Monday 28 May 2018

Day 2 - Colorado Landspouts

MON 28 MAY 2018

Two potential targets today - somewhere near WaKeeney (KS), and points south along the dryline in Kansas, or Palmer Divide and points to the northeast in NE Colorado. SPC had a broad 5% tornado risk in the morning, but we opted to head for Limon (CO) and play the Colorado target primarily because of the visible outflow boundary over NW Kansas that was slowly creeping into eastern Colorado, and the fact that at the time the HRRR model had been consistent on developing a couple of supercells near the Palmer Divide.
SPC Forecast
SPC Tornado Probability Forecast
As we left our hotel in Goodland (KS) the SPC increase the tornado risk to 10% over NE Colorado, strengthening our decision to go east was the right one - was still slightly torn to hang back and head southwest in Kansas. On our drive into Colorado we encountered thick stratus, and much lower temps  (nearer 16-18C, a bit chilly considering it was 35C the day before!). Plenty of moisture available then, but would there be sufficient cloud breaks to allow heating and therefore thunderstorms to develop?

I started getting doubts about whether we'd made the right decision, and noticed each new run of the HRRR model was backing off the idea of anything developing over the Palmer Divide. We eventually made it to Limon to refuel, but then headed back east in the direction we'd come from to Bovina (CO), where we parked up for a bit. We had driven quite a bit westwards so was essentially committed to whatever developed in Colorado, rather than heading back and chasing in Kansas.

Clouds continued to break, and convection began to fire along and north of the outflow boundary, visible as a broken line of developing cumulus. Paul Knightley and Helen Rossington joined us for a bit and we observed how much shear was notable in the cloud structures. A thunderstorms was gradually developing to our north, so we nudged east to Stratton (CO), then north towards Kirk (CO), giving us an option to head west towards a now severe-warned thunderstorm near Cope (CO), or east to another thunderstorm near St Francis (KS), just over the State border.
Phone pic of convection beginning to develop to our north, from Bovina (CO)
Numerous reports of landspout tornadoes started coming out from an updraft base north of Flagler (CO), to our west, that was yet to produce any precipitation on radar! We opted to head west towards this developing storm, but by now we had lost mobile data coverage, and so began a 2 hour chase in the dark using just visual clues in the clouds to determine where to drive to.

As we approached Cope (CO) I could see a beautiful landspout to our south, sadly we couldn't stop for photos, but once we did stop a few minutes later there were 2 landspouts on the ground. This storm continued to produce multiple landspouts, and we lost count - we think we saw 4.
Twin landspouts north of Flagler (CO), as seen looking south from near Cope (CO)
While we had been watching this storm way to our south, a second area of rotation was approaching us from the west. It was a big rain monster, very dark and very menacing. Lots of lightning within the wall of rain to our west, and within the rain we could just make out a cone-shaped tornado, but blink and you missed it because it was soon engulfed in rain.
Phone pic of the rain monster approaching from the west
By now this thunderstorm was fast approaching us, pea-sized hail and rain started to fall, some the hail began to get bigger, so we headed back east to re-position a couple of times, to observe the fast motion in the clouds, and areas of rotation. Another tornado formed, this time a rope, and extended down to the ground. We were getting pummelled by rain and hail coming in horizontally in strong winds, but had to watch this tornado as it moved across a field right next to us, less than 100 metres away! Impossible to take photos because of how much rain was falling onto the camera lens etc, but we could see dust debris being picked up around the base of this weak tornado - eventually it dissipated and we dashed east to get out of the core of this storm. The closest I've ever been to a tornado, and it was awesome!
Rope tornado eventually drifts across the field right next to us, picking up dust debris  - near Cope (CO)
So ends our tornado count for the day - at 6 - as we nudged east and then south to keep ahead of this developing line of thunderstorms. We ended the day at the same hotel that we started at, in Goodland (KS), as a thunderstorms with small hail moved across the city. Since it was Memorial Day, most restaurants either closed early or weren't open at all, so it was McDonalds for dinner - the 2nd of the trip!
GPS tracker

No comments:

Post a Comment