Monday 19 May 2014

2014 Chase Day 7 - Bridgeport (NE) and Sidney (NE) to North Platte (NE)

Starting the day in Rapid City (SD), and knowing we had a good 5-hour drive south to get into position for today's storms, we had to quickly get ready to leave and aim towards an initial starting point of Scottsbluff (NE). Showers were already developing to our west over the Laramie range in eastern Wyoming, and drifting to the northeast, and although they looked structurally strong the surface air was too dry to sustain them, resulting in them eventually 'raining themselves out' and leaving mere anvil debris.

We grabbed some lunch in Scottsbluff (NE) - McDonald's of course - and refuelled before waiting on the side of the road just west of the town, hoping something might get a little better organised. In fact we waited for several hours, a new cell going up over Wyoming and drifting northeast towards us but weakening all the while. The general trend was for the cells to be tracking further south with each new one that developed, so we nudged eastwards and parked up north of Bridgeport (NE), alongside 4 or 5 other chase vehicles including a British group!
High-based convection northwest of Scottsbluff (NE)
Another long wait, and one of the high-based 'showers' started to produce a nice-looking meso, and after another 20-30mins a few flashes of lightning were observed. It was at this point that both this cell we were watching (S1) and a new one some way to our southwest (S2) both became severe-warned for hail and gusty winds. The southern cell (S2) by far looked the healthiest, so we decided to quickly drive south towards Sidney (NE) to get ahead of it. En-route we drove through the town of Bridgeport (NE) where S1 produced an amazing mothership-mesocyclone right over our heads! So close it was impossible to capture it all in shot...
S1 meso starting to form from a high-based supercell, rain curtains visible. Base of S2 also visible in distance on left.
Mothership mesocyclone overhead in Bridgeport (NE)
Panorama of overhead mesocyclone in Bridgeport (NE)
With S1 weakening on radar, we still favoured S2 and headed south, arriving in Sidney (NE) ahead of the storm. This enabled us to drive east ahead and more-or-less parallel with it, with S2 behind us and S1 still visible to our northeast. Some impressive structure was visible from S2, while S1 suddenly regained strength and became tornado-warned (radar indicated, no tornado was ever confirmed). Fancying our luck at chasing S1 again, we headed east to try and intersect it as it continued it's journey southeastwards towards the road we were on - we just need to get ahead of it, or face being slammed by large hail from either S1 or S2 given their close proximities.
Heading south to Sidney (NE), with S2 still to the west of the town
Heading south to Sidney (NE), with S2 still to the west of the town
S2 moving over Sidney, nice updraft and mesocyclone visible
As the evening drew in, lightning began to flash much more frequently, and reports starting coming in of golf and tennis ball sized hail from the Sidney (NE) storm. S1 weakened and we thought it'd be fun to park up somewhere and let the storm come over us, seeing as S2 was now heading too far southeast and effectively away from us. We headed for Sutherland (NE) but realised the storm was still too far north for the centre to pass overhead, so nudged a little further east to Hershey (NE) and then to North Platte (NE) where we parked in a hotel car park, booked a room, and sat in the car waiting for S1 to come overhead.

There was a nice gust front with outflow winds picking up significantly, bringing a lot of dust and general rubbish, but apart from a few flashes of lightning and a little bit of rain it was a fairly insignificant storm - I've seen more action in a British storm! Nevertheless, it was another great day of chasing, albeit a bit of a late start and anticlimax at the end. More chasing days to come hopefully...

STORM CHASE 2014 STATS thus far
McDonald's tally: 10
States visited: 8
Distance driven: 2,382 miles