Forever West

16 June 2015

Our $40 motel had been an absolute result. Shabby as you like, and a few ants, but otherwise a comfortable and friendly place which had left us in a good place for today’s weather. With that weather due to arrive a few hours hence we decided to go and do some exploring. We were close to the mountains but there wasn’t anything in the way of user-friendly tourist trails into the hills, so we pointed ourselves at the nicest looking mountains and drove. It wasn’t that easy; the first attempt had us diverted with a particularly unhelpful diversion that simply diverted you away from the road, but had no follow-up help. The next road lead to a private farm, next one a lake that had no access to it, then, finally, a road that lead up into the hills.

The road seemed reasonably well maintained, though not tarmac, it appeared to service only a few ranches, and was therefore very quiet. We took our time, exploring / trying to find a way through with roads that actually existed (unlike some on the maps) and were passable with our distinctly town-oriented 4x4, stopping to take in some views and meet some of the local wildlife as we went.

Wyoming Plains

During this time some of the day’s storms started to fire up off the hills to our west. We took some time to watch these start up, but not for too long as we couldn’t be sure that we’d be able to get through on the roads, and by this time it was a long way back. Some of the roads we’d already passed would become rapidly un-passable should bad weather set in over them, and we didn’t know if that would be true of the roads ahead too.

We found our way to a tarmac road out of the hills as the storms were starting to gather themselves together behind us, and shortly after it became tarmac the road passed some ranch land which had a few horses and cows living in it. We stopped for a meet and greet and Cambo found her new favourite horse (in Wyoming) and an awesome hodgepodge group of cows and calves.

Happy Cow Family

Timbo Please Buy Me This Horse

We headed out from here towards the main road network where we had a sarnie and waited to see which of the two storms near us would make the best target. One of them passed pretty much over us, looking somewhat disorganised, but pretty cool nonetheless.

Lunchtime Supercell

Meanwhile another storm over the hills to the north was looking great on radar so we took a gamble with the lay of the land giving us sight on it, and headed for that one. It was a good choice – it did put a tornado down, though only while we were on our way to it, however it turned out to be fairly tricky to get a good view. When we did, it was now something of an icy rainy monster, and looking epic for it.

Timbo And Hp

We took a few photos then headed back down the track we were on. I stopped again to take another shot before we got onto the main road, and I could hear a strange thunder-like sound. It wasn’t one I was familiar with…I knew it wasn’t thunder, or coming from traffic from the nearby motorway, but there was an ominous low constant rumble. 

As we headed back towards the junction it became apparent what the noise had been, as big hailstones started to fall. While not the biggest we’ve ever seen, they were around golf ball size and in pretty big numbers. We were able to take the ramp onto the interstate directly away from the hail as the intensity started growing rapidly. There were hailstones smashing on, or bouncing off, the road all around us. We were very lucky to only take one direct hit as we accelerated out of the storm’s reach.

We positioned underneath the storm and stopped again as it formed a new cell on its flank, which had its own decent structure for a while.

Scary shelf cloud

We decided to leave this storm now, and head south east towards some new ones, and towards an area that was forecast to have more supercells forming within it. Although the area had relatively few roads this was one of those days where the storms are pretty kind their road-hugging followers. We drove through the first new and relatively weak cell encountering a bit of rain and ice, before we tracked along underneath a much more substantial cell. We had a cautious lorry driving well below the speed limit in front of us, clearly not realising that the rain they were cautious of was a far smaller issue than the storm that was going to catch them up if they didn’t get a move on. The rain was falling much too hard to have sufficient visibility through the rain and plume of spray from the lorry to be able to overtake. Fortunately the leading edge of the hail core started to hit, which while noisier, provides far better visibility. We overtook the lorry and managed to get just far enough ahead of the storm around the town of Torrington and get some pictures of its glorious outflow features.

Stormy Weather On The Ne Wy Border

 Shelf Over Hills

The green colour of storms like this are driven primarily by the amount of ice, and how much sun can pass through them, and today that was making for some really epic displays of that seemingly unnatural colour.

Ice Filled Storm In Wyoming

The leading edge of these high precipitation storms is marked by sudden, strong, winds derived from the air being pulled down by the rain and hail pushing out along the ground ahead of it. This gust front was pretty strong with this storm, saving us some fuel as we sailed along with those winds behind us.

The storm eventually chased the chasers out of Wyoming and into Nebraska where, at Scottsbluff, we pitched up for a few minutes at Scottsbluff Monument to get some shots of the storm arriving there.

Weather Over Scotts Bluff

Our final chase for the day followed, heading east behind another storm that was tornado warned. While we were too late on this one, we had storms in all directions with all sorts of different characteristics to see. The only frustrating thing about this driving is that there’s so much water and ice being thrown around all over the landscape that you can’t drive for more than about a minute without finding yourself under a short downpour, likely not from a cloud above you, but just some random vented water from some other random updraft, pushed around through the sky by the mess of winds around, before landing on you like some well targeted water bomb.

Unfortunately this last storm died before we could get a better view on it, but it didn’t put any sort of a downer on a fantastic day of storms, mountains, animals and scary moments. We finished up with a cold beer in Hotel Walmart, watching some storms roll passed and over us, working through the many photos of another epic day on the plains. Our first ‘proper’ chase in Wyoming had given us a great taste of the state. While the roads and landscape aren’t that conducive to being good chase territory, it seems to have enough character to make up for it, and we’re looking forward to more of the same.

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

SPC 01:00UTC day 1 forecast for Tue June 2015

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Tue June 2015

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