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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!"

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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  1. Love the photo with the sun flower!

    Comment by Christoffer — September 17, 2009 @ 12:18 am

  2. Love the picture!! Can i buy one??

    Comment by Alfred — October 5, 2009 @ 6:43 pm

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