June 7, 2009 Nebraska and Missouri supercells

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

 

June 7 was an exciting chase day across Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. There was a surface low shifting northeastward across northern Kansas into Nebraska and a warm front to the east. The mid level jet was spreading across the Plains with southwesterly flow. The surface winds would be from the southeast in northeastern Kansas and southeastern Nebraska giving increasing shear. I was concerned about the strong cap and fairly week surface winds. The SPC had issued a moderate risk for severe storms including very large hail and possible tornadoes.

I started in Beatrice, Nebraska and was chasing with Scott McPartland, Dave Lewison and Jim Edds. We were also with Charles Edwards who was leading Cloud 9 Tours and Rocky Rascovich was helping Charles drive the tours. Also in our caravan was George Kourounis who was filming the "Highway to Hail" episode of his televison series, Angry Planet, meteorologist Mark Robinson, Jack Kertzie, adventurer Nik Halik, and George's producer. Since we all agreed on the same general target area, we traveled as a caravan. My departure was slightly delayed since I had to have a tire repaired at the Beatrice Walmart. The initial target area was extreme northeastern Kansas. We traveled south on 77 toward Marysville, Kansas and waited at a local convenience store. Soon other chasers congregated (1)in the same area including the Twister Sisters (Peggy Willenberg and Melanie Metz). It was fun hanging out and chatting while watching the sky and checking data. I was concerned about high level clouds moving into the area causing a decrease in instability along with losing our backed (southeasterly) winds as the low shifted eastward. After a couple of hours, our group headed eastward along 36. We expected storms to form in southeastern Nebraska. While on our way, we noticed some showers forming near the Kansas border south of Beatrice on XM and GR Level 3. One suddenly exploded with rapid development. We briefly paused to see if its growth was continuing and if there were other storms developing to our east. As this was probably the main storm, we turned north on 75 by 4:02 PM. We blasted west on 8 toward Pawnee City, Nebraska. XM image from my car while approaching storm at 4:32PM (2) By 4:35PM, I could see the storm updraft. There were some small storms to the south but this was the dominant one at present. Just east of Pawnee City, we stopped on 4 and watched. The storm was already rotating but the base was fairly high. We backtracked east to avoid the large hail and passed Pawnee City at 5:19PM. We parked a few miles to the east on 8 at 5:30PM. The storm was spiraling upward (3, image at 5:26PM CDT) in a corkscrew shape. George and his group were closer to the storm to sample the hail. At times, we could hear the hail roar as golf ball and larger hail approached our location. Smack! The first piece of hail that I saw hit my car. I shifted eastward while Dave and Scott stayed a few minutes longer to see some hail. They have hail shields attached to their car that offer some protection. We met again a few miles east and shot more video. (Image of Dave and Scott watching the storm.(4) The storm, now tornado warned, was slowly moving east. We saw an intermittent ragged wall cloud but no tornado. The storm was impressive. We stopped again at 5:45PM. There was a new supercell forming to our southeast but we were hesitant to leave this tornado-warned storm. The first storm was now more to our north and formed another wall cloud (5) at 5:55 PM. The shape of the wall cloud changed.(6) We decided to leave this storm that was now starting to weaken and head for the growing southeastern storm (7; image at 6:02 PM CDT). This second storm (8; 6:18PM) had a strong updraft and anvil. It became tornado-warned. We crossed the Missouri River at 6:04PM on 159. Soon, we saw large hailstones scattered on the ground and shredded leaves. There was a spotter report of 4 and inch hail that had just fallen. Charles' group, Jim, Dave and Scott decided to briefly stop and examine the large hail. I continued toward the storm since I was concerned a tornado could form at any time. I passed through the small town of Oregon, Missouri and I could see massive hail stones scattered across the ground mixed with shredded tree leaves. I should have stayed a few minutes to examine the large hail. Progress in the rain was slow due to a long line of cars including vehicles from VORTEX 2. I followed 59 and briefly shifted south on 29 before picking up 59. By 7:15 PM, I was out of the rain and could see the mesocyclone. There was a broad circular area of rotation. I reached Savannah, Missouri by 7:20PM. Image of the meso in Savannah, MO at 7:21 PM CDT (9). Following the storm was difficult due to winding roads and traffic. I went east on State Road (SR) E, then picked up 169 north at 7:32PM. The storm was strengthening and could produce a tornado at anytime. I wanted to be able to see the storm but not be under the meso. The setting sun caused the sky to turn orange behind the storm.

I stopped on a hill near the intersection of SR N and 6 (6 miles west of Maysville and about 2.7 miles northeast of Amity.) at 7:51 PM. The storm (10; 7:51 PM CDT) was beautiful as it was lit by the setting sun. Close view of the meso. (11) At one point, the sun came through the storm clouds. The whole storm (12; 7:54PM) was rotating. There was an area that was lowering (13) and a clear slot formed. A tail cloud was present. Below the lowered area, I could see some rotation in the rain curtains but not enough to call it a tornado. This area was rapidly approaching my position. It transitioned to a larger wall cloud by 7:56PM (14). I continued east on State Road 6. I passed Cloud 9 Tours and Dave and Scott in Maysville as they were getting gas. They had taken a more southerly approach to the storm. I continued east. The traffic was getting heavy as hoards of chasers, locals and the VORTEX 2 vehicles were funneled down a few narrow winding roads. I stopped briefly to watch the storm. There was continued broad rotation. The Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV) passed me and turned up a side road. The area was getting too crowded. I shifted east and joined back with Dave and Scott along with Cloud 9 Tours. We drove south a few miles and watched the storm in the growing darkness (15). Lightning flashed to the north while lightning bugs flashed across a field in front of our group. We continued to St. Joseph, Missouri and had dinner at Dennys, the only open restaurant. George and his crew joined us and showed off their hail dents. George also had a big red spot on his shoulder (16) from a hail stone impact. Ouch!

Although no definite tornado, this was a very exciting storm chase with two supercells. There were a few reports of damage/tornadoes from this storm but I can't determine if those reports are correct and associated with the area of rotation that I observed.

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