce hail. It ended up completely vanishing within about 30 minutes near Kiowa.

Elizabeth supercell

Elizabeth supercell showing some interesting formations

Elizabeth supercell

Second supercell as it entered Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, the cells behind this supercell merged and took a right turn.  This was an amazing looking cell and I watched it from Elizabeth, then Kiowa.  But like its earlier friend it couldn’t withstand the cap and environment east of Kiowa and quickly died.  The good news is that for my second chase of the season I was home by 9pm, a rare occasion on chase day!

Kiowa supercell

Kiowa supercell as seen east of town.

Kiowa supercell

Kiowa supercell showing some interesting scud formations

Aurora supercell as seen from Hwy 86 near Elizabeth as I was heading home.

Aurora supercell as seen from Hwy 86 near Elizabeth as I was heading home.

Castle Rock clouds

Castle Rock clouds as seen from Hwy 86 near Elizabeth as I was heading home.

Chase: SE Colorado, May 23 2015

Did some storm chasing today.  Setup was marginal but I had the day open and been wanting to chase all year, so I committed to SE Colorado.  Left the house about noon and already storms were starting to fire.  The best storms were three cells near La Junta, one which put down a brief tornado.  These are the storms I wanted to be on, but to get there I needed to core punch the top of the line of storms, then once in front of the line head south to get the southern part of the linear cluster coming right at me.

Ended up succeeding in the plan, catching some good structure, but not great.  Nice to see the chase come together and implement the plan successfully.  I left the storm about 5pm and headed home, getting back about 7:30.  An early evening for being so far in SE Colorado.

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Castle Rock looking NW on my drive home

Quick timelapse of the storm approaching me near Eads.  6 shots a minute for 15 minutes.

Early Season Palmer Divide Lightning

Was sitting down at the computer after the kids were tucked in expecting to do some armchair chasing action with the upper air trough and severe weather digging into the plains states tonight, and started hearing some pellets hit the windows of the house–it was graupel coming down. Graupel is pellets of snow/ice that is much smaller than hail which is not unusual for this time of year. About ten minutes later the first bolt of lightning lit up the house!

Larkspur Colorado Lightning

One of the first bolts I caught, only about 8 or so bolts left in the storm before it was over…

I wasn’t prepared for this like I usually am during the monsoonal flow in late July/early August, so I jumped into high gear and grabbed the tripod and camera and got everything ready. Focus is always a problem with the DSLR but I pointed it at a neighbor’s houselight (I usually curse this light because it is on all night, every night of the year, and makes watching meteorite showers frustrating) but tonight it seemed to have a purpose to get me a good focus as I changed the lens to manual focus mode. As you may know focusing lightning can be very difficult!

I then jumped out on the porch hoping for some visible bolts not obstructed by the clouds and immediately the bolts were flying over head. Being on a porch with lightning this close is extremely dangerous (by definition overhead is very close) so I quickly put the camera on autopilot and headed back to the safety inside.

Larkspur Colorado Lightning

Mother Nature’s show lasted no more than 15 minutes and was very localized; as luck would have it many of the bolts were in the least obstructed view from my porch! Nice! Captured several good shots making me even more excited for this upcoming chase season!

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