Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The storm that almost did it

DAY 8, JUNE 1, 2008

Today, we met Felix from France. He was going to follow us on our chases for the next couple of days.

We left Liberal, KS to heard north on hwy 83 and stopped in Garden City for a data stop. Since we pulled in late, Ron didn't get a chance to check on the models. The poor man needed some sleep! He is one dedicated individual, but if he wanted to sleep, he must have been very tired. We did one more stop in Oakley so Ron could get more updated models and analyze them, while Felix filmed him. A cirrus cloud deck with a nice cumulus field was setting in, and a solar halo formed.

We headed west on I70. Pam mentioned she had to go to the bathroom, so we tried to look for one opened in a small town called Kanorado. This placed looked a little poor and to our surprise we coudln't find any decent bathrooms, so we continued to Burlington, CO to eat lunch at, you guessed it... Sonic! That place is great when you need a hot meal right away at a good price.

Ron decided to drive with Felix, while I helped Jack navigate us north to Julesburg on hwy 385. I was constantly checking satellite and surface winds. Things were coming together nicely, with southeast surface backing winds. SPC issued a tornado watch for west of where we wanted to go. Storms were firing up in northcentral Nebraska in Cherry county and creating an outflow boundary, while another storm was developing near Scottsbluff, NE from upslope flow. I figured the outflow boundary would track west as the Scottsbluff storm tracked eastward. It was only moving ENE at 29 mph according to the Baron. I watched the storm on radar as it continued to organize better and turn supercellular. It eventually looked like it was going to split and become a right mover.

When we got to Julesburg, we continued north towards the storm. The storm looked like it was back building and the anvil just kept pushing out rock hard. We took some dirt back roads and saw some beautiful structure, including two wall low bulky wall clouds. We turned left on another back road to try to get closer to the wall cloud. I happened to look up above us and see a pointy funnel cloud almost right above us. I told Jack to stop now. We watched the funnel cloud but it dissipated, so we continued on. It seemed to remind me of what happened in Pratt, KS on Monday. Off in the distance, we saw a downburst form. We had to cut through part of the rain and hail core. I really wanted to get us to the other side of the core, but the road options were a little less to be desired in this area. I saw a road that went south on Streets and Trips, but it was just a cattle road. Great. Jack said we were getting too far from where we wanted to be, so we pulled over. Ron came back to ride with us and try to find a way to get on the other side of the core. We turned around to get back on an actual highway.

We cut through the hail core once more on I80 and pulled off on the shoulder under an overpass to wait out the hail. It was starting to accumulate. Once it let up a bit, we headed back west and south to get a better view of the wall cloud. By now the Baron was showing a hook forming and a tornado warning was issued. The supercell was turning right, as I had thought it would do. The RFD opened up and kicked up a whole bunch of dust in the fields so high it went up into the wall cloud. Ron got us in position where the inbound and outbound winds were meeting. If it was going to produce a tornado, it was going to do it nearby, so we had to keep our eyes peeled. There was a lot of inflow and outflow kicking up dust and a few times it almost looked like something was going to develop. We continued north. No tornadic vortex signatures were indicated but some shear couplets were picked up, although nothing too dangerous. We re-entered the hail core one last time. It was amazing that our windshield held up. We figured it would have a few weak spots because of the chips in it. Once we got out of the hail core again, we saw a nice bell shaped storm to our south with lightning flashing in it. Beautiful! I wanted to get a shot so Ron pulled over for me. I had to stand under the back hatch, but I was still getting a bit wet. I managed to get a couple of good stills with the bell shaped storm and cloud to cloud lightning.

We stayed in Ogallala, NE tonight at a Super 8 and plan to head due east tomorrow's moderate risk. Oh yeah, did I mentioned I typed this at 2 am? I don't need no stinkin' sleep!

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