The Late Stout Spout Sprouter

18 May 2018

Starting the day behind the cold front in Nebraska (really cold - like 10C) we were looking forward to some warmer weather where the storms were also more likely. Our chosen target area was in the middle to south of east Colorado. It was a 4 hour drive to our initial target, and by the time we got there we determined we wanted to head a little farther south which quickly turned into a drive over some remote dirt roads into the rural farmlands in the lee of the Coloradan foothills. It was an unusually remote drive with the roads becoming small enough to be a mix of gravel and clumps of grass.

When we eventually reached a place that seemed a good viewpoint for the storms that we wanted to watch, we finally came across some other people...the only people you’re likely to find here in any numbers - some other storm chasers. We shared the views with about 4 other cars from a hilltop overlooking the rolling planes out to the bases of the somewhat weak, but quite beautiful, storm clouds.

After watching these for a time we had something of a slow rural drive to get us back to the main road before heading north to the nearest town. The storm picked up its (initially very slow) pace and met us with some excellent timing in Lamar, CO. Just as we arrived in town the storm did too, with winds attempting to hamper our progress by blowing the bollards and signage of the roadworks around, meantime the heavy rain making it very hard to figure out where the turnings were in amongst the roadworks.

Storm Over Town

We got out of town eastwards and pulled ahead of the storm and stayed out in front of it for a time taking some pictures and heading on as its gust front hit us, bringing dust and tumbleweeds en masse surfing its forward flank.

Rogue Shelf

Shelf Portrait

We played this game for a while, up until the town of Holly, where we elected to drop slightly out of its path and take some pictures of it rolling past. We pulled up as a new strong updraft started next to us, and as we watched it took on some pretty interesting characteristics. Including, it appeared, a weak landspout-type tornado nearby. We got a picture or two and although we couldn’t be sure of what we were seeing, this same cell went on to produce 2 to 4 more landspouts a few minutes later, so that makes it seem all the more likely.

Tornado

Mamma

We let the storm roll on by and took some time to experiment with some photography against the epic amounts of lightning the storm was now producing. (Meanwhile hearing about the landspouts just down the road that we’d essentially decided not to watch!)

Lightning

Once dark set in and the storm had moved away we decided to make some headway on tomorrow’s target area while avoiding flash floods - which lead us to Goodland, KS for the night. All the while we enjoyed the lightshow from the storm, which included 2 absolutely stunning ground-to-cloud lightning strikes. The second of these appeared obviously preceded by a cloud-to-ground downstroke however the first one either had a downstroke imperceptible to us or was a ground-to-cloud. The most mind-blowing part of seeing this was how slowly it propagated and how expansive its path was. 3 streams erupted from ground level and shot out in wide arcs into the sky over the course of, perhaps 1.5 seconds, with no increased flare at the end, just finishing once the streams had reached their goals. It was quite unlike any lightning we’d ever seen, at least for another 5 minutes when another erupted on the horizon. We can’t explain these well, but it was certainly an experience worth writing about…

Finally after a long drive we parked up in the heavy rain of the departing storms and tilted our seats back to try and sleep the night away and dream of freaky lightning.

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

SPC 01:00UTC day 1 forecast for Fri May 2018

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Fri May 2018

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