Storm Chase May 24, 25, 2013: Colorado and Kansas Storms


chase images and log by William T. Hark, M.D. Video (HD) and pictures available for licensing. Click on images to enlarge


May 24, 2013

A successful storm chase doesn't necessarily require a tornado intercept. May 24 was a good example. The day started early in Amarillo, Texas. Upon reviewing the forecast data the previous evening, I had decided that the target area would be in northeastern Colorado for the best combination of instability and upper level support. Robert Balogh also forecasted for this area. Tornado chances were marginal despite the Storm Prediction Center having a 5% tornado risk. Robert Balogh and I had to leave early. Chris Kridler, Brad and Dayna were already in Nebraska and choosing a more northerly target. Scott and Dave were staying in Amarillo for car repairs and would likely not be able to chase that day while Mark and Jaclyn of The Weather Network also stayed to do some additional filming of tornado shelters which would delay their departure. Robert and I left at about 7:30 AM and headed north through the Oklahoma Panhandle into Kansas. In time for an early lunch, additional weather model data would be in so that the target could be refined. We reached Garden City, Kansas by about 11 AM. I was using Yelp to find this burger joint and was turned around thanks to some blocked roads due to construction. While trying to find an alternative route, I stopped slightly too far into an intersection. I eventually backed up but not quick enough. I was soon pulled over by a Kansas trooper for blocking the intersection. I was very apologetic, and we had a nice conversation about burgers. He let me off with a warning and directions to the restaurant. While eating lunch at Mooya's Burgers, Fries and Shakes, we rechecked the updated weather models. Now, the best target appeared to be in eastern Colorado between Cheyenne Wells and Sheridan Lake based on an isolated area of precipitation on the HRRR model. Other possibilities included southwestern Nebraska. This was welcome new information as our target was much closer. We also made reservations for hotel rooms in Goodland, Kansas. Decent hotels rapidly fill on Memorial Day weekend.

Robert and I headed north on 83 to Scott City and then west on 96 to the town of Tribune, Kansas. This was a good place to wait for initiation as we had a nice gas station with a place to sit and check data. Inside, we ran into fellow storm chaser, Chris Collura. I usually see Chris out on the road each year. He also chases hurricanes. We waited and waited. I used the time to check and clean my vehicle while being blasted with high winds coming off the surrounding Plains. By 2:40 PM MDT, we could see towers off to the west. One exploded into the stratosphere. This was our storm. We blasted west on 96 into Colorado. The developing storm was isolated. I didn't like the fuzzy anvil and dull updraft but this was the only storm in the area. We stopped near the town of Sheridan Lake, Colorado and watched the storm. The base was high and the storm was disorganized. Strengthening was expected as it moved northeastward. It was nice watching a storm from birth rather than rushing to get to it later in development. We were initially only ones in the area but soon, other chasers arrived including Charles Edwards and Cloud 9 Tours along with Scott and Dave who were able get their car fixed and Mark and Jaclyn. The storm had weak rotation and was slowly moving to the northeast over a rather poor road network. Choosing an intercept path was difficult. The few roads, mostly dirt, were in a north-south orientation. In a big caravan, everyone headed north on 385, then east on 40 through Cheyenne Wells. The storm was nicely rotating but visibility was difficult to blowing dust. By Arapahoe, the storm was weakening. We crossed the core, stopping briefly to play with some small hail. The storm became severe-warned. We crossed back into Kansas, and turned north on 27 at Sharon Springs. The storm was to the west over an area of dirt roads. The storm was again strengthening. Several miles north, Robert and I decided to go west to get closer to the storm in case it produced. We drove west and then north along a dirt road past a sign that warned, “Minimal maintenance, drive at your own risk.” The storm to the west was hanging on but losing rotation. We stopped just north of I-70 and let the storm pass by. It again briefly pulsed with a sudden increase in strength and rotation before dying a miserable death. We ended the chase a few miles to the north of Goodland, Kansas. The dying supercell was pretty affording some photo opportunities. The storm was still spitting out baseball-sized hail about 10 miles north of Goodland per Chris Collura who ventured a bit farther into the storm. The chase ended conveniently within a few miles of the hotel. We had a nice dinner at a little local restaurant called On the Bricks Café. They had great pork chops but were out of homemade desserts thanks to Cloud 9 and several groups of chasers who had arrived before us. There were no tornadoes but it was a fun storm to chase with nice photo opportunities.

Developing storms to the west, 3:05 PM MDT

Chasers arrive, 3:39 PM

Charles Edwards gives interview for TWN (Jaclyn and Mark)

Bill Hark looking for hail, 5:43 PM

Small hail

Watching the storm, 6:14 PM MDT

Following storm on dirt road, 6:56 PM

Dying supercell north of Goodland, KS, 8:03 PM MDT

May 25, 2013

After reviewing the forecast data, I decided to blow off the day. There were chase possibilities in the Nebraska Panhandle, Montana and South Dakota, but I was not impressed enough to drive up there especially with better storms predicted over the next several days. This was a good day to rest, and I tried to sleep late. Also, the high resolution weather models showed some possibilities of severe storms in the Goodland area. I renewed my room in Goodland, Kansas and had lunch with Robert at local family-owned Mexican restaurant and panaderia. Robert also renewed his room. Cloud 9 tours and Chris Collura went up to South Dakota. After a relaxing early afternoon, storms did fire around Goodland. Robert and I had a nice "rainbow chase" within a few miles of the hotel in Goodland. There were no tornadoes, but I was able to get some nice pictures. Unfortunately, one of my power inverters blew out. Cheap POS. I still had one but I had to buy another since I always keep a spare while chasing storms. The upcoming week was expected to be very active.

Family-owned Mexican restaurant in Goodland

Rainbow near Goodland, KS 4:35 PM CDT

Robert Balogh posing by rainbow

Rainbow near Goodland, KS 4:46 PM CDT

Small hail

5:19 PM MDT

Hailshaft, 6:22 PM

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All images Copyright 2013 William T. Hark