Simla, Colorado

04 June 2015

The principal target today would be in northern Kansas where a strong cap would hold back a powerful setup until later in the afternoon to create some really big storms as and when they did fire. A secondary target was Colorado, with a more marginal setup, but with a lot of ingredients we like to see, and similar to the day before, but with a few more parameters in its favour. We decided to play for Colorado, where we were starting the day. 
The town we started in, Limon, has no outdoor space. It’s bizarre. Having some sort of park is almost guaranteed in the towns here. It’s slightly ironic, given the general poor support for walking anywhere or doing anything much else outside, but even very small towns normally have a park, and it normally has some reasonably well maintained facilities in it (unlike our home town where the only public toilets in the entire place close at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon lest they become a crack den after 4pm). Anyway, Limon is a notable exception. It’s a reasonably big town and there’s not so much as a field within 10 miles. We wanted to wait in a park so I could get a run in and we could generally pass our time in a nicer area.

We chose a target based on where things seemed likely to be kicking off, about 60 miles north, that had a park, and headed there. By the time we reached said park convection was starting to bubble around the area. Nothing seemed to be taking hold, so we gave it a little time while I ran around the park attempting to generate some low level vorticity by keeping up a decent pace around the relatively small perimeter.

After a few laps it became apparent that the storm we wanted to be on might have started to materialise. It was just west of Limon, so it was time to head back down the road, along with our UK chaser friend Nathan who’d found us at the park. The journey back to the south was a little staccato as we kept seeing new storms appear to our west, and we either wanted to photograph them, and to work out if they were a legitimate new target.

We watched as they failed, though did so in style, and ploughed onwards to see the southern storm. It looked good on radar but as we got a better view, in Limon, it wasn’t clear how well organised the storm was. We went back into the shop from which we’d bought breakfast a few hours earlier and bought some lucky raspberries, and headed back out to see if the storm was organising any better. It didn’t appear to be. On checking the radar, however, it suddenly turned out that the northern storm, one of the ones we’d discounted earlier, was now tornado warned! Nightmare. A good type of nightmare, but a nightmare nonetheless. We set a course back north and headed out of town. It was only about 2 miles out of town that we got a new view both to the storm to the north, but also on the local storm, which, just like the one to the north, was suddenly organising. Out of nowhere we had two storms to choose between, and one was close, which was the deciding factor. So it was back off the interstate having finally made a decision to stay local to the place we woke up in the morning…

We approached it on an ideal road to have a view in on it, and it wasn’t long before it was tornado warned, and rightly so. It quickly wrapped up and a funnel cloud formed, then rose, then formed with a little more assertiveness, finally putting down a thin tornado.

First Tornado Weather Pic 2

First Tornado

As it lifted we headed in closer and pushed forward right into the clear slot of the storm – this is the area where, due to supercell dynamics, there’s not really any rain or hail, but you can see into the heart of the rotation. We watched, in awe, as it formed and reformed a dramatic tornado in many shapes and sizes, eventually choosing a cone as its preferred mode.

Stovepipe Second Touch

Another Massive Tornado

It started to hail, first small pieces, then some much bigger ones, so we pushed on to reposition into the clear slot again, giving us time to get more pictures.

Cambo And The Nado

Timbo Tornado

Largest Tornado

As it moved on the storm was squeezing us off the road and we needed to get south. Amazingly we’d needed to get south on the exact bit of road before, and we knew that the dirt road south was a bit sketchy. It was horribly galling, but we had to get back a fair way from the storm before we could take a safe road south. On the way out we got hit by some fairly big hail, but all windows were intact so we could press on.

On the road south we pulled alongside the storm at a few miles away, we saw a new tornado forming. At first we thought it was a really dense rain shaft, as it seemed to be coming from the wrong place, but after a couple of attempts it was clearly a tornado.

Wispy Tornado And Mountains

Second Tornado Weather Pic 2

It lasted for several minutes, long enough for us to take images from a couple of locations. We didn’t appreciate it at the time but it turned out that this was an extremely rare anti-cyclonic satellite tornado. That is to say that the main tornado we’d left earlier was still ongoing as a large cone, and we were looking at a concurrent one, spinning the opposite direction to the main one. Had we been on that road south we might have seen what some on the road saw, which was this satellite tornado close by, with the main tornado as a backdrop. Mind blowing stuff. It was mind blowing enough for us just seeing this thing under the epic structure the storm was exhibiting.

Structure And Tornado

We joined up with another road further south, where we could go back into the path of the storm, but by now it was beginning to lose strength. It continued to show terrific structure for a long time yet, and watched it for a good part of that process, indeed catching the last moments of the storm’s updraft.

Timbo Photography Structure

Updraft End

It was our most successful chase in 6 years, with a bit of everything, and having learned a ton of lessons, and taken thousands of pictures, it was time to get on with the fun process of going through the photos and reliving the day with beer, gibber and photos. Good times.

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

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

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Thu June 2015

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