Day 7 - Baby funnel cloud

10 June 2010

Walmart car park is a great place to wake up; fresh juice and baked bread on your doorstep,toilets nearby and always full of friendly Americans. We were once again in a good location for the day's set up so decided to hold fire for a while in Sidney, Colorado and lunched in a nearby park. It was one of the first times we chilled in the sunshine, without laptops and weather models, and it felt like a general vacation for a while! After chilling for a bit we decided it was probably time to do some pointless driving, but all of a sudden we seemed to be surrounded, once again by every possible storm chasing research team. The National Severe Storms Lab, Vortex 2, uni research teams etc. Here's a piccy of little us, against a back drop of DOWs (Doppler On Wheels) and NSSL vehicles.

They were mostly faffing, which gave us confidence that it wasn't only us getting in a muddle with the models today. We did our best to stay put (sometimes the most sensible thing to do in such situations) but the urge to 'get somewhere' was too strong so after some further analysis decided to head east to a predicted frontal boundary. This is where two air masses meet, and one undercuts the other creating frontal lift. Any form of lift is sought after by chasers and it enhances convection. However the desired signs we were expecting to see, such as rising towers of cumulus clouds were not apparent in the area, so we deviated from the original plan and headed south east as cells were starting to develop around the Denver area. As we drove, the cells were developing rapidly. We could see our target in the distance, so it was foot to the floor.

Activity in the area was confirmed by other chasers via the forums. One cell in particular was forming into a monster supercell. We were about an hour away and could see it in the distance. According to our radar it seemed to have at least five areas of rotation at any one time, in different areas of the storm. We would have been in a perfect area to intercept had we another hour, and light was becoming restricted underneath the mass of cloud base. However, the show was still fantastic and forks of lightening were firing all around us. We stopped to get a few photos of the tail end as it passed us on the road.

It was all getting a bit exciting again. Hands were shaking and the wind was kicking up. I ditched the camera in favour of dancing around in the wind like an idiot, safe in the knowledge that this time it was not coming at us. Truly awesome! This cell had actually put a tornado down about half an hour before our arrival. There was still hope it may again, but as mentioned the light was minimal by this point. We drove back on ourselves a little, and parked up with some other chasers at the side of the road. Everyone was so excited and chatty and we made friends with a newly wed couple from Texas. She had been sucked into his 32 year hobby of doing this and was loving it.

We held fire in this position and were able to get a good idea of the structure of this storm but only from when it lit itself up. On one of these occasions we were able to see a slight lowering from the cloud and it actually formed a little funnel cloud.

It was trying so hard to put down a tornado but couldn't quite manage it. We still got a photo of it's little funnel cloud. And again some cracking ligtening.

Small, but our first funnel cloud none the less, and the sight of it sent all the chasers into an excited jibber! It was such a magic moment, until I, in my excitement accidently set the car alarm off - that broke the peace for a while, but largely went unnoticed! We stuck around for about half an hour but then had to shifty pretty quick smart as there was a squall line on our tail. This is a line of sudden, sometimes violent thunderstorms that can be up to 160 km long. The one behind us was not anywhere near this in length but we weren't going to chance it so headed out of there to find a motel for the night. Which we successfully did and went to sleep dreaming of little funnel clouds!

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 2010

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Thu June 2010

< < Day 8 - Dirt Roads, Streets and Traps      :      Day 6 - Turn right four times > >

Weather Photography Blog