June 10th, 2010
This day looked like the perfect day to catch explosive convection on far western Nebraska / NW Kansas. I was apprehensive about driving so far west, but considering I had never been west past York before, and the fact that we had 4 people in the car (making it relatively cheap), we made our plans and left Omaha early in the morning. Left with Chris, Tyler, and Cody in the jeep and headed west.
An MCS (meso convective system) rolled through Omaha in the morning in the form of a weakening line of storms. Actually had a decent shelf out ahead of it. We almost stopped to shoot it, but decided to continue on since we were still hours from our target. Just odd to start a chase day already under outflow-dominant storms. We hoped that that wasn't going to be the best thing we saw all day.
Fast forward 300 miles to near Ogallala, NE. Messed around at Lake McConaughy for a while waiting for the right parameters to come together. Mesoanalysis showed 9000 CAPE (convective available potential energy) over the area so we felt fine where we were lol. Granted that's obviously a bit over-estimated, but that's a pretty ridiculous parameter regardless.
Was kind of cool just to watch all the water spraying out of the Lake McConaughy dam. That ought to fill an olympic-sized swimming pool pretty quick.
Had tons of these swallows flying around and stopping at their nests under the dam. Was a fun challenge trying to get a good shot of them.
Headed into Ogallala to chill with Mike Hollingshead since he said he had a room and was bored as hell too. Looked over satellite imagery and started getting nervous when nothing had decided to fire in Nebraska by around 4:30. Our cumulus field had dissipated to just about nothing, so we decided the only play left was to drive for a few storms that had fired near Sterling and Deer Trail, CO.
Our first storm looked good on the approach, could make out a couple stacked plates and a nice rugged wall cloud, but it fell apart the instant we got out of the car. You can tell how ecstatic Tyler was watching our dying storm lol.
Had some alright mammatus, but certainly nothing cool enough to justify the drive.
What to do now? Our storm had just died and we were what felt like a million miles from home. There was a little storm on radar that was a significant ways south, so we figured we might as well drive that little bit further since we were already all the way out here. Expected the thing to die as we made up the miles, but miraculously, it stayed alive. Good work, tail-end charlie! Here was our first view as we cleared the precip. Just a massive moisture vacuum.
Still driving. A sweet looking updraft, but we still had a little ground to make up before we could stop and shoot it. Slightly wider shot.
Got out of the car and were floored by the sight. What an updraft! This is a wide shot, but you can see how striated the thing was.
Probably should have gotten closer like Tyler had suggested, but we sat and waited for it to come to us. Was really relaxing to be able to just sit and shoot a storm for such a long period of time, instead of constantly repositioning ahead of a racing supercell.
Just loved the textures. Would have been really crazy with direct sunlight on it I'm sure, but the twilight colors gave it an incredibly surreal glow.
Chris shooting what was now taking the shape of a classic liberty bell updraft. Developed a sweet vault on the right, that small window between the striated updraft and the precip on the right.
Stepped back and got a shot of everyone with the storm. Surreal.
Tyler checking radar as the storm continued to slowly churn its way toward us. I always feel obliged to take at least one shot of the storm and the vehicle that got us there on every chase.
And now for what was an awesome surprise. Just when we thought the scene couldn't get any crazier, the sun started to set below the precip to the northwest! One of my absolute favorite shots of the day.
And for the cherry on top? Lightning above the whole scene.
Kept having a few little plumes of dust spin up underneath the rain-free base, but never confirmed any of them as tornadoes. This storm had produced a couple tornadoes earlier in its lifetime, but seemed to be done by this point. Thought I found a small funnel above the plumes in a couple shots, but really nothing conclusive enough to count lol. Screw tornadoes anyway, this was obviously more of a scene for structure.
Headed east a bit to stay ahead of the storm (and a massive convoy of chasers).
Got out east ahead of it one last time. Shot bolts as a couple CGs struck down through the vault and stabbed right through the storm. Stopped in Last Chance for dinner as the sirens were going off and we were being pelted by quarter-sized hail, but we ate our meal in peace knowing the storm had lost most of its tornadic potential. And to say goodbye, the expanding line of storms treated us to an awesome light show on the drive home! An awesome sight to have flickering in the background as we thumbed through our images of the day on our camera LCDs.