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 22, 2008

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 5 — In the field update

Filed under: Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 6:07 pm

6:05pm MDT:

We are currently in Miles City, and we are about to intercept a newly developed supercell storm to our north.  It is moving east in the general direction of Glendive.  We have just fueled up here in Miles City and about to begin the chase.  More later after a successful chase we hope!  We are using Vince’s computer since we thought We’d be in cell data void areas for most of the chase, but now that we are on the Interstate, we have data (for the time being).  Thus, we are not beaconing our position this evening.

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 4 Summary – Down day

Filed under: Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 9:46 am

June 21, 2008 –  Down day, drive from Lusk to Buffalo, WY

Day 4 was a down day as an upper level ridge was building across the northern Rockies.  We decided to take a leisurely drive up to Buffalo, WY via highway 20 and I-25 from Lusk.  We were hoping an isolated picturesque storm would form off the Big Horn mountains, but it wasn’t to be.  We stopped a couple times along the way after leaving Lusk to see a view of the old abandoned towns that Vince was interested in, such as Lost Springs, Manville, and Keeline along Highway 18.  The Lost Springs population according to the highway sign was One.  An updated sign in town said Three.  Anyway, it was interesting to see.  The Union Pacific rail line runs through there along Highway 18, and there were no less than 3 full coal trains that traveled east, supposedly coming from the Wright or Verse areas.  We got to Buffalo in the early evening with a convective-free sky.  We stayed at the Big Horn Motel again on Main Street in downtown.  The motel owner also owns a small ice cream parlor/mini-golf establishment a few blocks down a walking path along the Clear Creek, so we checked that out.  The little parlor was busy with a big line as they had some outdoor "family in the park" outing right there at this small park next to the parlor.  

Today, Sunday June 22, we will head east-northeast from here, likely into far southeastern Montana.  A resumption of storms is expected today.  We will probably use Vince’s laptop on the chase today since southeast Montana is a giant cell data void area.  Vince has the satellite-based Baron Threatnet on his laptop so we can continue to monitor radar and the like.  Thus, there will likely be no live-chase mode updates on the website today.


June 21, 2008

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 3 Summary (Cheyenne, WY)

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 9:10 am

June 20, 2008 — Briefly severe storm; Chugwater to Cheyenne, WY 

This was a rather short chase.  Vince and I intercepted a storm that had some supercell characteristics early on as it was west of Chugwater moving south-southeast toward Cheyenne.  We finally got good visual of the storm north of Cheyenne by just a few miles.  We sat at a location just west of I-25 and watched a new impressive updraft surge occur just north of us with some weak cloud base rotation.  We were also watching some small Cb growth to our south.  As we drove south back into Cheyenne, our northern storm weakened rather substantially.  After a quick gas fill-up, we reconsidered our options.  All the storms at around 3:45pm mountain time looked rather uninspiring both visually and on radar.  We decided not to head any further south and to pseudo blow off the rest of the chase, and hope that something else of substance could form farther north across eastern Wyoming.  While there were a few small, marginally severe storms developing east of Lusk (which was where we were heading), we decided to just bag it and go on in to Lusk and enjoy a nice relaxing pizza dinner at this awesome pizza house here in downtown Lusk.  We are staying at this same motel we stayed at last year (Town House Motel) — it’s small, but quite clean and roomy.  Below are a few photos from our one and only stopping location to document north of Cheyenne:


June 20, 2008

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 3 Forecast, June 20

Filed under: Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 1:09 pm

We are on the road west out of Sidney, NE at 1pm Mountain Time heading west… but not all that far probably.  We are anticipating more chaseable storms off the Laramie Mountains today.  In fact, there are already a few storms going up in the early afternoon sun out there…which will eventually spread onto the adjacent plains later in the afternoon and this evening.  Today may be a carbon-copy of yesterday with high-based, yet photogenic storms (marginal supercells).  After today, attention finally shifts to the north, but Saturday will be a down day.  We will probably head up toward Rapid City/Spearfish/Belle Fourche tomorrow to stage for Sunday’s expected severe.  More later! 

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 2 Summary (CO-NE Border)

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 7:23 am

June 19, 2008 — Picturesque Severe Storms; Weld County, CO to near Sidney, NE

Vince and I started the day in Colby, KS with a target of the southwestern Nebraska Panhandle in mind.  We anticipated storms forming off the Laramie mountains west and northwest of Cheyenne.  This indeed happened as forecast.  The first storm we chased was one which developed just north-northwest of Fort Collins.  This was initially a storm with supercell characteristics on radar as we were driving toward it… another one of those "left moving" supercells.  The main storm updraft kept moving/developing to the northeast against the west-northwesterly flow aloft.  We intercepted this storm in far northeastern Weld County only a few miles south of the Nebraska border.  The contrast and colors were pretty good, and I managed to capture a couple cloud-to-ground lightning flashes to the west.  Eventually, this storm weakened and became a bit more "messy" on radar (and visually).  We continued east for quite some distance along County Route 78.  One thing that was striking was the gigantic wind farm that extends west to east along the crest of the Cheyenne Ridge in this area (Peetz Wind Power).  Once we reached Hwy 113 (which turns to Hwy 19 in Nebraska), we continued north to Lorenzo and monitored a fairly well structured, but very small updraft base to the west.  It was eventually severe thunderstorm-warned based on one report of Golfball size hail. 

We continued on into Sidney and east on I-80, reaching exit 69 where we watched our Lorenzo storm die a rapid and ugly death before our eyes.  However, new severe storms were rapidly developing off to the north through northwest.  We sat atop the overpass at exit 69 for quite awhile monitoring both storms.  Eventually, the southeast moving marginal supercell (taking aim on Sidney) came into view.  Vince captured some pretty good time lapse since we sat at this location for quite awhile.  As the storm became west-northwest of us, the light got a lot better and we could see structure quite a bit better.  Not the best storm structure by any stretch, but the color contrast was clean and very photographically-friendly.  Some large bulbous shaped mammatus developed which was great to capture on the 14mm wide angle lens.  

We finally called it a chase and went back west to Sidney for the night… but beforehand, we stopped one last time to photograph the beautiful distant Cb to the southeast (long exposure on the tripod).  Some interesting lightning was also captured within the updraft by both Vince and me. 

Today, June 20th, Vince and I will probably be chasing in the same general region — maybe a bit farther south into Colorado.  Then it appears Saturday may be a down day/drive day… as we like the looks of Sunday’s prospects wayyy up north near the MT-Canada border.  More details on that later. 

Below are a few of the images of the 211 frames I captured yesterday:




June 19, 2008

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 2 Forecast, June 19

Filed under: Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 11:31 am

Currently on the road, entering Colorado from Kansas on I-70.  We debated whether to target the Raton Mesa to our southwest or southeastern Wyoming.  Both areas look favorable for severe storms (The Raton Mesa area probably moreso), however given the fact that we plan on staying north for the majority of this trip, we’ll hedge north.  It doesn’t look that much more spectacular down there anyway — in fact storms may tend to be more HP-type in nature due to a bit weaker upper level flow down there.  We are planning to stair-step our way northwest toward the CO-NE-WY tri-border area.  There’s already a weak storm developing along the northern end of the Laramie Range at midday.  There’s decent sunshine/heating occurring in the target area.

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 1 Summary (NW KS)

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 6:29 am

June 18, 2008 — Brief Supercell from Seldon to Quinter, KS 

Vince and I started our chase trip on Wednesday, June 18th, by intercepting a briefly interesting marginal supercell thunderstorm that tracked from Seldon to Quinter (I finally chased a Quinter storm!) before losing the storm on muddy roads south of Quinter.  Our initial target was Syracuse to Goodland, KS or thereabout, and we were initially torn between two areas of potential development: 1) SW Nebraska to the south of Ogallala and 2) to the southwest of Leoti, KS where there was small scale convergence occurring at the nose of 100 degree air.  We opted for the northern play given the fact it wasn’t so hot up there and also 60+ dewpoints were more common.  

When we got to Colby, other storms were forming to the northwest of us, some of them tornado warned, but they were very high-based.  The tornado threat looked nil.  We knew that going in, but we decided to hang out about 15 N Colby to monitor this struggling activity to our northwest, east of Haigler NE as well as the progress of the larger storm that was moving southeast toward McCook.  I did capture one cloud-to-gloud lightning image from a high-based junk storm while we sat north of Colby.  We decided to head east on a dirt road toward Seldon.  On approach, we noticed a fairly beefy base develop just to our Southwest.  After nearly canning the whole chase since it looked bleak, we optioned to give one last attempt at this area of interest.  We dropped south from Seldon and this storm becan to take on interesting updraft structure with some supercell characteristics.  The problem was it was also undercut by strong north winds, at least from our vantage point due south of it, as we approached Grainfield.   Nevertheless, the structure was interesting and there was indeed some cloud base rotation at times.  We finally reached I-70 and drove east to Park and Quinter as the storm approached us.  Massive amounts of dust was limiting visibility off to the east and northeast, some of it quite interesting from a photographic standpoint with the small town of Park in the background to the northeast.  We finally reached Quinter when we thought it would be most beneficial to drop south on Castle Rock Road — not a bad option when roads are dry… but this was Gove County, KS, very limited on paved road options.  At any rate, other storms were rapidly developing to the southeast and southwest of us and we essentially became trapped.  

We decided that heading west on one of the dirt roads would be a better option given the limited amount of rain to the west.  What we didn’t count on, though, was the rear-flank downdraft portion of the storm biting us in the but with heavy rain and small hail.  That’s what happened, so we tried to manage the grated dirt roads the best we could, which actually worked out.  At least we weren’t that far from I-70 and Quinter should we have gotten stuck.  We drove north with only 4 miles to go on a rather hard, grated road, albeit very wet.  Well, the road eventually got soft on us as it approached the I-70 bridge 2 W Quinter.  Soft + wet = no good.  Vince managed to get through it though, but it took dire patience and quite a bit of sliding :)   We photographed a nice looking rainbow looking toward Quinter to the east behind the storm amidst our fun in the muck.  We finally hit hard ground and made it to Quinter in one piece, and with the storm to the southeast of us now and less interesting looking, we called it a chase.  



June 18, 2008

June Chase Trip 2008: Day 1 (KS-CO Border region)

Filed under: Chase Trip 2008,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 10:34 am

The trip begins today!

Vince Miller is making his way to Dodge City as I type, and will be arriving shortly before noon.  It looks like we won’t have to go too far for Day 1.  In fact, it appears the first three days of our trip will be in the same general region of eastern CO and adjacent western KS.  For today, am expecting severe storms to develop in a north-south corridor from near Lamar to Wray, CO or so.  I think we’ll just head west on Highway 50 to Syracuse or thereabouts…and re-evaluate from there.  -Mike U

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