2 mins of Coldfront Joy

01 June 2014

We both woke very bleary eyed this morning. Tim from doing such an epic drive the night before to get nearer our target play for today and me because I was woken in the middle of the night by a powerful storm with winds shaking the car. I spent a while awake hiding in my sleeping bag in fear whilst the car rocked. All rationalisation leaves me in these situations whilst my imagination runs away with me and I start thinking that we are going to be hit by a big tornado that has somehow managed to escape all forecast and is set to surprise the country! I kind of love it and hate it!

Even though we had managed to clock off a big proportion of the drive south last night from Montana to Nebraska, there was still a long way to go if we wanted to position on forecasted storms down in Kansas.

The setup was as follows: a shortwave trough and deepening surface low in Colorado with accompanying cold front and dryline stretching through eastern Colorado and western Kansas. A secondary low was situated just east of the front and this is where we expected storms. The existence of the surface low pressures created the low level south easterly flow which would drive moisture into the region and the fronts would act as a necessary point of convergence at the surface.

There was a surprising amount of early morning storms in effect already with a weak MCS to our east as we drove - an upscaled version of what had hit us overnight. We even found ourselves driving alongside elevated severe warned mess on the way to our target position. But we kept on heading south in the search of clearer skies which would be the areas likely to destabilise the most and therefore hold the highest chance of better, more discrete storms later.

Model guidance had suggested the development of an MCS later into the evening so we erred on the side of caution and stayed to the west side of Kansas to ensure positioning on the west end of the line should it form later.

We headed south to Goodland, Kansas but on the way a few cells popped up to our east. We went to have a look but approaching from the west is always difficult for positioning as you end up chasing the cell too much rather than going for an intercept. It also didn’t look explosive enough and after going up seemed to stay kind of average looking. So we continued south and stayed with our original plan. There were a few stronger looking storms now firing further south and it wasn’t long before a few of these became severe warned.

There was one in particular, that we had seen pop up in eastern Colorado and which was now in western Kansas and if we were lucky we could get underneath and in front of it before it crossed our path, leaving us in the best position on it.

Our route south wasn’t helped by having to wait in building traffic as we watched whilst an oversized lorry complete with accompanying flashing lights and flags and carrying part of one of those huge wind turbine attempting a turn in the middle of the road. In fact, after a few painstaking minutes we did an about turn ourselves and sought out a longer but ultimately quicker route south. It worked and we got out in front of the heavy loader. Our timing was incredibly close with the storm however and we scraped in front if it only taking a few hits of small hail, which the storm was throwing out quite a distance.

By this time, a few more cells had popped up and now we were surrounded by a cluster of 5 severe warned storms, some with 3 inch hail being reported on them, but all with seemingly high enough bases to limit any tornado threat.

We had enough time to get out and take photos for all of 2 minutes before we had to push further south and get out of its path.

First Cell

We then continued south to get under the next approaching cell which unfortunately never looked as ominous as the first. We tracked with this one into the town of Dighton in central western Kansas, driving through a faint and later reported landspout on route! We did wonder what the very faint swirling brown dust was! We waited here for a bit and got a few photos. By this point many of the now failing storms were congealing to form a weak MCS.

Others were just fizzling and losing any degree of severity. So we tried our luck a little further north at Gove City with another developing cell, but unfortunately it didn’t have the legs either and by the time we arrived was just a mass of grey featureless cloud. We did see a cool rainbow on route through from one of the other storms just to our east who was trying his hardest to keep strength.


At this point, we agreed the remaining storms in our vicinity sucked and decided to call it a day and head to a motel in Oakley, Kansas which after spending 3 days in the car was not a disappointing prospect in the slightest. The disappointment however was to come a little later when we were unable to buy beer anywhere in Kansas because it was a Sunday!? Bloody old fashioned prohibition laws. I decided even if I had to drive all night until it was Monday, we were going to get some beer! In fact we ended up returning to an old favourite motel in Burlington, Colorado where we successfully bought beer and celebrated with a belated birthday meal of… you guessed it, special beans!

Key points:

West Central Kansas – flat, gridded roads but not too many choices.

Can’t buy beer in Kansas on a Sunday! 


SPC Day 1 Weather Outlook as at 06:00UTC (01:00 Central Time the night before)

SPC 01:00UTC day 1 forecast for Sun June 2014

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Sun June 2014

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