May 26th, 2013 - Broken Bow, NE Supercell
By 6:30pm, you generally know how a chase is going to end. This day was the exception to that rule. Started the day in fog after leaving our hotel in Wall, SD from the night before. Odd little place lol. Should have taken photos, but was too busy devouring some chicken strips from DQ at the time. After a great chase the previous day, we weren't expecting much out of this one even though it was pretty much a carbon copy. The previous day really only worked out because of orographic lift off the Black Hills. This time, the best parameters were in northern/central Nebraska, where we wouldn't have the terrain to help us. Chasing was a no-brainer though, as it was pretty much along the scenic route home. Dropped south off of I-90 in South Dakota all the way down through the sandhills to highway 2 near Hyannis, NE.
Met up with a couple other chasers (Brad Goddard), sat in a parking lot, threw some rocks, watched surface observations, waited for tops to start showing up out of our cu field... typical waiting-for-initiation shenanigans. Decided to amble east towards Thedford, NE where there was slightly better moisture in place and tops on our cu were trying to grow a little taller. Pretty much everywhere we looked though, towers were struggling to be towers at all. At 6:00pm with no real storm in sight, I was fairly certain our day was going to end with throwing rocks, sitting on a dirt road, watching out cumulus die out.
As stated earlier though, this day was the exception to the rule. Around 6:30pm, legitimate towers started going up along a boundary to our east and north. Drove east towards those, which ultimately ended up looking rather unimpressive despite their height due to the stable air surrounding them. Nothing really looked crisp, just a lot of stratus-y inflow. Around the same time, a pure convective bomb went off to the southeast. We were faced with a tough decision... stay on the more well-established storms that looked great on radar but unimpressive in person, or blast towards the new storms that were unimpressive on radar but a convective bomb visually? We went with the second option.
Finally got east of the storm just east of Broken Bow, NE. Could see the sloped base while approaching from the backside and when passing just to the south, it was apparent that we were in for a structure show.
Got north and east of it and were treated to some of the coolest structure any of us had ever seen. Keep in mind, this was only Sarah's second chase lol. Completely spoiled now, as it'll be a challenge to top this structure. Huge sculpted low-precipitation barrel updraft.
Got east of it to avoid the hail and increased our distance from the storm so we could sit back and enjoy watching it spin for a while. This was 14mm on a 5D, so we were closer than it looks here, but still a relatively comfortable distance from the base compared to most chases. It was nice to just enjoy a storm for a while and not have to drive to keep up.
Took some tighter shots with the 60D as the structure continued to churn over the sandhills.
Rather crazy watching the speed of the updraft at this point. Could see the convection towards the top just boiling and exploding upwards.
Later in its life cycle now. Met up with Tyler Burg and Cody Ervin and shot the storm as it ramped up its electrical activity.
Got into a little hail again. Golf balls mostly. Saw some slightly larger ones as we bailed east. Chris and Tyler standing under the meso here. Actually briefly tried to tighten up and produce a broad funnel/area of rotation, but couldn't quite get it done. A tornado underneath this structure would have just been too much!
Parted ways from Tyler and Cody at this point as Chris and continued east and north through the down of Arcadia, NE. Thing was putting out anvil CGs almost non-stop at this point. We stopped on the side of the road to grab a few shots. Chris nailed a shot with a monster CG splitting out the side of the updraft with a million branches, which I missed while setting up. Did manage to catch one great bolt though, as it crashed down through the updraft. One of my favorite shots from the day.
Went north a couple more miles and made our last stop for the day. Watched this cell slowly shrivel up as it continued to put on an incredible electrical display.
Favorite of the day.
Bye bye, updraft!