High Plains Drifter

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and do not necessarily represent those of official National Weather Service forecast products,
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August 24, 2009

Chase Acct: August 16, 2009 (Northeast CO)

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Latest Chases,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 3:36 am

…Hailstorm, Rainbow, and a carpet of Sunflowers east of Greeley, CO…

I was very pleased with the outcome of this chase…despite the fact that the storm I followed was less than severe amidst dewpoint temperatures in the mid 40s east of Greeley, CO. This was the final day of a two-day chase, and I decided to make this day a chase day after interrogating model data early that morning. A very “cold” upper air trough for this time of year was still positioned across the northern Rockies with a smaller scale short-wave trough expected to rotate through southern Wyoming by afternoon. This would bring a shot of mid level cold advection with 500mb temps around -14C impinging on the Front Range by late afternoon. In this environment, even a surface parcel of about 77F over 45F dewpoint still yielded enough CAPE for a photogenic storm. You don’t need high CAPE for great storm photography in Colorado, especially with really good deep layer shear present — which was the case this day. I had a target around Limon initially, however I never made it down to the I-70 corridor. I drove southwest toward the Denver metro on I-76 instead.

I figured the best storms would be developing either right along the Front Range or just east. Given the depleted moisture from the prior night’s cold front, the best CAPE in return southeasterly flow would be banked up against the higher terrain. The drive down I-76 was interesting earlier in the day. Wildflowers… mainly wild sunflowers… were rampant. It was a very thick carpet of sunflowers in some of these fields for as far as the eye could see. It was a rather incredible sight — thanks to the wet spring and summer across the region. I drove as far southwest as Hudson, then west to I-25. By this time, a few weak showers dotted the Front Range from my southwest to west-northwest. A small storm was beginning to develop up near Cheyenne, which was quite visible from my location, so I drifted north on I-25 to position myself accordingly to keep this area in play — but I really didn’t want to pursue a storm that far north given the drive back I had to make to Dodge City. I drove as far north on I-25 as Wellington then east to near Nunn. I sat along a farm road between Wellington and Nunn for about an hour or so — becoming increasingly frustrated by how slow things were evolving. The showers off the mountains just weren’t cutting it — turning to garbage “virga bombs” as they rolled east toward me off the mountains.

After awhile, I became impatient, and the time was going past 5:00pm CDT. I was gettng hungry, so I stopped at a fast food joint and grabbed a quick dinner north of Greeley. Sure enough, taking my mind and eyes off the sky for a little bit did the trick! When I came out of the restaurant, there was a storm to my south-southeast…just exiting the northeastern fringes of the Denver metro. This was my target storm and I plotted an intercept southeast of Greeley following Hwy 34. After studying this storm for a bit both visually and on radar, it quickly became evident that this storm was a left-mover — in other words, the updraft region was on the north flank of the storm — and was moving quickly to the northeast. Given this, I needed to get north if I wanted to photograph the updraft region of the storm. I saw a county road on the map near the Riverside Reservoir — and it was a race against the hail core to get there. The northwestern fringes of the core reached me at the same time I reached my north option, so I had to blast north in order to stay ahead of it.

I drove north a good 7 or 8 miles before I get well enough ahead of the core, and by that time, most of the precip core was now going to be east of me as it tracked northeast. I found a spot to photograph the storm from looking east — another incredible field full of wild sunflowers! Incredible! The landscape, the distant hail core of the storm… all this color was just phenomenal. Then a partial rainbow formed, and the scene became even more spectacular! Wow!! I was having a field day tromping through waist-high wild sunflowers shooting this incredible scene. The ~ 15 minutes I spent at this one spot watching this sub-severe storm move away from me amidst this incredible field of yellow was well worth the two-day trip! No doubt about it.

This storm got away from me, but that was okay, there were more developing to pursue. I eventually went after a storm to my southwest, to the south of Keenesburg. I got ahead of this storm, which was the more traditional “right mover”, as the updraft region was on the south side. This storm was also sub-severe, but the updraft area was decently organized…although cloud-to-ground lightning was my main focus with this storm…and I managed to get a few images. I followed this storm until sunset east to Hwy 71 at Woodrow. It was a long drive back to Dodge City, arriving back home about 3:30am or so.

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August 16, 2009

Homeward bound after a successful storm photography evening!

Filed under: chase mode updates — Mike U @ 9:14 pm

Heading home. It will be a very late arrival to DDC, and I will
likely have to stop at least once for a shut eye. ETA to DDC 3 or
4am, glad I called work to come in at 10am! Will get images uploaded
tomorrow night sometime. Very good stormscapes with rich colors,
contrast, foreground subjects… and CG lightning to cap things off!
Well worth it! Go lower-mid 40s dewpoints!

Mike Umscheid Photography



Left moving hail storm

Filed under: chase mode updates — Mike U @ 6:42 pm

Beautiful colorful colorado with a field full of wild sunflowers!!
(Sent by Mike’s Alltel Blackberry smartphone)

Virga! Mountain convection

Filed under: chase mode updates — Mike U @ 4:44 pm

Looking west from a location about 15 northeast of ftr collins. Must be patient. Still think fairly aggressive developent is likey as the cold advection in thje mid levels increases. Small storm north of cheyenne looks interesting at times visually but that is too far north since I have to drive back to dodge city tonite
(Sent by Mike’s Alltel Blackberry smartphone)

aftn update 8/16

Filed under: chase mode updates — Mike U @ 2:31 pm

at 1:30pm MDT, I am northeast of Denver along I-76 by about 25 miles.
There’s a bit of a moisture problem out here! I expected a moisture
deficiency, but man, upper 30s to lower 40s dewpoints? LOL. What did
I get myself into. There will still be storms developing and moving
out onto the adjacent plains later on this afternoon/evening, but the
moisture problem is… a problem! The saving grace will be strong
500mb cold advection and vigorous upper support coming out with
another shortwave trough rotating around the base of the longwave
trough. My focus will probably be lightning in this CAPE deficient
environment. I’ll probably loiter around this area for awhile
watching the cumulus percolate over the front range and foothills.

Mike Umscheid Photography



Chase Acct: August 15, 2009 (Western NE)

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Latest Chases,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 9:25 am

I was targeting the Sidney, NE area for supercell storms on August 15th.  I left Dodge City early in the morning and made it to Sidney by around 2:30 to 3:00pm or so.  The initial convection I was watching was north to northwest of Sidney, and I drove north to highway 26 at Broadwater.  I had a decision to make:  drive north on 385 to Alliance and follow the activity developing north of me…or head east-southeast toward a congested cumulus field closer to upper 60s dewpoints.  I chose the latter — heading east-southeast to Lake McConaughy.  An isolated storm developed northwest of the lake which was showing some interesting organized structure, but I could never find a good location to shoot this storm from as sunlight was really hampering photography opportunities… therefore I didn’t get any images of this storm.  When I repositioned farther south, the storm vanished at the blink of an eye it seemed like.  Even at this point, I still could have driven north to Arther and highway 92 area, but chose not to.  In the end, the highway 2 corridor from Alliance to Hyannis to Thedford was the place to be this day — or on I-70 in northwest Kansas where an isolated supercell thrived away from the MCS I was chasing.  The “butt” end of the linear storm complex I was only photogenic when the storms were northwest of the lake.  I drove north on a sand road called Berry Road north of the lake off highway 92.  The scenery was fantastic along this road!  Below are a few images of the storms northwest of me from along Berry Road north of Lake McConaughy:

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August 15, 2009

Chase day done. Less than stellar results

Filed under: chase mode updates — Mike U @ 9:06 pm

I am in Paxtun NE where ill b staying the nite. Photographed fairly decent storm structure northwest of Lake Mcconaghy (sp?). Rather pissed seeing that nice isolated supercell erast of goodland. Oh well. Will get some images of this chase on the blog later tonite or tmrw morning. Noty sure if I will b chasin tomorrw or not. A morning decision.
(Sent by Mike’s Alltel Blackberry smartphone)

608pm cdt lewellen, neb

Filed under: chase mode updates — Mike U @ 6:09 pm

(Sent by Mike’s Alltel Blackberry smartphone)

Winds have veered to southeast!

Filed under: chase mode updates — Mike U @ 3:12 pm

3:12pm cdt 8/15…The anticipated veering of surface winds from north
to southeast has occurred! I am in Sidney at this time watching
cumulus almost all quads (except southeast)… there are storms over
the Laramie Mountains which will eventually move out onto the plains
of far southeastern Wyoming. At the same time, low level moisture
will continue to advect on the now southeasterly surface flow. I
think it’s still too early to jump on anything quite yet, as storms
may form very near here, so I’d hate to bust west toward Kimball/Pine
Bluffs only to find out that a storm exploded back east near Sidney…
so I’ll sit here for a little bit I think.

Mike Umscheid Photography



Mid aftn update 8/15

Filed under: chase mode updates — Mike U @ 2:19 pm

Just outside of julesburg near my target area. I’m on the western edge of the goog moisture. There are some weak storms near cheyenne and weld county colorado which will be moving into a better environment over the next couple hours. There is also a congested cu field to my north and northeast but chasing anything that forms in that area will take me into the sand hills. Not sure if I want that play. Ill probably sit tight in the sidney-julesburg area and see how things evolve
(Sent by Mike’s Alltel Blackberry smartphone)

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