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High Plains Drifter


disclaimer:  "The meteorological views/forecast thinking expressed are those solely of the author of this blog
and do not necessarily represent those of official National Weather Service forecast products,
therefore read and enjoy at your own risk and edification!"

June 30, 2007

Late-June Chase Trip (Day 10): Homeward Bound

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2007,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 1:41 pm

Day 9 Summary:

Nothing exciting really to report yesterday.  We took another leisurely drive south through the western Black Hills… through Newcastle… eventually ending up in Lusk.  There were no storms of interest to chase yesterday… just weak convection over the mountains of the Laramie Range.  It was quite hazy/smokey through the drive to Lusk…especially on the southern horizon.  We got to Lusk fairly early in the evening… I used this extra time for a little R&R if you will… listened to the Royals baseball game over streaming audio while watching a movie on TV (Forrest Gump was on)… completely unrelated… the Royals are on a 5-game winning streak, so that was a positive :)   Vince drove over to Van Tassel which is a "town" of about 18 souls.  He did some sunset time lapse stuff over some of the interesting rock formations that reside just north of Van Tassel.  With a full moon, we realized this might be a nice opportunity for moonlight landscape photography with these rock formations — so we set out 20 miles east of Lusk to Van Tassel late in the evening after the sun set with the full moon rising higher in the sky.  We captured some nice images a couple miles north of Van Tassel… this place reminds me of The Monument Rocks… very nice rocks/pillars sticking out of the earth which offer for interesting compositions.  My 12mm ultra wide angle focal length allowed for me to get the full Big Dipper in a couple of these shots.  Some notes/recommendations:  Lusk is a nice, quaint little town, with a population of about 1500… comparable to the size of Greensburg, KS.  The place we stayed at was small, affordable, and quite clean called the Town House Motel.  If you like pizza, try "The Pizza Place" right in downtown… it’s pretty popular in town and gets busy… but the pizza is pretty darn good.

Day 10… right now:

We are on our way home.  We were watching the potential for a chase opportunity up over northeast Wyoming with some northeast winds with decent moisture… but this wasn’t panning out as well as we would like, so we said to heck with it and decided to begin the 500 mile drive back.  It’s  incredibly hazy/smokey still  as I type  entering Scottsbluff County,  Nebraska.   Even though the past few days have been lackluster in the storm department, this trip has been quite rewarding.  Now over the next week I’ll begin processing a bunch of photos for my online gallery… so look for a continued update of additional images over the rest of this summer!.

June 29, 2007

Late-June Chase Trip (Day 9): More of Wyoming!

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2007,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 3:58 pm

Well, today is another "slack-off" day so to speak.  As I type, we are driving west on I-90 to Sundance and then we’ll take a scenic drive down towards Newcastle and eventually Lusk, WY where we plan to stay tonight.  Much like yesterday, it will be another day of landscape photo opportunities with the hope of some picturesque storms coming off the Laramie Mts near Douglas or thereabouts.  We are not making the full drive back today, because we want to leave options open for one last chase possibility tomorrow, Saturday, up near the Big Horn Mountains again.  A weak cold front will come south and will be bringing some moisture down with it post-frontal.  Northeast surface winds with moderate CAPE are forecast up against the Big Horns with adequate shear for supercells it would appear per NAM model.  So we want to keep this option open.  It’s either chase tomorrow… and long drive home Sunday or begin the trek back home, more leisurely, tomorrow.  So that’s the latest thinking up to this point.  It’s been a very fun and photographically rewarding trip for sure… but we hope to get one more good storm day in before this adventure ends :)  

Late-June Chase Trip (Day 8): WY Landscape scenes & Distant storms

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2007,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 11:49 am

Summary: 

Vince and I left Buffalo yesterday morning (6/28) and decided to drive through some of the desolate parts of Northeast Wyoming, including the towns (some ghost) of Spotted Horse, Recluse, Rocky Point, Lightning Flat, and Ridge.  Through our scenic drive, we watched distant storms form over the Black Hills near Deadwood/Lead.  Towards sunset, another distant storm was visible to our south which was located somewhere northeast of Douglas.  We stopped at a couple of locations for some scenic landscape views/photos…images which included the Black Hills storm(s) as background.  Sweet Yellow Clover has grown very thick around and east of Ridge towards Alzada…which offered some nice photo opportunities near where the old Ridge School used to be along Ridge Road.  Our last photo stop of the evening was farther east along Ridge Rd. as we approached Alzada.  The distant storm to our south (the one near Douglas) revealed fairly deep pink colors in the twilight sky.  We drove down to Belle Fourche where we stayed the night.  A couple photos follow.  (I also added two photos to Day 7 summary post)

June 28, 2007

Late-June Chase Trip (Day 8): Leisure Day in Northeast WY, maybe some storms

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2007,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 3:54 pm

Well, Vince and I have decided that an exhaustive drive to Canada is probably not worth it.  Even though the NAM model is showing mid-upper 60s dewpoints in parts of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan with excellent shear and good forcing… the observations suggest that mid-upper 60s dewpoints are unlikely… which would make the drive worthwhile for some perhaps amazing supercell storms in that shear environment.  We think even with good pooling and convergence and evapotranspiration, that 60-63F dewpoints could be realized… but that’s a gamble… if the timing was different… such that my chase trip was longer, we’d probably head up there… however I have to be back to work Monday morning… so thus, we will not head up there.  I guess there’s still a 10% chance we change our mind and get up very very early in the morning (we plan to stay in Belle Fourche again tonight)… but as it stands now… we may very well begin the trip back home tomorrow (Friday 29th).  We’ll see.   For today, some storms may form in the mid 50s dewpoint air with 2000 to 2500 J/kg CAPE, but shear is really marginal… decent southeast surface winds, but mid-upper winds of 10-15kts or so probably won’t cut it for decent organized storms.  We’ll see what happens though, if something perks our interest later this evening, we’ll chase it if it’s close enough.

Late-June Chase Trip (Day 7): Big Horn Mts upslope chasing

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2007,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 11:42 am

Summary:

We intercepted a couple marginally severe storms near the Kaycee, WY area south of Buffalo.  We actually sat at a location with a good view just about one mile east of I-25 a few miles south of Buffalo for a couple hours as updraft towers percolated through the late afternoon. One such tower grew into a decent little storm updraft which showed signs of weak rotation both visually and on radar.  Another storm that formed east of Thermopolis had much more mass to it and we actually thought about intercepting that one as it revealed a nice inflow notch on radar…but it didn’t last long…and we ultimately chased the smaller storm to our immediate northwest as it approached I-25.  This storm went severe briefly and had a decent scalloped updraft base for awhile…but as other storms formed again to the immediate southwest…our original storm died.  None of this activity was supercellular in nature, but as sunset approached, we had some very nice colors with the convective looking sky to the east including a small truncated rainbow with a little bluff in the foreground.  I even got a couple CG lightning photos looking off to the distant east.  Back to the northwest, another small, but pretty updraft developed over the Big Horns in the twilight sky.  We sat at a location on I-25 just southeast of Kaycee for quite awhile as Vince time lapsed this interesting little storm that showed brief backsheared anvil and nice looking flanking line updrafts.  We headed back to Buffalo after this storm died and our light faded.

June 27, 2007

Late-June Chase Trip (Day 7): Big Horn Mts upslope chasing

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2007,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 3:44 pm

Well today is a chase day… we left Buffalo early this afternoon and headed just south of town where we currently sit just east of I-25 watching convection trying to bubble to our west and northwest.  Deep layer shear of 40 knots supports supercell structures today.  Dewpoints in the 48-51 degree range yield about 1100 to 1600 J/kg of CAPE, which is also enough for supercell structures… so we are hoping for more photogenic supercell structure this afternoon as storms organize and roll east and southeast off the Big Horn Mountains.

Plans for the remainder of the trip:  On Thursday, Vince and I plan to drive north well into Montana tomorrow and more than likely drive way up towards Havre… we don’t plan on it being a full-blown chase endeavour, however a few storms may form along and north of the developing surface low.  We do, however, plan on Friday being a fairly decent supercell day with great southwest flow aloft… classic wind shear environment for supercells with CAPE in the 2500 J/kg neighborhood…. we may actually end up as far north as the TransCanada Highway between Medicine Hat and Swift Current… about 70 miles north of the border.  At least that is what the GFS model is suggesting right now… and we plan to be there.  After that… Saturday and Sunday will be driving days back home… about 1200 miles or so :)  

Late-June Chase Trip (Day 6): Big Horn Mts Wildflower Photos

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2007,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 11:45 am

Vince and I are in Buffalo, WY this morning June 27th.  Last evening we drove up into the Big Horns west-southwest of Buffalo on Highway 16 to do some landscape and wildflower photography.  Some notes… Guadalajara mexican restaurant in Spearfish is very good… Vince claims they have the best queso he’s had… it was damn good.  We ate dinner at the Bozeman steakhouse… I had the bison sirloin… very filling and good.  Although, the owner of the motel we are staying at (Big Horn Motel in downtown) claims the Winchester Steakhouse is better.  We’ll take that into consideration the next time we ever stop through Buffalo.

June 26, 2007

Late-June Chase Trip (Day 6): Big Horn Mountains, non-chase day

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2007,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 5:01 pm

Vince and I are heading west from Belle Fourche for some late afternoon/evening photography around the Big Horn Mountains.  We got wind from another storm chaser about a week and a half ago about amazing wildflowers right now west of Buffalo, WY, so we will head over there for a photography opportunity of our own.  Tomorrow looks to be another chase day along the high terrain here in Wyoming as low level moisture returns northwestward on southeast winds.  The mid-upper level flow will be fairly sub-par, however, southeast winds of 15-20mph can make up for that deficiency and directional shear will be pretty good to support a few severe storms.  We will stay in Buffalo tonight.  Beyond, there might be a chance we head up into Montana for two more chase days Friday and Saturday…with Sunday being a very long drive back to Dodge City to conclude this trip…. we will see. 

Late-June Chase Trip (Day 5): Majestic LP Supercell!

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2007,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 10:39 am

Chase Summary — LP Supercell near Colony, WY

Vince and I began the day in Miles City with the primary chase target in mind being North-central North Dakota where low level moisture would be greatest and low level winds would be more backed. One problem was the cap, and we knew it would be very difficult to overcome given the lack of strong forcing. A secondary target closer to our location was to our southeast near Alzada, MT where low level moisture with dewpoints in the mid 60s would remain in place most of the day. The RUC model was showing this moisture mixing out by afternoon significantly reducing the CAPE… however surface observations just were not suggesting this. Just after we departed Miles City, we took a look at the new SPC Day One outlook update and they increased the tornado and hail probabilities in our secondary target area. Once again, I took another hard look at obs…and more and more, the 60s dewpoints from Sheridan to Gillette were just too much to ignore, plus I could see some low Cu on the visible satellite image just off the Big Horn Mountains near Sheridan, WY. We abruptly pulled off I-94 and abandoned our 6-hour pursuit to North Dakota. This was the big turning point of the chase… the quick decision to go after this secondary target that was much closer to us… with much less stress involved.

We sat in Baker, MT for awhile monitoring obs and satellite. More agitated Cu was developing near Sheridan and it became more and more probable that this is where we needed to be… or at least immediately downstream of this area… so we set our sights on Alzada. We drove south admiring the beautiful terrain and even stopped briefly for some landscape photos near Albion before continuing on with the chase. A quick gas stop at Alzada and we were on our way. Some nowcast support from Matt Crowther was helpful in determining our route. A storm was rapidly developing in front of our eyes to our west-southwest. We decided to go due west on a gravel road (Ridge Rd.) several miles. It didn’t take long for us to start seeing structure. We pulled off at a relatively high spot and admired the beauty in front of us. A barrel updraft became better established with a long beaver tail to the north feeding into the updraft. Our surface winds had a northerly component. The real-time motion in the updraft was just incredible. You could see the rotation real-time with the corkscrewing action in convective elements of the updraft. The character of the storm was on the dry side of classic on the supercell spectrum…but eventually, as we traced our steps back west, the storm would become more low-precipitation (LP) in appearance and would take on some of the most impressive LP supercell structure I’ve ever seen! The storm was moving east-southeast and we had to get back east to Hwy 212 so we could continue to stay ahead of it. We stopped a couple times on the highway north of Colony admiring the sculpted beauty. The blue sky behind the storm and the small precipitation shaft made for perfect photography light/color contrast. No words can describe the sight! We ultimately made it towards Belle Fourche, and the storm took on a different character again… looking more classic in appearance with a larger base. We shot more photos at a pull-off between Colony and Belle Fourche and learned of the gigantic hail the storm was producing… softball and grapefruit size hail!! Fortunately, we didn’t experience that as we stayed just far enough ahead of the updraft. The storm took a downhill trend as it moved northeast of Belle Fourche and we decided to head back west again after our final stop-off just northeast of town.

We went back northwest on Hwy 212 after we learned of new storms forming in the same exact location as our original supercell developed. (Thanks Dave Ewoldt!) Unfortunately, low cloudiness was increasing and obscuring our view as a strong cold front was pushing south. We decided to head back to Belle Fourche or Spearfish for the night…however on our way back, we learned that a supercell had rapidly formed again from that new activity… but we just couldn’t see what was going on given the low clouds. Nevertheless, the storm was moving straight for us and we decided to mosy west on I-90 to see what up. We got as far west as Buelah a couple miles into Wyoming. We noticed impressive anvil zits with high-frequency in the few holes in the stratus… it’s a shame the low clouds were as bad as they were. The lightning photography was really a bust from this storm. Eventually, we made it back to Belle Fourche again for the night after being chased to Sturgis by the supercell complex.

Again, what a day! Thanks again to Matt Crowther and Dave Ewoldt for nowcast support in our non-internet areas.

Late-June Chase Trip: Supercell & Lightning photos from Day 4 (June 24th) in Montana

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2007,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 1:40 am

The following images are from the fantastic supercell thunderstorm that rolled east from near Roundup to Forsyth, Montana:

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