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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Best of davealex.com Lightning

I love lightning!

Image taken SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

Image taken SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

I love to look at the photos–this is a shortcut to my favorite posts so I don’t have to search.  As always, you can click on any image on this site for a much larger version.

Larkspur Lightning

I have been feeling under the weather all weekend and was dozing off when I thought I heard a rumble of thunder.  As always, that sound just does something to ignite my senses and I sat while awaiting another bolt.  A couple of minutes later one hit less than a mile away lighting up the entire sky and trees.  I quickly grabbed the camera and was able to grab some shots as the storm quickly intensified and headed east.  I can’t say I “chased” this storm, but it was nice to have a break of the doldrums of being sick.

From the back porch, the orange is Castle Rock (yuck) and the violet is the storm.

From the back porch, the orange is Castle Rock (yuck) and the violet is the storm.

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This one was interesting because it looked like a bat when i zoomed into the lightning.  Interesting cloud formation...

This one was interesting because it looked like a bat when i zoomed into the lightning. Interesting cloud formation…

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Rocky Mountain Arsenal Tornado – July 28, 2014

Didn’t expect this today, witnessed the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Tornado from my office window!  Was sitting at work doing my thing when I noted a lot of cloud to ground lightning, and decided to take a break and look out the window.  I saw a large round section of cloud that looked interesting.  As I watched a small nipple formed (3:50pm) and start to slowly grow.  It was hard to tell if it was a funnel because it was rotating ever so slowly, but I could tell it was rotating.  The funnel continued to grow in size and I checked spotter network to see if it had been reported, and it had; they said a landspout at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.

At this time there was a NWS tornado warning (radar) but it was near Fort Lupton which is a good distance to the north.  Shortly thereafter the cell was warned as it moved southwest (odd!) into western Aurora!  I watched the funnel for probably 10 minutes and then I could see the rain in the landspout funnel!  It lasted several more minutes and then became obscured by rain (4:05pm); although I could see the funnel for a little while longer.  About 20 minutes later I still saw what looked like a funnel but no landspout; although there was quite a bit of rain at the time too.

Awesome CG lightning in the area, including one that went through the funnel!  Great chase day, I probably walked 6 feet from my desk and saw the first tornado of the year! Chalk this one up on the list of tornados I’ve seen so far

July 28, 2014 Rocky Mountain Arsenal - funnel cloud

July 28, 2014 Rocky Mountain Arsenal – funnel cloud

Arsenal funnel gets larger

Arsenal funnel gets larger

Finally the rain illuminates the tornado / landspout.

Finally the rain illuminates the tornado / landspout.

July 28, 2014 Rocky Mountain Arsenal - landspout tornado

Great short chase, less than 20 feet and no driving required! 🙂

Larkspur Tornado Warning – 2nd in 3 days

Today I decided to hit the Pikes Peak Gem and Mineral Show at the Western Mining Museum.  I packed my storm chase gear as it was supposed to be a good southern Colorado chase day and since I was in the Black Forest area I could be in good position to commence a chase.

After enjoying the show I was leaving when I got a call from my mom, who always is great at keeping me updated on news and events since I don’t watch TV or listen to the radio.  She had called to tell me that Larkspur was Tornado Warned!  I flipped on the Baron Mobile Threat Net and the NOAA Weather Radio to get caught up on the weather as I raced towards Larkspur.  As I crested Monument Hill I could see that there was something sinister brewing just north and I was excited to chase as I know all the back roads in the area!

About 1pm I took these pictures from the car as I was driving in the Greenland area. This storm stretched from what appeared to be Castle Rock nearly down to Monument.

NOTE:  As always, click the image for a HD full size version…

Looking west from Greenland about 1pm

Looking NW from Greenland about 1pm

Looking North towards Larkspur at about 1pm

Looking west from Greenland at about 1pm

Traffic was starting to get gnarled up because of the heavy rain just north of the Larkspur exit; and people were freaking out driving worse than storm chasers do, that’s a first!  LOL! The underpass of the Larkspur exit was completely blocked by people wanting to get out of the hail (it hardly started raining yet), luckily I was headed east to get ahead of the storm as it was coming directly my way–leaving the mass chaos in the dust.

Looking north about 4 miles east of Larkspur

Looking north about 4 miles NE of Larkspur

Looking SW in the general direction of where the tornado was reported 5 Miles NE of Palmer Lake.  This was about 10 minutes after the report but a funnel appears to be visible.

Looking SW in the general direction of where the tornado was reported 5 Miles NE of Palmer Lake. This was about 10 minutes after the report but a funnel appears to be visible.

Near Hwy 83, while flirting with the rain and hail of the northern storm, I got overtaken by the SE drifting storm several times and I spent the next 30 minutes or so getting out in front of the line of storms drifting east; many with tornado warnings on them.  The storm to the NE of me near Elizabeth had some nice structure (and was certainly ruining what was left of the county rodeo).  The Lake George tornadic storm was also cresting the Rampart Range too and looked nice; so I decided to split the two and be available to jump on either storm…I was nearly 1/2 way between Hwy 24 and Hwy 86.

6/8/2014.  Cool structure as the northern storm passed Elizabeth.

6/8/2014. Cool inflow structure as the northern storm passed Elizabeth.

6/8/2014.  Cool structure as the northern storm passed Elizabeth.

6/8/2014. Northern storm as it passed Elizabeth.

6/8/2014.  Cool structure as the northern storm was near Kiowa.

6/8/2014. Cool structure as the northern storm was near Kiowa.

6/8/2014.  Cool structure as the northern storm was near Kiowa.

6/8/2014. The southern storm was also looking good and went tornado warned about this time.

After I headed east of Elbert, I had to make a decision, catch up to the storm to my NE (about 20 miles as a bird flies) or get south and play the southern line of storms.  Since I was planning it to be a southern Colorado day anyway, and because I was a good 30 minutes ahead of those storms, I chose the southern storms and I headed south towards Simla.  The roads south of here are good; but not great and like any dirt road it sucks in the hail and heavy rain; so I decided I was going to play this line of storms and then punch the core and head home as there was a big line forming and the severe potential appeared to be dwindling.

6/8/2014.  This cell SW of Simla had many interesting shapes in the 10 minutes I watched it.

6/8/2014. This cell SW of Simla had many interesting shapes in the 10 minutes I watched it.

6/8/2014.  This cell SW of Simla had many interesting shapes in the 10 minutes I watched it.

6/8/2014. This cell SW of Simla had many interesting shapes in the 10 minutes I watched it.

6/8/2014.  South of Matheson I saw what looked to be a weak tornado; but before I could catch up to it the rain and hail overtook us both.

6/8/2014. South of Matheson I saw what looked to be a weak tornado or more likely gustnado; but before I could catch up to it the rain and hail overtook us both.

6/8/2014.  South of Matheson I saw what looked to be a weak tornado; but before I could catch up to it the rain and hail overtook us both.

6/8/2014. South of Matheson I saw what looked to be a weak tornado; but before I could catch up to it the rain and hail overtook us both.

6/8/2014.  South of Matheson I saw what looked to be a weak tornado; but before I could catch up to it the rain and hail overtook us both.

6/8/2014. South of Matheson I saw what looked to be a weak tornado; but before I could catch up to it the rain and hail overtook us both.

Given I saw no funnel or condensation tube, I’m going to chalk this up to a gustnado, but definitely lots of dirt and rotation on the ground!

There were two warnings today for Larkspur area..

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DENVER CO
1236 PM MDT SUN JUN 8 2014

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN DENVER HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR…
CENTRAL DOUGLAS COUNTY IN NORTHEAST COLORADO…

* UNTIL 100 PM MDT

* AT 1235 PM MDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A
TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR SPRUCEWOOD…OR 25 MILES SOUTH OF
DENVER…MOVING EAST AT 10 MPH.

HAZARD…TORNADO AND QUARTER SIZE HAIL.

SOURCE…RADAR INDICATED ROTATION.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE…
CASTLE ROCK…ROXBOROUGH PARK…LARKSPUR…DEVILS HEAD…
SPRUCEWOOD…PERRY PARK AND SEDALIA.

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DENVER CO
109 PM MDT SUN JUN 8 2014

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN DENVER HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR…
SOUTHEASTERN DOUGLAS COUNTY IN NORTHEAST COLORADO…

* UNTIL 145 PM MDT

* AT 109 PM MDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A
TORNADO WAS LOCATED 7 MILES NORTHEAST OF LARKSPUR…OR 29 MILES
NORTH OF COLORADO SPRINGS…MOVING EAST AT 20 MPH.

HAZARD…TORNADO AND HALF DOLLAR SIZE HAIL.

SOURCE…RADAR INDICATED ROTATION.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE…
CASTLE ROCK…LARKSPUR…FRANKTOWN…GREENLAND…PERRY PARK AND THE
PINERY.

Larkspur tornado warning – June 6, 2014

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DENVER CO  
138 PM MDT FRI JUN 6 2014  
 
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN DENVER HAS ISSUED A  
 
* TORNADO WARNING FOR…  
CENTRAL DOUGLAS COUNTY IN NORTHEAST COLORADO…  
 
* UNTIL 215 PM MDT  
 
* AT 138 PM MDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED 4 MILES NORTHEAST OF PERRY PARK…OR 28 MILES SOUTH OF DENVER…MOVING SOUTHEAST AT 20 MPH.  
 
HAZARD…TORNADO AND QUARTER SIZE HAIL.  
 
SOURCE…RADAR INDICATED ROTATION.  
 
* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE…  
CASTLE ROCK…LARKSPUR AND PERRY PARK.

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.

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Looking north from the back porch…

ElbertStormJune5-3625

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

ElbertStormJune5-3639

Dish farm

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

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Pronghorns wondering what the heck I was doing…

ElbertStormJune5-3630

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

 

 

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

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ElbertStormJune5-3001

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

ElbertStormJune5-3566

Overall, a very fun chase day!

Colorful Colorado Tornadic Supercell – May 21, 2014

Finally spring has arrived!  I swept off the dust on the old Baron Mobile Threat Net unit and reactivated my subscription and tuned up the technology in my chase vehicle…now I’m ready to chase!  Anticipating that May 21, 2014 would be a Denver Cyclone Regime I planned ahead and was ready to head out early for a fun first chase of 2014.  Adam Boggs was also up for heading out and so we planned the rendezvous at Brighton. Adam, a fellow chaser, is an incredible navigator and can keep an eye on the sky while I drive which is so much better than chasing alone!

I anticipated due to the higher dewpoints that it would be a hazy day and likely that the supercell modes would be HP.  This is somewhat dangerous to chase as often any tornadoes are rain wrapped and you have to be right there to witness them.  So our strategy for the day was to get directly in front of the storm and let it chase us, getting a great view of the structure and possibly seeing any tornado that was not rain wrapped.

Several cells popped up over the high country but quickly merged into one large supercell southwest of Denver.  All the cells northwest of Denver were quickly vanishing as they came onto the front range, so there was only one play, the Denver Supercell.  Chasing in a city is simply dangerous, hence why we were waiting just NE of the city for it to come to us.  Adam and I intercepted this storm as it was “putting down tornadoes” in the Aurora area, we were north of DIA.

NOTE:  Click on any image for a larger view…on some photos I upped the brightness a bit because it was very dark under these storms.

Colorado Supercell SW of DIA

Here the Supercell went Tornado Warned for the first time

Adam taking a snapshot

Adam taking a snapshot

We repositioned getting closer.  With the sun behind the cell from our vantage point, the colors were really starting to “pop”.  The contrast with the newly green wheat fields were making this storm spectacular.  There were planes still landing at DIA as this storm encroached; eventually folks at the airport went to shelters and there was so much hail the snowplows had to clear the runways.

Supercell near DIA

Supercell near DIA

Mature supercell

Mature supercell

As with any chase, it is a game of get into position, take some pictures and take in the beauty of the storm, then reposition again, and so on.  The next tornado was reported in Watkins.  We were about 3 miles NE of there at this time and didn’t see any tornado, obviously it was rain wrapped.  However with our view directly in the path of the storm the colors were amazing!  If you’ve ever heard about the “clouds being green” when there is hail near; this is what they mean…

Supercell with tornado near Watkins

Supercell with tornado near Watkins

We were just mesmerized by the colors of the storm at this point in time.  It was likely the most beautiful supercell I’ve witnessed from a color perspective!  The pictures just don’t do it justice!

Fantastic colors of this tornadic supercell near Watkins

Fantastic colors of this tornadic supercell near Watkins

Gorgeous colored tornadic supercell

Gorgeous colored tornadic supercell

Once again we repositioned to keep the storm from pummeling us with big hail and potential tornadoes.    We figured since this beast kept putting down tornadoes (that we didn’t see even though we were “right there”); we’re bound to see one if we continue with our great position.  Unfortunately there was just too much moisture…

Supercell-2032

Tornadic supercell continues to put out some incredible colors

Nasty supercell

Wouldn’t want to be in this core…

For most of the chase thus far, and especially at this time, the clouds were churning and swirling but there was no tight visible rotation to call into the National Weather Service. Since we weren’t core punching and were ahead of the storm all day, we couldn’t report any hail events either.  There were enough chasers on the road and only one storm that we figured any severe event would be witnessed and called into NWS.

North of Bennett this lowering caught our eye; but again not enough visible rotation to call it a funnel.  This is about a mile or two away.

Fantastic feature although no visible tight rotation

Fantastic feature although no visible tight rotation

colorado supercell

Looking away from the core of the storm; incredible colored inflow!

Looking straight up.  Colors everywhere!

Looking straight up. Colors continued to be amazing!

Great looking structure

Great looking structure and interesting “finger”…

Simply said...WOW!

Simply stated…WOW!

Looking NE at the inflow Beaver Tail

Looking NE at the inflow Beaver Tail

As we were driving Adam suggested we stop to take some pictures as there was something behind us that wasn’t normal.  The rain band had taken on an eerie look.  It must have been due to lighting with the position of the sun and our position.  Anyway, the colors were still phenomenal and we got this unique rainband shadow thing next to the core of the storm!  Cool!

Weird but cool cloud shadow?

Weird but cool cloud shadow?

Wonderful contrast of this supercell!

Wonderful contrast of this supercell!

Excellent storm, excellent chase!

Excellent storm, excellent chase!

All in all, this was a fantastic chase.  Although we were in great position with this tornadic supercell all afternoon, we never did see any tornadoes even though 8 were reported.  I suspect they were rain wrapped and only visible if you were “right there”…but it is odd that going through a city that no pictures have turned up yet given nearly everyone has a camera.  We’ll wait and see what the final count ends up being later this year when the NWS finishes its analysis. We only got into the hail a couple of times with the largest being larger than quarter size…otherwise a perfect chase day!

This supercell was overtaken by a line of storms coming north and that is when we threw in the hat.  We ended up in Fort Morgan, had some dinner, and had a relaxing drive back to Brighton where we first met up.  Looking forward to more great chases this spring!

Awesome Earth’s Wind Interactive Map

I have been loving this site; shows when the weather systems are coming into the area and how they get started out in the Pacific! It’s interactive too, just click on the word “Earth” or drag your mouse around on it!  Look at surface winds or choose your height if you prefer upper air disturbances!

What is great is I can look at this one view and know when the storm chasing will likely be good and non-existent.  Gives me a really quick look at the next 4-5 days, and helps me determine when further research is necessary!

Aug 24: Lightning Show

Aug 24, 2013 Larkspur Lightning - Up Close

Was getting ready for bed and saw some lightning outside; so I scoped the situation out and determined it was a porch chase night!  Grabbed the camera and did 13 second exposures, F6.3, ISO 200 with my 10-22mm Wide Angle lens.  The storm was the only thing in the whole Front Range and was coming up from the south, moving nearly directly north.  Of course, I was in the safety of my own house, but the camera was able to capture a few good bolts up close!

Aug 24, 2013 Larkspur Lightning – Up Close

Aug 24, 2013 Larkspur Lightning - Up Close

Aug 24, 2013 Larkspur Lightning - Up Close
Great bolt!

Aug 24, 2013 Larkspur Lightning - Up Close