Nebraska's Big Day

16 June 2014

An upgrade to a moderate risk from the SPC was issued first thing in the morning, on a day which had appeared to be a powerful setup from a couple of days out. A strong upper low over Washington / Oregon was set to drive a warm front through Nebraska and Iowa and dragging huge amounts of moisture through from the south. Once diurnal heating took hold there was set to be over 4000j/kg MLCAPE – for those not versed in the weather, that’s a pretty juicy atmosphere. Although wind would be a little southerly at the surface, the veering with height was resulting in textbook hodographs for strong tornadoes.

We’d made our way to Norfolk, Nebraska for the night. Cambo awoke first, under cloudy skies, and before having time to think about doing any forecasting, realised that there was a line of severe storms heading our way. Contrary to what you might think, given what we’re doing, this isn’t a great way to start the day. We didn’t really know what we were dealing with, and we’d slept in the car and had no coffee yet, which isn’t a good setup for decision making.

After some deliberation we decided that the storms didn’t pose too much of a threat, nor did they need following, so we decided to get our breakfast and sit them out, in close vicinity to a car wash which can provide excellent protection if hail starts falling. In the end the part which hit us wasn’t too severe but provided some good thunder while we decided on our strategy for the day. We believed the best position had shifted further south in response to the warm front stalling somewhat and a couple of outflow boundaries complicating the setup. We headed down to Grand Island, where it was a lot sunnier, and waited to see what popped up.

After a little while we could see a small area of convection on radar, back to our north and heading towards Norfolk. At around this time the SPC released a “Particularly Dangerous Situation” update to our north as well, citing the likelihood of strong tornadoes. We decided to wait a little longer to see what initiated. Unfortunately this was our second mistake (after leaving Norfolk in the first place) and that apparently weak convection was gathering pace rapidly. By the time we realised what was happening the storm was maturing rapidly and we were well over an hour away. We watched, in awe, as reports flooded in of the already infamous double tornadoes, just 10 miles from where we’d woken up. As you might imagine, or be able to tell from my account, this smarts a little!

We waited for 45 minutes that felt like a day for something else to pop up. When it did, we made our way as quickly as possible for it. Unfortunately by the time we got there it had fizzled almost entirely. Meanwhile another storm behind it was gathering strength, so we went straight through the first storm, and threw ourselves at the second one. It was another 45 minute eternity, but one arriving we were treated to some absolutely fantastic structure, with a clearly visible tornado underneath it. It was an incredible site which, sadly, the pictures to not do justice.

Wide Shelf

Weather Photo Tornado Within Mothership

And just in case you missed it...

Weather Photo Tornado Within Mothership With Arrow

Timbo Shelf

We tracked with the storm for a few miles as it went east and caught its structure from a few nice locations.

Shelf Cloud Over The Car

Car Park Shelf 1

Car Park Shelf 2

Lightning From The Anvil

As it weakened and the night set in we found a motel in Neligh, Nebraska. On any other day we’d have been absolutely stoked about the storm we caught, but when you’ve had to sit an hour away from one of the most spectacular convective weather events ever seen, it’s hard to be entirely objective about it however any of our concerns are totally eclipsed by the very real problems that outbreak caused. As ever, whether you're there or not, it's gutting to see the weather you're looking for hurting people. While we donate 10% of anything you spend on our site to causes supporting those affected worldwide by storms, there is also a fantastic organisation called Storm Assist who provide help to those affected.

Key points:

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

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

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Mon June 2014

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