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Thursday, May 31, 2018

July 7 Julesburg, CO LP supercell

Cu field near Ogallala, NE

Lake McConaughy
I never got around to creating a post for July 7, 2017, and the details are very hazy for me at the moment.  Go figure!!  Luckily, Bill was gracious enough to allow me to use his write-up for the day.  Before I post his account of the day, I will post what I wrote as my Facebook status the next day:
Sandhills of Nebraska

Lewellen, NE

We started in Hot Springs, SD today, and our goal was to catch a storm or tow near the Cheyenne Ridge.  We ended up intercepting a picturesque LP supercell near Arthur, NE, and we chased it down to Ovid, CO via Julesburg, CO.  We drove 589 miles and found ourselves in Denver for the night.  This was also the final day of chasing, so we said goodbye to our awesome group.  Even though the weather pattern was poor, we had storms, lots of laughs, and loads of fun.  Total mileage for the week was 2923 miles, and I drove a total of 6,632 miles during my two tours.

Now for Bill's more detailed account:  "The day previous (July 6) was a reposition day for the most part, though we did wind up with a nice lightning show during the evening in Hot Springs.  We drove the Enchanted Highway and visited Mount Rushmore, too.  Unfortunately, we were stuck in a restaurant in Hot Springs as the thunderstorm approached.  I hate it when that happens.
We had to play relatively closely to northeastern

Colorado on the 7th, since this was the tour’s final chase day and we needed to be back in Denver by midday on the 8th.  The weather gods smiled on me and provided a severe storm chance on the central High Plains.  Northwest flow at mid-levels was more than strong enough to provide adequate storm shear, and dew points near 60F on east-southeasterly upslope flow contributed to modest instability.  SPC was only marginally impressed, and they plastered a “Marginal Risk” of severe weather on the High Plains.  After lunch in Scottsbluff, we made our way south to the southern Nebraska Panhandle.  A cluster of cumulus clouds drew us towards Ogallala, Nebraska.  From a high spot in the Sandhills north of Lake McConaughy, we observed a strengthening and organizing storm base to our west-northwest.  It quickly became clear that this storm was worthwhile, and I needed to be closer.  It was rotating hard and turning to the right, or dropping to the south.  We maneuvered around the north side of the lake, and barely made it in front of the hail core to our south option near Lewellen.  The storm base was on the high side and there was a prominent clear slot near the hail shaft.  I wanted a good look at the storm structure, so we headed south towards Big Springs.  The updraft base moved south and was not too far to our west-northwest, near Big Springs.  The sun was setting and the light was great…and we were WAY too close for the structure.  I knew that the storm structure would be the main show, and I had allowed the storm to get too close.  We had to dash west a few miles and then south again to get good structure views in the great light.  I never really did get as far away as I would have liked, until we were near Julesburg at dusk.  Still, I managed to get some impressive structure shots with my wide-angle lens, and with Michael’s even wider-angle lens.  Thanks, Michael!  (My primary wide angle lens had been accidentally left behind in Denver at the beginning of the tour.)  Since the storm had been accommodating, we headed to the base hotel in Denver for the night, and I began my drive back home to L.A. a little after midnight!  My storm chase tour season for 2017 had ended."
I will also mention that this storm had some fairly intense and close lightning bolts, which kept us on our toes during photo stops.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

July 6 reposition day/Mt. Rushmore

We began the day in Steele, ND, and the only good area for severe weather was in central WI.  This posed a problem for two reasons.  First, that area is known for its hills and trees, which means poor terrain for chasing. Second, we needed to have the guests back in Denver on July 8.  In addition, the tornado potential was not that great, so we blew it off and used today as a day to get repositioned for tomorrow, which looked promising.  The guests wanted to visit Mt. Rushmore, so we started driving in that direction.  That being said, we headed west on I-94 until we reached the exit for Gladstone, ND.  Along the way, we enjoyed lunch in Hebron, ND, at The Wagon Wheel Cafe.  After lunch, we continued into Gladstone, where we dropped south on the Enchanted Highway into Regent, ND.  The Enchanted Highway is a 32 mile highway that features the world's largest collection of scrap sheet metal sculptures.  Out of Regent, we continued west on ND 21 and turned south on ND 22.  We followed ND 22 south until we reached US 12, and we headed west into Reeder, ND.  Next, we continued south on ND 22 into SD, where the road turned into SD 79.  We followed SD 79 into Newell, SD, where we had a much needed pit stop.  There was a whole lot of nothing until this point, so we were very happy to get out of the van for a bit.  After our pit stop, we continued south into Sturgis, SD, and we drove through downtown to see the different stores.  We jumped on I-90 east towards Rapid City, SD.  From Rapid City, we continued south into Mt. Rushmore.  We spent an hour touring the monument, and then we continued south into Hot Springs, SD for the night.  Our total mileage for the day was 460 miles.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 5 tornadic potential

We began today in Grand Forks, ND, and we learned there were a few possible target areas to choose from for storms.  Our first possible area was in Central MN, but then we would need to contend with trees and hills.  Another area was all the way in Manitoba/Saskatchewan, but that would make for a long drive.  We set our sights on the area near Minot, ND.  Tornadic potential was the best we saw all week, and models were consistent with popping some beefy storms between 4-5 that evening.  All ingredients were in place for this to occur, but Bill was concerned about the strong cap.  After our briefing, we stopped at a grocery store to stock up on some goodies, and then we headed south on I-29 out of Grand Forks.  We took the Thompson, ND exit off the interstate and headed west on ND 15 into Northwood, ND.  Bill found a cozy cafe for us to have lunch, and then we headed to the local park to kill some time.  He did not want to go crazy with driving today, because the key would be patience.  We rounded up the guests and continued our westward trek on ND 15.  When we arrived in New Rockford, ND, we fueled the van and took the guests to a local cafe for ice cream.  At this point, the SPC issued an MD for our target area, but there was some very strong uncertainty in the text.  Watch probability was very low, and this was due to the strong cap.  From New Rockford, we took a quick jog south on US 281 and turned west onto ND 15 again.  We followed this road into Fessenden, ND, where we headed north on US 52 towards Harvey, ND.  After another pit stop, we continued on US 52 into Voltaire, ND.  We were going to continue to Minot, ND, but we were stuck behind a road painting crew.  Because of this, we turned our van around and headed back to Harvey.  We stopped briefly in Harvey, and we noticed a Cu field to our west that was not there before.  Could this be the moment we were hoping for, or was the atmosphere playing tricks on us?  Shortly after, a beefy updraft began to develop, and it turned into an okay storm.  We retraced our steps on US 52 by heading north until we arrived in Anamoose, ND.  From there, we blasted south on ND 14 into Denhoff, ND.  We had a brief photo stop here, as there was some lightning with this storm.  After our stop, we headed east on ND 200 into Hurdsfield, ND.  At this point, our storm was showing signs of weakening, so we stopped on a dirt road to watch the storm move away.  The sunset was ok, and it was neat seeing the storm building in the darkness.  Our home for the night was Steele, ND, after driving 411 miles.

July 4 North Dakota storms

We began the day in Murdo, SD, and our target area was north near central ND.  That meant we needed to head towards Bismarck.  After the briefing, we took Hwy 248 east out of Murdo to Vivian, SD, where we headed north on US 83.  Lunch was scheduled to be in Ft. Pierre, SD, and we were fortunate enough to stumble upon a 4th of July parade when we arrived.  We parked the van and found a spot to watch.  Our guests from overseas were ecstatic about the parade!  We walked to our lunch stop, which was at Pizza Ranch.  Unfortunately, it was about a half mile away from where we parked our van, so all of us were ready for food and water.  After lunch, we continued north on US 83 towards Selby, SD, where we had a pit stop.  Storms were still looking to go up as predicted, and we were in good shape to intercept them.  We continued north on US 83 up to ND 11, where we turned east towards Hague, ND.  When we arrived in Ellendale, ND, we headed north on US 281 to Edgeley, where we had another pit stop.  We also said goodbye to Danny, as he needed to begin his trip back to Denver.  It was sad seeing him go, but we know he had a fun time.  We continued north on US 281 into Jamestown, ND, and we saw some storms starting to develop.  Out of Jamestown, we headed east on I-94 and took the Oriska, ND exit on ND 32.  A decent storm was going strong, and we had our sights set on it.  When we made it to Finley, ND, we headed east on ND 200, which turned into ND 18, into Mayville, ND, where we had an emergency pit stop.  The storm showed brief tornado potential, but it sputtered.  In the end, we were given a pretty sunset with some lightning.  Most of us lost a couple pints of blood due to the vicious mosquitos, but we were happy with the end result of the chase.  Our overnight destination was Grand Forks, ND, and we drove 514 miles.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

July 3 South Dakota storms

Wounded Knee, SD
We began the day in Cozad, NE, and our goal was to start working our way north.  SPC had a risk of storms highlighted along the NE/SD border.  After our briefing, we headed north up to Callaway, NE and continued into Broken Bow, NE via Broken Bow Road.  We had a pit stop and continued north on NE 2 into Thedford, NE, where we had another pit stop.  From there, we headed north on US 83 into Valentine, NE, where we had lunch.  After lunch, we headed west on US 20 into Merriman, NE, where we had another pit stop.  We also lingered there for a bit to see what the weather was going to do.  Our group found a friendly goat tied to a pole, and it seemed happy that we untangled its rope. Soon, we were heading north on NE 61 into SD, where it turned into SD 73.  We continued north into Martin, SD, and we headed west on US 18 until we turned north onto SD 27 into Wounded Knee, SD. We were tracking a storm just to the west and north of there, so we took SD 28 out of Wounded Knee to investigate.  Sadly, it did not look good, so we decided to head back east to investigate some new development.  We blasted east on US 18 into Vetal, SD, where we had another pit stop opportunity. Storms were still looking bleak, but we were hoping that lightning would be good enough to give us a show later.  We found a side road on the border of Bennett County and Todd County to watch the lightning and the gorgeous sunset.  This was also the line of Mountain Daylight Time and Central Daylight time.  We hung around for a while until the set went down and the lightning was no longer worth photographing.  Our destination was Murdo, SD for the night, and we drove 499 miles.

July 2 Nebraska supercell

Arthur, NE
East of North Platte, NE
Eustis, NE
Today, we met a new batch of guests for Tour 9 out of Denver.  This was my first tour with just 5 guests, so I was looking forward to it.  My father-in-law, Phil, was also part of our group.  After a brief orientation, we hit the road and had our weather briefing in the van.  Our target was North Platte, NE, which was a good 4 hours away.  There were a couple areas of interest we were monitoring along the way.  We stopped in Ft. Morgan, CO for fuel and food, and then we continued east on I-80 to Ogallala, NE.  After a quick pit stop, we headed north on NE 61, which took us by Lake McConaughy.  When we came to Arthur, NE, we headed east on NE 92, which took us into Tryon, NE.  At this point, there was a beefy supercell slowly drifting south, so we took NE 97 north out of Tryon to get a bit closer to the action.  After finding a spot to pull off, we decided to go further east to investigate some cells that were in a better environment.  We got back on NE 92 and headed east into Stapleton, NE.  The vans were topped off, and our guests were given another quick pit stop.  Due to the slow motion of the storms, we were able to make this happen.  We headed south on US 83 and stopped a few times to monitor the storm.  As we got closer to North Platte, we noticed a huge storm base over us, and Bill decided this would be our best bet.  Storms were getting affected by outflow all day, but this one developed on the outflow boundary.  When we arrived in North Platte, Bill had me take E Hall School Road to N Airport Road so we could avoid the nasty stoplights in town.  This was a very effective strategy, as the storm was bearing down on us.  We followed US 30 east to Maxwell, NE, where we turned north onto S Maxwell Road to get a better view of this storm.  At this point, we were getting hammered by strong outflow winds.  When we turned around, we had to stop so we could get a tree branch moved out of our way.  I was quite happy to get off that road!!  We continued east on US 30 into Brady, NE, and we jumped onto I-80 to get to Gothenburg, NE.  Our van got smacked by torrential rain and 2" hail, but we escaped unharmed.  When we made it to Gothenburg, we dropped south on NE 47 and headed east on NE 23. We made a stop before Eustis, NE to observe the amazing storm.  It had great structure, so it certainly did not disappoint.  When we got a few miles east of Eustis, we found a spot to pull over to watch the storm and its lightning.  We ended in Cozad, NE for the night after driving 450 miles.

Friday, June 30, 2017

June 10 Black Hills storms

Because we arrived in Bismarck early this morning, we did not have our orientation until 10 a.m. That being said, our main objective was to start our drive south to Denver, because we needed to have the guests back to the base hotel by 1 p.m. tomorrow.  We were hoping to intercept a storm or two off the Black Hills along the way.  Bill booked rooms for us in Belle Fourche, SD, so it was no secret where we would be spending the night.  Models were hinting that there would be a couple of beefy storms near the Belle Fourche area, so we packed everything up and started our drive.
Lodgepole, SD Lutheran church
Lodgepole, SD
Lenticular cloud
We drove down the Enchanted Highway in ND, which is a 32 mile stretch of two-lane road.  Along the way, we saw the world's largest collection of scrap metal sculptures, and it was interesting to see them up close.  After stopping at a couple of them, we continued south into Hettinger, ND, where we ate lunch at C & N Cafe.  The waitstaff remembered our group from last year, and they were very pleasant.  Lunch was relatively fast, and we continued our journey south and west towards Buffalo, SD, where we had a pit stop.  We found a few old churches to photograph to kill some time.  Storms were still not firing, so we went a bit further west to Camp Crook, SD, where we found a gravel road to wait on for a while.  There was a decent storm to our south near Belle Fourche that we decided to go after, but it ended up being a dud.  We arrived to our hotel relatively early, which was good, because we needed to be on the road no later than 6:30 a.m.  Our total mileage for the day was 300+.

On June 11, we finished our drive to Denver.  It was bittersweet seeing this group leave, because we all had many laughs and a lot of fun. We drove 406 miles today from Belle Fourche, SD, and total mileage for the tour was 2,998 miles.  If you include the two days of driving from OKC to DEN before the tour, I drove a total of about 3,700 miles.