Wednesday 3 June 2015

Day 7 - Nebraska panhandle

TUE 02 JUNE 2015

Difficult picking a location today due to a rather broad area at risk of severe thunderstorms - the best chance for a tornado would be up in North Dakota where low level winds are most backed. However, we need to be in Colorado for tomorrow's higher risk of tornadoes, and so ND wasn't really a viable option to get back to CO in time. Western Nebraska showed promise of developing thunderstorms, albeit with a lower tornado risk.

So we drove south from our overnight stay in Rapid City (SD) and grabbed some lunch/refuelled in Chadron (NE). Storms were yet to initiate, so we parked off the road to watch the cumulus on the western horizon begin to tower. A couple of storms in Wyoming were now becoming severe warned for large hail and strong winds, heading in our general direction, while more cells began to develop just to our west in Nebraska. We drove towards them, some developing supercell characteristics at times, but eventually all these storms merged into one large cluster of severe thunderstorms.

Severe thunderstorm near Marsland (NE). The turquoisey green colour is indicative of a lot of large hail...
Sitting to the south of these storms and looking north, a lot of 'greenage' was visible indicating the presence of large hail. They became outflow dominant, with a gust front racing out in front of this cluster, picking up a lot of dust. We continued to drive south and eastwards ahead of this cluster, attempted to intercept a lone supercell south of Gordon (NE) but this quickly became engulfed by the large thunderstorm cluster rapidly moving in from the west.
iPhone pano of the outflow from the severe thunderstorm near Marsland (NE)
We reluctantly gave up chasing these storms to make the 2 hour drive to North Platte (NE) where we had booked a hotel for the night. En-route, a couple of discrete supercells had developed in the southwestern panhandle, so we made a slight detour west to get a little closer and watch the frequent lightning flashing away as the sun set in the background.

Then began the fun... as we drove back towards North Platte (NE) a deer decided to run across the road as we drove past - slamming into the front driver's side of the vehicle and causing some damage to the car. I was a bit shaken up, pulled over immediately to assess the damage (see photo below), albeit hard to do in the dark. The car looked driveable, and we still had 80miles to go until our hotel, so I drove slowly back to the hotel and gradually calmed down. Will have to assess the damage in the morning and probably get our 3rd hire vehicle of this chase at some point... (and rather ironically, the only tornado reported was indeed in North Dakota near the town of Killdeer - what are the chances of that...?!)

Our deer-damaged Dodge Durango...
02 June 2015 GPS Tracker Route Map
2015 STORM CHASE stats thus far:
McDonald's tally: 8
Applebee's tally: 6
Distance driven: 2,868 miles
States visited: 7

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