Day 4 - Storm Chasing

07 June 2010

We started day 4 in a good position. The models looks impressive though there was one variable that looked problematic - too much "capping". Basically a storm develops when various conditions such as cold air, mountains or heating cause air to rise. If the air has water in it (which it always does, at least some) then as it rises it cools, and the water starts condensing out to form clouds. This releases more energy and the air rises faster and faster, condensing more water and so on. A cap is fundamentally when the air is warmer aloft than lower down, so as the air starts to rise, it hits air even warmer than it is, and the process stops, the air stops rising, and you get "normal" clouds. Today the cap looked pretty strong, but all other variables were great. There were various ways in which the cap could be broken, and there was so much energy available that if it did, there were going to be some storms...We set out from our manky motel around 10am, got in the car, and hey presto, our power supply that converts the lighter socket into power for the laptop, wasn't working. It worked briefly in the second lighter socket, then that failed too. Then we attached it via the backup means - straight to the battery, and it blew completely. So we now had to get a new inverter and new fuses. All sorted within the hour - praise be to mighty (and yes, evil I'm sure) Walmart!We got on the road and headed south west to what seemed like a good staging post. Reading up on the activities of other chasers there were various targets being chosen, but ours wasn't that far off. We made good time and were in a nice town in Colorado in good time. Re-reviewing the models it now looked like the storms would be forming to our north, so we switched tracks and headed north. We could see a couple of big cumulonimbus in the horizon - which confirmed what some reports and radar was telling us - the cap had been broken.As we headed north to a new staging post we could see multiple storm cells forming, and our chase targets became more clear, around 100 miles away, with around 2 hours to get there.Constantly working out the best routes, analysing the radar for storms development, where they are moving, and what roads were available, is no mean feat - especially for the navigationally inept! But with some careful work throughout our journey north we had some good plans laid. Both to get into, and then out of, the storms. As we got closer we saw some impressive storm structures. We were heading north and the storms were tracking east, from our north west...ideal. The biggest storm, showing signs of the key rotation that can lead to tornadogenesis was going to pass our road to the north soon, so we made our way to a spot just to the south of the storm track. We got some nice views of the storm brewing with impressive lightning and some skies full of mammatus cloud.

We waited there as long as was safe and jumped back in the car just as the gust front (strong wind flowing out of the storm) hit us. The wind went from gusts of, perhaps, 25 miles an hour to 60mph+ in no time at all. Heading for the car it was a bit windy, getting in I struggled to get the door open and closed safely.We hit the road and drove fast back south towards the nearest town, and out of the storm's track. As we entered the town we were far from being the only chasers running from this storm. Tornado sirens were sounding loud through the town and in every direction except ahead there were all sorts of nasty looking clouds bearing down on us and the town. (There's some good video footage of this, unfortunately the internet here isn't good enough to post it just yet.)After a tricky hold up with a long freight train, the convoy we were in pushed south, and with more storms coming from the east, we didn't stop until safety. Along the way seeing 3 of the Vortex 2 radar trucks along with various other celebrity chaser type folks. The wind down from that storm continues. It was simply staggering. It's what we came for, and we have not been let down. Not by any stretch of the imagination.- Timbo------------------------------------------------------------So, Tim has given you a full account of the day I'm sure, but I just wanted to add something to the end of this, because writing about this may be my therapy! I am sitting on my comfy bed in the motel right now and I am still in shock over what I saw today.  No matter how many thousands of photos I've seen, or books I've read, it did not prep me enough for that. It was intense.Many people admire these things from afar and many also like to get right as close as they can do alive. I came here not really knowing what I wanted. We were just going to chase storms. I didn't think about to what degree we would chose to do this. The fact is we didn't choose. You can't really choose. Well I guess you can if you know what you are doing, but we're pretty new to all of this, so when we saw our chance we just went with it, obviously erring on the side of caution but we still drove in a direction that most people would drive away from.I have read a lot but you can't feel wind from a book and you can't have peripheral vision from a TV programme. I know tornado sirens are issued but I didn't know they sounded like THAT; basically screaming at you to get out of there. There was a twisting storm on top of us. Not a twisting tornado from a thunderstorm, one that that can often look beautiful, but a whole rotating mass of thick black low cloud, accompanied by a constant wind strong enough to stop you being able to close the door of your car and get to safety. And where it wasn't black, it glowed an eerie green. It actually glowed! It was a living pulsing creation to be respected. It let us take photos of it for a while, but when it decided we must leave, we got the hell out of there as quick as we could and let it do it's thing on the plains for the rest of it's existence.And now, even 4 hours later, it's brothers and sisters are still out there, not in our vicinity anymore, but still rumbling away in the distance churning over and spitting out lightening. A crazy day, and only day 3! Man, this holiday is going to blow my mind. Absolutely awesome. Time for bed. If I can sleep.A very wired Cammie X

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

SPC 01:00UTC day 1 forecast for Mon June 2010

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Mon June 2010

< < Day 5 - it's a bust!      :      Day 3 - Guess what? More storms... > >

Weather Photography Blog

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010