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 30, 2010

Chase Account 31 May 2010 Pritchett-Campo, CO [Part 3 of 3]

Filed under: Chase Accounts,Latest Chases,Storm Chasing — Mike U @ 7:30 pm
The long-lived, significant tornadic supercell of 31 May 2010 will go down as probably my most thoroughly and successfully documented significant tornadic supercell in my 13 years of storm chasing.  There were three distinct phases of this storm chase, and as such, I will document this account and share my images in 3 parts.  The first phase (Part 1 of 3) was the time frame from roughly 2:45pm to 4:30pm which included a 20-minute tornado southwest of Pritchett, Colorado.  The second phase was a long period from 4:30pm to about 7:00pm when the supercell was non-tornadic but still cycled through several significant occlusions, one of which was very close to being tornadic (Part 2 of 3).  Lastly, the Campo, Colorado significant tornado, the hallmark moment of this supercell, will be documented in Part 3 along with the post-tornado sunset structure as the storm rolled southeast into the Oklahoma Panhandle northeast of Boise City.

Part 3 of 3. 7:00 to 9:00pm CDT (The Campo Tornado)

(times CDT unless otherwise noted.  numbers in brackets refer to the image number in the embedded image album at the end of this post)

Once I reached Hwy 287 again after spending some time just east of there on County Road C, I decided to just find a nice viewing area along the highway and pull off to watch the structure evolve to my north.  I was actually observing the new lowered area directly up the road to my north initially… and not the more occluded area behind it and to the west a little bit [1,2].  The occluded area behind was showing a marked increase in rotation and just moments after noticing thing and it catching my interest, a nub funnel had developed [3].  Well in just 10 to 15 seconds, this initial nub funnel cloud continued to stretch, becoming a much more formidable funnel cloud [4-7], and eventually a fully condensed funnel all the way to the surface.  Initially, I was shooting with just my D3 and the 14-24mm ultra wide lens, but once I saw the funnel develop, I grabbed the D200 with the 18-70mm lens and and both wrapped around my neck to shoot with.  I didn’t realize until after the fact that my D200 was about a minute and a half ahead of my D3, which made chronological sorting my images in Lightroom a challenge.  I remained at this location for the first 10 minutes of the tornado, and little did I realize the first 6 or 7 minutes that the tornado was closing in on my location.  The first stage of this tornado from about 7:09 to 7:11 or 7:12 featured this absolutely glorious, tall elephant’s trunk that angled slightly to the west from cloud based [9-14].  This offered wonderful composition opportunities at around 50 to 70mm, both vertical and horizontal.

Times on map are Mountain Daylight Time.  Numbers refer to image numbers in the embedded album at the end of this post.

At around 7:13pm or so, it finally kicked up a nice visible dust cloud at about the time the condensation funnel widened and become ever so slightly truncated near the ground [15-24].  This stage lasted until around 7:15pm or so and then a very dark, dusty debris cloud formed as the tornado was approaching Hwy 287 to my north-northwest [25-29].  Since the tornado was getting a little closer, the condensation funnel was becoming a little more spectacular.  As the tornado was approaching the highway, there were more and more chasers bailing south, and since I stayed put a little bit longer, I got a number of wide angle images of the tornado with storm chaser (and non chaser) vehicles going south on the highway.. as well as the green highway mileage sign “Springfield 29, Campo 7″.  At around 7:17pm or so, the tornado crossed Hwy 287, and around this time, a huge surge of dust from the field in front of me blasted across the highway in a 60-75mph west RFD [34,35].  In image 35, you will see a vehicle’s headlights totally immersed in this RFD dust advancing east immediately ahead of the tornado itself.  I was still outside of my Jeep photographing all of this just right up the road, and after Image 35, I bailed ass south about a half a mile, but not before getting in on some of that dust.  The wind was so strong, I could hardly open my driver side door and my glasses wanted to blow off my face.  I estimated the wind to be about 65 to 70 mph or so.  This was just a narrow RFD jet, and I got out of this RFD surge only about a quarter to half mile south on the highway, where I stopped again.

Times on map are Mountain Daylight Time.  Numbers refer to image numbers in the embedded album at the end of this post.

The tornado was now getting into a bit better light as I photographed it just east of the highway to my northeast [36-40].  At times, the foreground lit up in brilliant saturated greens/yellows with a wonderfully contrasted white/light gray tornado condensation funnel in the background complete with a dark brown dusty debris cloud.  This was just simply amazing!  Soon, though, another big RFD surge can rotating around the tornado and I got blasted again with 60 to 70mph wind gusts from the west-northwest.  This time, I had to take my glasses off and just carry them in fear of them being blown off onto the highway and break.  This wind was damn strong, slightly exceeding the crazy inflow winds I experienced with the Bowdle supercell on May 22nd.  I am guessing the peak wind gust there where I was at was near 75mph.  It was time to move south again.  The tornado either dissipated or completely wrapped in rain, and I stopped again a couple miles south before re-emerging again shortly after 7:30pm to my east-northeast as a white tornado somewhat wrapped in rain with a rainbow off to its south.  I had totally filled up my compact flash cards, mainly due to the fact that I still had some images from a previous chase on there that I forgot to delete off a couple of the cards.  I finally lost sight of the tornado shortly after this time and I made my way down toward Boise City then drove east to catch back up with the storm.  Sunset light was simply amazing with beautiful hues of gold, orange, and pinks as the high-based supercell continued to march east.  I finally ended the chase as I approached Hwy 136 and made my way back home…completing the most amazing high-based tornadic supercell intercept in my 13 years of storm chasing.

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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 update 6-26 755pm cdt

Filed under: chase mode updates — Mike U @ 8:01 pm

Well this chase day is over. It was not worth the drive as the storms were very unphotogenic in South Eastern, South Dakota I am heading south in the general direction of home probably staying along I 80 in Grand Island probably for the night, and will head on home tomorrow. There’s an outside chance I might chase. Some photogenic storms along the front, here home, but that’s somewhat doubtful more later.

[ Transcribed by MyCaption ]

chase update 6/26 3:55pm cdt

Filed under: chase mode updates — Mike U @ 3:58 pm

I’m sitting along hwy 37 between Parkston and Tripp, SD (south of
Mitchell), where there is a very moist southeast wind temperature
around 90 and a dewpoint around 73 to 75 degrees with surface-based
cape exceeding 5,000 J/kg. Extreme instability right now, and I am
monitoring some surface based cumulus growth to my west and southwest,
with an initial small storm trying to develop just south of Lake
Andes. This may be the start of the show. Tornadic supercell is
likely in this environment early this evening across far southeast
South Dakota, perhaps near Sioux Falls.

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 update 6/22

Filed under: chase mode updates — Mike U @ 10:25 pm

Evan and I are in Cheyenne WY for the night after a fairly successful day of storm photography. The supercell we chased was beautiful from the south as we were trying to catch up with it along I-80 just east of the Wyoming border. Images will be posted on the blog tomorrow morning.


Filed under: chase mode updates — Mike U @ 5:48 pm

Beast north of I 80

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