Storm Chase May 26, 27, 2013: Beautiful Storm Structure and Lightning in Nebraska and Kansas Storm


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


May 26, 2013: Arcadia Storm

On May 26, the best potential for supercells was in Nebraska. The initial 500 mb flow was somewhat weak, but slightly higher level flow from the southwest was expected later in the day in parts of Nebraska. I liked the decent surface moisture with dewpoints in the upper 60s across central Nebraska and surface winds from the southeast. The CAPE was forecast to be 2500 to 3000 in central Nebraska. The SPC had issued a large slight risk from southwestern Texas north to Nebraska and northwest through most of South Dakota to the Canadian border. The 5% tornado area was from northwestern Kansas to eastern Montana. I expected the best focus for storm development would be along the front in north-central Nebraska and further south along the dryline. The initial plan was to head to North Platte, NE and readjust after reviewing additional data.

The day started in Goodland, Kansas. Robert Balogh and I left early to reach our initial target of North Platt. We stopped at a truck stop by the intersection of 83 and I-80 and checked data. The local Cu field was unimpressive, though seemed a bit better to the north. We met up with Chris Kridler and Brad who was chasing with Dayna and Greg. After checking more data, we headed north in a caravan at 5:07 PM and parked at the north side of town off of 83 and waited. The cumulus nearby was fading but we did hear reports of some towering cu further to the north near Thedford. At that point, the day had major bust potential. That would also be closer to the stationary front. The HRRR also showed potential development in that area. We continued north at 5:44 PM, then turned east on 83 by Thedford. We could see some messy development to our east along the boundary. We stopped a few times to get pictures while drifting east-southeast on 2. Nothing appeared very isolated. We then noticed a small area of very isolated development near Broken Bow. These are the difficult decisions of chasing. Stay with one storm or attempt an intercept with a potentially better storm that is further away and risk getting stuck between storms and missing everything. We finally decided to head south. At 7:11, we turned southeast on 2 toward Broken Bow. Soon, we could see a towering isolated storm in the distance. We had a direct intercept path. Meanwhile, a storm to our north did become more isolated and tornado-warned, but we were now committed to the Broken Bow storm. By 7:41, two nearby updrafts were visible ahead of us with interesting midlevel inflow features. With the isolation and clear air, this would be a beautiful storm. We stopped at a Sinclair gas station at 7:47 PM on the west side of Broken Bow along 2/92 to top the tanks and observe the storm. We passed through Broken Bow and observed a nice shear funnel at 7:56 PM. A nice base was visible on the storm at 8:03 PM as we headed southeast. At 8:06, we took a small rural shortcut road east to 183 and then we turned north to avoid Ansley. The storm was ahead on 183. We briefly stopped at 8:12 PM and again from approximately 8:16 PM to 8:25 PM one mile south of Westerville before turning east on 70. The storm was to the north and had nice inflow features and wall cloud. Although I prefer to avoid dirt roads, Lee Park road provided a direct intercept road north from 70 to the east side of the storm. We turned north on that road at 8:48 PM. Brad's group and Chris decided to film by a cemetery while Robert and I blasted north on an increasingly rutted and narrowing dirt road. The rotation of the storm was increasing and we thought it might produce a tornado. We reached the top of a hill at 9PM approximately 3 miles north of 70. Several other chasers had gone further but we stopped due to road conditions. The storm had a nice wall cloud and we could see occasional brief funnels. As the storm approached our road, we turned around and headed south. I had to carefully back down the hill since there were no turn-offs. We got back on 70 and continued east. Visibility was decreasing as daylight was lost but the storm had potential for some nice lightning images. It was a beautiful LP storm. We turned back north on a rural road and stopped at a crossroads 1.1 miles west of Arcadia, Nebraska. Finding a road with good visibility and an area to pull off was more difficult than expected. The lightning was amazing as numerous bolts illuminated a striated and rotating storm towering in the darkness. We left at 9:50 PM. All our friends including Chris, Brad, Dayna and Greg, Dave and Scott along with Mark and Jaclyn had also taken positions along the gridded rural roads to observe this storm. We all rejoined in a big caravan heading south to Kearney where the chase ended with a late night dinner before bed. No tornadoes were observed; however, this was a very successful chase with beautiful storm structure and lightning.

Awaiting initiation in North Platte, 4:16 PM CDT

Cumulus not promising
just north of North Platte, 5:27 PM

Some development along boundary
at 6:48 PM. View from 2, east of Thedford

Isolated storm and train, 7:26 PM
view to the southeast along 2

7:38 PM

Two main cores, 7:42 PM

Storm over Broken Bow, 7:47 PM

Shear funnel, 7:56 PM

Beautiful storm, 8:05 PM

8:08 PM

8:32 PM

Storm to the north from 70, 8:47 PM
with wall cloud and inflow features

Approaching storm from the south,
8:49 PM on Lee Park Rd.
Nice wall cloud and inflow.

Wall cloud at 8:59 PM, view to
north on Lee Park Rd,
3 miles north of 70

9:09 PM PM

9:39 PM

Beautiful lightning, 9:38 PM

9:46 PM

Storm Chaser dinner at Perkins in Kearney, 11:58 PM


May 27, 2013: Kansas Storms

This was a very frustrating day. We all started in Kearney, Nebraska. There was a significant chance of tornadoes for parts Kansas and Nebraska. As a group, we headed south into Kansas. Choosing a target was difficult due to the southward progression of a boundary. In Plainville, Kansas, we stopped at a DQ to check data and to wait for initiation of storms. Soon, Cloud 9 Tours arrived. The place was filled with storm chasers and the locals were very nervous. At least, they had a lot of business. Some storms formed about 40 miles to the north near the Kansas, Nebraska border. We considered go after those storms but we thought the better potential was just to our south. Finally, storms initiated slightly to our southeast near Russell, Kansas. We headed east and then slightly south on 18 as the storms strengthened. We drove between the cells. The northern storm started to rotate and had a wall cloud before starting to die. The southern storm, moved to our west and then north as we tracked it through Kansas. It was also rotating and at times, had a wall cloud. No tornado, The storm eventually weakened. We dropped south to intercept another storm near I-70 and it died. On our way to Hays, Kansas for the night, we found out that the distant storm to the north along the Kansas border did produce tornadoes. The Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV) had a direct hit and was damaged. Not to be sour grapes, but the tornadoes to the north were mainly rain-wrapped and difficult to see unless one was in the notch or "bear's cage." These weren't photogenic tornadoes as per accounts that I had seen on Twitter and Facebook. Expectations were high for the next few days including the possibility of a tornado outbreak. We ended the day in Hays, Kansas. The Econo Lodge in Hays had a nice price of $50 per night!

Checking data at DQ in Plainville, KS, 3:47 PM
Jaclyn Whittal, George Kourounis, Brad Rousseau
Dayna Vettese, Greg Stephens

Kansas, 7:01 PM

Storm with wall cloud, Kansas 7:13 PM

Go to May 28, 2013: Bennington, KS tornado

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All images Copyright 2013 William T. Hark