Colorado Tornadoes

Originally forecast to be in the Wyoming/Nebraska Panhandle into South Dakota areas, the severe weather threat dropped into Northern Colorado on the morning of June 12th.  The Storm Prediction Center issued a Particularly Dangerous Situation moderate risk with a tornado watch extending down into north central Colorado.  Here is some wording from the watch:

   The NWS Storm Prediction Center has issued a

   * Tornado Watch for portions of 
     Northeast Colorado
     Western Nebraska Panhandle
     Southeast Wyoming

   * Effective this Monday afternoon and evening from 110 PM until
     800 PM MDT.

   ...THIS IS A PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION...

   * Primary threats include...
     Several tornadoes and a few intense tornadoes likely
     Widespread large hail expected with scattered very large hail
       events to 4 inches in diameter likely
     Isolated significant damaging wind gusts to 75 mph possible

   SUMMARY...Isolated intense supercell thunderstorms are expected to
   develop across the watch area this afternoon.  Giant hail and strong
   tornadoes will be possible in the most intense storms.

Hazard Tornadoes EF2+ Tornadoes
Likelihood High High
Severe Wind 65 kt+ Wind
Moderate Moderate
Severe Hail 2″+ Hail
High High

I have not seen wording like this for Colorado in a long time, if ever…”Giant hail and strong tornadoes…”, and “scattered very large hail events up to 4 inches likely“.  Wow!

I drove Highway 85 north from Aurora.  By the time I was in Brighton they were saying baseball hail had fallen in Pierce from the southern storm.  The most southern cell wasn’t big but did look like it had fantastic storm structure.  Unfortunately I was too far north to see the structure clearly.  I was tempted to drive SW towards Loveland and check it out, but seeing the supercell in front of me kept me on it!  

Photo viewing is recommended in higher resolution, just click on the photos.

Barber Pole Supercell

The barber pole structure on this supercell was very tempting to spot from a better location, but I wanted to stay on the stronger storm!

The first tornado warning (radar indicated) appeared while I was east of Ault on the supercell I was on.  There definitely was a defined wall cloud and everything looked “right” with the storm, it was just a matter of time.

Lowering wall cloud on the southern side of the supercell. It was tornado warned at this time just north of Briggsdale.

You can see the rotating wall cloud and funnel .

This is taken outside of Grover looking northwest, the tornado was down near Hereford.

The tornado was on the ground for 16 minutes and did some structural damage (one road was closed due to debris/powerlines in the road).  It was rated EF-2 with 111-135 mph winds.  

Tornado showing mesocyclone.

The ropeout phase was pretty amazing, look how long and needle thin the tornado vortex was!

I stopped just east of Hereford as the hail looked pretty amazing laying everywhere. Hail didn’t pile up on the ground like some storms, but it was everywhere and the smallest size was around quarter sized!  Then there were stones up to softball size laying around!  I am fascinated by large hail and spent some time just checking out these amazing ice crystals! 

I found a good article that explains white versus clear ice.  

Example of how the hail was lying around everywhere! Not covering the ground, but big stones!

On radar the storm still had an intense velocity couplet after the tornado!

Driving towards Bushnell out of Pine Bluffs I saw another tornado touchdown but only for a minute.  As I headed east of Bushnell, I saw a tornado NE of town; but there were no easy spots to pull off so I just watched it as I drove.  When I finally found a pull-out from the road, a train went by blocking my view for about 5 minutes.  After the train, I caught the rope out.  Looking back to the NW, I saw another tornado but was never able to get a good picture of it!  

Rope out NE of Bushnell, NE.

I ended up calling it a day near Chimney Rock as I watched the amazing mothership sail off into the distance!  

 

 

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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August 11 2015 Aurora Funnel Cloud

For some reason early this morning I felt I had to take my camera to work. I wasn’t sure why I felt that way, but I didn’t deny my intuition and I put it in the car with me. I figured I’d see a wild animal or something on the way in.

So, I’m working and end up having meetings solid all afternoon. Ending time has come and gone and I’m officially working late again. Then all of a sudden every phone in cube-land went off at the same time. Tornado warning. Managers yelling at folks to get in the stairwell and inner conference rooms. Of course, I’m looking out the window and checking my resources on the phone trying to determine where the threat is. No velocity couplet on radar, probably a landspout as this area of Colorado is notorious for non-supercell tornadoes. Some random manager (not sure whom) grabs me and tells me I’m in danger and I have to get into the shelter. So I dart away, down the stairs past a ton of folks, and onto the top of the parking garage, on my way grabbing the camera from the car.

Tornado warning states that it was a “Public spotted tornado” which typically means pretty much anything; I understand the concern because clouds can look really angry! (many “public” reports are incorrect). But social media shows some nice funnel cloud pictures. Cool! The subsequent warning states that Weather Spotters see a funnel cloud.

The rain stops falling (mostly) and the lightning moves away, so I venture out on the top floor of the parking garage and then I see the funnel, just northeast of work. My co-worker texts me asking me where the heck I was at, I told him on the top of the parking garage and to come join me. He ended up being just in time to see his first funnel cloud of his life! I vividly still remember that day for me, I was 6, changed my life.

Aurora Funnel Cloud Aurora Funnel Cloud Aurora Funnel Cloud Aurora Funnel Cloud Aurora Funnel Cloud Aurora Funnel Cloud

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

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…

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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

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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…

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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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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!