July 20th featured good shear, excellent moisture and instability, and the Palmer Divide to produce storms with upslope flow. Mid afternoon a supercell formed near Simla, Colorado and turn to the south. As it did, it was rotating very strongly and may have produced a couple of broad, weak tornadoes. The lightning was absolutely insane with the supercell and the hail was quite large, up to softball sized! As the storm moved south, it was interfered with by another supercell and the southern storm became the dominant supercell. It moved southeast and eventually collided with northeast moving storm near LaJunta. Over the next 45 minutes it struggled to maintain any intensity until it finally pushed through all the left moving storms. It became tornado warned near Las Animas and had quite strong rear flank winds along with very large hail. We ended up letting it go as we needed to be back in Denver that evening. A great local chase for our tour group and one of the prettier supercells and lightning shows on the season! Enjoy the pics!!!
July 15th had a lot going for it. Strong northwest flow aloft would generate good shear with surface southeast winds. High dewpoints in the 60s at high elevations, would also generate a lot of instability. The upslope flow helped develop a well structured supercell near Wagon Mound, New Mexico. This storm was well structured and also produced huge hail baseball sized. The low levels never could tighten up enough to produce a tornado, however the supercell spun southward toward I-40 near Cuervo. It was severe warned for over 4 hours as it moved towards the south. Eventually we let it go as numerous storms blew up around it and thus reduced its ability to continue to maintain its strength. Fun chase over the plains and canyons of northeast New Mexico and fortunately to road network allowed us to continue chasing it all afternoon and early evening.
July 13th featured a play in eastern Colorado along an old outflow boundary from previous day convection. Storms formed fairly early, by 1pm along this boundary. It didn’t take long for them to become well organized and severe warned. One cell developed an impressive hook on radar and spun strongly. It produced a couple of funnel clouds, but nothing that touched down. Structure was nice, but storms became HP in nature as they moved almost due south in northwesterly flow aloft. Another cell formed southwest of the first and became tornado warned. We blasted towards it since our storm was weakening due to ingesting outflow air from the new storm. As we arrived on the new cell, it was quite messy and never looked like it would produce anything. We stayed with it for a couple more hours until numerous storms exploded between LaJunta and Lamar, CO. At that point, we called it a day and dropped south to our hotel in the Oklahoma panhandle. A fun day and our first supercell came very close to producing a tornado! Enjoy the pics!
July 8th was the arrival day for our final tour of the year, Tour #9 the Great North Tornado Hunt. Due to the weather forecast that day, we took the group out for a chase in southeast Colorado. A supercell formed east of Colorado Springs late afternoon and spun like crazy all the way to Kim, CO near the New Mexico border. With strong shear, good moisture and instability in place, the storm would become a long-lived supercell and produce hail 3.5 inches diameter, as well as a nice tornado north of Kim that was on the ground for a few minutes. The structure of this supercell was one of the best of 2023! By mid evening it dissipated, so we went back to Denver to get ready for our official start of the tour. A great way to spend arrival day chasing a stunning tornadic supercell! Enjoy the pics!!
It’s always fun when severe weather keeps you in your own backyard! Such was the case on July 6th! A boundary stretched across the Aurora/Watkins areas and by mid afternoon, storms rapidly developed. Soon a tornado formed south of I-70 touching down for a few minutes. About 30 minutes later, a landspout tornado formed along the boundary just northeast of Watkins persisting for several minutes. We stayed with the storms to see if any other tornadoes would form along the boundary, but as if often the case, wind fields were disrupted by ongoing storms, thus lessoning the chance another tornado would occur. Great backyard chase!
June 28th had a lot going for it. Good moisture, strong instability, superb wind shear and the upslope play of the Laramie Range in southeast Wyoming. A supercell formed mid afternoon and became an electrified beast! As the storm spun east/southeast, it produced huge hail baseball sized, but never really was a tornado threat. As it moved into far southwest Nebraska, it encountered better moisture which allowed the cloud base to come down. That helped the storm tap into greater low level wind shear and develop rotation. A couple of funnels occurred before a rather large, dusty tornado formed about 8 miles south of Kimball. The tornado was on the ground for over 10 minutes as it moved slowly southeast. The storm continued to spin strongly off the Cheyenne Ridge into far northern Colorado. It weakened for a time and then reintensified east of Sterling. It continued its slow march to the east, now producing huge hail and flash flooding. We let it go at that point and went to the hotel after shooting lightning for awhile. Crazy fun day and thankfully the large tornado stayed over open lands. Enjoy the pics!!!
June 27th had 2 different targets. One by the Nebraska/South Dakota border, and a second along the Chugwater low at the Nebraska/Wyoming border. We hoped to chase the northern target, but nature had other plans. We went south and caught an intensifying supercell west of Bridgeport, NE. We had to punch through the core and encountered pingpong ball sized hail as we approached Broadwater, NE. Once on the east side of the storm, intense lightning was occurring. Structure became quite nice as the storm spun hard moving towards the east. After it passed Oshkosh, it started weakening as it encountered a capping inversion. We followed it through the sandhills and had a nice sunset with great color and lightning! Enjoy the pics!!!
The first day of Photo Tour #3 took us to northeast Wyoming to chase the upslope play into the Big Horn mountains. Storms formed early afternoon and struggled to come off the higher terrain for a couple hours. A very low hanging, rotating wall cloud occurred west of Buffalo, WY and produced a 3 minute weak tornado on the top of a mountain! Quite the sight to see! As the storm came off, it became a pretty LP supercell and spun to the southeast, south of Gillette, WY. It eventually dissipated as another supercell formed north of Casper, WY. This cell was rotating nicely and produced a couple of funnels as it moved towards the flat lands east of town. Structure was nice as it persisted well after sunset. A fun day for the tour!
June 23rd had significant potential in southeast Wyoming as well as southeast Colorado. We chose to play the Wyoming target instead of Colorado. And both produced tornadoes!!! When you get upslope flow into the Laramie Range in southeast Wyoming with decent moisture and instability, you chase there, plain and simple. Good shear and lift into the mountains were also present and by midafternoon storms erupted west of Chugwater. It took a bit for storms to become organized, but one such supercell over the town of Chugwater became the primary supercell this day. It spun east all the way past Scottsbluff, NE and produced at least a half dozen tornadoes, a few of which we were close to and became pretty photogenic! A Tornado Emergency was issued for one large tornado near town and fortunately did not cause any serious injuries or fatalities. Storm structure was pretty as well and the supercell also produced softball sized hail at various locations in the lifetime. A great chase day and fortunately the results were good for the local residents. Enjoy the pics!
June 19th took us to the upslope area of the Big Horn mountains in southeast Montana. These mountains are notorious for producing beautiful supercells when upslope conditions occur with decent westerly flow aloft. This day would be no different. Mid afternoon, a cluster of high based storms formed near Sheridan, WY and slowly tracked northeast. One storm on the southeastern side of the cluster tapped into better moisture and instability and eventually became the storm of the day. There wasn’t a tornado threat due to limited moisture, but between wind shear and instability, it developed into a jaw dropping gorgeous storm! As the storm passed into the southeast corner of the state near Baker, it had beautiful structure and also hail the size of golfballs. In the evening, it slowly weakened as it moved into southwest North Dakota. Just a stunning storm on a day when all the ingredients weren’t there! Montana is one of our favorite states to chase in during late spring. Enjoy the pics!!