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 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!
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!
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 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!
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!
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!
April 23rd was a day that had decent potential with a lingering boundary in central Oklahoma, decent moisture and moderate deep layer shear. Storms formed along the boundary by mid afternoon and struggled to intensify initially. Finally a couple supercells emerged from the cluster of storms and tracked east. One supercell near Mustang, OK became tornado warned due to strong rotation. We could see the wet rear flank downdraft wrap around the base where a tail cloud was feeding into it. You could see the strong rotation easily as it approached our location. An EF0 and EF1 tornado occurred but was completely rain wrapped and not visible. As the storm moved east across the Oklahoma City metro, it maintained its intensity. If there had been a little better moisture and shear, those weak tornadoes would have been much stronger. They dodged a bullet fortunately! We stayed with the storm through sunset when things weakened due to the cap increased and weakened the storms. A good day and fortunately no significant damage in town! Enjoy the pics!!!
April 12th had a lot going for it. The problem was there were two clear targets. Play the better moisture, but less shear in central Texas, or play the warm front with a bit less moisture but better shear in Iowa. We started the morning in Oklahoma City and made the decision at 6am to head to Iowa, while looking over our shoulder at Texas. At the end of the day, both targets produced strong tornadoes! As we headed north it became pretty clear that the warm front was going to be our target with a strong theta-e axis slamming into it, instead of playing the triple point back northwest of Omaha. That decision was a good one as by mid afternoon, the warm front lit up with intense storms, some of which were supercells.
We had over a 500 mile trip to get into position and we made it by minutes! We stopped in Dakota City for fuel quickly and then headed west, to just east of Gilmore City. The supercell became tornado warned as we left Dakota City. So, with storm motion showing 50 mph plus, we positioned ourselves about 6-10 miles down wind of the storm, figuring it would take a few minutes for it to become tornadic. It sure didn’t wait long! I wish we would have gone a couple more miles south to get closer, but as the tornado formed, we decided to stay put so as not to miss any of it and thought it would come very close to us. The models showed the potential of long tracked tornadoes, however this one dissipated as it came about a mile to our west. We stayed with the supercell for awhile as it became very messy and hp in nature. Eventually we blew it off, as we knew we had to be in Arkansas the next day, and stopped to watch an electrified storm on the way to our hotel.
Great day, beautiful storms and fortunately there were no injuries or fatalities from the tornadoes! Enjoy the pics!
We couldn’t resist running an on call tour during the week of April 11th. We gathered the guests early in the morning and departed Denver, headed for southeastern Oklahoma. Tough countryside to chase in with the Ouachita and Kiamichi mountains providing plenty of obstacles. However the set up would too good on paper to resist making the 850 miles trek there! High dewpoints, high CAPE, strong shear and a lingering boundary would provide all the ingredients needed for supercells. As we blasted there, about 120 miles out a supercell formed, earlier than models showed, and moved slowly eastward through Ft Smith, Arkansas. Knowing there was no way to catch it, we set our sights on another storm southwest of there. As we approached , it became better organized and soon became severe. We dropped south at Sallisaw, OK toward Poteau and it was evident we needed to get even further southwest to cut in front of this now tornado warned supercell. Coming over the mountains near Talimena State Park, we got a glimpse of a huge block shaped wall cloud. As we approached Talihina, we stopped to watch it wrap up. Within a few minutes it dropped a tapered cone tornado.
Not wanting to let is go through the mountains, we followed it eastward as radar continued to show a massive hook echo, often indicative of a potential tornado. We ended up the Talimena Scenic Drive, which is a stunning high road with views of the mountains at many places. We were on top at 2000 ft with a view of a massive wall cloud to our north and several cg lightning strikes. We stayed with the storm for another hour as sunset came and darkness ensued. We let the storm go as it was steadily weakening and heading into Arkansas. A fantastic chase, caught our first tornado of the year, and was reminded just how difficult it is chasing in the mountains of eastern OK/western AR! Enjoy the pics!