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Thursday, July 5, 2018

June 6 Powder River Pass/Buffalo, WY storms

Today's chase began in Belle Fourche, SD.  Our plan was to get further west near the Big Horn Mountains with hopes of latching onto a nice supercell.  We headed west on SD 34/WY 24 through Aladdin, WY and Hulett, WY.  Along the way, we stopped at Devil's Tower (cue music from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"), and I apparently need to watch the movie to understand the significance of this monument.  It has been added to my list 😋  In either case, we continued southwest into Moorcroft, WY via US 14.  We enjoyed lunch at Donna's Diner, and the food was excellent.  From Moorcroft, we headed west on I-90 into Buffalo, WY, where we had a pit stop.  After lingering in Buffalo for a while, we headed west on US 16 into the Bighorn National Forest to investigate a cell that looked healthy.  It was a very curvy and hilly road, but the scenery was beautiful.  We made it up to the Powder River Pass, which was 9,666 feet above sea level.  There was even snow on the ground, which fascinated some of the guests, who have never touched snow before.  We turned around at a scenic lookout, because our data was non-existent.  In addition, there were some healthier cells forming back to our east, so we wanted to get closer to those.  Once we got back into Buffalo, we took WY 196 south and used this as our primary chase road for the cells we were targeting.  There were a couple of nice wall clouds, but the storms never got organized enough to produce a tornado.  One of the storms could not make it past the mountains, but it still gave us some nice views.  Low moisture, inadequate wind shear, and high storm bases were the culprits for no tornadoes.  We were in Gillette, WY for the night after driving 384 miles.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

June 5 Lodgepole, SD storm

We began today in Lemmon, SD, and our plan was to play up near Bismarck, ND.  Because we were in decent position, and Bill did not want to drift too far away from our target area, we had a leisurely morning in Lemmon.  The guests were dropped off at the Petrified Wood Park to poke around for a bit.  After 20 minutes, we headed to a local grocery store to stock up on some goodies.  Lunch was in town at the Alaska Café.  Shortly after lunch, we found ourselves heading east on US 12.  We turned north onto SD 73/ND 49 towards New Leipzig, ND.  After driving around the town for a bit, we continued our journey north on ND 49.  Along the way, we stopped at Lake Tschida for some scenery and power waiting.  Bill also looked at data and began thinking that our better play would be closer to MT.  In addition, there were lots of chasers in the Bismarck area, which was another strike.  After a while, we opted to head north into Glen Ullin, ND, where we had a pit stop.  We ventured a couple miles out of town and found an abandoned house to photograph.  Soon, a cumulus field started bubbling.  Bill gave us another quick pit stop in Glen Ullin, and we were in chase mode immediately after that.  Storms were beginning to fire closer to MT, so we needed to head further west.  Unfortunately, that meant we had to blast south on ND 49 down to Elgin, ND, and take ND 21 west.  We drove through the town of Mott, ND, and then headed south on ND 8 into Haynes, ND.  From there, we turned west onto US 12 into Hettinger, ND, where we continued our drive south on ND 8/SD 75.  At this point, the storm was approaching Ekalaka, MT, and it looked good both visually and on radar.  We eventually headed west on SD 20 past Reva, SD until we got about halfway to Buffalo, SD.  Bill had us pull off to the side of the road so we could observe the impending storm.  Then, we headed south on some dirt roads until we got back onto SD 79.  As luck would have it, there was a broken down big rig  with 5 blown out tires that was blocking our path.  We were fortunate that there was a way to get around it, or else the chase would have been over.  In either case, we continued south on SD 79 until we reached the town of Newell, SD.  Our storm was turning into a high-precipitation blob, so we let it move away from us to enjoy the awesome sunset and display of mammatus clouds.  After driving 387 miles, we found ourselves in Belle Fourche, SD for the night.

Monday, June 25, 2018

June 4 Beginning of Tour

Hello everyone!  It has been a while since I last updated my blog, but I have some exciting stuff for this year's storm chasing adventures.  My first storm chasing trip of the season began June 4, and we met the guests at the base hotel in Denver.  This was a full tour which consisted of 13 guests and 3 staff.  After the safety orientation, our plan was to head as far north as we could in order to be in position for the next day.  We headed east on I-76 and took the exit for CO 55.  After heading north into Iliff, CO and drove west on US 138.  When we reached CO 113, we turned north and headed towards Sidney, NE.  The road turned into NE 19, and we followed it into Sidney.  For lunch, we stopped at Sam and Louie's Pizza and continued north after eating.  We took US 385 through Alliance and Chadron, NE and followed the road until we took US 18 north.  After a pit stop in Hermosa, SD, we headed into Rapid City, where we headed east on I-90 until we reached New Underwood, SD.  At that point, we headed north on New Underwood Road until we reached SD 34.  We continued east into Howes, SD, and we continued north on SD 73 until we reached our hotel in Lemmon, SD for the night.  Our total mileage was 584.

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.