June 14th, 2013 - West Point, NE Supercell
Had been eyeing this day from at least a few days out, and was getting pretty excited for it since it looked to be a fairly close-to-home chase. Anywhere from extreme western Iowa to eastern Nebraska looked primed for good storms, but when the day came, it was clear that the triple point was going to be the focusing point for storms. I will commend the SPC on doing a great job nailing the convective outlook for this day, as the storm of the day occurred pretty much dead-center in their 5% tornado probability area.
Didn't even get up until 2:30pm, so it's a good thing this ended up being as local of a day as it did lol. Met up with Cody Ervin in west Omaha and headed out from there. There were ongoing storms near Grand Island that looked to work their way up north and east, so we headed west towards Columbus to position ourselves on the warm front.
A tad random, but noteworthy enough to take a photo... observed a good number of horseshoe vortices on the way to Columbus. This was one of about 6 rather large and persistent vortices. Have seen these on both good chase days, and busts, so wasn't sure how to feel about it lol.
By the time we got to Columbus, we could see the dryline to the north and east on radar, and it appeared anvil blowoff from the storms (now approaching Columbus) would be an issue for sufficient heating. We decided to head north where cumulus were still in full sunlight and weren't shaded by the anvil blowoff. It was kind of concerning driving north towards what weren't even turkey towers yet, all the while seeing Mike Hollingshead bailing south to Columbus, lol. Sort of a bad feeling when you're going the opposite direction of one of the best chasers you know. Got north to Humphrey, NE in no time. Considered going northwest to some developing cumulus, but knew that anything that formed back there would quickly get undercut by storms to the southwest. Luckily I had been keeping an eye on tops on Radarscope, and as we got to our east option (highway 91) we had a tiny blip of 30kft tops forming right on the triple point. From then on, knew that was going to be the play. Anvil blowoff be damned, we already had an established updraft rooted right on the triple point.
This was actually a smaller updraft that had blown up behind the main storm, which was just northeast of Clarkson, NE. Nevertheless, this thing still had some pretty nice textures developing on its base and clearly wanted to sustain itself.
Got east of the smaller western cell and stopped for a quick look at its base. Still a nice vertical updraft going, with hints at striations forming on its base. Began to worry about this cell firing into the main cell, raining into its updraft and "seeding" it to death. Luckily that didn't end up being the case, and these two storms ended up merging without any issues. Believe the few cars you can see in the shot above are Jeff Piotrowski and a few others. Up until this point, we had seen virtually no chasers.
Continued east on 91 until we reached 275, where we headed north towards West Point. Almost wish we would have stopped to take a quick shot of the storm's updraft on our way north, as it was just a solid vertical wall of convection. Knew we had to get closer before the thing went nuts though, as it likely was going to just spinning on the triple point. Took highway 32 west out of West Point for about 6 miles and stopped to watch the storm, giving us at least a couple miles between ourselves and the storm in case it started to turn east. In retrospect, we should have gotten much closer much sooner, as the storm was absolutely stationary. I worried that it would start riding along the boundary to the southeast, and without radar to confirm that it was stationary (data sucked in the area, for some reason), we decided to sit in position.
First view of the updraft base, kinda lame. Brought out the contrast to show what we were missing by sitting a couple miles out. Visually it looked pretty flat, but on camera you could tell that right edge was trying to get rounded. This was taken right at 6:00pm.
6:05pm. Storm starting to develop some nice striations. Base is clearly getting rounded, and a nice inflow tail on the right side began to reveal itself. Still raining and hailing at our position, so a bit tough to shoot.
6:08pm, so a whole 3 minutes after the last image lol. Rain and hail let up for a bit, so we can actually get out and shoot. Structure getting exponentially better now. Plenty of striations forming and sculpting the updraft, and the lighting got just a bit better as more ambient light reflected off the anvil to the east.
6:13pm. 5 minutes after the previous image, and now we're at full structure madness. Just crazy how quickly this storm developed from "trying-to-be-a-supercell" base to a full-fledged stacked plates supercell in less than 15 minutes.
So so glad I shot a pano at this point. 9 images total, 14mm on a crop sensor just couldn't quite capture it all. Had some sweet looking inflow features straight above us and just to our north in front of the precip. Really shows how rapidly the storm was intensifying, grabbing all the moisture it could. Panos are your friend! (click for a bigger version)
Took a zoomed shot of the right side of the meso, just because I'm a sucker for the epic-storm-over-highway scene.
Unfortunately, as soon as the show had started, it began to end. The meso eventually became mostly wrapped in precip, but not before putting down one heck of a CG barrage. Caught these two bolts only a few seconds apart. Don't know how many good ones there were, but we had our fair share of close strikes! I was just psyched to have captured a couple decent bolts with this structure before it faded away.
No more bolts now, just an increasingly rain-wrapped and flattening meso. Starting to look like it wanted to line out.
Headed back into West Point to top off with gas at some point in here. The storm structure was deteriorating and becoming less photogenic, and not really moving, so there wasn't much to miss. Came back west out of West Point again, going a little further this time and meeting up with Mike Hollingshead on a dirt road a couple miles west of our original position. So glad he got on the storm and actually did the right thing by getting close lol. By the time we met up with him, the storm was clearly lining out. Just wanted to be a big shelf at this point. Think it finally got tornado-warned not long before this, which seemed a bit late considering it had a strong couplet on it for about 30 minutes prior. If it was putting anything down at this point, it would have been nearly impossible to see it. Just a big green mess now.
Drove south and east, and south and east trying to get ahead of it, but it just wasn't happening. Eventually the southern portion formed into a fairly formidable severe-warned line, which eventually ended up hitting the College World Series. That was super fun to drive through lol. Had to pull off periodically thanks to near-zero visibility with the driving rains. Saw some small damage to trees as well, but nothing larger than some big sticks and leafy branches.
Cody and I made one last stop on our way back to Omaha. Cloud-to-cloud bolts were happening fairly consistently, so we got off of highway 31 by Prairie View Cemetery.
Didn't end up getting the jaw-dropping strike I had hoped for since the lightning largely tapered off before we got set up, but it was a cool (and spooky) ending to a fantastic local chase! We even got to see the CWS fireworks in the distance as we got back into Omaha.