Monday, May 24, 2010

5/24 - 11:15pm CDT - Fast-Moving Storms, but Little Action

As you probably saw in my last post, we weren't too optimistic about today's severe setup. As expected, the southerly flow aloft and at the surface produced disorganized storms that eventually formed into a linear system. The first few cells that formed before merging and contaminating each other in West Nebraska were pretty good though! We raced to intercept a cell on I-80 that formed on the dry line and it looked very good on radar. As we neared it, both our tour leader Todd and I noticed a dark wedge-shaped lowering under the base a few miles away in the haze. The surface winds were blowing at over 40 kt today, so all the dust from the ground obscured what little we could see only a few seconds later. We were pretty convinced it was a tornado based on the strong rotation couplet on radar and the very smooth shape in the distance. We could not chase the storm because it was moving 60 mph northward into an area with no roads. Our tornado suspicions were later confirmed this afternoon when the SPC storm reports listed two reports of a tornado on the ground near Kimball, Nebraska at exactly the time we were there. So in essence we briefly, and I mean briefly, saw a tornado today.

After that cell moved off well to the north, we waited at a rest stop on I-80 and let a few more rotating cells pass over us. We then traveled to the east to get ahead of the dry line, but nothing of interest formed there. The thing we enjoyed today was the impressive surface winds that wrapped around the low to our southwest as I mentioned earlier. Winds of 40-50 mph with gusts to 60 mph blew dust and tumbleweeds everywhere and made it nearly impossible to walk around. All our tour guests wanted to have their picture in the wind because it made everyone's hair look crazy.

After a few hours of waiting for more substantial cells to form ahead of the dry line, we threw in the towel and headed toward Colby, KS. Just as we were getting ready to go head to our hotel, a small funnel cloud dropped from the sunset storm we were taking pictures of. A second one formed after the first diminished, but it too had a short lifespan. The storm then fell apart after the funnels were through. Obviously we missed the big wedge tornado today in South Dakota, but winds and thermodynamic factors were simply better in Nebraska.

We may try to chase in East Colorado if moisture recovers in that area tomorrow, but our backup plan is to go sightseeing in downtown Denver if it doesn't. We'll see how the situation looks tomorrow morning!

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