Michelle my Bell

04 June 2014

Wednesday was a great day, a classic chase with one of our favourite setups and the chance of supercells cruising east across the front range. Modest CAPE was in place and the southeasterly upslope flow was to bring just enough moisture into the area. Model guidance supported this breaking out a few cells late afternoon and continuing the development late into the evening with the potential of a few larger cells tracking south east and crossing the border into Kansas.

We headed south from Julesburg which is on the Colorado / Nebraska border to our old faithful hangout of Sterling where we stocked up on lunch bits from Walmart, went for a run in a nearby park, soaked up the glorious rays, realised on days like this we really do have the best hobby and waited patiently for storms to start firing off the higher terrain. True to expectations it wasn’t long before the first few tops were visible on radar and we headed down to Last Chance, a place further south.

It wasn’t long before we bumped into our first storm. We could see its swirling rain curtains backlit across the fields as we drove to get closer to the core. We set ourselves up in a great position to watch it as it slowly rumbled past, growing in intensity as it did, with another now following suit behind.

Early

We sat there for quite a while, lapping up the serenity of this part of Colorado and taking photos until the hail core edged close enough to push us on to the next stopping point where we had to let this storm move off northeast whilst we focussed on the second in line, taking some more photos as it approached. In both cases, they were perfect examples of extremely photogenic low precip supercells.

LP Supercell And Lightning

The road we were on lent itself perfectly for tracking with this second storm and further up the road we stopped for a third time, this time overwhelmed by the display of the biggest mammatus we have ever seen. This wasn’t actually visible from the car and came as a surprise as I got out of the passenger seat and looked up. The shock factor of what appeared to be the sky falling down on me was enough to take my breath away. It was beautiful, if a little disturbing!

Mama

Mama2

I couldn’t stop taking photos of it and it was only when we started being pelted with pea size hail did we get back in the car and drive on a little further east. Here we met up with fellow chaser friend Nathan from England and we watched the slow demise of this incredible storm.

But all was not over. There was yet another cell on the approach and its base was clear under the decaying second storm. We parted company with Nathan at this point who chose to head west and approach this third cell from the north potentially using dirt roads to get into position. We had decided to avoid any chance of being caught on dirt tracks which offer such little traction, especially when wet and instead head south to then get under it.

We were only about 2 minutes into our journey when the bloody thing became tornado waned. We quickly did an about turn and headed west too. At least this way, even if we stayed on paved roads, we could see the tornado if it happened, albeit from quite a distance but arguing the case that the little amount of precip would help our cause with visibility.

As we got nearer we could see the awesome bell-like development of the updraft. It’s rare to see such fantastic structure like this and I think it’s probably one of the best storms I’ve ever seen. We could see the raggedy wall cloud at the base and the only consolation for not being closer was that we were both as equally frustrated as each other! But it’s hard to feel frustration for long with a view like this, no matter how far away it is. It was absolutely incredible. What a sight.

Bell

The lightning was epic too and we chanced our luck with the frequent CGs to get some shots of the lightning lit anvil with mamma at sunset.

End

Weather Photo Anvil Crawler At Sunset

At the same time, we noticed on radar, yet another cell that had developed over Denver and was heading this way. Before long, this became the dominant in the area but unfortunately the lack of light made intercepting this in the dark a little too risky. We did head that way, but only to witness the impressive lightshow from the safety of the I70 where an about turn was possible in no time. As it happened this supercell then went on to produce a long tracked multi-vortex tornado that edged past Limon and unfortunately caused quite a lot of damage on its south east track down the US287.

Recognising this as the marked end of a fantastic chase day, we headed east and to the relative safety of a Walmart car park in Goodland, Kansas where we then let the somewhat weakened northern part of this supercell complex hit us with what it had left as we reclined our car seats and fell asleep to the calming rumbles with only the occasional awakening flash or 2. A perfect chase day – thank you Colorado!

Key points:

Last chance is a great place to position using the US36 for east tracking storms or the US287 for south east movers.

The dirt roads heading south from the US36 are unpaved and not great even when dry.

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

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

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Wed June 2014

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