Sunday, June 11, 2006

Montana Supercell


Today we were headed off to southeastern Montana. It was going to be quite a bit of a drive. Ron was certain that there would be a supercell near Billings, MT. CAPE was 3000 with a lifted index of -9. A triple point low was setting up in the target area.

On our way north, we saw the mountains off to the west. It was a nice view. We continued on northwest. We were getting into hilly country. Once we arrived in the town of Hardin, MT, we saw a developing storm to the west. We headed west towards Billings. Off in the distance, we could see a wall cloud forming around 2:50 pm MST. Then, once some hills cleared, we noticed a wedge-shaped feature coming down from the wall cloud. It had good solid sides, and was more than three quarters to the ground, with a fuzzy looking bottom. Ron is certain it was a tornado. It could have been a weak one. I guess that brings our tube count on this trip to 5. Not too bad for such a quiet storm season I must say! Baron did happen to pick up the brief rotation cuplet during this time.

The supercell’s structure wasn’t looking too bad. In fact at one point it almost looked like it was starting to corkscrew. We took some back roads to get closer to the wall cloud. We pulled over to snap some pictures and take video, then we continued on. The wall cloud then started to dissipate.

We wanted to get ahead of the storm again, but unfortunately Montana does not offer very many good road options, so we had to do a big loop around on some back roads with lots of big hills. We got into the RFD region. Ahead of us, one of the trees got blown down by the force of the winds. We had to be pretty careful around here with all the trees.

By now it was looking like the supercell was beginning to go linear. Ron expected the storm to head eastward and meet up with the converging winds coming from the east, which should make the storm more organized once again. The Baron was indicating that the storm’s height was 55,000 feet high. When we were on the back roads, it looked like the storm was becoming a bit more outflow dominant. We also saw some cattle, dogs and bunnies on the back road. Everything just seems to be on the road in Montana. We finally got back on the interstate to get ahead of the storm. I looked back, and noticed a small shelf cloud beginning to form. I was expecting the shelf cloud would get bigger.

At 6 pm, we went to get some ice cream at a Dairy Queen in Forsyth. We were hoping that the storm would head eastward and cross the interstate ahead of us. When we were done chewing and swallowing our grub, Ron looked at the Baron. Dang it! The storm was becoming a right mover. That kinda screwed up our plans. So, we headed back southwest to go back to Hardin and get a hotel for the night. Off to the west, a nice outflow boundary was setting up. TCU was forming along it at a good pace. We saw a partial rainbow in the rain curtains from the storm.

Once we got to the hotel in Hardin, I snapped some pics of the storm’s anvil off in the distance.

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