May 20 - 21, 2008 Storm Chase Report

storm video, chase images and log by William T. Hark, M.D.

May 20, 2008 Colby, Kansas: Arrival and Preparation

I left Richmond on a 6:00AM flight after about 2 hours of sleep. Luckily, my flight to Wichita, Kansas was on time. I first drove to the nearby town of Derby to buy another antenna for my amateur radio. There is a giant Radio Shack store that actually sells amateur radio equipment, not just toys and cell phones. I then drove north to Salina and west to Colby to spend the night. After checking some more data, I went to bed early for much needed sleep. I still hadn't decided if I would chase the following day. This will be a marginal day. There was a very strong cap predicted for that day. If the cap wouldbreak, things could get interesting as the other parameters are improving for severe storms. I planned on checking more data. Supercells and tornadic storms were very possible on the subsequint two days and I wanted to be ready and in position. My storm chase expedition had already been delayed by four days due to the lack of possible severe weather and I was ready to see some storms.


May 21, 2008 Colorado Storms

I ended the day at the Super 8 in Goodland, Kansas after a long day of chasing. Although I was only about 30 miles east of Colby, my starting place, I had driven several hundred miles around northeastern Colorado. Although a marginal day, I was hoping for some nice supercells forming from upslope surface flow toward the mountains. Moisture was very limited but would improve during the day. Picking a target was difficult as I am not as experienced with upslope storms on the High Plains. I initially picked the Fort Morgan area of northeastern Colorado. Many chasers picked farther north into southeastern Wyoming. I wasnąt that enthusiastic about today and didnąt want to get too out of position for Thursday. In Limon, Colorado, I checked data and still liked the Fort Morgan to Sterling area. I chatted with Jason Persoff, a physician from the Mayo Clinic who was targeting a similar area. He was in Fort Morgan and gave me some nice updates on surface conditions. After lunch, I drove north on 71 toward Last Chance. I noticed a Cumulus field off to my east. A severe thunderstorm watch was issued for areas north of my location into Nebraska. Eventually a small storm developed west of Burlington, Colorado. It was moving northward, with additional storms to the south. Nothing was going on in my target area. At Brush, just east of Fort Morgan, I decided to blow off my original target and go for the intensifying storm in Kit Carson, County. It was moving north. I drove east on 34. Soon, the traffic became heavy. This was unusual for such a remote area. As I came over a hill, I saw the cause of the traffic. Ahead of some locals, I saw the Doppler on Wheels chase armada along with the TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle that was featured on the Discovery Channel). The main storm to the south was developing some rotation and intensifying. The storm was approaching the town of Yuma, Colorado. I stopped in Yuma for gas, then I headed south to watch the storm. I wanted to be on the south side of the storm but road options were terrible. I also didnąt want to risk hail damage before the expected series of tornado outbreak days. I drove back into town, then a few miles west to let the storm pass to my east. The TIV and DOW (1) (pic 2) were parked nearby. The storm (3) intensified. I saw a weird horizontal funnel (4) extending outward from the storm. The storm structure wasnąt impressive and the base was high. While watching the storm, I ran into fellow chasers Tony Laubach, Chris Collura, and ?Ed(5). We watched the storm move northward and lose strength. Another storm was forming to the east of Yuma. When the core safely passed, I drove east for awhile. The second storm also had a very high base and was losing strength. I decided to end the chase. I continued east to Wray, then south. I planned on going directly to I-70 in Burlington when I noticed another large storm crossing I-70 near Siebert. I couldnąt resist going west on 36, then south through Kirk to observe the storm to my west. I couldnąt get any closer due to the poor road network. The storm was linear but was producing great lightning. I briefly stopped by some Italian chasers (6) to photograph the storm. While watching the storm (7), I noticed my radar was not updating. The power inverter stopped working. This is how I powered my computer with radar and GPS. I could have stayed to photograph lighting but I had to end the chase to prepare for the following day. Earlier in the evening, I called multiple hotels looking for a place to stay. All the hotels in Colby were booked along with most other area hotels mainly due to chasers. I got the last room at the Super 8 in Goodland. My initial plan for the next day was to buy another inverter just in case. The current inverter became operational but I couldn't trust it. The following day was expected be a very good chase day. Tornadic storms were likely though storm motion will be fairly rapid.


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Next Page: May 22, 2008

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