Today's Weather & Photos
The Last Chase - 17 June 2014
Our time out here is fast coming to a close for this season. Unfortunately today was our last opportunity to chase and with our flights being from California in 2 days’ time, we felt it would be wise to try to pick the target that wouldn’t add to the already 20 hour journey we were facing.
Obviously if the only target was way out east we would have gone for it, but with 2 choices of targets, one to the east over roughly the same area as yesterday and one further west over South Dakota which was preferable for then heading straight south afterwards, we opted for west.
An early start and 5 hours driving got us close to the western edge of the South Dakota border. To the northwest a surface low was driving moisture into the area as it shifted southeast towards the South Dakota / Nebraska border. With this low came a sagging warm front which was to be the focus for storms from mid-late afternoon, with support hopefully coming from a mid-level impulse due over the region at roughly the hour of peak heating. Any storms that did fire should remain discrete and super cellular.
By early afternoon, storms had already started to fire off the more northern part of the warm front but it wasn’t feasible for us to reach this northern extent. We knew this might be the case and were holding out for more action further south. We continued to drive north toward Rapid City. On route however, cells were starting to show signs of developing around us, a little south of the SPC’s warned area.
So we decided to stay put and see what happened. Shortly after this the SPC put a mesoscale discussion out for this more southern area with the potential for a weather watch in time, which got us really excited.
Unfortunately however there were also a line of 3 cells further southeast and as it happened the cell that had fired up directly above us didn’t amount to much and it was these 3 cells further east that the later watch was issued for.
So within a flash and without a moment to waste we drove off in pursuit of these other 3, the towering tops of which we could see in the distance. The roads were difficult though; windy and slow and frustratingly we were about 20 minutes shy of the optimal time to be on each of the cells. We managed to get there in time to watch them fizzle out, after having cycled through to a level of maturity and then put down a tornado!
Deflated but still determined, we tried to keep with the last one that unlike the other 2 didn’t appear to be weakening. However hard we tried though, scarce roads always kept us at least 20 miles from a good viewing place on the storm. We tried to shoot off in front of it and then east to get underneath it as it approached but by this time is was becoming mixed up with other cells in the area. There were quite a few popping up in front of us and either side, but once again we couldn’t manage to get in front of any for a good viewing point. The rate at which these towers were going up was incredible. I haven't seen such billowing powerful updrafts like this for a while.
We ended up with some piccies, once again, from behind the now most dominant storm in the area. It was certainly beautiful but it became clear that there was much more going on the other side. We were nearly tempted to just punch through the core to get into a better position but reports of tornadoes within this storm kept us from this potentially foolhardy decision.
Instead we, once again, took it on the chin. In hindsight we should have probably tried harder to stay in front of any of the storms when we could but it’s these painful situations that give you the experience to know better next time.
If it hadn’t been for the ridiculous amount of tornado reports in once again today for both this area and that further east, it would still have in all honesty been a pretty frustrating day. The number of reports was just the icing on the cake, especially when they included 30 minute long near stationary tornadoes in mostly rural areas. But that’s what gives storm chasers their constant drive I guess. A desire to do better next time and a chance to play the game again.
For now, it’s time to head home and drool over photos of the amazing storms we did manage to play well this year and count down the days till season 6! Bye bye stormies...
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SPC Day 1 Weather Outlook as at 06:00UTC (01:00 Central Time the night before)
SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.