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!
Virga clouds SE of Kiowa, likely snow
West side of Castle Rock at sunset, almost looks like sunset at the beach!
Raspberry Butte in the foregrounds Pikes Peak peeking out of the clouds
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.
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!
Cool lightning both over Castle Pines
Cloud to cloud lightning protruding out of the back end of the storm, likely looking directly into a bolt appearing as tangled electricity.
As a large trough comes digging into Colorado bringing much cooler fall weather, we were treated with some autumn thunderstorms and lightning. I was able to capture some of these bolts during the heavy rain inside my car. All were taken with the camera hand-held, so focus on a couple is a bit blurry; but overall pretty good given the proximity, the amount of rain, and the varied distances.
These first few were directly overhead so I was only able to capture parts; not the whole bolt.
As the storm slowly moved north, I was able to readjust the vehicle and focus; a couple were a little closer than I was expecting so the focus was a bit out, but overall not too bad especially for hand-holding the camera. Focus is difficult with lightning every time!
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!
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.
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!
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.
Looking north from the back porch…
Just east of Larkspur
Reminds me of June 15, 2009…
Producing great structure and hail; but no funnels I could see
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.