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!"

May 31, 2006

Chase Trip 2006: Day 8- Northwestern Panhandles (supercell & other outflow dominant storms)

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2006,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 7:56 am

Jay, Rob, Mitch, Jon, and I left Dodge City around 1:30pm and headed west to Lamar, CO. We were undecided as to whether to play the Palmer Divide or the Raton Mesa as both looked pretty good for a supercell thunderstorm. When we approached Lamar, a check of the latest data revealed that the Raton Mesa area to our south had higher CAPE air (more instability). Both areas had about the same shear. At Lamar, we headed south towards Springfield, CO as storms were beginning to form south of Kim, Colorado on the mesas along the NM-CO state line.

We decided to intercept this storm west of Campo. We headed west about 15 miles and approached the updraft of this storm to out west-southwest. There, we met up with Al Pietrycha and Dave Floyd from Goodland. Dave had some bad luck blowing not one, but two tires on this road we were on. After helping Dave out getting back on the road, we backtracked to the east towards Campo. Along the drive back to Campo, our storm was becoming better organized, with a decent wall cloud to our southwest.


It didn’t take long for this storm to become outflow dominant. Soon, more storms were forming to our immediate southeast through southwest. With timely radar updates on the road, we decided to core punch this mess to get on the south side. We finally made it to the other side just north of Boise City. (on the radar images, the circled dot indicates our GPS location)

Our storms were organizing into a linear system with a well-structured shelf cloud. We found a spot to photograph the shelf cloud about 3 miles south of Keyes at the intersection of Hwy 171 and 64. (radar below at the time of the photograph)


We then continued south to intercept the tail-end storm of this line which revealed some supercellular characteristics, but the storm fought a losing battle with cool outflow from the storms to the immediate north.


We ended the chase near Dalhart and headed to Clayton for the night. All in all, another pretty good storm photography day, so I’m happy.


May 30, 2006

Chase Trip 2006: Day 7- Southwest KS (photogenic sunset storms)

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2006,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 7:57 am

Jay, Stacie, and I left Lawrence around 1pm and headed for a target area around the Hutchinson-Newton vicinity. We met back up with Rob, Mitch, and Jon in South Hutchinson at a roadside historical marker at the intersection of Hwy 96 and 50… where we awaited convective development in our target area for quite awhile. A large multicell complex of storms had developed well to our south near Alva, OK which was about 80 miles from us. We decided to forego this in hopes of development closer to our west.

After becoming increasingly impatient, we decided to drop south as the towering Cu to our immediate west and northwest just weren’t doing much. We intercepted a small complex of three storms in northeastern Pratt County, two of which were right-left split members that broke off before we got to the area. The left split which was moving just west of due north…was the healthiest of the three. We headed north through Langdon after we drove south about 20 miles…then back west. The storms just weren’t all that photogenic as observed from the east. We decided to get west of the storms and shoot the backside of them as sunset approached.

The left split soon died, but we were rewarded from our decision to move west…as the sky from north through east through south was very photogenic with beautiful mammatus and a golden wheat foreground. This is why I love Kansas! I had a very unique sunlight ray phenomenon (called an anticrepuscular ray) that lit up the eastern horizon in a vertical triangular column. It was extremely impressive and I was fortunate enough to capture this with nice foreground.



After hanging around here along Hwy 50 in Stafford County, we decided to continue west back to Dodge City. A new storm was developing just west of us which began to take on beautiful colored structure. The colors were just incredible! I couldn’t believe it.

_DSC3506.jpg _DSC3512.jpg

We stopped again to photograph this little storm… then headed west some more before stopping one more time to photograph the Cumulonimbus looking back to the east after sunset as these new storms were becoming better organized.


This morning, Day 8, we are in Dodge City. Stacie’s last day was yesterday, so she had to begin here drive back to Fort Worth this morning. Jon, Rob, and Mitch are at the Super 8 here in Dodge and Jay’s here at my place… It’s been storming here in Dodge since about 5 am. A lot of rain and thunderstorms in western Kansas this morning.

It’s still unclear where we’ll be heading today. I’m liking Southeast Colorado upslope by early this evening. This is subject to change, however.

May 29, 2006

Chase Trip 2006: Day 7 Chase Target

Filed under: Chase Forecasts/Outlooks,Chase Trip 2006,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 10:25 am

Stacie and I are at Jay’s in Lawrence.  We drove all night down I-29 from North Dakota and arrived in Lawrence around 8:30am.  Rob, Mitch, and Jon all went to Jon’s place in Olathe, so we are temporarily away from them… but it appears we will rejoin them this afternoon in our target area around the Hutchinson-McPherson area.

A remnant cold front will continue to stall out over this area today.  Pretty good heating will occur on both sides of the boundary and if any strong updrafts can remain rooted right on this boundary, then non-mesocyclone tornadoes can be possible if things pan out right.  This would be the only hope at a tornado today.  Several of the components necessary for these types of events will be in place today.  Storms should be moving quite slowly, thus significant updrafts should have an easy time developing/feeding on mature storms.  In fact, if a marginal or bonafide supercell develops today, it would likely move south or perhaps slightly west of due south… not unlike July 9, 2003 Reno-Kingman county non-mesocyclone tornado event.  We’ll see how it plays out.

We’ll depart Lawrence probably around 1pm.

Chase Trip 2006: Day 6- Far northeastern ND (marginal LP supercell)

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2006,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 1:21 am

Jay, Stacie, and I are currently on I-29 heading south between Fargo and Aberdeen at this time. Jon, Rob, and Mitch are behind us about 10-15 miles. Day 6… what a day of decisions. We left Bismarck with a target of south-central SD in mind. We drove about 30-40 miles and Jon Finch called asking if we were chasing the Devils Lake, ND area today. I told him no, because we needed to get south for logistical reasons. After Jon called, we actually started interrogating this area for a kicks and giggles. It looked really, really good to us. We were trying to figure out why we would want to blow off a very convergent low center area with upper 60s dewpoints and nice southeast to east southeast winds…along with an outflow boundary. After talking this possibility over with Rob, Mitch, and Jon, all 6 of us decided that we couldn’t resist this area. It was actually the closest target to our location at that time.

We turned around before we got to SD back north on US83 — target of Devils Lake. The ob was persistently very good at Devils lake in the mid 80s with upper 60s dewpoints and a southeast to east southeast wind. The only thing that had us worried… and was quite risky…was the lack of upper level flow and the proximity to the Canada border. Storms would be moving with a pretty decent northerly component.

After a lunch in Devils Lake, we hung around at the shore of Devils Lake awaiting initiation of storms. A small storm did eventually develop… leading to a fairly picturesque LP supercell near Cando. As this storm developed, however, the old outflow boundary was pushing back to the south into our area with northeast winds and stable air. This killed any possibility of tornadoes. The base on our storm was high to begin with. This storm eventually suffered a quick death given its small overall size. Other similar storms tried to go up southeast of this original storm, but failed. The outflow boundary was just too much for this area. It didn’t simmer enough north of the boundary, and this was a significant failure component.

So, we ran into Tim Samaras, Joe Golden, Carl Young, and company before we got to I-29 about 17 miles south of the international border; sharing the laments of the pitiful 2006 chase season up to this point. It’s always fun to run in to other chaser friends at various points during the trip.

[~2.5 hrs later...]

I-29 now exit 114 South Dakota. It was 83 degrees a few minutes ago and quite windy at that last pit stop… we may have had a bit of a heat burst from some dying storms, I guess. We noticed lightning to the southwest about an hour earlier which had diminished. Listening to Art Bell right now; it’s helping keep Jay going :)

Here’s a photo of the LP marginal supercell from yesterday’s chase near Cando:


Now here’s an interesting photograph. Jon’s car is an essential feeding frenzy for a large conglomeration of flies, bees, and other small flying critters. A gourmet of an assortment of splattered dead bugs attracted all these flies and bees… yeah, rather unpleasant, but had to document this feeding frenzy:


For Day 7 (Monday 5/29) we are targetting the tail-end of the front where a pseudo-triple point of sorts may set up in south-central KS. This target will be on the edge of moderate 500-250mb flow, but CAPE should be high and convergence appears to be strong enough according to the NAM model to get a storm to go up… although it may be late. If not, then we just drive back to Dodge for the night, so Stacie can begin her trek back to Fort Worth. Dodge City appears to be a good location to setup for Tuesday’s chase from western OK to northeastern NM. More later from this kamikaze drive, perhaps!

May 28, 2006

Chase Trip 2006: Day 5- Central ND (supercells)

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2006,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 6:50 am

A much better chase day on May 27th in North Dakota!  We intercepted storms northeast of Bismarck, one of which becoming a meaty supercell between Wing and Regan.  The structure on this supercell was quite nice.  We followed this north until it weakened, and as it shriveled up, there was visible rotation at cloud base…with even a nascent funnel it appeared looking WSW towards the shrinking updraft area near the Florence Lake NWR.  At Denhoff we travelled west to catch the backside of these storms.  We almost drove into a 72 VIL core (golfball hail or larger), but thanks to a timely radar update, we obviously reconsidered going south on Hwy 41 at Mercer… and optioned farther west dropping south on 200 Alternate to Washburn.  The backside of the supercells were very photogenic with just incredible deep saturated colors of pink, violet, blue, orage… you name it.  It was stunning color contrast right at sunset.  We ran into very brief quarter size hail just northwest of Wilton then decided to stop off at the intersection of Hwy 83 and Hwy 36 to photograph lightning from the southern most supercell that was over Mandan-Bismarck.

We are in Bismarck this morning and plan to leave here probably around 10am for a target near the SD-NE line west or northwest of Valentine, NE?






May 27, 2006

Chase Trip 2006: Day 5 Chase Forecast

Filed under: Chase Forecasts/Outlooks,Chase Trip 2006,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 11:50 am

Stacie’s driving so I get to browse the internet here as we are driving on I-94 towards BIS. We left DIK about 40 mins ago… looks like we are driving into the warm sector now. Nice low strato-cu poleward of the front, indicative of the adequate moisture in place. With strong cyclogenesis over WY today, I think our front will be undergoing slight frontolysis, but not enough to prevent the adequate convergence for initiation just west to northwest to north of BIS. Will hang in Manden probably. I hope the storms can move northeast of the Missouri RIver early enough. Upper winds are lacking, but good directional shear from BL to 6km… thank goodness for that. I expect HP end of things today with the weak mid-upper winds.

Just got off the phone with Jon… Rob, Mitch, and Jon are now at Fargo, ND and are about to head west towards Bismarck. So they are now on track to meeting up with us around or just before initiation time.

Chase Trip 2006: Day 4- Northwestern SD (non-severe storms)

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Chase Trip 2006,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 8:38 am

I’ll try and make this brief, since I need to do a forecast for today’s chase. We are in Dickinson, ND this Saturday morning. We left Gillette, WY yesterday afternoon and followed high based, non-severe storms from the Belle Fourche area north to near the North Dakota state border south of Dickinson. There just wasn’t enough moisture to sustain good, organized severe storms/supercells. It was pretty much a bust, for I thought we’d at least see a picturesque supercell. Oh well. My website is currently having some issues, and I’m lucky to get this blog update out, if I can. I’ll try and post pictures soon if the site can come back alive.

Today (Day 5), we are targetting an area between here and Bismarck it appears. The RUC breaks out storms in this area along a stationary front extending southwest to northeast across ND… from a deep surface low over Wyoming. Unclear what kind of storms we’ll be dealing with, but there’ll be higher CAPE today.

Here are some photos from yesterday’s chase:




May 26, 2006

Chase Trip 2006: Day 4 Chase Target Forecast

Filed under: Chase Forecasts/Outlooks,Chase Trip 2006,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 8:15 am

Morning analysis shows a sfc low near Miles City with lower 50s dewpoints in northeastern MT. Looking at the 06z NAM, it appears this first sfc cyclone will continue moving northeast into western ND….with a weak front moving south into far southeastern MT by early afternoon. As this is happening, significant mid level flow perpendicular to the Big Horns will support pronounced lee cyclone development downwind of the Big Horns. The NAM has been showing this for many runs. Looks like that front will stall along a line roughly from Sheridan to Broadus to Capital. Winds east to northeast of this boundary will advect in near 50 dewpoints in this area it appears. 87/50F sfc parcel supports about 1300 to 1500 J/kg CAPE along this axis from Broadus to Capital by 00z. The shear profile looks very good with a broad looping hodograph in the 0-6km layer. This environment certainly supports supercells. Looks like we may head north to Broadus this afternoon.

Chase Trip 2006: Day 3- Eastern Wyoming (sightseeing)

Filed under: Chase Forecasts/Outlooks,Chase Trip 2006 — Mike U @ 7:17 am

Good morning from Gillette, Wyoming. This is as far northwest as any of us have overnighted on a chase trip. We left Scottsbluff, NE after lunch and visited Scottsbluf Nat’l Monument for a little sightseeing. The views from atop the bluffs are pretty amazing… what a great location to watch a supercell from! Here’s a group shot overlooking the city of Scottsbluff:

L to R: Matt Crowther, Stacie Hanes, Steve Wachholder, yours truly, Jay Antle, (Papa Cyclone) Jim Leonard

We then set off for the Devil’s Tower Nat’l Monument arriving there around and hour and a half or so before sunset. The drive up there was quite nice actually, it’s amazingly green out here in northeastern Wyoming. Some of the spring snows have really helped this area out. A marginal supercell thunderstorm developed northwest of Broadus, MT which was visible to our distant NNW from about 150 miles away. It was amazing I was able to hold a digital cell signal and download data at numerous points during the drive from Lusk to Sundance, WY. As we approached Devil’s Tower, that particular storm was weakening somewhat:


We spent a couple hours touring around and photographing Devil’s Tower. We were fortunate enough to have some cirrus clouds and good low sunlight to make the scenes more photogenic:


We arrived at our expensive Clarion Hotel (the only decent place we could find with available rooms given Memorial Day Weekend approaching and being on the interstate halfway between two of the most popular tourist destinations in the country — the Black Hills and Yellowstone.

Today (Day 4, Fri 5/26) looks like a chase day. We will be playing far southeastern Montana it looks like. I think a supercell storm can develop in the area northeast of Billings to Broadus… along the deep layer baroclinic zone. We should see CAPE values around 1000 to 1500 J/kg I think. The forcing will be better than yesterday, so I think there’ll be more storms. We already have reservations for Dickinson, ND in anticipation for what looks like a pretty good Day 5 (Sat 5/27). Jon, Rob, and Mitch will be driving up from Kansas City beginning tonight and will join us for Saturday’s chase. More later!

May 24, 2006

Chase Trip 2006: Day 2- Drive to NE Panhandle

Filed under: Chase Forecasts/Outlooks,Chase Trip 2006,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 3:33 pm

Well I’ll make a quick post here while I still have wireless data on I-80.  We left Lincoln, NE after I picked up my new 18-55mm Nikon lens at the Rockbrook Camera store — which is a pretty darn nice store, might I add.  Anyway, that lens and a UV filter set me back about 200 bucks.  We are with Matt Crowther, Jim Leonard, and Jim’s friend Steve now heading west to the Nebraska Panhandle.  It’s 4:30pm now near North Platte with a nice connection on my Alltel card.  I’m very very pleased with the performance of the Alltel/Kyocera setup… I didn’t expect to have a near-continuous signal and download during the chase yesterday.  It was very nice!  We didn’t miss a single volume scan after we got into Nebraska which was great.

Anyway, a perusal of the models this afternoon (Jay’s driving so I got to do some model crunching :) ), suggest that Friday there could be two plays… one being in the Neb Panhandle as low level moisture advects northwest into the region…and another play could be along the central ND/SD border.  There are some moisture concerns up this far north, though, which we will have to consider.  The best mid-upper flow will be up here though.  Saturday…. man… the "fantasy" 84-hr Eta shows a LOT of low level moisture with a nice surface pattern over North Dakota.  Good west southwesterly flow in this area as well with a halfway decent 700mb baroclinic zone.  There’ll be capping concerns, for sure, but this is where the best shear will be in the whole plains.  Interesting that the GFS is suggesting some moderate 850-500mb flow coming into the Central High Plains and even the TX Panhandle Saturday… but the upper tropospheric flow really stinks in between the main polar jet and the subtropical jet wayyyy to the south.

Anyway, I think the plan is tomorrow will be a leisure day… and we will have several more model runs to pin down Friday and Saturday.  They both look like legit chase days to me with organized severe storms.

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