Sunday, June 11, 2006

Hurrah, a real storm!

Finally, a good supercell. We began the day in Lincoln at Ken Dewey's house. I realized that we would have to get into the target early, because of the potential of storms becoming quickly outflow dominant due to the problem that has plagued us all season, an extreme lack of moisture.

Therefore we blasted west early on met up with Jim L and crew in GRI, and arrived in Ogalalla about 2 PM MDT, where John and Beth Moore joined the caravan.. We hooked into some wifi to check data- and discovered that there was a good supercell near Scottsbluff. As we got on the road, the radar showed that the first storm had a new cell developing on its east side, so we drove north of Oshkosh on the road to the Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge to intercept. About 10 miles north of town a nicely structured but high based storm came into view. While we were still driving we viewed a nice laminar funnel that looked promising, but it croaked by the time we found a good viewing spot. After this point the storm never looked close to tornadoing, but as we watched it develop over the open prairies it became quite a sight. After a half hour or so, it began to approach too closely, so we drove south and east to keep out in front of the cell for the next couple of hours, stopping periodically to view the nice structure and numerous pretty decent gustnadoes. We continued to stay ahead of the storm along I-80 to a point near Sutherland where the HP/shelf structure became very impressive again. However, after a few minutes the storm went downhill fast, so we called it a chase and went back to our motel in OGA.

This was by far our best chase day this extremely enjoyable second to last day of the vacation.
Photos here

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The agony and the ecstasy

Well, I finally have reliable internet access- so am able to post again.

What a last several days- from the high of seeing Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks to the low of completely messing up two chase days where we could have seen the best supercell structure of the trips. First the highs: Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons were awesome- we spent half the day Wednesday photographing the still-snowcovered Grand Tetons, then made our way to Yellowstone, where we were fortunate enough to see Grand Geyser erupt- it is the tallest (mostly) predictable geyser in the world- much better than Old Faithful, which was actually somewhat disappointing. We then toured a lot of the other thermal areas until dark, and made our way to the night's lodgings at the Mammoth Hot Springs Lodge.

The next morning we got up early, toured the Mammoth Hot Springs (not as impressive as in years past, a lot of the bigger springs are not flowing right now).

Then we did a quick tour of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone area (the falls were very impressive due to the high water levels in the rivers).

Photos here

OK, those are the highlights- on to the comedy of errors/blunders that have characterized the last two days.
We rightly decided to head east from the northern section of the park to try and catch some storms in southern Montana. However, as we wended our way from Cody east into the Bighorn mountains to a position north of Sheridan, we continued to have limited cell phone coverage and therefore limited internet access. So when we drove up the interstate to southern Montana, we did not realize the real weather situation in that region- which was in reality very well set up for supercells. As we approached the Little Big Horn area from the south, the thunderstorms in that area looked very junky and outflow dominant from our vantage point. So I made the fatal decision to blow off the storms and head south. BAD mistake. As it turned out, a massive supercell developed not 30 miles from where we turned around, and the photos from chasers that in the area show that this storm was the best of the latter part of the season, structure-wise. DOH!

OK, that was not very good, but there is always tomorrow, right? Yes, always another opportunity to mess up badly, which we did yet again. We should have paid more attention to the possibility of more good storms back in the higher terrain of the western NE/eastern WY area, but NOOOO, we were suckered way to the east into SE South Dakota and eventually far NW Iowa, where we were rewarded by a cluster of crappy high based junk, not anywhere close to being worth the time, effort and money involved. I did get a couple of very nice rainbow shots. The really kick in the a#$ was that yet once again, the smart chasers that decided to stay out west were rewarded with two really great supercells, one in eastern WY, another in Cherry county, NE. I should have realized that this season, due to the extreme lack of moisture, the only real play is to stay in higher terrain, where moisture is maximized. Therefore for what is most likely our last chance before heading home, we will attempt to get at least ONE good supercell in western Nebraska today, before calling it a (crappy) season.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Yellowstone, here we come

Currently in Dubois, WY, in the Wind River valley SE of the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. I have decided that the chance of a really good supercell or a tornado is low tomorrow, so we will spend the day in the national parks. After that I will evaluate the situation for possible chasing up here in WY/SD/NE/MT Thursday and Friday. Then it looks like the last two days of our vacation could be pretty good for chasing Saturday and Sunday.

Today we went to Pawnee Buttes in NE Colorado, and then drove all the way here to Dubois. I will post pics in a few days of our sightseeing portion of the vacation.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Finally, a real supercell

Well, we finally had a pretty decent chase yesterday- we could have seen perhaps the best supercell of the day right near where we started out in McCook, as Jim Leonard and a few others saw a very nice storm in Chase county, NE later in the afternoon that almost produced a tornado, and had some spectacular mammatus at sunset. Still, I am not displeased with what we saw. We had been conversing with Mike Umscheid on the cell phone earlier, and he was convinced that eastern Colorado was the best place to be, and after looking at the data, I agreed. So we took off after a cell that had already developed near Ft Morgan, CO. As we approached Yuma, we could see the original cell to the north, and a new storm to the west near Otis. The radar showed that the southernmost storm was the storm to go after, and visually it looked like it was becoming a supercell. So we dropped south, as the storm was moving basically due south to the west of us. From then on we just stayed due west of the storm all the way down to I-70 near Flagler, where a new LPish updraft formed west of town. We followed this new storm down to near Kit Carson, where we decided to call it a chase.

The storms were not jaw-dropping structure wise, but given the extreme dearth of any real supercells for me this season, it was a very satisfying chase.

We did have incident at the motel this morning in Brush, CO. I stupidly left my CRV unlocked during the night, and a thief decided to do some ransacking of vehicles in the parking lot- he got our XM satellite radio, and a toolbox from the car next to us. No really big deal, but I will have to buy a new radio (not too expensive, I had the cheapest model).

06-06-06 ... it figures.

Photos from the chase here

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The best day of the trip tomorrow?

We are in McCook, NE for the night. We spent the day sightseeing in NE Colorado- went to the Beecher Island battleground north of Burlington and Bonny State park in the same area. We thought that there might be a slight chance of some thunderstorms in western KS, but the strong cap held and we gave up at about 5 PM and headed to McCook to set up for tomorrow. BTW, the Taste of Texas BBQ restaurant in McCook is highly recommended- probably the best food of my vacation so far. Do not miss the home made pies.

Tomorrow looks like perhaps the best chance for legitimate supercells and perhaps even tornadoes on this trip so far- still not the ideal situation as the moisture is still not up to par, but other factors look pretty good in central Nebraska. Then it is back out west for some sightseeing as the Tuesday-Thursday period looks to be dominated by the large upper ridge over the Rockies. We may try to get to Yellowstone for Wednesday and Thursday. After that perhaps more chasing will be in the cards for the last few days of the vacation- we shall see.

The last hurrah begins

Sitting in Burlington, Co after a semi-bust in western KS. After picking Betsy up at the airport we decided to head NW to set up for possible chasing Sunday and Monday. I knew that there was a chance of some severe storms in western KS on the way, but supercells were a long shot. Sure enough a few cells erupted south of Goodland, KS at about 4 PM, but the extreme lack of moisture that has plagued this season so far resulted in very high based storms that were marginally pretty for a while- I did get a few decent photos, but nothing all that fantastic. We blew off these storms early and headed to Burlington for the night. There we got an unexpected bonus- we got to ride one of the most unique hand-carved wooden carousels in the country- built in 1905, PTC # 6 is truly a national treasure and is a National Historic Landmark. We had wanted to ride/see this for years, but the hours are limited in the spring/summer, and this was the first time it was open while we were in this area.

Photos here

Today looks like a down day, but tomorrow may be a chance for chasing in the area from central NE to central SD.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Chase vacation part 2 to begin....maybe?

Traveled back to OKC yesterday, Jim is now going to pick up his next tour group tomorrow, and I pick up Betsy.

I have finally posted pics from the chases of the 6 day period from May 26 to May 31st. They are

The weather situation still looks very marginal for really good supercells and especially tornadoes for the last 10 days of my vacation, as the long-wave pattern is still not cooperating at all. However, we may still pull a rabbit out of a hat up in the northern plains beginning Sunday, stranger things have happened.