Southeast Montana was the target this day for what appeared to be a decent chance of high based supercells. Great shear was in place, but limited moisture and instability would temper the threat of significant severe weather. Nonetheless, storms formed off the Big Horn mountains and moved east and intensified. Hail the size of half dollars and winds to 70mph occurred from these supercells. Structure was typical for high based storms and one can wonder only what if there would have been better moisture and instability. It was still a fun day and we at least had severe storms.
Fantastic wind shear was available on June 19th, however, due to a frontal passage, only modest moisture was present off the Big Horn mountains of southeast Montana. This allowed only about 1000 CAPE to build in the area. Fortunately sometimes great shear can compensate for a bit of a lack in surface moisture. A storm formed just south of the Wyoming/Montana border and tracked east just north of the boundary. As it approached the Alzada, MT area it started spinning hard and became tornado warned. It pulsed up and down a few times as it moved into northwest South Dakota, eventually crossing into southern North Dakota near Hettinger. East of town we had to core punch it to get back in front of it and were promptly greeted with tons of golfball sized hail. (Video will be on our SLT Youtube channel soon!) Getting back in front of it, and moved east northeast and took us to Bismark where we spent the night being rocked to sleep by constant thunder. A great day, and a supercell that survived over a 250 mile distance! 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!
July 6th was an inbetween day for our tours. However, as we often do, if there is a decent set up, we’ll run one of our on call tours. That’s exactly what we did the 6th and 7th! On July 6th we started in Denver and blasted to southeast Montana where storms were forecast to form along a boundary with good instability and shear. We’ve seen numerous tornadoes in this region over the years and some outstanding supercells! Today would be no different! We made it south of Broadus, MT and turned east on a dirt road near Biddle. We had a great view of the developing supercell. As we continued east, the forward flank core caught up with us so Caryn had to push it a bit to get out of the heavy rain so we wouldn’t get stuck. Low and behold as we were blasting east on muddy roads, trying to get south of Alzada to head south towards Hulett, WY, our wonderful storm tornadoed. Couldn’t see it from our location, thanks to horrid road network. However, if you were north of Hulett, you had a decent, albeit distant view. We stayed with the storm as it crossed the Black Hills near MT Rushmore and onto the nearly plains. It became a stunningly beautiful supercell as it tracked towards the Badlands. Gorgeous!
On the 7th we played southeast Montana again. However moisture quality was much poorer than the day before. Storms formed along a boundary and became a squall line as they moved east. They were still pretty and offered some very photogenic moments! We stayed in front of them back to Rapid City, SD where we spent the night before returning to Denver the next day.
Please click on a photo for a larger image. Enjoy!
July 7th was the first day of tour 9. We headed north from Denver to arrive in southeast Montana. Decent shear, moisture and instability provided the needed ingredients to get severe storms going this day. By evening clusters of storms formed and as the sun went down they were beautifully electrified! We were headed just north of Broadus when a new updraft developed and started sparking quickly. We stopped on the side of a road and watched as the storm had tons of cgs in it. As the storm weakened we headed north to our hotel. Enjoy the pics!
We had high hopes for June 27th in central Montana. Great shear, instability and decent moisture would provide the needed ingredients for storms this day. Lift in the mountain areas would give us the final missing link for storm formation. Mid afternoon storms developed southwest of Eddie’s Corner where we had made our base. As the cells came over the mountains, they intensified and became supercells. One storm southwest of Utica, MT spun wildly and was very pretty. It didn’t take long for a cone tornado to form. It stayed in the higher terrain where there was no road network, so we had to position ourselves to get the best distant view of it. As the cell approached us, it was nicely structured.
We decided to drop south to the tail end storm, which was also tornado warned. A pretty sculpted supercell was quite photogenic! Outflow from northern storms gushed south, undercutting the supercell and killed it. Further south near Judith Gap, another storm form and became my favorite cell of the day! Gorgeous structure, strong rotation and intense lightning occurred. As it moved east, we decided to take the dirt roads eastward toward Roundup. The storm became a jaw dropper and drifted east over the yellow sweet clover fields and made for an amazing sight! It became tornado warned one last time just north of Roundup where we waved goodbye and headed to our hotel for the night. An awesome day and the guests on Photo Tour #3 got their money’s worth from this event! Enjoy the pics!!!!!
July 9th had big potential. It wasn’t clear whether that would be across the international border into Canada or if storms would right turn along a warm front into northeast Montana and northwest North Dakota. Fortunately, for ease of chasing, storms crossed into the US and gave us quite a show! An intense supercell cycled and really ramped up as it crossed north of Plentywood, Montana. Due to high CAPE, strong deep layer shear, dew points in the lower 70s and the aforementioned warm front, the stage was set! This supercell became a monster, the storm of the day, as it rolled through Plentywood, MT and into far northwest North Dakota. Huge hail to baseball size, microburst winds of nearly 120 mph and an EF1 tornado that hit Plentywood, would be the highlight this day. A second supercell soon followed the path of the first and had just amazing structure as it rolled through Plentywood. Highways ended up being blocked due to debris from downed trees, power lines and houses through town. Fortunately there were no fatalities. Check out the photos below. Enjoy!!!
An incredible day! The most significant tornado outbreak of 2018 to date occurred from one supercell this day! Southeast Montana and northwest South Dakota was the scene for this cyclic tornadic supercell that produced at least 8 and possibly more tornadoes in that area. The highest CAPE values I’ve seen in this area in 33 years of chasing occurred with 8000 joules of CAPE! Strong shear as well as mid 70s dewpoints, and throw in an awesome Black Hills Convergence Zone boundary and it would be only a matter of time before this supercell formed and morphed into the best storm of 2018! By mid afternoon several cells fired along the boundary and drifted north. All but one cell continued on this trek, with the one lone cell quickly becoming a supercell, which right turned along the boundary and turned into a beast! The structure was top notch and the tornado event that unfolded was incredible. Tornadoes of every shape, size and strength would form from late afternoon through sunset as the cell continued its slow march into northwest South Dakota. At one point we even had an anticyclonic tornado that developed on the south side of the updraft and raced directly towards us. Caryn would see it and take evasive action quickly as it passed in front of us. Then a large half mile wide wedge formed directly in front of us and roared across the countryside getting an EF3 rating! An amazing sight to behold!!! The storm continued into northwest South Dakota south of Camp Crook and continued producing tornadoes in the dark. Lightning would illuminate them making for some of the most spectacular storm photography this season! Please enjoy the pics!
July 10th was day one for the Great North Tornado Hunt. A strong area of low pressure over southern Montana and an associated warm front extending east of there would provide the lift to produce numerous storms, including a few supercells. We intercepted the only tornado warned supercell in the country near Baker, Montana and followed it eastward along the boundary as it spun wildly. A few of times it appeared to produce a couple of funnels and even a brief dirt swirl under one, but the story with this beast was the pretty structure and amazing green colors. This supercell produced very large baseball sized hail and had long inflow bands eastward from the updraft. The open prairieland of eastern Montana always gives a great foreground for one of nature’s most violent storms, the supercell. A fun way to start off the final tour of the year!
June 21st was the first day we had decent shear, instability and some moisture to work with. A dryline and old outflow boundary set up in northeast Montana and would be the focus for supercells late afternoon. We drove to Bainville, Montana and waited at this cute little gas station/restaurant for storms to form and intensify. We were torn between cells near Glascow or further southeast near the Belfield, North Dakota area. We ended up choosing the northeast Montana storms. After a few cycles, a supercell emerged near Wolf Point as we drifted west towards Brockton to intercept it. Although it was a bit higher based, the structure was nice. As the supercell moved east, it became tornado warned near Culbertson. Near Fairview, a report of a tornado occurred, but we couldn’t see anything under the base. Not sure what the locals were looking at as with lcls at 800MB, it was pretty obvious the tornado threat was fairly limited. It stayed tornado warned all the way to Watford City, North Dakota where it was feeding on outflow air from storms to the east, and weakened quickly. Fun chase day, good storm, lots of lightning, hail and wind. Northeast Montana is a very pretty area to chase in!