Thursday 22 May 2014

2014 Chase Day 10 - Bennett/Strasburg (CO) storm

Initially we had planned to drive 6-7 hours southwards, once we'd dropped Kerry off at Denver (CO) International Airport, to chase some storms in the Texas/New Mexico panhandle region which would also put us in the right place for the next few days of chasing. However, a closer look at various forecast models, including the SPC and local NWS office's discussions, suggested it may be worth hanging around near the Denver (CO) area for some afternoon storms that had a low (but non-zero) chance of tornadic potential.

Lunch was once again in McDonald's in Aurora (CO), while a few cells began to form over the Front Range and drift slowly northeastwards. Eager to get on a storm early today, rather than miss the fun as per yesterday, we drove southwards to Franktown (CO). By this point we could see a new storm developing to our northeast, strengthening on radar. We nudged a zig-zag north and east to try and get to the eastern side of the storm - but of course that meant driving through the downdraft at some point, which gave us a period of heavy rain and quite a bit of small hail. Suddenly our road became a dirt road too, which added to the fun of trying to drive on a hail-covered road.

Eventually we made it through to the northern side of the cell, but a new storm developing over Denver (CO) had suddenly become tornado-warned, heading for (once again just like yesterday) the International Airport. Our position now west of Bennett (CO) meant that we were sandwiched between the two cells - so we stayed put, with clear visuals of the bases of both storms in case any funnel decided to have a cheeky go at developing. We drifted a little further west towards Watkins (CO) to get a better view of the Denver cell, but it was weakening and looked less-impressive visually. Meanwhile the other cell now south of Byers (CO) started to look a little more promising with briefly some better structure. But it didn't last long, as multiple new cells were rapidly developing to the south and west of this main cell, and within no time they had all merged into a large MCS (mesoscale convective system), producing golf ball sized hail in places (and were ultimately severe warned for such).
Interesting lowering of the base of the Denver (CO) storm. Note also the vehicle in the foreground...
Meanwhile in the other direction, the Bennett (CO) storm base was getting interesting...
Mammatus on the Denver (CO) storm as it passed over the airport
Denver (CO) storm to the west
Strasburg (CO) storm as seen from Bennett (CO)
With this mess it became apparent that both (a) a tornado was looking increasingly unlikely and (b) we needed to escape sharpish or get into some very big hail as the storms approached from the south. On multiple occasions we were stuck in heavy rain and small hail, and were thankful that it didn't get any bigger. We decided to cut some of the journey time to New Mexico by doing some of the drive this evening while we still had a few hours spare, but unfortunately it meant driving through Denver (CO) right in the middle of rush hour, which wasn't ideal. Otherwise we had a relatively smooth journey south down the I-25, across the New Mexico border bringing our State tally to 9 now.

We're now staying the night in a Steve Western hotel in Raton (NM). Very comfy beds, could stay in these all day if we didn't have to chase again tomorrow!

STORM CHASE 2014 STATS thus far
McDonald's tally: 13
States visited: 9
Distance driven: 3,619 miles

1 comment:

  1. Steve Western Hotel.... HAHAHAHAH I can now imagine a spooky hotel with ghosts and cowboys :p