Surprise Supercell

03 May 2015

Last night I’d gone to sleep with all sorts running through my head – would the car have to be swapped again for one that didn’t make me feel as though I was suddenly developing DVT in my thighs and bum? Would the annual purchase of my new XS Walmart pants fit or would the fact that I accidently bought the slightly too tight polyester/spandex type cut off the blood supply to my legs overnight? That wouldn’t help with the DVT. But most of all were there going to be storms tomorrow?

In light of all the anxieties these concerns brought about I managed to fall asleep by midnight, which was just before the last SPC (storm prediction centre) update for the next day. This meant, however, that I woke up super excited about seeing what was in store for the day.

The SPC had issued a ‘slight’ risk for Wisconsin which was a great deal further north-east than our current location on the Colorado / Kansas border. Also this is rather unappealing chase territory due the amount of trees and hills; a beautiful place and home of Godalming’s new Red Lion barmaid El who I know will vouch for its charm, but bad chase territory nonetheless. So instead we decided to position ourselves in advance of the more southern part of the cold front that was making its way down from the north. This was south-west of the main threat area but there still appeared to be enough moisture, warmth and shear (multi directional winds with height) to make it appealing.

This marginal appeal still required us to drive for 6 hours to get into position. But hey, it was our first proper chase day and we were up for anything so it seemed like nothing. We stopped via a Walmart where I purchased a grannyesque seat cushion to help with the onslaught of my DVT and a few other snacky bits for the day, including our third avocado in 3 days. Avocados cost the equivalent of 60p out here, with no blemishes, no brown bits, you can select them perfectly ripe and I’ve spent the last 10 months looking forward to my daily av. The excitement from both the certainty of the av and the potential storms had us on our way by 6am! (Sunrise photo to prove it.)

Sunrise Departure

Driving such a large car reminded me of 1) riding on a bike that was too big for me and 2) riding on a horse that was too big for me. I loved it and felt kind of mesmerised cruising along the interstate at 75mphin the early morning light. The bum seat helped relinquish the DVT and with even less cars on the road than normal the first few hours flew by. So did the next few really as we revisited some of our favourite haunts. We stopped for lunch in York, Nebraska where we made amazing sandwiches in the car with the air con on and looked around for a sign of storms in the area. We were quite east in Nebraska by this point and not far from where we had planned to position. We had made good time and it was still too early to tell if any storms were likely to happen. We found a park, stretched our legs and kept an eye on the sky. We were fooled by clouds looming up behind some trees in the distance but soon realised they were only tops of clouds that didn’t have any middle or bottom to them – they were just really high in the sky! We drove around a bit, starting to feel perhaps a little deflated after finding out the next day’s risk up here was now not looking particularly favourable and a much better play may have us needing to make our way even further south than where we had started this morning! But we gave it time and by 5pm (the classic hour of convection) more cells were starting to fire up. In fact, one that we had been casually following for a while starting looking a little more menacing and I became so excited I had to dance around a bit.

First Cell

In addition to this storm, there was another a little further southwest towards Lincoln, so we decided to try this one next after the one we were on started to fizzle out. It was hard though as we were playing catch up to a very outflow dominant cell and finding any good photo opportunities was difficult. We did manage to grab a couple from the middle of a corn field where the wind was so strong I thought it was going to blow me over, which was amazing and our enjoyment was much to the bewilderment of 2 Nebraskan farmers who drove past. No-one can believe we come all the way from England for these storms!

Cambo Hail Head Near Adams Nebraska

We kept up with the storm and watched as a couple of rainbows developed and then then got a few pics in the beautiful evening light. It was a serene moment watching this as the birds chirped and the sun set.

Sunset Storm Nebraska

Then all of a sudden it was tornado warned! We had thought it was becoming lower and quite surface based but a trained spotter called in a tornado and a warning had been issued.

Sunset Outflow Nebraska

We didn’t see any tornadoes that evening, but it was clear from the striations within the storm that it was rotating. Out first supercell of the trip and one that hadn’t been anticipated either by us or the SPC. After freaking out slightly at the last gas station, due to the potential of being chased by a tornadic supercell in the dark with little in the way of either daylight or gas, we filled up and got out of there managing to find ourselves a fantastic little place in which to watch it sidle past, being all ominous and majestic and striated and loud and rumbly and lighting itself up in the dark. It was such a great opportunity for some night photography that I even managed to put up with the mahousive flying buzzy buggy things that kept flying into my face in order to get the below pics. It’s not all the time that nature rewards effort but today she certainly did.

Supercell Adams Church


Supercell Adams Church2

Supercell Near Adams Nebraska

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

< < Slight me      :      Egg-starer > >

Weather Photography Blog