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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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  1. Spectacular images, Mike. Congrats. The tornado you have pictured in #41 and #42 touched down at 6:30PM MDT and lifted at 6:36PM MDT. We had lost sight of the original tornado due to it being wrapped in rain and brilliant sunshine refracting in the precip. We watched a thin white funnel come around the back side of the wall cloud which touched down at 6:30PM MDT and then wrapped back into the rain. We believe this to be a separate tornado from the “Campo” tornado.

    Comment by Dann Cianca — June 30, 2010 @ 10:10 pm

  2. Thanks again, as always Dann. I appreciate the feedback on the 6:32pm tornado in images 41 and 42. I guess I didn’t realize this was an entirely new tornado, although it makes sense, because I remember the dissipation of the Campo tornado in the very low contrast… but wasn’t sure entirely if it totally died… and then re-developed or what.

    Comment by Mike U — July 2, 2010 @ 10:14 am

  3. Excellent photographs.

    Comment by Tim Shey — July 2, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

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