Waiting Games

13 June 2014

Today marked the second of a new setup across the plains – and one that would likely dictate much of the severe weather over the next few days. Yesterday’s upper trough had moved into the north east and a ridge was building to its west. In turn a new trough was pushing in from the west. This trough-ridge-trough sandwich appeared likely to dominate a progressive pattern for a few days and today we were expecting some rapid height falls across the northern plains as the second trough dug in. These height falls would work with the high pressure to advect plenty of moisture throughout the central states and far into the north, although warmer, dryer midlevel air would persist and induce some capping throughout the central states. The trough would be bringing through a warm front meanwhile a stout dryline would be in place in lee of the high plains.

The SPC were forecasting storms in far north east Wyoming into western South Dakota. We took the rare position of deciding to target an area outside the SPCs main target. Our principle reasoning was that we simply couldn’t get our heads around why the SPC were forecasting the main threat where they were, and while they might be much better at this game than us, we always like to know why we’re doing something rather than blindly following anyone, even the SPC. As such we positioned ourselves in Chadron, Nebraska where we felt the setup was marginally better.

Chadron was only half an hour from Alliance, where we’d started the day, so we were in the area in plenty of time. This is classic time to get “didgy” and make a move towards the first bit of convection we could see by eye, radar or satellite imagery, however today we were being obstinate and refused to move, at least till we were convinced there was something good to go for. There was to be no back-and-forth up the same road three times today! We could see some convection out to the west, but we weren’t convinced it was amounting to much, and it seemed to be struggling with the cap, so we waited on...

After around 2 hours we came to the conclusion that the storms that were firing to our west might just be coming to us, so we went about a mile up the road and waited a while longer. It took the storms quite a while to muster much speed or structure, but eventually they did, and did so in full view of us. As we took some photos we were joined by a host of other chasers and tour companies where small armies of photographic soldiers disembarked and shot the storms like crazy, before being hustled back onto their busses and driving off again. We’ve been the people that stop in these little viewing areas before, but it was nice to be the people who were there already for once. And even better not to be the people saying “why did we leave here earlier?”.

Weather Photo Shelf Cloud

Shelf Cloud Approaches Us West Of Chadron Ne

Tim Photographing Shelf

As the groups left there was even a brief rope funnel cloud, fairly high up in the clouds. This was all too disorganised for a tornado, but a funnel was a good start. As we were deciding on our next move we noticed the clouds taking on an unusual formation. The main rotating updraft was now encountering another updraft which was rotating in the opposite direction. Anti-cyclonic updrafts are generally a result of storms splitting, but in this case the anti-cyclonic updraft was on the right side (it should be the left side if the storm has split) and as part of a fairly mature storm. It appeared unusual yet this is the exact scenario we’d witnessed in Roswell just a few days earlier. Once again we saw some fairly dramatic effects of these updrafts interacting, with dust swirls and plumes firing up off the ground below them several times.

Dust Swirls Near Chadron

 We watched this happen a few times around Chadron before we drove through town to follow the storm east. One of the downbursts hit the road right in front of us and we were briefly buffeted around in another dust swirl before we got out east and alongside the storms, which were tracking northeast. Although it was now dusk we were able to take a north road into the storm and get a better view. It became tornado warned as we approached it and every new feature we could see on the cloud base was all the more exciting. Sadly by the time we arrived near enough the storm had become more disorganised, but we got some nice views of remnants from various storms and a great lightning show as we headed back south. Even by the end of the day we’d not even used one tank of fuel. Although not the very best chase day our storms per gallon were probably the highest I can remember!

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

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

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Fri June 2014

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