An interesting set up with northwest flow aloft on April 22nd. A weak low along with a sharpening dryline and warm front, set up a triple point northwest of San Angelo, Texas. Moisture would be the issue as dewpoints were in the 50s. Shear was good and convergence at the triple point would fire off a storm that became a long lived supercell. As the storm turned along the boundary, it started spinning strongly. After an interaction with another weak cell which it destroyed, it developed intense rotation, and on radar a classic scorpion tail hook echo formed with a good velocity couplet. RFD dirt was seen wrapping around the southern periphery of the storm and soon a large dirt bowl formed and persisted for about 5 minutes. Tornado? Possibly. But the storm also had hail the size of softballs. It soon moved east into less unstable air with lower dewpoints and it slowly decayed over the next couple of hours. A GREAT way to start the 2023 official tour season with Tour #1, the Close Encounters tour, witnessing this supercell. Enjoy the pics!!!
April 4th Pleasantville, IA Tornadic Supercell
April 4th was a complicated day. A powerful upper level low would pivot out onto the plains late in the period. Low level moisture was fairly shallow for a big event, with pockets of dry air mixing out the better moisture. It seemed like two areas would be the best targets: 1) southwest Iowa as the forcing came out, however moisture was forecast to mix (and did!), 2) southeast Iowa and western Illinois in the free warm sector. We sat in Ottumwa for a couple hours waiting for one target to become clear. It never really did. A cluster of storms formed in eastern Missouri and consolidated into a few supercells as they moved into western IL. We started to head that way to chase, but it would have been a long way back to Kansas City that night as several guests had to be back in Denver by late afternoon the next day. Shortly after we headed out to go to IL, the Iowa play started forming. A line of storms, now severe, formed along the dryline west of Osceola and moved east. The tail end storm really started getting it’s act together so we quickly turned around and headed toward Pella (where we saw a tornado 2 years ago!). As we approached Pella, a tornado warning came out with a confirmed tornado towards Pleasantville, which was another 15 miles west. We did all we could to get there, but were only able to get a glimpse of the pretty tornado before it dissipated. We stayed with the supercell as it approached the warm front and became tornado warned again. A brief spin up happened south of Malcom. The storm continued its path across the warm front, weakening in the colder air. Here’s a few pics of what we saw with the supercell, distant tornado and the second spin up. Enjoy!!!!
March 31st Ollie, Iowa Violent Tornado
An extremely volatile day was in store on March 31st. A powerful trough was moving out of the Rockies onto the plains as a surface low intensified north of Omaha. We took our on call tour towards the Des Moines area in anticipation of rapid supercell formation early afternoon. The dryline lit up like a Christmas tree shortly after noon as storms raced northeast at 60-70 mph! Strong shear, good moisture and instability and a strong jet would fuel these storms. By 2pm a large thunderstorm formed in northwest Missouri and rapidly moved northeast, becoming tornado warned as it approached Ottumwa, Iowa. We moved to position ourselves in front of it to see what it could produce. We approached the small town of Packwood as a cone tornado stabbed down to the ground west of us and grew to massive proportions.
As we drove west on highway 78 towards Hedrick, the tornado wedged out becoming a massive twister less than a mile from us! The roar of the tornado and rear flank downdrafts winds filled the senses with the sound of a rushing waterfall. Due to fast storm motions and the unfortunate road closures in the area, we were only able to stay with it for about 15 miles before we lost it. This tornado caused a lot of damage, but fortunately no fatalities. It has been officially rated EF-4 by the National Weather Service.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to anyone affected throughout the central and southern plains this day as 60 tornadoes raked the region causing many casualties and much damage.
July 16th Central Nebraska Tornado Warned Supercell
July 16th featured very high dew points in the mid 70s and CAPE values over 3000 j/kg. Shear was modest, so we weren’t certain we would get supercells. An early day supercell over eastern Nebraska laid out an outflow boundary over central Nebraska from Valentine southeast towards Grand Island. Storms formed along this boundary and moved east into the cool stable air and died. Later in the afternoon a cluster of storms formed on the boundary and the tail end storm anchored. It immediately started spinning and became a formidable supercell! As the storm right turned on the boundary and moved towards Burwell, it was rotating strongly and was extremely electrified! I thought it had a decent chance to produce a tornado, but it did not. A couple of weak funnels did form. As the storm continued southeast, it became tornado warned with strong rotation continuing. Another supercell formed west of this and rotated down towards I-80 near Gibbon and also became tornado warned. The structure was incredible with one of the best shelf clouds I’ve seen in years! As the storms pushed south of I-80, they gusted out and became a wind machine. A great day with far better results than we were expecting! Enjoy the pics!
July 6th Eastern Colorado Tornado Warned Supercell
July 6th took us to eastern Colorado. Good moisture and instability, along with modest shear and upslope flow into the Palmer Divide would set the stage for supercells and multicells. One such storm formed just west of Limon and right turned southeast towards Hugo. As it did, the structure improved as severe thunderstorm warnings were issued for golfball sized hail. As it moved further east, it became better organized and was tornado warned. It didn’t produce one, but you could clearly see the rotation in the storms updraft. As it moved furth east towards Eads, it encountered drier are and eventually weakened. Pretty storm, and the eastern plains of Colorado certainly needed all the moisture it can get! Enjoy the photos!
June 23rd Central Kansas Cyclic Tornadic Supercell
The ingredients for severe storms on June 23rd were there. We only needed a focusing mechanism to get a storm to form on and ride along the boundary. It certainly did! An outflow boundary from previous night’s thunderstorms lay across the I-70 corridor in central Kansas. Storms formed along it and continuously crossed northward into the colder, more stable air. As they did, they weakened and moved off to the northeast. Finally, a storm formed along the boundary at the intersection of the dryline and anchored along it. It started spinning wildly as we sat just a mile east of the updraft and watched low stratocumulus race westward into the updraft twisting and turning along the way. At that point it was just a matter of time before a tornado would form. During the next 3 hours at least 6 tornadoes occurred, although most were brief, dissipating within a couple minutes. We first had a slender slanted tornado that touched down near Wilson Lake. It didn’t last more than a minute. Next another tornado, a slender elephant trunk touched down just west of Dorrance. Little did we know, but another larger tornado was not visible from our position, so we moved east to get in front of the supercell updraft. The structure was insane! While we drove that 3 miles east, the larger tornado came out of the rain and near the interstate. One of our long time guests, Cathy Murphy snapped a shot of it out the rear window. (Thanks Cathy for letting us use your image!) We continued to move east as the storm also moved east, spinning like crazy the whole time. Another white tornado from our view formed near a cluster of wind turbines and was confirmed a brief touchdown. Eventually we ended up just west of Salina as the final tornado formed and also briefly touched down just before the storm died. A heck of a day! Great structure and a few tornadoes to boot! Enjoy the pics! A Youtube video will be releases shortly from this day! Check out our channel!
June 14th Lincoln, Nebraska Nocturnal Tornadic Supercell
We weren’t expecting much on June 14th. Things were mistimed, moisture was iffy and instability lacking. Storms eventually fired early evening towards Grand Island along a front and moved eastward. They started out high based and lowered as the temp/dew point spreads lessened. West of Lincoln by mid evening, a supercell emerged and started really rotating strongly. A tornado warning was issued as the storm moved east and developed a strong couplet. (An EF3 tornado was confirmed later!) As the storm approached the north side of Lincoln, it wrapped in rain and was a very dangerous supercell. You couldn’t see what was going on in the notch and we didn’t dare go north without an escape route to look down the notch. We had to let it go due to timing and lack of roads. It moved east and recycled again becoming tornado warned. Some damage was recorded east of Lincoln, but at the time of this writing it was not confirmed whether it was tornadic or RFD winds. Certainly a surprise event and thankfully no fatalities occurred!
June 12th Central South Dakota Tornadic Supercell
June 12th was a great day for the tours! We intercepted several storms, of which two became strong supercells. Good lift along a boundary, moderate moisture and strong instability as well as shear, would provide the needed ingredients to get these storms firing up. A cluster moved into west central South Dakota and eventually the southern most storm, referred to as “Tail End Charlie” took over the show. The southernmost storm typically gets the best feed of air and usually becomes the most intense. As it moved towards Phillip, South Dakota, it became a strongly rotating supercell. We encountered the south side of the hook as we moved east from town and had winds of 70 mph plus and tennisball hail. Out towards Midland, it took a hard right and become a beast of a storm! Near the I-90 corridor, the storm was an insanely electrified beauty of a mothership! As we watched in the night, you could see a funnel form and touch down. It was later confirmed by the NWS as a tornado. There are a couple video stills in the images below. After a few hours chasing these storms, the lined out so we let them go at midnight and headed to our hotel in Pierre. Enjoy the pics!
May 23rd Morton, Texas Wedge Tornadoes
What a day! We certainly weren’t expecting what happened this day to occur. Limited moisture, but good shear and a dryline would set the stage for severe thunderstorm development. There is a term chasers use in the Texas panhandle called “panhandle magic” and it certainly was the mode this day! Storms developed in eastern New Mexico and clustered as they moved into west central Texas. It was a very messy storm mode. Eventually the tail end cell in the cluster anchored and started spinning. It became a very intense supercell, even with low dewpoints in the 50s! Soon the cell developed a wall cloud, then a multivortex tornado, and finally a 400 foot wide EF2 wedge tornado! It was nearly stationary! A second wedge occurred about 30 minutes later east of Morton and finally a 2 minute elephant trunk west of Levelland. Inflow was so strong ti was knocking down power lines and toppling trees! The storm was sucking so much dirt due to the drought in west Texas at times the updraft was barely visible. Structure was nice when you could see it and the storm as it approached Lubbock eventually died. It put on a nice lightning show at dusk as well. An incredible day and evening! Certainly by far more than we expected. Even the Storm Prediction Center didn’t have much of a tornado threat in its’ outlooks! Enjyo the pics!
May 4th Northwest Texas Tornadoes
One of the most exciting days of 2022 so far occurred on May 4th. A dryline/triple point was located west of Paducah, Texas as moisture streamed northward. Great shear was also present. By mid afternoon a supercell formed and quickly became severe. It would be the storm of the day and produce several tornadoes. We tried to stay in front of it, but an error in the road map wreaked havoc for us. Maps showed a paved road that would have taken us right in front of the supercell towards Crowell and eventually Lockett, however it became dirt and was blocked off by a rancher with no trespassing signs, which of course we obeyed. This made us have to back track 20 miles on muddy and wet roads through huge hail and then blast east towards Crowell where we would have gone south to get right in front of the tornadic supercell. Due to losing 40 minutes on the map error, we could not go south as the storm was already crossing the road. Instead we went east then south but by that time the 5 minute tornado was gone. We continued east and then back north at Seymour to get in front of the supercell. It was now becoming dark as lightning constantly lit up the updraft. South of Vernon we stopped to watch the storm as a truncated cone tornado formed and crossed the road in the night directly in front of us. Then numerous power flashes were observed just northwest of us and lightning lit up a wedge tornado that hit the town of Lockett. We watched as this monster EF3 tornado roared across in the darkness, only lit by lightning and power flashes. It eventually dissipated as the storm weakened. Crazy day, and one stroke of bad luck due to a error in mapping software kept us from a pretty tornado. However, we still witnessed 4 others! Enjoy the pics!