May 25th, 2013 - New Underwood, SD Supercell
Left Chris' place with the intent to chase a couple of slight risk days over western South Dakota. 40 knots of shear and around 2000 j/kg of instability looked to do the trick... and indeed it did. Initially set off to the west along highway 12. Eventually made it through Valentine and eventually Chadron, sitting just outside of town. Storms had already fired off of the Black Hills, but we were hoping to be rewarded with a supercell in the Nebraska panhandle or extreme southwestern SD. Didn't end up happening, and after watching and weighing our options for about 30 minutes, we ended up deciding to blast north to the already established supercell coming off of the Black Hills. We had heard reports of a "wedding cake" stacked plates supercell ongoing, and it would still be a solid hour and a half before we were in position. We crossed our fingers and hoped it could hold together long enough for us to get there.
It did. Luckily, it was also moving pretty slowly, so we caught up to it north of Box Elder (east of Rapid City). While it didn't look incredibly impressive, it was nice to see the base of a storm whose anvil we had been driving under for the better part of an hour.
Again, nothing crazy, but it was moving towards us and picking up inflow.
Basically just kept following the storm east from then on. Found a sweet foreground and shot it in front of this abandoned house for quite a while.
Wasn't the only storm in town... but clearly the only established one at the time. Watched some towers going up over the hills to the south while our storm drew closer.
Like I said, had lots of time to shoot at this location. Got a decent timelapse as we waited until the storm was right over us before leaving.
Took this right before we bailed east. Note the feature in the middle of the shot. Didn't notice it at the time, but looks suspiciously like a large funnel and potential dust/rain getting kicked around at the surface below. Could be something, could just be contrast messing with my eyes lol. It'll go down as a maybe-nado, as I don't believe anyone else was there to confirm at the time.
Finally started to get back out in front of it again. Shot this while Chris was driving. Really odd structure at this point.
Punched north and got a little too close to the hail core, but briefly got a great view at what was now a very wrapped-up structure. A perfectly-round donut!
Blasted back east. Passed a couple of tour groups and fellow chaser Brad Goddard. Now this thing was really starting to look good, with a bell-shaped updraft.
Chris shooting in the field, Sarah watching on the road. This is her first chase, mind you lol. Already ruined if she expects every chase to produce something this beautiful!
Really cool view of the storm as we passed over a valley. Think we were around New Underwood, SD now.
Just a sweet scene to watch unfold. Boiling convection above a (mostly) rain-free base and rounded meso.
Started getting pretty weird as it began to enter its death throes now. Huge midlevel collar developed around the thing, obscuring our view of the updraft above. Made the thing look like a huge spaceship.
Followed it east along interstate until our final exit near Wasta, SD. Shriveling now... but it was a beautiful death. One of the coolest supercell deaths I had seen (which was quickly topped the next day lol). In terms of light and form though, this one was tough to beat.
Really rare to be able to chase a supercell until its death AND get a stunning sunset behind it. Here's Chris snapping a few last frames for the day.
Sort of a cute little supercell now lol. Chris noted something this day that has really stuck with me since. It's amazing how long a cell will hold on to its spin once it's spinning. Even when there's not much of an updraft left, it keeps churning away until it's gone.
Ran into Willoughby Owen (in blue, below) at this same exit, which felt rather crazy considering he's from Australia lol. Not the first time we've run into each other either. Rather crazy to think about how two people can live in different hemispheres, but given the right atmospheric conditions, end up seeing each other on the same rural dirt road. Between that bit of "sweet Jesus the world makes me feel small" philosophy and the scene before us, it was a really peaceful ending to the day.