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,
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June 27, 2010

Chase Trip Day Ten and Eleven (June 26-27) Summary

Day Ten (June 26th) — HP Supercell from Tripp to Freeman, South Dakota

After dropping Evan off the day before, I decided to make one last go at a decent chase setup on Saturday, June 26th, which was my second to last day of my vacation.  I left KC around 7:30am hoping to get up into the Yankton-Sioux Falls area by early to mid afternoon which would give me plenty of time for repositioning if needed (say, farther west deeper into South Dakota).  I reached Vermillion and decided not to go any farther north as an outflow boundary was pushing slowly south from early day elevated convection north of I-90 in east-central South Dakota.  The thermal nose and highest dewpoints (mid 70s!) were pointing to a location from Lake Andes to Tyndall, SD, so after lunch in Yankton, I decided to head to Lake Andes.  I drove about halfway to Lake Andes when a surface-based cumulus field was developing along the outflow boundary.  For fears of overshooting possible chaseable surface-based storm development, I decided not to drive any farther west and just hung out around the Tripp-Parkston area.

A storm rapidly developed to my west-southwest and I was perfectly positioned.  I noticed on SpotterNetwork I was the only one out here close to this new rapidly developing storm as most other chasers were staging in Sioux Falls.  As expected, visibility was fairly poor given the very high dewpoints.  I didn’t really like this, from a photographic standpoint.  This was NOT a structure chase, I was totally in “tornado photography” mode at this point, and pretty much told myself that once this storm became outflow dominant or an “HP” beastie, I would most likely jump ship early.  I stopped southwest of Parkston watching the storm develop, and it had that very nice “constant grumbling” sound that signifies a very healthy updraft.  The storm was rather elongated and it was also moving fairly quickly once it developed.  I didn’t like this.  Upper level winds were not all that strong, so the storm would have to become “anchored” in order to put on a nice show of tornadoes without much precipitation screwing things up.  That was not the case.  The storm was moving fairly quickly, and since the anvil level flow was not that great, the storm-relative anvil flow was meager at best, and thus given the tremendous dewpoints, the storm quickly became an HP.  I had to navigate some county roads east of Parkston since Hwy 44 was blocked about 15 miles east of Parkston.  I drove first north of Hwy 44 to Milltown then south of the highway in hopes of getting a better view of the storm.  At this point, the storm re-organized and appeared to perhaps right-turn a little bit.  There is a county road along the James River (County Road 11) that I thought would be a great road to take to get southeast of the updraft area, but after a couple miles of this road heading southeast, it was blocked as the Wolf Creek was flooded over it.  So much for that idea.  Now I had to retreat back to Hwy 44.  Fortunately, I passed a local along the county road and asked how much of Hwy 44 was closed and he told me that if I just went a quarter mile east to the next section line road it would take me back to Hwy 44 where it wasn’t blocked.  Whew.  So I got back to 44 and continued east.  By this point, all the chasers were on the storm, most of them on Hwy 44.  A big nasty outflow surge was pushing east along the Hwy and an occluded area was noted to the northwest where there could have been a tornadic circulation.  It was so poorly visible and wrapped in rain it was hardly worth taking the camera out of the bag.  Nevertheless, I did take a few images.  This was around the 5:25 to 5:30pm or so, which was near the time that Andy Gabrielson reported a brief cone-shaped tornado as he was much closer.  I took a look at his youtube video, and yeah, there was probably a weak, brief tornado in there, but I couldn’t see it from my perspective.

That was it.  Shortly after this as I continued east on Hwy 44, the storm became less and less interesting as it was becoming a big wind and rain machine with a huge wet RFD taking over the storm.  Another small storm developed behind it which I was tempted to chase briefly back west.  I then just decided to head south, semi-blowing off the rest of the chase in favor it driving in the direction closer to home.  A more isolated storm was approaching Yankton, and I went after that.  I entered Yankton from the north and got into the core of this storm in Yankton with some half-dollar size hail exploding on the main north-south road in town.  There was a very brilliant double rainbow as I entered town, and I should have stopped to photograph this, as this was the most photogenic thing I saw all day.  I continued east a little bit on Hwy 50 to Gayville which was the farthest east I would go and ultimately blew this storm off too given the very poor photography potential.  This was essentially the end of the chase.  I grabbed a crappy Applebee’s dinner in Norfolk (par for the course for the day, I suppose) then continued on to Kearney.  I didn’t get into Kearney until about 2:15am since more storms formed very near me along the advancing cold front… and with the full moon out… provided for some interesting late night photography.  Nothing outstanding, but did get some distant lightning/moon illuminated storm structure north of Grand Island, NE.

Start:  Overland Park, KS
End:  Kearney, NE

Day Ten mileage:  848 mi.
Chase Trip mileage: 4800 mi.







Chase Trip Day Eleven (June 27th) — Drive Home

There was a slight temptation leaving Kearney, NE this morning of chasing later on this afternoon/evening in eastern Colorado as the NAM model was fairly aggressive with storm development.  Meager CAPE was an issue and the overall wind shear was not all that great either.  As I was driving south into Kansas, I made the ultimate decision to just head on home, as the setup was way too marginal to chase given I would have to drive back to Dodge City after the chase since I was due back to work Monday morning the 28th.  I got back to Dodge City around 3:00pm or so.  Photographically, this was a fine chase trip… certainly not the best ever, but it was fun to spend some time with my good friend Evan Bookbinder for a week on the road.  This will conclude organized storm chasing for the 2010 season as summer sets in.  There will probably be a few more spot chases from July to October to complete 2010, as in year’s past, on days off work perhaps.

Start:  Kearney, NE
End:  Dodge City, KS (home!)

Day Eleven mileage: 313 mi.
Final chase trip total mileage:  5113 mi.

June 26, 2010

Chase Trip Day Ten (June 26) Forecast

Filed under: Chase Forecasts/Outlooks,Late Chase Trip 2010,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 10:08 am

…Southeastern quarter of South Dakota…
I am at a rest area along I-28 as of 10am CDT and am targeting South Dakota for today’s chase.  Abundant moisture with lower 70s dewpoints will yield SB CAPE around 4,000 to 5,000 J/kg which will combine with adequate deep layer shear for fairly aggressive severe storms including perhaps tornadic supercells.  One thing I don’t like to see is the expansive mid level cloud cover and light shower activity from western Nebraska into the western half of South Dakota… seemingly moving into the target area.  We’ll see how that evolves as the day goes on, but all the models show pretty vigorous convective QPF signals this afternoon/evening, especially across eastern South Dakota.  Find the convergence and easterly low level winds for the best shot at a tornadic supercell..  more later.

June 25, 2010

Chase Trip Day Eight and Nine (June 24-25) Summary

Filed under: Late Chase Trip 2010,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 5:12 pm

…Day Eight (June 24)…
This was a bust.  Our first true bust day of the trip where we decided to make a chase day out of it despite it looking marginal.  We had already committed south instead of heading into the northern plains (North Dakota/Montana) so we tried to make go out of a marginal upslope opportunity.  It turned out nothing developed, although there was a brief attempt at a storm near Last Chance early in the evening as we headed east in I-70.  By that point, we had pretty much called off the chase and headed to KC so I could drop Evan Bookbinder off to concluded his portion of the chase trip given the marginal prospects to end the trip (for tornadic storms).

Start:  Denver (Westminster, CO)
End:  Hays, KS

Day Eight mileage: 430 mi.
Chase Trip mileage: 3635 mi.



…Day Nine (June 25)…
Friday, June 25th was the drive back to Kansas City to conclude Evan’s chase trip.  We parted ways at his house in Lee’s Summit, MO mid-afternoon, and I made my way to my parent’s house in Overland Park.  Will resume chasing on Day Ten (June 26th) in Nebraska, but more on that in the Day Ten forecast post.

Start:  Hays, KS
End:  Overland Park, KS

Day Nine mileage: 317 mi.
Chase Trip mileage: 3952 mi.

June 24, 2010

Chase Trip Day Eight (June 24) Forecast

Filed under: Chase Forecasts/Outlooks,Late Chase Trip 2010,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 11:23 am

Evan and I are in Westminster, CO at the same place we stayed in several days ago.  Today is a very  marginal day for supercells, but we will give it a shot.  The target area we are considering is east of the Laramie Range north or northeast of Cheyenne where the Laramie Range convergence line will develop once again as southeasterly low level flow develops upslope converging with westerly momentum farther west in the mountains of south-central Wyoming.  Mid 50s dewpoints will likely pool northeast of Cheyenne and the hope is that one decent convective storm forms over the Laramie ridge and rolls northeast onto the adjacent plains along I-25 from Cheyenne to Chugwater to Wheatland and perhaps points east of there.  Will head to Cheyenne by mid to late afternoon.


Day Seven (June 23) Down day summary:
Since Evan’s Sprint phone was malfunctioning, we needed to address this issue before carrying on with activities for the day.  We spent the better part of the midday and early afternoon hours doing that in Denver.  After that we checked in to the motel in Westminster and then drove to Boulder to eat at BJ’s brewery on Pearl Street where we enjoyed the food, the sights, and the sounds that make Pearl Street what it is.  I had a Totonka imperial stout which was pretty darn good.  After that we made our way to Coors Field to watch the Rockies and Red Sox game.  It was a very entertaining ball game with bottom of the 9th inning win by the Rockies from two home runs deep into right field.

Begin:  Cheyenne, WY
End:  Denver (Westminster), CO

Day Seven mileage: 183 mi
Chase Trip mileage: 3205 mi


June 23, 2010

Chase Trip Day Six (June 22) Summary

Evan and I intercepted a fairly robust supercell which had its origins north of Cheyenne.  This storm moved northeast along the Hwy 85 corridor and was undercut by a fair amount of cool outflow from significant precipitation core to the northeast.  A new updraft emerged northeast of the original updraft and we were immediately caught behind and had to reposition.  We did so by blasting south to I-80 to Burns, WY then east along I-80 with an incredible view of the supercell cumulonimbus and cumuliform anvil with overturning convection.  Even from a distance we could tell that the storm was still riding its own outflow.  We drove east all the way to Potter, NE between Kimball and Sidney where we headed north to get closer once we caught up to the southeast side of the storm.  We stopped briefly about 7 miles north along Road 77 and photographed the amazing supercell updraft… probably the best supercell structure of the trip so far.  The convective overturning at anvil level was simply amazing with a well developed inflow tail to the north.  We then drove east on a very dirty farm road and had near-zero visibility in RFD dust as the wind was parallel to the road we were driving.  Fortunately, we finally got east of this dust, but by the time we finally reached Hwy 385 near Gurley, the storm was shrinking and becoming less interesting to pursue.  We drove down to Sidney and then back west again on I-80 to hopefully photograph some new storms forming northeast of Cheyenne, but north of the outflow boundary.  We enjoyed some nice evening photography along a farm road north of Bushnell, NE before we ended the chase and headed to Cheyenne for the night.

Start:  Goodland, KS
End:  Cheyenne, WY

Day Six mileage:  571 mi.
Chase trip mileage:  3022 mi.






June 22, 2010

Chase Trip Day Six (June 22) Forecast

Filed under: Chase Forecasts/Outlooks,Late Chase Trip 2010,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 12:34 pm

Currently driving north on Hwy 385 toward our target of Sidney, Nebraska.  It looks like another pretty good supercell day as lower-mid 60s dewpoints move northwest toward the southern Nebraska Panhandle by late in the day as southeasterly winds develop.  Overall wind shear looks excellent as a mid level southwesterly jet streak moves into Colorado and western Nebraska. 

Day Seven (June 23) appears to be a down day and we will most likely drive northwest to setup for Day Eight (June 24) which will set up across Montana.  My initial target for this day would be east or northeast of the Big Horn Mountains.  Day Nine (June 25) would appear on paper to be a fairly good day across North Dakota as another jet streak/shortwave trough enters the northwestern plains.  Day Ten (June 26) would then shift back south as a front pushed back south into the central plains.  June 26th would most likely be our last chase day as the 27th we’d have to drive back to KC to drop Evan off and then the drive for me back to Dodge City.

Chase Trip Day Five (6/21) Summary

Photographed a number of supercell storms on Day Five.  We targeted the Fort Morgan area and a storm had already developed out near Boulder on our drive to Fort Morgan.  When we arrived at Fort Morgan, we decided to hang out there as there was a growing towering cumulus field to our south.  We ventured south on Hwy 71 to near Woodrow then east about halfway to Hwy 63 southwest of Akron.  The first storm that went up showed nice signs of organization but failed to make it to the next level and ultimately died.  We then watched a cool looking anorexic tower go up to our immediate southeast which had a neat anticyclonic swirl to it.  Finally, we decided to bail on this area and head west toward the original “Boulder” storm which at that point had moved east to between Prospect Valley and Hoyt.  We briefly photographed a shelf cloud from the storm that developed rapidly immediately northeast of the “Boulder” storm.  We dropped south to get to our final position to photograph the southwestern most storm now our west… west of Woodrow.  This storm cycled through a couple decent occlusions with the main updraft area finally catching up with the original outflow boundary from when the storm was previously very outflow dominant.

The problem was the storm to the northeast was sending a wad of cold outflow ultimately wrecking our storm.  Ugh.  We then decided to just blast east and south to get distant structure of the whole mess that seemed to be unfolding.  The big HP-supercell that finally emerged from this mess was moving rapidly east-southeast and it was a major chore to try to keep up.  We never got east of the inflow notch area like we wanted… so we followed it all the way east along Hwy 36 and got pinched off before we could get to Idalia.  The velocity signature was incredible with a wet RFD surge of inbound winds 80 to 100 knots from Goodland’s radar approaching Idalia.  We didn’t want to mess with that so we just bailed south on County Route V/40 (Bethune road).  A distant left-moving supercell was becoming increasingly visible and photogenic to our southeast and we stopped a few times to shoot some images of the incredible Cb structure with overshooting top.

We found a wind farm near this highway and we stopped there to photograph the distant left-mover.  As we were doing this, another storm formed to our north-northwest which quickly grew into a nice LP supercell behind the HP beastie.  We sat there and photographed this storm for awhile then headed east to Hwy 385 north of Burlington where we decided to head north and get a little closer to it for sunset shots.  We pulled off on a high spot a couple miles east of Hwy 385 north of Burlington and photographed the LP to our northeast now which formed a beautiful corkscrewing updraft with well established inflow tails from the south.  There was an outflow boundary collision almost exactly where we were at…perhaps a few miles to our southeast…where the final supercell of the day grew rapidly.  After sunset, this storm put on an awesome Cb lightning “zit” display above and to our southeast.  Cool outflow from this storm then blocked our view and we had to get south again on Hwy 385.  We found a nice spot to photograph from again just off Hwy 385 about 7 miles farther south… and to our east was this majestic supercell, glowing with intracloud lightning and amazing convective looking backshearing anvil structure that was beautifully formed.  There was just enough astronomical twilight left to get good images of this beauty looking off to the east.  After having fun with this for awhile, we continued east toward Goodland to see if we could do some more photography, but as we approached Goodland, the storm died.  At the Goodland McDonald’s we saw storm chaser Mark Farnik who was with two of his chase partners and we enjoyed shooting the breeze there while we ate and in the parking lot for some time.  This was a very fun storm photography day despite no tornadoes observed.

Start:  Colby, KS
End:  Goodland, KS
Day Five mileage: 442 mi
Trip mileage: 2451 mi

Preliminary images from Day Five chase:







June 21, 2010

Chase Trip Day Five (6/21) Forecast

Filed under: Late Chase Trip 2010,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 10:58 am

Evan and I are in Colby, KS this morning. Since we are south, we will play southern target (northeast Colorado)… and it looks pretty good. Southern jet will be nosing into the Colorado Rockies today… and you can see it on water vapor loop about to nose into southwest Colorado. Looks like a fairly classic supercell setup for eastern/northeastern Colorado with good upper 50s/lower 60s dewpoints, increasing southeast winds, excellent mid-upper winds, long hodographs (somewhat straight, though). I think we will drive to Limon and wait there for stuff to percolate off the front range before moving out onto the plains. I’m not seeing much as far as an initiation focus other than the terrain, but once stuff moves out, it should be a wonderful playground for supercells, perhaps even a tornado or two.

Chase Trip Day Four (6/20) Summary

Filed under: Late Chase Trip 2010,Latest Chases,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 10:47 am

Well… Evan and I chose….. Poooorly (with respect to tornadic supercells).

I thought for sure the fog/stratus would really pinch off the Laramie Range opportunity…. but it did it’s thing exactly in the small sliver of instability that developed at the edge of the stratus/fog, within 10 or 20 miles of the interstate. Congrats to all those who were up there. My WFO DDC colleague Jonathan Finch (who is on the final stretch of his own chase trip with his wife) intercepted the Bill, WY supercell which was apparently a beautiful LP with a tornado visible 25 miles away. And then there was that Billings, MT event.. Ugh-Ugh-Ugh~!

Our target of Phillipsburg failed and failed miserable for discrete supercells. We recognized this was going to fail pretty early after initiation, so we bailed early. We headed west and caught sub-severe single cell stuff west of the main severely outflow dominant activity. We were rewarded with a couple interesting left-moving, small anticyclonically rotating cells close to sunset. The most picturesque one was northeast of Oakley at sunset with a nice overshooting top at times. The light was excellent at sunset.  We then photographed lightning and moonlight illuminated storm structure from Levant, KS looking north.

Start:  York, NE
End:  Colby, KS
Day Four mileage: 556 mi
Trip mileage: 2009 mi

Images from Sunday, June 20th chase in Northwest Kansas:






June 20, 2010

Chase Trip Day Three (June 19) Summary

Written by my chase partner Evan Bookbinder:

Day 3 of the chase trip (June 19th) played out pretty much as we expected this morning, targeting north central Kansas once again (High Plains Magic will have to wait one more day). After checking out a few storms along highway 24 (including ping pong ball hail near our favorite town of Osborne), we got on an HP supercell just north of Beloit. This storm served up some amazing structure, including one of the most aqua green skies I’ve ever seen, and filled with cloud to ground lightning. It made several attempts at wrapping up, but after clearly becoming outflow dominant we dropped south for some distant shelf/structure shots before letting the bow echo overtake us. Additional upstream elevated storms provided a great lightning show well into the evening, but the flooding is getting quite bad across this region back toward Concordia. We are headed toward York and I-80, ready to bust west for tomorrow’s show.

Start:  Denver (Westminster), CO
End:  York, NE
Day 3 mileage: 648 mi
trip mileage: 1453 mi

Images from Day 3′s chase:







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