Interstately Storm

31 May 2015

We spent my birthday travelling north through New Mexico and up to Colorado springs, a fairly big town at the foot of Pike’s Peak, so some nice mountains to see. No time for tourism today though as it looked like there would be storms firing in the east of Colorado or western Kansas. We decided on a classic starting point of Limon in Colorado. We spent a while shopping for tat as there is a strange number of tourist shops here. It’s not entirely clear why as there isn’t anything much in Limon itself, but perhaps they find themselves the staging post for storm chasers enough that it makes it worthwhile. Cambo found a nice hoody, so that goes to show it works…

After some lunch we saw a storm firing to our west that we could intercept by heading south, as well as some firing to the east. So would start our indecision. We started east, then after a few miles decided that the storm now to our south looked quite good, so we headed back and then south to that one, meeting it in the vicinity of Cambo’s new favourite horses.

First Storm

Unfortunately it was too wet by the time we got there to talk to the horses. Indeed this storm was looking pretty wet all round, so we decided that east was the best plan after all. We headed back through the rainy core of the storm which left the car well washed off and ready for the next leg of the chase.

We headed down the I-70 towards a new cell that looked pretty epic in the distance. It took us about 45 minutes to reach it and, as we did, we found ourselves with an ideal view, but unfortunately it was from the interstate itself, with no turnings off and hail ahead, the most pragmatic thing seemed to be simply to pull over and take some pictures. We did so for a few minutes, then as the hail shafts moved off the interstate we started driving on. I often say it, but the biggest risk on the roads in bad weather is other drivers. People stop awkwardly and abruptly when hail is around, and then pull out awkwardly when they decide they want to go. People will park in underpasses even if the hard shoulder is occupied, they’ll wedge themselves in, sometimes blocking others or partially blocking off lanes of the interstate (as if half blocking one of two lanes is somehow less dangerous than blocking the whole lane off). This storm hadn’t been too severe so it wasn’t too much of a problem, but in the mild mayhem that ensued as people started to drive on, one car, presumably on aquaplaning, sailed off the side of the interstate and down the steep grassy bank – probably about 50 meters at a 1:3 gradient, slowly rotating as they crashed off. This, in turn, made more people brake erratically, flash hazard lights or any others they could find and so on. I think that learning how drivers behave is probably as tricky as learning to drive in the stupidly heavy convective rain. The main saving grace is that roads in the US are all about twice as wide as those in the UK, and have about one tenth the number of cars, so you normally have a bit more room to manoeuvre.

Hailer

After our stint on the I-70 unfortunately the storm would get away from us, so it was time to head on for our target of South Dakota or Montana for the next day, so we set course for the north, stuck on a 157 track playlist that our friend Chuckie had made for new years, and headed off.

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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