The final tour day of our 2020 season brought us into southeast Wyoming to play in the upslope flow into the Laramie Range. Several storms formed in this region and tracked southeast towards Cheyenne and points east. Decent moisture and instability, coupled with moderate shear, would help storms become organized and develop into some pretty structured supercells. Our first storm, north of Chugwater, had nice structure and produced a lot of hail. It spun hard a couple times and at one time we thought it had some tornado potential. It get really messy so we decided to target a new cell southeast of Cheyenne near Carpenter. This storm was a treat to watch! We found an old abandoned car that became the centerpiece of our photos/video as the cell slowly dropped towards us. The storm’s structure was that of the classic “stack of plates” and was fun just to watch as it drifted towards us. Both of the storms we chased this day had great structure and were very photogenic. Enjoy the pics!
July 19th was a spectacular day! Good moisture, high instability, good wind shear and a boundary along the Wyoming/Montana border would set the stage for intense supercell development. One such storm formed northwest of Devil’s Tower and drifted southeast. As it crossed Devil’s Tower we had quite the lightning show! I managed to capture a bolt hitting the top of the tower! As the storm moved southeast near Sundance it became extremely electrified producing a CG every 3-4 seconds! At one point, it had an appearance like it was ready to produce a tornado. We lost visibility in the hills and could not confirm one way or another if it did. Later, a second supercell tracked southeast from near Buffalo, WY down to Lusk, WY. This storm constantly spun hard, had pretty structure and was also tornado warned numerous times! It’s structure was top notch and had various rotating wall clouds throughout it’s life. But, as continued to be the theme for 2020, storms had great structure but just couldn’t produce significant tornadoes. Overall it was my favorite day in July for chasing, and one we captured some incredible photos! Enjoy!
July 15th had the right stuff. Good moisture, instability and lift were available, however shear was a touch weak. Storms formed over the southern end of the Big Horn mountains in Wyoming and tracked east/southeast becoming severe. One particular cell near the Pumpkin Buttes area southwest of Gillette, quickly intensified and became a strong supercell thunderstorm. Strong low level shear along a boundary caused it to spin viciously. A couple of funnels formed, but we could never confirm anything on the ground. However by the appearance and the damage we saw afterwards, it would not be a surprise if there was a tornado. The storm was quite electrified and intense. As it moved off the buttes towards Wright, it steadily weakened and dissipated east of that area.
June 25th had a lot going for it. Strong shear, good moisture and increasing instability were present, as well as a nice boundary along the Black Hills Convergence Zone (BHCZ). Initially storms formed in the drier, well mixed air off the Big Horn mountains in north central Wyoming. These cells moved east with one storm in particular taking over and becoming a pretty high based supercell. We stayed on the back side of it east of Wright and watched it race off into the southern Black Hills.
I had a hunch that more storms would form along the boundary, and due to good moisture, these cells would not be so high based. A few storms formed south of Broadus, Montana and moved southeast along the boundary. The tail end cell, as usual, took over and became a very formidable supercell. As this storm approached the area just north of Hulett, twin EF1 tornadoes formed (Per NWS damage survey). We could briefly get a visual of one of them. Structure was superb, and the lightning was very intense. As the storm approached us, we had to blast south to Hulett to get out of it’s way. It raced eastward and we had no way of staying up with it. Other storms also formed and became quite electrified. We stayed with this cluster through dusk when they weakened. Two pretty, but very different supercells from each other and two tornadoes. Indeed, a great chase day to kick off the SLT Photo Tour #3! Enjoy the pics!
June 6th sent us to central and eastern Wyoming. Upslope flow into the Big Horn mountains, along with decent shear and moisture would provide the ingredients to get intense storms developing. Several formed and a couple were tornado warned, and rolled across northeast Wyoming. These storms were quite pretty and produced copious amounts of lightning, providing us with ample opportunities to stop and photograph it. A fun day!
June 12, 2017….it started out like any other day. Too busy to think, let alone chase and then load a trailer for a big show in Amarillo, TX that I was leaving for the next day. But I did and the reward was worth the, “Am I going to get there in time” thoughts I was having. And that is because I didn’t leave Denver until 2:15PM. Yes, 2:15pm. And no, there wasn’t any speeding involved. Just pure LUCK. That and Starbucks, YES, you read that right. I stopped at Starbucks on my way to catching the Carpenter, Wyoming tornado.
Roger had told me that morning, as well as several days before, that if there was “ANY WAY YOU CAN CHASE”, how many times have I heard that phrase???…I should do it. I was torn on going as I also had a gal coming in from Yuma, AZ that afternoon that was going to TX with me the next day. It wasn’t until noon that day that I just told her I couldn’t resist the chase. The sky in Colorado was showing me I HAD to chase! Sooooo, I did. After contemplating on which route would get me north the quickest, I soon decided to high tail it on up I-25 and then north on highway 85 from I-76. My first stop was in Brighton, CO for a STARBUCKS. What???? With a sky like THAT…I stopped??? Can’t a girl eat, drink and chase all at the same time???!!! As I sat ordering my drink and munchies, I watched as a HUGE towering CU was going up directly to my N/NW and man was it GROWING. As I watched radar, I could soon tell I wasn’t going to make that first cell but little booger blowing up on the south side was soon showing me I had a chance! So with renewed hope, I took off with my Grande Very Berry Hibiscus and headed north. And then it happened…that darn Highway 85 construction happened. UGH. I said MANY cuss words as the 45mph speed limit was starting to give me heart palpitations. I soon realized that if it wasn’t meant to be, well, it just wasn’t meant to be. BUT…I DO NOT GIVE UP EASILY!!! I eventually conquered the chase that day, as I remained steadfast with trusty ol’ Radarscope…yes, I chase mostly by Radarscope, and Google maps by my side. I managed to chase the sequence of events that day as instinct lead me along several dirt roads, a herd of cows and eventually to the promise land of Carpenter, Wyoming where I eventually watched an a “drill bit” tornado that lead itself in to an incredible rope out. I also came across the damage path where a barn roof was laying in the middle of road. I did stop to make sure no one was hurt and when I realized all were OK and that hissing sound wasn’t a snake in the grass, it was high time to boogie on! Several houses had damage but from what I understand, no one was injured.
And if you are wondering, Roger and I like to cover 2 target areas, when and if needed. He remained up north and managed to catch tornadoes with his tour group, as I fed him images from my solo chase. My chase ended that day when my gps went out and I had NO idea where I was at. I chuckled as I knew if I just headed towards those Rocky Mts, I would eventually find my way home. Most chasers continued on that day and went north with what ended up being a beautiful supercell. (check Roger’s chase account from this day) But as you have read, I had a huge show to cover the next day in Amarillo, TX and had to get home. I hope you enjoy the sequence of events that unfolded for me on June 12, 2017 as I sure had fun with my Starbucks, Radarscope and that never-ending feeling of, “Gotta get there!!!”.
June 12th had the potential to be a record breaking event for eastern Wyoming, as well as the Nebraska panhandle. At the end of the day numerous tornadoes formed across the landscape! Very high moisture, extreme CAPE, very strong wind shear and upslope into the Laramie Range would cause several supercells to form. We chased the first supercell of the day, which produced a couple of tornadoes near Lingle, Wyoming. This storm was tornado warned for many hours as it moved northeast across eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska.
Later we would drop south towards Scottsbluff, Nebraska and catch a tornadic storm that came out of Colorado (See the next chase account from SLT co-owner Caryn Hill!!!!!). We witnessed 3 tornadoes from this storm. Later in it’s life cycle, it would become one of the most photogenic supercells of 2017 as it rolled across the Nebraska Sand Hills headed for southern South Dakota where it dissipated after midnight. For an event to be this strong, this far west, it was almost unprecedented. SPC even had a Moderate Risk for eastern Wyoming, only the second one in history! They were also forecasting strong tornadoes, which did occur. Hail and lightning in these monster supercells were incredible as well! Enjoy the photos!!!!
May 6th featured an approaching shortwave trough, with great shear, but very limited moisture. Upslope flow into the Laramie range in southeast Wyoming would result in several storms this day. One high based supercell formed and was quite electrified. It never produced much in the way of severe weather but looked pretty and was nearly stationary on the mountains. The lightning it produced was quite photogenic.
June 25th looked like a mess on paper. Lots of moisture, good CAPE, good lift, but little shear would be the story this day. We headed up towards Kimball, Nebraska for the initial convention developing, only to be taken west towards Chugwater as numerous storms formed. Splitting and left moving storms were the norm, with a few showing rotation on the northern side of the cells. As we approached Chugwater from the east, a rope tornado formed and planted itself on the ground for about 3-4 minutes. It was something we really weren’t expecting but were pleasantly surprised to see! It was our 7th tornado on Tour 8 this year!
June 17th had a short wave trough moving across the northern high plains. Decent moisture and instability was in place to fuel significant storms. However a capping inversion kept storms from forming until late in the day. A storm complex moved out of Montana into eastern Wyoming, and it was this complex that developed significant rotation as a storm in front of the line became absorbed into it and caused it to rotate rapidly. A tornado warning was issued for the western Black Hills as the storm approached Beaulah and into the Spearfish area. The structure as dusk was quite nice and the lightning was amazing! One of the best lightning displays all season so far!