Failures, Frustrations and Wild Successes –
   What I did on my vacation

Dr. Charles A. (Chuck) Doswell III
Research Meterologist
NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory

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The Meade / Sitka storm in "LP" mode
early in its life near Plains Kansas

May 31 (Monday) - Supercells, Weak Tornado
(Big missed tornado chance #1)
Route: Left DDC via US283 to Laverne, OK, to US270 to May, back to US283 to US160, west to 3 east of Meade, back to US283, south to US160, east to US183, south to Sitka, to US64 to Buffalo, OK

    Would have been a great day, but for a bad decision at the end. Waited around or moved only slowly with lots of stops (saw Mike Foster at the intersection of US283 and US64 in OK) for a long time ... dithered about Laverne, OK for awhile, waiting for something to fire. Finally, Vickie saw the developing towers to the northwest. We intercepted the storm just east of Meade (where we again met Mike Foster) ... an LP "mothership" for awhile (here's a wide view). It produced a weak, brief "dust bowl" tornado. Then it developed a lowering and began to propagate east-southeastward and we had to move to stay out of the hail ... ended up south of Sitka on a dirt road, the same road where we had watched a supercell last year (on 24 May); saw Gene Rhoden there, with his tag-alongs. We were running low on fuel and I was worried about that, so we left Gene and went on to Buffalo, OK ... only to find out we had driven away from a tornado, not 5 mins after we left! Gene met us again about 30 min later, in Buffalo and showed his video (a sample of Gene's images can be found here; some other images of what we missed can be seen here, at Bob Conzemius's 31 May chase site). We were right there, and left, minutes before ... Aaarrrrrgggghhh!!! It would have been a terrific day, as I had gotten some nice wildflower shots and the very picturesque supercell we intercepted and followed was the result of a string of good decisions, only to have it blow up on us at the end. But that's real storm chasing, folks!!

"The Mothership" south of Almena, KS

03 June (Thursday) - Supercells, Tornado
Route: Left Wray, CO - east on US34 to KS-27, south to Goodland, east on I-70 to Colby, KS, east on US24 to US83, northeast to KS383, northeast to Norton Wildlife Refuge ... north to US36/383 to Norton, south on unnumbered dirt road to Edmond, KS, east on KS9 to Logan, KS, west on KS9 to unnumbered dirt road, north to US36, east to KS80, north to Almena, northeast to US183, north to Alma, NE, east on US136 to Red Cloud, NE, north on US281 to Hastings.

    Great day! Wandered into the Goodland NWS office, made a forecast for north-central KS and "chased my forecast" ... waited for about 2 h at Norton Wildlife Refuge before we saw towers popping to our immediate south. Stayed with the storm and it developed a "mothership" look, after an initial split. Struggled with KS dirt roads ... called in funnel reports (we saw at least three, first this, then this, then this) from a dirt road northwest of Logan and then moved to another position further north.
Multi-vortex phase of developing Almena tornado

    South of Almena, KS we watched a tornado develop to our west-northwest, starting with a chaotic phase, including multiple vortices, and then it turned into a fat cone, then a large stovepipe that persisted for a considerable time, evolving back into a curved cone [here's another, wider view]. We had to move because the tornado was getting away from us ... as we moved, it was gradually narrowing, but still remaining cone-shaped. Finally, it became a narrow cylinder and then finally roped out. After the tornado dissipated, we struggled with the hail it was putting down on our route, but we got some great views of the "mothership" that we thought was certain to produce more tornadoes, but we never saw more [there may or may not have been more]. At sunset, the storm evolved into a beautiful LP storm. It could be argued that the whole evolution of the main event was one tornado (the point of view that I'm advocating), but there were several gaps in the evolution that could be argued were gaps between tornadoes ... see here for a general discussion). Got some decent video, Vickie shot 35 mm slides, and I hit the medium format camera as well. Ran into Bill McCaul and his wife at Goodland and later around the storm, saw Gene Moore after things settled down (near sunset); had seen Bill McCaul and his wife both at Goodland and in the field, early.

"Altocumulus castellanus" clouds from June 5th.

4 June (Friday) - Nothing
(Big missed tornado chance #2)
Route: Left Hastings - north on US281 to NE58, west to Rockville, NE, south on NE68 to Ravenna (detour route!), northwest on NE2 to Thedford, north on US83 to Valentine, west on US20 to Merriman, south on NE61 to Ogallala.

    Frustrating day! Blew off the early developments (high-based), went north to Valentine, NE but nothing was going on, so went west toward some distant anvils. Saw overshooting tops to the south, so then dived south, but the show was over by the time we got to Ogallala. Thus, we managed to miss everything! Nothing to show for a looonnnggg drive. Found out later that a big show took place at Thedford ... see route description. Aaarrrrggghhh!

Tornado northwest of Newport, NE

05 June (Saturday) - Supercells, Tornado
Route: Left Ogalla on I-80 east, to North Platte, then continued east to Grand Island, north on US281 to NE12, east to 2 mi east of Verdel, NE, then back west on NE12 to Butte, NE, then south on NE11 toward Atkinson, NE ... turned west on an unnumbered dirt road 5 mi north of Atkinson that became paved northeast of Stuart, NE, around Stuart to US20, west on US20 to 1.5 mi west of Newport, NE, then back on US20 to NE137, north to NE12, to Naper, NE, then north on NE/SD 137 to US18, then southeast on US18 to US281, south to O'Neill, NE.

    An initially frustrating day, again, but with an exciting finish! We wandered about, lost (meteorologically) and confused for most of the afternoon ... saw some nice Altocumulus Castellanus while on I-80. Bad visibilities and no storms to the west seemed to spell another screw-up, but finally saw anvils west and decided to go after them. After a wild chase, we managed to intercept a terrific supercell, with a beaver's tail and other nice structure late in the day.
Possible tornado near the SD border after dark

   Saw a nice cone-shaped tornado develop just northwest of Newport, NE! Our first views of the storm give some indication of the structure, the tornado was reasonably large under a low cloud base, although the contrast wasn't great. It eventually became rather debris-shrouded, and then was moving away from us as it dissipated. We didn't get much besides video and a couple of slides. Limited road options forced us to drive under the mesocyclone north of Newport, but we avoided any large hail and no more tornadoes developed at that time, fortunately for us. In examining my video, there might have been a tornado after dark(?) as the storm moved toward SD, but I don't think there was. It was really nice to see a tornado after having figured we'd missed everything, but the chase to get to it was a bit frantic.

Non-Flash Journal Index Storm Chase Log    1    2

Images supplied by Chuck Doswell ©1999. Used by permission.