May 11th, 2014
Went out for what looked to be the first real decent close-to-home chase of the season. Got out of school about a week earlier and there hadn't been much else to chase yet this season, so I was itching to get out. Met up with Brett Nickeson in Omaha around 12:30pm and planned to head west. The HRRR was incredibly consistent in firing storms along the triple point / dryline / warmfront near Hastings, and that's pretty much exactly how things ended up playing out.
Headed west through Lincoln on I-80 and eventually went south at the Milford exit. Continued west on Highway 6 and monitored some towers that were along the front directly on and east of us while the storm of the day was firing near Hastings. Wasn't too long before the Hastings storm had a legitimate velocity couplet on it. Initially thought the main storm that went up was behind the front, but it ended up ingesting the boundary directly into the storm. You could see it all happening on radar, which was pretty neat.
Radarscope screenshot via Chris Hill.
As pretty as it looked on radar, there really wasn't much to see visually until later. Basically just a big HP supercell with cloud bases so low you really couldn't make out any structure. Clouds were pretty much ON the ground. Met up with Tyler Burg at this intersection. Just prior to this he got a decent view of brief vortices touching down underneath an extremely low meso. Even coming down from the north it was obvious that something had to be on the ground, but from Brett and I's point of view, it was just a big low-hanging black mass of clouds like the rest of the storm.
Contrast-enhanced here, obviously. Huge RFD cut/occlusion happening. Surely something on the ground low back in there, but again... with LCLs as low as they were this day, there was no way to see anything unless you were right in the bear's cage.
Drive to keep up with it, greeted with more outflow-looking HP garbage.
Stayed ahead of it and kept re-positioning as the storm tracked east-northeast. Nice to chase a storm back towards home for once lol. Think this was near Beaver Crossing, just south of interstate.
Should probably put a disclaimer here... a few of these images were certainly processed a good bit more than usual. There was so much moisture in the air with near 70 dewpoints that everything was pretty hazy. I've taken some artistic license in bringing out the structure by enhancing the contrast of a few of these images. The structure did finally look decent visually by this point, but for the sake of art, I've decided to push a few of these past my usual processing limits to really bring out the grungy nature of the storm.
Near Sutton now. Met up with Chris and Lorraine, whom we'd run into later under rather funny circumstances. Storm was beginning to take on a very ominous green glow (typical of HP storms) and formed a nice beaver tail inflow feature for quite a while.
Brett showing the booty while shooting.
Had a rather sketchy lightning encounter at this point lol. Got to a good vantage point (top of a hill) and got out to watch the storm try to wrap up again. Walk out into a field and KA-BOOM, almost instant flash-bang of a super close CG hitting behind our backs. Couldn't have been much more than a tenth of a mile or so. After that, I don't think Brett got out of the car for the rest of the day lol.
A while later after the frightening lightning incident, structure started to look a little better again. Lots of CGs coming down at this point too, though thankfully none of them close to us. Looked to the NNW and caught a couple stills with bolts.
From that point on, it was pretty much just a short drive home. Got back on I-80 near Greenwood and found where all the chasers were lol. Saw a few dumb people with flashing lights / stopped in the middle of intersections as well. Managed to get through Omaha in pretty good time though and decided to set up for one last photo op in Council Bluffs. Pulled off into the casino parking garage to shoot the storm passing north over Omaha. Turns out Chris and Lorraine had the same idea and were shooting on the level above is.
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Gave Chris a call and after finding out that we were in the same dang place, drove up to their level to shoot with them. Chatted around for a while and eventually patience paid off. Caught a couple bolts with the Omaha skyline coming up off of the Crown Point TV towers.
Decent chase all in all, especially for the first "real" chase of the season. Less than a couple hours from home, and you really can't complain when a storm takes you right back to where you started.