June 20th featured extreme instability, moderate wind shear and good lift along an advancing boundary over Iowa. We started the day from Denver, CO as it was the first day of the tour. After an early departure, we made it just east/southeast of Des Moines, Iowa (650 miles later!) just in time for storms to explode. The first supercell we intercepted was just east of Des Moines and never had the “look” like it wanted to become tornadic. Nice structure and a rotating wall cloud occurred, but it could never tighten up enough to produce a tornado. We dropped south and headed back west a little bit as a second storm quickly became organized. It developed a strong hook echo on radar to the west of Pella. As we arrived in town near the factory, we stopped to watch. Intense lightning was also occurring, a tell tale sign of storm intensification. Within a few minutes, a large bowl shaped funnel formed. Soon it developed into a full fledged cone shaped tornado that was on the ground for several minutes. In my haste to shoot video, time lapse and digital images, I failed to get a proper focus on my camera and thus most images were slightly blurry. The tornado dissipated and the storm eventually weakened as it moved east, ending our chase. A great first day for Tour 8!! Enjoy the pics, blurriness and all !!!!!
June 13th was the last chase day for the next week as a massive ridge of high pressure dominated the western 2/3 of the US. Fortunately we were able to catch a few severe storms/marginal supercells in western Nebraska north of Alliance. Good CAPE, but marginal shear would let these storms become a cluster of outflow dominant storms late in the day. However they were quite electrified, before gusting out near Hemingford, Nebraska. Fun day, with 80mph winds, golfball sized hail and some pretty scenery to watch these storm do their thing! Enjoy the pics!
Wow, all I can say is WOW! What an amazing supercell this day produced! Great shear, good moisture and instability, and lift along a boundary and mountains would provide all that was needed to get the best structured supercell of 2021 to form. After hanging out in Havre, MT waiting for a storm to get going, we finally got our wish. Due to the late setting sun in Montana in June, we had several hours to watch this storm ramp up and become a jaw dropper! The one unfortunate thing that occurred were the poor road networks in Montana. We were able to stay with this mothership supercell for a few hours east of Lodgepole and enjoy the treat! Incredible structure and the beautiful countryside in Montana made this day one of my favorite for 2021! Please take time and enjoy the photos of this stunning storm!
June 19th was the last day of Tour 7. The weather pattern kept us fairly close to home, with the set up over the Raton Mesa between Colorado and New Mexico. Upslope flow would push decent moisture into the region and thunderstorms would form by mid afternoon. Moderate CAPE and shear were also present as the storm intensified and moved eastward. The region is known for it’s lack of good roads, so we ended up on a few poorer gravel/dirt roads. We arrived as the storm was very intense, producing golfball to tennisball sized hail. Love the “hail core green” color to the clouds when they are suspending millions of hailstones in them. The region is very colorful with many red rock buttes and ridges in the area adding to the already pretty scene. The terrain has been very dry in 2020, so little vegetation was growing. Eventually the storm moved out over the Black Mesa area of the Oklahoma panhandle and weakened as it moved further east. A fun last day was a pretty storm and countryside! Click on a pic for a larger image. Enjoy!
June 8th would provide us with ample opportunities to intercept numerous severe thunderstorms in central Nebraska. By mid afternoon several intense supercells formed along a weak front. Two storms became tornado warned as they spun across the region near Anselmo. Strong shear, decent moisture, high CAPE values and the boundary provided the focus for storms. We caught the first storm as it spun across with a large wall cloud that was rotating steadily but slowly. It tried to produce a tornado but never could. The second cell was by far the prettiest of the day. It had fantastic structure, a very large wall cloud and a couple of weak spin ups. At one point a dusty debris cloud formed underneath a small funnel that touched down for about 1-2 minutes. The storm became a formidable supercell and it moved across the region. Several other storms formed and a couple were also tornado warned, but did not produce. A fun and exciting day with these cells for all tour guests! Enjoy the pics and please click on one for a larger image.
June 2nd appeared to have some promise for severe storms in southern Minnesota. Very hot and relatively moist air would reside along and south of a stationary front south of the Twin Cities. Large temperature/dewpoint spreads would result in higher based storms. High CAPE and moderate shear also existed. A cluster of cell formed along the boundary, and eventually the eastern most cell would mature into an intense hail/tornado making supercell. I was completely surprised to see a multiple tornado warnings for the storm despite the higher base! It produced a couple of weak tornadoes and very large hail 3 inches in diameter. It persisted for several hours before gusting out, with an eventual line of severe storms forming and moving southeast through southern Minnesota. This area is very photogenic and has many stunningly photographic farmsteads! Check out the photos and please click on an image for a larger pic. Enjoy!
We weren’t expecting anything significant on June 21st. However, as often happens in the upslope regions of Colorado combined with terrain features, a decent supercell formed north of Colorado Springs along the Palmer Divide. Good directional shear due in part to strong easterly winds helped the storm to organize and rotate. As the cell approached the town of Kiowa, the low levels started spinning strongly. You can see a hook forming visually and rotate pretty rapidly. A tornado warning was issued by the NWS and soon an area of rotating debris was seen under the hook area of the storm. This weak tornado only lasted a couple of minutes.
As the cell moved further east, it encountered less surface moisture and instability, which caused it to steadily weaken and eventually dissipate east of Limon. Several other storms initiated in the cold side of the first cell’s outflow and never could really intensify for long periods. A fun chase and right in our backyard.
The set up for June 13th wasn’t great. Very limited moisture would result in fairly low CAPE values, however deep layer shear was strong. In the end, a cluster of storms would form over eastern New Mexico and slowly track east and south. The tail end cell became tornado warned for nearly 2 hours and was very strong, also producing hail golfball sized. We started the day near Clayton, and eventually dropped south to get on the tail end supercell. The structure was decent, but the main story of this storm was the lightning and amazing colors! Just before sunset, the storm spun hard and became incredibly electrified. As sun set, the storm weakened and gusted out as it moved southeast of Nara Vista. A fun day and on the photography side of things, it was quite spectacular! Enjoy the photos!
A complex, but decent set up occurred on May 18th. A dry line, warm front and cold front would be big players this day, but the question was which would produce the best storms. The dryline fired up early and often producing numerous storms with huge hail. The cold front fired up in Colorado with clusters of storms moving into western Kansas. But it would be the warm front in northern Kansas that would produce the longest lived supercells, nearly anchored along it. Unfortunately, none would produce significant tornadoes, but a couple would produce hail baseball sized and as well as one landspout tornado. We chased a cell south of Oakley that would have pretty structure, tons of lightning and even a cone funnel that would could not determine if it touched down or not due to the angle it was from us. I fun and exciting day ended with a fantastic lightning show in Garden City, Kansas.
May 14th took the May Minitour to southern Kansas. A storm formed near Arkansas City and anchored itself. Due to extremely high dew points and CAPE, the storm grew very large quickly. Wind shear was enough to start it spinning as well. It became severe and soon also was tornado warned. As the base lowered and a wall cloud formed, an elephant trunk shaped funnel dropped down and touched down for a couple of minutes before roping out. The storm maintained its structure for a couple more hours before it merged with a line of storms coming in from the west. A surprise event as it wasn’t forecasted, but nonetheless was pretty intense. Large hail also accompanied this supercell during its lifetime.