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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 27, 2008

June Chase Trip 2008: Back Home.

Filed under: Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 9:48 pm

Vince Miller and I have arrived back in Dodge City this Friday evening.  We noticed a nice looking storm on the southern horizon which was located over Beaver County, OK.  It had a huge back-sheared anvil and we could see the backside hard convective tower as we neared Dodge City at sunset.  This was indeed a fun trip with a nice collection of new images to go through.  Thanks to Vince for doing all the driving and allowing his vehicle to accumulate even more mileage on his "old reliable" Toyota Camry wagon.  The chase season is over now, but of course I’ll be out again on spur of the moment opportunities (like always) on days off close to home should a summer disturbance move into the area. I’ll be working hard over the next couple weeks to get updated albums loaded to the Image Collection section of Underthemeso.com.

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 9 Summary — Northern & Central South Dakota

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 9:24 am

This was the last day of the chase trip since a strong cold was pushing through the length of the Great Plains shutting off severe weather over the northern plains until next week sometime.  Will post a full account later on today on the road with some images.  It was a fun chase that took us northeast to the Dupree and Eagle Butte area northwest of Pierre, SD. 

EDIT (July 1 at 9:30pm):  The more detailed account is below, including 8 photos from this chase.  -Mike U  

June 26, 2008 — Northern/Central South Dakota Severe Storms and brief "whatever"-nado

Vince and I abandoned Sturgis area once it became apparent that weneeded to get north with the first significant storm developing betweenBison and Buffalo. We were quite aways away, but given extrapolation ofour position and the storm’s track, we would be in position of at leastsomething interesting once we approached Dupree. When we got closer tothe storm, another small supercell updraft formed to the immediate westwith a razor-sharp anvil and rock-hard convection. Soon, an interestingblocky wall cloud formed beneath its base looking toward Meadow, SDfrom a location about 7 miles north of US212 along S73. As this washappening, explosive convective development was occurring to the east.These would be almost impossible to intercept given Lake Oahedownstream. Our storm finally got some beef to it and it began to rollsoutheast from Isabel to Eagle Butte. It certainly looked slightlyoutflow dominant from a distance as it approached, but there was anoticeable kink in the gust front with an embedded meso in theresomewhere northh of Lantry. We drove east on US212 toward Eagle Butteand we observed what we will just call for now a "vortex of debatablename" as loose and dried up vegetative debris from a farm field wasrotating nicely in a tall column just off to our northeast. If you wereto look at this feature from a distance, I would imagine you would beable to see a nice "kink" in the shelf cloud. There was an inflow notchinto this area where our vortex occurred and it was occurring very nearrenewable updraft growth atop the shelf. We weren’t in the best position in the worldwatching this track from our northeast to immediate east to southeastas it crossed US212 in front of us less than a mile east of theUS212/63 junction (the western one east of Eagle Butte).

Atany rate, there certainly was an interesting notch in this gust frontwhere the vortex occurred. And it was this that made me think it was aweak tornado, thus was what I reported on SpotterNetwork. It was neverreally all that violent, but a rear northerly inflow jet (for lack of abetter description) blasted Vince’s car with all sorts of dried upweeds and other vegetative debris… and it was very focused too, withthis stuff blowing across the highway over about a 10-20 yard distance.You could see little fingers of condensation, some of which resemblingwhispy funnels, but who knows what to really call them. How about"thingies"? Or "danglies"? Yeah, those. The vortex resembled some sortof multi-vortex, but quite weak, mess in the dust as it continued tomarch south in the somewhat dusty fields just south of the highwayjunction.

The other excitement of the chase was after dark whenwe observed and photographed a spectacular Cb lightning display to ournortheast, the tail-end storm of the central SD complex — completewith a star-filled sky surrounding the storm. An amazing sight indeed.What a fun chase to end our trip!   Vince does have dash mountvideo of the entire sequence, and after several reviews of the video,we just came to the final conclusion of calling it a "vortex of unknownname". :-)

 

        

June 26, 2008

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 9 Forecast — Western SD

Filed under: Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 2:30 pm

Vince and I are going to hang out in Sturgis, SD to play the "waiting game" as we were pretty much already in our target area to begin the day.  Lower to mid 60s dewpoints are working their way into western South Dakota by midday.  A mid-upper level jet streak will continue to push into the northern dakotas with jet influence reaching the high CAPE areas of western/central SD by late in the day.  Excellent shear will exist for supercells but fairly marginal low level shear for any sustained tornado development.  This will likely be the last day of the chase trip as a strong cold front will plow through the Great Plains beginning late tonight.  We will begin the drive toward home tomorrow (Friday 27th).  We should have decent internet connection as long as we remain within reach of I-90, but it will be sporadic at best as we venture away later on today/tonight, so there will be down times on the live chase mode update graphic.

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 8 Summary (Alzada/Ridge, MT area)

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 10:35 am

June 25, 2008 — Late evening storms & landscape near Ridge, MT

This was probably the most adrenaline-filled chase of the trip, which largely had to do with the 45-mile stretch of unpaved roads we decided to take in extreme southeastern Montana.  Our target was the northeast Wyoming/southeast Montana border area downstream of the Bighorn Mountains.  Nothing seemed to be developing ahead of the Bighorns despite decent convergence along the Hwy 212 corridor from Alzada to Broadus — therefore we had to rely on terrain-forced convection well to the west.  The first storm of interest moved northeast into Crook County, WY near Devil’s Tower, and we decided to edge northwest a little bit on Hwy 212 from Belle Fourche.  We found a nice high spot between Colony and Belle Fourche and watched this storm die a rapid death to our distant southwest.  After this, we had a hard time figuring out what to do next.  There were storms moving northeast toward the southern Black Hills and at the time thought this was going to be the only opportunity for decent lightning to salvage the chase.  Rapid convective development then occurred between Buffalo and Sheridan over the Bighorns again.  Another storm also formed northeast of there near Lame Deer, MT.  This rapidly became severe and took on some supercell characteristics on radar.  Since we stayed put for awhile trying to make a decision… it seemed as if this new development made the decision for us.  We headed northwest on Hwy 212 to Alzada.  Now the decision was… do we head west on Ridge Rd. or do we continue west-northwest on Hwy 212. 

It looked for all the world like this northern supercell was going to take a track that would parallel Hwy 212, so we decided to continue west-northwest toward Hammond and Boyes.  The storm however split, and the southern right-mover really began to take a turn to the right.  We noticed this unpaved road on the map that dropped south about 16 miles to Ridge Rd.  We figured with all this activity still well to the west that we would have time to make it south to Ridge Rd.  This road wound through some amazing terrain with an abundance of rolling hills and a scattering of pine trees — free-ranging cattle, some of which we had to weave around, and a brief encounter with 3 mule deer bucks together.  I managed to get some decent images of the bucks with the amazing landscape and sky.  We had to continue south, however, in order to stay ahead of the approaching storm core(s).  As we drew closer to Ridge Rd., the lightning to our south and southwest was increasing quite a bit.  It began to sprinkle just a couple miles before our east turn.  We made it to Ridge Rd., but we still had 30 miles to drive on this unpaved road, albeit a fairly hard surface for most of the drive.  As long as it didn’t pour down heavy rain, we’d be alright.  Lightning began to really increase all around us… effectively blinding us at times given how luminous and close the flashes were.  We were too close to the core to stop. 

It sure would have been nice, in retrospect, to have gone east on Ridge Rd. initially!  Storm chaser Brian Morganti did take this route and managed to capture some very nice lightning images from farther east.  We were just too close the whole time.  It was a white-knuckler for Vince as we just barely stayed ahead of the core as we were driving about as fast as the storm was moving… dodging cattle, close CGs, and slowing down for cattle guard seemingly every mile or two.  But we made it.  It was 45 miles of driving we won’t forget… from the incredible terrain and sky and color to drama-filled moments as we were barely outracing the core for 30 miles on Ridge Rd.  I tried to shoot some handheld images with the shutter on Bulb setting just pointing straight out the window in hopes of documenting the moment on camera.  I did manage to catch one of the very close CGs in the very right edge of the frame, and I think it illustrates nicely just how close and bright some of these CG’s were.  When we got to Alzada finally, we drove just northeast of town to try our hand at more lightning photography, but the nuisance light rain in the wake of the storm forced us to continue shooting from in the car.  I did manage to capture a couple lightning images handheld leaning the camera against the car window.  Images from this memorable experience below!

 

     

June 25, 2008

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 8 Forecast — Back to Alzada/Belle Fourche

Filed under: Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 11:21 am

Vince and I have left Pierre and are heading back west toward the SD-WY-MT triborder area around Belle Fourche to Alzada.  We anticipate storms developing around the Bighorns area again and rolling across the west-east mid level baroclinic zone.  Low-mid 50s dewpoints exist in the return east to southeast surface flow, and overall shear will be adequate for supercells once again.  We’ll see how it all pans out. 

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 7 Summary – ND/SD Border area

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 9:20 am

June 24, 2008 — Supercell evolving to massive high-precip, outflow dominant "washing machine" [Mott, ND to McLaughlin, SD to Selby, SD to Agar, SD]

Vince and I targeted the North Dakota area along I-94 near Dickinson or so, but after a hearty lunch at a favorite mexican restaurant in Spearfish, SD, we got on the road about Noon MDT.  By the time we reached Buffalo, SD, there was already a severe storm underway just north of I-94 north of Medora, ND.  This storm was moving quickly to the east and evolved into a large hail producing storm just north of the interstate.  It was quickly advancing east of our current longitude, so once we reached Bowman, we decided on a different strategy.  We optioned east on Hwy 12 out of Bowman.  While doing so, a small storm developed essentially right on top of us as we were driving east.  It had a real small base without much substance, but we pushed on eastward nevertheless.  Meantime, a few strong to marginally severe storms were developing along the Hwy 85 corridor from Buffalo to Belle Fourche, SD.  These storms developed in the more capped atmosphere and we figured these storms didn’t stand much of a chance of doing much.  We also monitored the continued southward development/propagation of the complex of severe storms along I-94.  Some of the biggest updraft cores with this complex were beginning to turn more to the right…and as we continued east, all this activity to our north was becoming more "in play". 

Eventually that small storm that was over us began to move closer to the "main complex", and as it does so it began to strengthen.  This storm finally began to take on some supercell characteristics between Haynes and Mott, ND.  We reached Thunder Hawk, SD (basically right on the SD-ND state line) and drove north about 6 miles to a nice stopping location to film and photograph.  We sat there for probably an hour watching this nice flat updraft base evolve into supercell structure with scud forming and rising into the updraft to form a wall cloud in time.  There wasn’t much rotation with this feature, and I noticed this arcus cloud behind our storm…which was the leading edge of the northern complex about to overtake our southermost supercell.  Then the "race chase" was on.  The supercell we observed became absorbed into the big severe complex and was rolling east-southeast at a 40-50mph clip.  We followed this thing on Hwy 12 from Thunder Hawk all the way to Selby, crossing the Lake Oahe along the way.  Highway 12 paralleled this storm almost perfectly for quite some time…and we stopped a number of times to watch the well-structured, multi-tiered shelf cloud and dust approach rapidly.  This stuff was moving fast — a forward-propagating severe complex.  At sunset, the colors and contrast were superb along Hwy 83 from Selby to Agar.  It was a fun chase with great colors/contrast once again from nicely structured outflow-dominant severe storms over beautiful country.  We stayed in Pierre, arriving about 11:15pm CDT or so. 

 

 

 

 

June 24, 2008

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 7 Forecast, June 24

Filed under: Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 9:09 am

It is Tuesday morning, day 7 of the trip.  The next three days (including today) appear to be fairly active severe weather days with better moisture and better wind shear in play.  After Thursday, it looks like the good chasing will come to an end as a large high pressure builds over much of the northern and central Great Plains.  Today, Vince and I will head north from Belle Fourche to southwestern South Dakota.  Water vapor loop shows a vigorous storm system moving from west to east, which will be timed nicely for the western half of North Dakota.  This looks like an excellent environment for a quality supercell thunderstorm.  It also looks like we’ll be in much better cellular internet data areas according to the Alltel map.  We’ll have the live ‘chase mode’ map going later on today.

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 6 Summary – Southeast Montana Lightning

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 7:12 am

June 23, 2008 — Daytime lightning & stormy sunset colors from Broadus to Alzada, MT

We began the day in Glendive, MT and decided on a target downstream of the Big Horn Mountains, as we liked the mid-50s dewpoints hanging around near the stalled out front near the WY-MT border area.  Another possible target was quite a bit farther east into North Dakota, but we didn’t feel like going all that way as we could have ended up on the opposite side of the state, only to drive back west again the next day.  We were hoping for a good storm or two to develop near Sheridan or the WY-MT border and track along the border area.  The drive from Miles City to Broadus took us through Volborg — a post-office "town" with a population of 2.  There is a small General Store there that also operates as the Post Office, which is run by Dick Stanley and his wife.  The front of the General Store states a population of 5, which represented several more of the Stanley family, but they have since moved on to other portions of the Southeast Montana/Northeast Wyoming region.  We had an absolutely lovely visit with Mr. Stanley, and his little General Store out in the middle of nowhere on highway 59 to the north-northwest of Broadus.  Most importantly for our purposes, he had internet access there in his store, and he was more than welcome to allow us to look at some meteorological data as we conversed about different things such as being a (precipitation only) Co-op observer for the National Weather Service in Billings.  Below you will find a photo of Mr. Stanley — who represents one-half the current population of Volborg.

After that fun visit, we continued on to Broadus, and we visited the library to get some data (talk about old-school!) since we had no cell data service in Southeast Montana.   We monitored three areas of interest:  1) A line of surface-based cumulus to our north which extended northwest to southeast…through about Volborg, 2) a severe storm that had developed over the Big Snowy Mountains south of Lewistown (this is a hot-spot for storm initiation, by the way), and 3) storms organizing to our west-southwest over the northern portion of the Big Horns.  We optioned for #3, and we decided to take a scenic unpaved route southwest out of Broadus that parallels the Powder River — Moorhead Rd.  We ultimately only went about 10 miles down that road before turning back around to Broadus… but the scenery was wonderful and would make for an awesome drive when more time allows.  Storms to our west and southwest were struggling mightily with a lack of decent structure both on radar (ThreatNet) and visually.  We decided to head west to intercept the storm mentioned above as option #2.  We only got about 10 miles west of Broadus when we realized the lightning to our west-southwest was rather frequent, sharp, and photogenic.  So we stopped.  And it’s a good thing we did — as the lightning was beautiful with excellent visibility.  We stayed here for a little while then back-tracked again to Broadus to follow this development southeast on Hwy 212.  We stopped again several more times along the way to Belle Fourche, where we stayed the night.  Our last sunset stop near the MT-WY state line southeast of Alzada was very photogenic with very awesome, warm colors from the setting sun.  Lightning in the distance amidst the orange hues of the late evening sunset made for nice photography — and this is the very reason why we love chasing up here — as seemingly innocuous storms can be extremely photogenic with the wide-open spaces and incredible visibility/light.  These photography opportunities really made the day.  Some images are below — including one fine image (the 4th one below) by Vince of me silhouetted against the bright backdrop towards the sun, while photographing lightning with my camera gear… which includes the lightning that I was photographing.  It was handheld with a shutter speed of 1/320 of a second.  I don’t know how he got that shot!!  But I love it.  In fact, it was 1 of 2 lightning images he just so happened to capture yesterday hand-held with a fast (for lightning) shutter speed.  Of course, I was shooting with the Lightning Trigger on my D200, but Vince showed that last night, you can take daytime lightning photos without it :)

 


(c) Vince Miller

June 23, 2008

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 6 — Southeast MT/Northeas WY

Filed under: Chase Trip 2008 — Mike U @ 12:19 pm

Update 12:20pm MDT:

We are in Miles City again, heading to the south.  there is ~1500 J/kg of CAPE across far northeastern Wyoming along the Big Horn Mountains and points east.  The live chase mode will cease to update as we once again head into internet no-man’s land.  More later! 

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 5 Summary – Brockway, MT storm

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 8:01 am

Sunday, June 22 was somewhat of a frustrating day in the sense that we mis-forecast our target of southeast Montana — nothing formed in that area at all… not even any cumulus.  We left around midday from Buffalo, WY and set forth for the Biddle to Broadus, MT area.  By mid-afternoon it became quite apparent that it would take an act of God to get any storms in this area, given the close proxmity of the short wave ridge, the amount of cirrus overhead limiting heating, and the best jet energy going to the north.  At Broadus, we headed north Miles City when we saw some storms developing on ThreatNet (on Vince’s laptop) north of Miles City.  We reached Miles City in the mid-evening hours and tracked northeast on I-94, witnessing a distant storm our north.  Initially, it looked quite promising with a lot of good inflow cumulus and flanking line towers feeding into the main updraft region.  We stopped north of Terry for only storm photography of the day as this briefly supercellular storm was beginning to die a nasty death.  Once this happened, we ultimately decided to just head into Glendive, MT for the night — and hope that additional stuff would form around us for some lightning opportunities.  This really didn’t happen either, except to our distant east.  

Today — Monday June 23rd:  Early morning data suggests two potential targets along a northeast to southwest axis.  One would be along the old convergence axis across the northwest SD-southwest ND border region and the other would be post frontal northeasterly upslope against the Big Horns region (targeting Northeast WY).  We’ll continue forecasting/deliberation on this final decision. 

      

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