Another Spell of Colorado Magic

24 May 2015

We awoke in Garden City Walmart after an entertaining evening in Applebee’s and with a mild hangover for the first time in a while. Today looked to have some decent chances at storms from eastern Colorado through to the Texas panhandle. After a reasonable amount of deliberation we decided on our old faithful location of Springfield in far southeast Colorado.

By the time we made it to Springfield there were already a few storms firing up to our north and west. We deliberated for a few minutes, and Cambo found some new lucky trousers in the store we stopped outside, so the forecast automatically improved. We picked a cell to the north and made our way up the road towards Lamar. The early life of the storm was somewhat unusual. It was developing close, but just about isolated from, 3 other storms. It had some reports of wall clouds on it, though it seemed somewhat disorganised, and from where we got to the most interesting parts of the storm were hidden behind some mild convection that had popped up ahead of it. While the storm appeared to stall we found a great waiting place by the road and decided to wait and see how it progressed.

That bit of convection in front of the main supercell grew, and then the main cell split, with the dominant right split appearing to ingest this smaller storm. This then reorganised and, eventually, started heading our way. We had the privilege of watching this process unfold over the course of about half an hour, going from a fairly low contrast grey cloudy situation to the one of the most fantastic structure-fests we’d ever seen. I’d setup a time lapse early in this process, and unfortunately had to change the setup a couple of times but still managed to capture a good portion of it (unfortunately ending up with more footage than my laptop can handle!). There were lots of great pictures to be had though.

Storm Zoom Scud Sucker

Entire Storm Landscape

Storm And Crowds

For a while the rotation wrapped in quite well and there was a distinct funnel cloud, followed fairly soon by a classic sheriff-nado, a wedge shaped inflow feature the likes of which are easily mistaken, and often called in by over-excited police. So it was reported as one (but it will be edited out when the weather service check it).

Strorm Tornado

A short while later the storm began to move fairly directly towards us. It’s amazing how you can be standing around watching this slow evolution for such a long time then with very little warning you find yourselves under pressure. It’s part of the fun though, and before long we were on the road into Lamar as hail started falling. It always starts with a couple of “click” noises as slightly warmer pieces of ice from the periphery of the hail core just hit the windscreen and splat into wet ice. Then you get some louder tapping noises as colder pieces start bouncing off rather than splatting. You never really know how far this will go. You have an idea from radar and what you can see, as to how big the hail is likely to be, but there are many factors that make it hard to predict. All you can do is stick to your plan, and if they start getting too big then look for some drive-in place (they have drive-ins for virtually everything here, and they are mostly covered so your arm doesn’t get wet interacting with whatever it is). In this case it didn’t get much over pea-sized hail before we were heading out east to get ahead of the storm.

Timbo And Storm

We pulled into a road where we bumped into some more of our international chase friends, who were as stoked as we were about the incredible structure we were witnessing.

Storm Second Spot

Ashtray Shelf

Lightning and the cloud

After some more time here and some more cat-and-mouse with the storm we reached the southern end of the line, and light was fading.

End Shelf Cloud

 

Meanwhile in the distance we could see an epic updraft of a new storm forming. We decided to go for it, as did a lot of other chasers. The road was amok with cars covered in aerials heading towards this new monster. Eventually we made it to the right area but struggled somewhat to get a good position. The storm was now about 4 different cells with the southernmost looking the most dominant. It was getting pretty dark and while the storm looked potent, chasing at night holds very little appeal to us, so we found a motel with a good view of the oncoming line of storms (those that we’d been on earlier). The motel was a little odd – they said they only had one room available, but they didn’t appear to have any other guests. The room that was available was a 3 room suite with bedroom, bathroom, kitchen / diner / living room which they did for us at the normal room rate...

Apartment

This ended up probably being the best value place we’ve ever stayed, given what we got for the money. And from this comfortable base we got to enjoy the line of storms munching us with a pretty decent lightning show as it went.

End of the day lightning

 

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

SPC 01:00UTC day 1 forecast for Sun May 2015

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Sun May 2015

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