Day 9 – A late starter in Broken Bow

26 May 2013

You get the drill by now, yep, we woke up in a Walmart car park and ate some food, but enough of that. The forecast today was for a number of different scenarios playing out in 4 distinct areas. The key ones of interest for us were either local storm potential, or some good potential further south in Nebraska. Although the local potential was forecast to yield some severe weather, our feel was that there may be too little moisture to set things up particularly well. Additionally we had learned from yesterday that the combination of sparse roads and hills makes this area hard to chase. We had known this already, but getting a feel for a place yourself is always worthwhile, and the landscape was generally beautiful, even if not that easy to chase in. Nebraska, on the other hand, looked like a fairly good setup, has a fairly good road network, and would leave us in the right area for the next day too, so we set off back south, back through the black mountains and into the Nebraska panhandle.

On arriving in our target area the weather was still bright and hot with a small cumulus field developing a around our position. We perused the observations in Ogallala for a little while, trying to ascertain the position of an all important warm front, so we could decide where things might kick off. After a little time pouring over the laptop and generally smearing greasy sandwich fingers over the screen while pointing at things, we decided to head north east. The hours were ticking by, though, and nothing much seemed to be happening.

The route we chose took us over lake McConnaughy and then east through the sand hills. It was a nice drive, and as we started to lose a little faith in the weather it was something of a challenge to turn down the lure of a beach with an ice cream parlour.

We carried on into the sand hills and decided to stop and keep an eye on our local cumulus field, in the hope that one of them might decide to do something more exciting than ambling about making shapes of various small land based animals. After a little time watching them, and with the crucial hour of 6pm passing without event, and a big open field next to us, it seemed like a good time to fly a kite for a while. When it seemed there was no longer enough wind even to make that fly, we were very much losing faith.

Just before we turned tails and headed back for the ice cream shop, in the distance, way off from our cumulus field, two updrafts became visible, and they looked strong. We cursed ourselves for having stopped heading east, and hit the road as quick as we could to try and get to one of them. The stronger of the two storms was to our north, but road networks didn’t look good, so we headed for the southern storm. It took a painfully long hour to reach the storm, just east of Broken Bow, but we did, just as it became tornado warned, and moments before sunset so we could see its dramatic structure in the last of the light along with a little lightning to help...

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While that didn’t last long, it became a prolific lightning producer and tracked along a reasonable path for us to follow. We were treated to some truly epic displays of structure lit up by lightning.


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Although these pictures are enjoyable depictions of what we saw, it’s hard to describe how it feels being underneath scenes like this. The raw power they demonstrate, second by second, with lightning traversing the clouds above the storm, arcing through it and blazing a path to the ground all in an instant. The combination of such awe inspiring scenes, along with the feeling of being so tiny and powerless in the face of these storms culminates in the experience that keeps us coming back. This was very much one of those times that will keep us coming back.

We finished up in a motel about 100 yards from a train line with massive freight trains, constantly sounding their horns, rattling past a couple of times an hour. But after sorting out our photos we were so tired it was going to take more than a nearby freight train to wake us.

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 2013

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Sun May 2013

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