Wednesday, December 22, 2010

December 21st - Urban Wildlife & Full Lunar Eclipse

I was hanging out with Skinner last night and our plan was to go check out the lunar eclipse. I picked him up in Aurora and on our way out of the parking lot, he says to me: "Dann, is that a deer?"

"It's probably some Christmas decoration," I assured him.

"No really, I think it's a deer."

I look over to my left and sure enough, there is a mule deer on the grass median between the road and sidewalk. Of course, we had to investigate. I flipped the car around and Skinner got out, ready to stalk the deer. In my head, it seemed like one of Santa's elves was trying to break a reindeer. The picture speaks for itself:

The doe walked through a few trees and we decided to pull into the parking lot behind her and see if we could get a good picture. Finally, we spotted her again and she didn't seem too alarmed. I actually set up my tripod and approached her for this picture. If I recall correctly, I wasn't zoomed in. I was only about twenty feet from her.

While I was watching her, I felt like I was being watched and not by Skinner! I turned to my right to see at least six more deer standing in the shadows, about twenty five feet away. Keep in mind that we are in the middle of Aurora and not on the outskirts or in the foothills.

I tried to get a good photo, but they were on the move; not cooperating with my longer exposures. I fell in behind them as they slowly moved and found it interesting that I could *smell* them. There were also two bucks in the group, one of which was an 8-10 point! Finally, they stopped and posed for a while.

Ghost deer.

Buck in the center.

The herd crossed the street and since the moon was already being darkened by the shadow of the earth, we headed out on I-70 to Airpark to meet up with Hambone. It felt good to be eastbound on I-70 again, even if it was only an eclipse chase. When we arrived at Airpark and met Scott, there was a thin veil of cirrus over the area but it soon dissipated and by totality, we were in the clear. We tried to get some good shots, but I felt limited with my point-and-shoot. I did end up happy with the results though. We also posed for a few shots and observed a very fast moving plane leave a contrail over the sky. It was pretty cool! Actually, it was pretty cold. I would take a few pictures and then go warm up my hands. The light, biting wind in combination with my aluminum tripod legs kept my fingertips a-sting. As soon as totality rolled around, we snapped a couple of pictures and rolled out.

Here are a few shots from Airpark:

Crop of the moon near half-eclipse.


Skinner and Hambone taking in the view.

Group shot... wish I had a wide-angle to get the moon too!

Best shot I got of totality. Zoomed but not cropped. This is the full image.

This is a crop of another image, but a nice, close look at totality.

Between the deer and the eclipse, it was quite the eventful night... and it's always good to meet up with friends.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Weather-Related: December 20th, 2010

We haven't exactly been in a benign pattern across the United States so far in December. In fact, we've seen a few interesting events... most of which have been as far away from Denver as possible!

Yazoo: The Third Act
-Yazoo City, Mississippi can't seem to catch a break. The city had already endured two tornado strikes over the course of the year when it had another scare on December 11th. I was watching this storm closely as it moved through the area. It exhibited rapid rotation on radar (as seen below) and the couplet moved just south of the city. While no actual tornado was reported, there was some decent wind damage just south of town. Take a look at the storm relative velocities!

Ice In Havre
-On December 12th, Havre, Montana experienced some freezing rain. I thought this would be a good opportunity to demonstrate how this happens. Take a look at the image below. It is of a model (RUC) forecast sounding for the time period that Havre experienced the freezing rain. On the image, the red trace shows the air temperature as we move up in the atmosphere; the green trace shows the dewpoint. On the left side of the chart, the numbers show millibars (mb) or a measure of atmospheric pressure. Pressure recedes predictably for the most part as you move from the earth's surface upward. The most important thing to look at here are the diagonal lines. These show temperature in degrees Celsius. Obviously, the 0ºC line is the freezing point. You can see on the chart that from 870mb to 780mb, the temperature is above the freezing point. As we move lower than 870mb, or closer to the ground, the temperature is below the freezing point. Also notice that the atmosphere is saturated (or the dewpoint is the same as the temperature) up to 850mb. In this example, a warm, Pacific airmass has made it over the Rockies and is overrunning the very cold, dense continental polar air mass already in place. It is hard for this warm air to mix down into the dense, cold air, so the cold air can effectively pool below it. When precipitation forms in the above-freezing layer and falls into the shallow cold, sub-freezing pool, it freezes, thus freezing rain. Kind of cool, eh?

Denver Doldrums
-The pattern hasn't changed much locally. It has been warm and dry and we are still in wave cloud season. (Wave clouds at sunset pictured from my bedroom below). The metro area did receive a dusting of snow on the 17th, but it is all gone already!

-Took a trip out on the night of the 12th to Barr Lake to see the Geminids. This was actually the night prior to the peak, but I was near the edge of the metro area and my cousin and his friend were game to head out. Unfortunately, there was a wave cloud directly overhead which only gave us a few gaps to see through. We were there for about an hour and I saw 9... many less than others out the next night, but I considered it a successful trip. I took a couple shots at capturing one in frame, but struck out.

Radio towers and planes taking off from Denver International.

My cousin Brian laying out on several folding chairs, surveying the sky.

Aumsville Tornado
-Tuesday (the 14th) kept my attention all day as a rare tornado struck the town of Aumsville, Oregon. The tornado was spawned by a small supercell which formed in a favorably sheared environment in the eastern stretches of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Fortunately, no one was injured by this tornado but there was quite a bit of damage. It was rated an EF-2 by the NWS (more info can be found here.

Side-by-side views of the 0.5º Base Velocity and Storm-Relative Velocity images. Rotation is evident in both images.

Of The West
-I took a trip west of the divide on Wednesday (the 15th) where there actually is some weather! Of course, the mountains have been doing a fantastic job of keeping the weather out west and not along the Front Range. It is still rather dry on the West Slope, however, so most of the precipitation impacts the mountains and leaves the valleys relatively unscathed. Let's just say that the drive back to Denver that night was a bit more interesting as Vail Pass closed in front of me. As I was exploring the town of Minturn, it reopened and I was on my way.

Evening light graces the sides of Grand Mesa as seen from Palisade, Colorado, while it's flat top is dusted with snow.

The interaction between the ascending air mass and the topography causes some interesting cloud structure, tinted pink by the setting sun.

In closing, I'm heading home to Montana for Christmas and to see my family. I'm very excited to see everyone and spend a couple days in my home town. Plans get a little more sketchy when I get back as I will likely be packing up and moving from Centennial! Don't worry, this is a good thing... but you will have to wait a while for details. See you on the other side.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Sunset Chasing in Denver, December 8th

We had another warm day here in the Denver-metro area. My thermometer in Centennial reached 57ºF and a couple observation stations in the region topped 60ºF. All day, a thick wave cloud loomed overhead and I figured we would have a stunning sunset.

I pushed my luck a bit as I had some things to accomplish this afternoon, but after running another demo to the post office (talented meteorologist will work for food/storms), I was actually a little disappointed that some cloudcover out west might steal the show. This disappointment worsened when the wave seemed to break up into a row of stacked-plate lenticulars.

Luckily, traffic wasn't too bad and the line at the post office moved quickly. When I got home, I figured I would head out to the open space east of my complex. I brought my tripod and saw a little color beginning to show on the plates. This got me excited.

Not two minutes later, the entire row lit up. It was breathtaking!

Look at all the stacks of plates!

It's been almost two months since I've heard thunder, but I do love wave cloud season here along the Front Range!


Saturday, December 04, 2010

Weather-Related: December 4th, 2010

Occasionally, I have a few news bits and notes that I want to talk about but don't necessarily warrant a full post, so I've decided to condense a few into one and just call it "weather-related". So, let's talk about the weather.

Unseasonably Warm!
- The Denver area experienced unseasonably warm temperatures yesterday, December 3rd. The airport (KDEN) tied a 100+ year record high of 69ºF thanks to the chinook winds which kept us warm. At my apartment in Centennial, the thermometer reached a high of 67.8ºF. You can bet I had my windows open in the mid afternoon, letting the dry but fresh air through my place. Some mesonet stations across the metro reached into the lower 70s at times, which was quite impressive. The normal high temperature at this time of the year is in the low to mid 40s.

What a Difference a Year Makes!
- I've only been taking obs at my current residence since September of 2009, so there is no use in keeping records for any specific date, but I think the monthly averages this year, compared to last are interesting. October was quite average (*compared with climatology for KDEN) this year with high temperatures averaging 66.7ºF. Compare this with last year's average of 54.0ºF. The lows followed a similar pattern with 45.2ºF and 32.7º respectively. In both instances, we are looking at a greater than 12ºF temperature contrast between years. That is significantly different, weather-wise. How does November add up? Well, we were actually a bit cooler this year than last. The high temperatures were 52.3ºF (2010) and 55.2ºF (2009) and low temperatures were 30.6ºF (2010) and 33.7ºF (2009). The high temperatures for both years were close to normal*, but the lows were a little on the warm side. It should be noted also that my thermometer is relatively close to the building, so it is likely thermally influenced, especially on colder nights. In this case, the most interesting data comes from comparing it to that of the previous year and not with other observations in the area.

Ron Santo
- Chicago Cubs player, broadcaster, and possibly the team's biggest fan, Ron Santo, died on the night of December 2nd. What does Ron Santo have to do with weather? Well, I spent many storm chases this spring and summer listening to his call on WGN radio, which Hambone would stream over his phone. Listening to Cubs games and especially his animated commentary was an integral part of chasing this year and it will be missed. Also, as a Cubs fan, his presence in general with the organization throughout the years will be missed also. Scott and I have decided that our first chase together next spring will be "Ron Santo Day."

I think that gets us caught up for now. It's much colder today in the Denver area as a cold front passed through late last night. No more highs close to 70ºF for us! It barely got above 40ºF today and it is still dry. Aside from a few dustings, it has been a long time since we've had any significant precipitation.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Catching A Wave: Sunset Surfing In Denver (November 18th)

While out on my run last night, I had trouble avoiding tripping over myself as I stared, slack-jawed at the incredible sunset. One of the amazing things about living here on the Front Range of the Rockies is the propensity for wave cloud sunsets, especially in winter months.

For the past couple of days, we've been in zonal upper level flow which means the jet is basically plowing across the western half of the country in a west to east fashion with out much if any amplitude. These strong upper level winds do carry a little Pacific moiture with them and are forced up over the Rockies, making a wave. In the of the mountains when the air no longer is supported by terrain, it falls, mixing down in the form of strong winds. Temperatures today were at least 20 degrees higher than those of yesterday as sinking air warmed, giving us a bit of a Chinook event. Temperatures approached 70ºF in some areas in the metro area while yesterday, they struggled to get above 40ºF.

As far as the upper levels are concerned, there is a bit of a rebound or rise in the air after sinking off of the mountains. This often materializes in the form of a standing wave cloud as the air rises and cools, condensing the moisture.

After being caught without my camera last night, I realized that we would see some wave cloud action again tonight, so planned around it. As the sun began to sink in the west and peeked out below the wave, the entire area was bathed in a golden light. I headed out with my cameras and tripods and set up shop in the empty lot east of my apartment complex. So, enough of the talking... let's see some pictures!

I also did a 42 minute time lapse video which I will attempt to convert to a usable format overnight and perhaps share tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, the pattern won't change too much, though a trough is digging along the west coast. We'll see what is in store!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2010 November 16th Winter Weather Event - Denver

Blue sky and mid 50s... so much for that!

The 4.0km WRF NMM Precip model showed convection moving over the metro area today and to be quite honest, it nailed it. I love that little model!

After taking Der Schploder to the shop for a tuneup today, I walked back to my apartment in a t-shirt and jeans. With temperatures in the mid 50s, it was comfortable out, if not warm. I was surprised to see the resident prairie dog population awake and out of their burrow. They are all quite fat! ...which I suppose is normal for this time of year.

As I walked, I noticed that the mountains were being hugged by snow showers, but at their edge, everything cleared up. In fact, the skies were clear from the southern horizon to the northern, aside from one tiny cumulus cloud which cast a brief shadow on me as I dodged the alarmed chirps of the prairie dogs.

When I arrived home, I took a closer look at things. According to SPC's Mesoanalysis Page, there was at least 100J/kg MUCAPE to the northwest. After seeing the WRF model, I decided to keep a close eye on things.

Associated with the upper level system bringing some crazy snow and wind to part of Idaho and Montana, lee-side cyclogenesis appeared to be happening across the eastern plains. Winds through the metro area were mostly of a westerly component which actually helped with warming today. DIA, for example, reached 60ºF (only 55ºF at my apartment in Centennial).

An hour or two later, I noticed a nice line of returns on the radar pulsing south toward the metro area. Though the view from my apartment is obstructed by the buildings across the street, I could see that the northern sky was now clouded while the south was still completely blue.

Taking another look at the radar, I could see that the returns were quickly approaching the radar site... and strengthening. I resolved to get my camera gear and head out the door. On my way out, I received a picture message from Ben Toms showing a nice shelf on the front side of this convective squall.

I realized I would have to go without my tripod as both of them were in the car (which was in the shop), so I wandered out of my apartment complex to get a better view. I really wasn't prepared to see what the storm had in store for me. When I finally got a view, the light was just perfect to make it look like a giant wave was crashing through the area. It was incomprehensible!

The turbulence along the front edge of this storm was amazing. I felt like I had jumped into a hot tub time machine and ended up in the spring. The lift on the front of this storm was so vigorous that it took me to a different season. Eventually and unfortunately, the brilliant light on the front side was blocked by "anvil" if you will, from the western edge of the storm heading through the mountains. I held my position on higher ground and watched as the storm kicked up dust (mainly to my east) and the shelf passed.

Here was the radar at about that time:

Surprisingly up until this point, I had evaded any the wrath of this storm. This silence was short-lived, however as soon I could hear the trees to my north basically bend over, the remaining leaves rattling like maracas. It didn't take long for this wind to hit me. It was like jumping into a cold lake. I was still standing there in my jeans and a t-shirt and the temperature immediately dropped 15ºF and was accompanied by 30kt winds. (I know this because I pulled my Kestrel out and took an ob!)

The wind cut me like a knife, so I eventually made my way south to an open lot just east of my apartment complex. There, the wind picked up dust readily and lofted it. Unfortunately, due to low-contrast, I couldn't really get a great photo of this. Let's just say that the prairie dogs were no longer topside at this point.

I took a few photos from here. The first is to the west where you can see the edge of the storm along the mountains. The second is to the southeast where you can see the leading edge of the storm.

Eventually, rain with embedded bits of ice accompanied the biting wind, driving me back home. I usually like to front my climate tolerance as being extreme, citing my Montana nativity, but I'll be honest: I was freezing!

Back inside my apartment, it took a few minutes for my arms and hands to start working properly again. When I recovered, I looked outside to see a frenzy of dendrites flitting into the windows, the wind howling through my building. The flakes were quite large, perhaps two inches in diameter at the largest and the wind was blowing them around in such a manner that it evoked the feeling of staring into a snow globe... while it was being shaken.

This was short-lived, however, and after ten minutes the pavement was wet and grassy surfaces were white, but the precipitation had ceased.

What a wild storm it was while it lasted! Several of the local ASOS stations picked up winds at or near 45kt. As you can see in Johnathan Skinner's video HERE, there was quite the dust storm on the east end of the city. It's really a fantastic time-lapse.

A couple more waves of light snow and wind moved through the area before the end of the evening and while none of them left any significant accumulation, it was an interesting weather day for sure!


Saturday, November 13, 2010

2010 Storm Chase 9 Report - April 22nd - High Plains Tornado Outbreak

"Dual-Target Verification"

This was going to be a good day. Even that morning, we knew it.

A 548dam 500mb cut off upper level low was rotating into the Four Corners region with a 75kt 300mb jet pushing into the Panhandles region. This left SE Colorado and SW Kansas under the left exit. At the surface, models were showing complex cyclogenesis along the lee of the Rockies and deep moist upslope across the High Plains. The hodographs were beautiful along with some decent CAPE.

Here is SPC's Convective Outlook for April 22nd.

The night previous, we (Scott Hammel and I) were still not sure if we would be chasing in Eastern Colorado or the Texas Panhandle (the dryline play). After going out for a chase the night before and having been thinking a lot about the forecast, I was in favor of staying close to home. So, I went to bed that night not having to get up before dawn and make the trek to Amarillo.

I met up with Scott that morning and we discussed the day's possibilities and targets. Based on what I was seeing from morning models, I thought it possible to actually have two targets. The first was early convection along the warm front in Colorado and then after storms crossed the boundary and "piled up", a secondary target in Kansas as instability increased and upper level support moved in later in the afternoon. And with that in mind, we were off.

Just outside Denver, thunderstorms were already rolling northward. We passed through one near Strasburg and I was already surprised at how strong it was. Further development along our path to the south near Limon showed evidence of a lot of low level wind shear. While I wouldn't say that we saw any funnels, it was apparent that there was a serious turning in the atmosphere, especially at cloud base.

The sun was out in earnest as we headed southeast out of Limon. We were briefly delayed by road construction near Wild Horse, but made it to our initial target of Eads (Home of the Eagles) a bit after 11AM. There, we met up with Team Carlson (Michael and Eric as well as Kendell "Inspector" LaRoche) and Tim Stoecklein and just hung out on the west side of town for a little while, talking about the forecast. Michael had been on record for days about wanting to chase the setup in Colorado and it was good to see him out on the hunt!

As we were sitting there, SPC issued a mesoscale discussion (#335) which got us pretty excited. It was for areas along the stationary boundary to our south and to the north, including actually, most of the eastern plains of Colorado. It surprised me how far north they were looking (at the time) but our attentions were soon drawn to a little blip on the radar which was showing up in southern Bent County. It was south of the boundary where the dewpoints had begun to mix down into the upper 30s, but was headed toward the boundary. That's where we wanted to be, so we all set out west on Colorado 96. I knew of a nice paved shortcut that connected 96 and US50, so we set off south on that road (Kiowa CR 19) at Haswell. With a lot of clearing to our south, the storm was already visible.

Soon the tones were going off on the radio which indicated a watch (Tornado Watch #74) had been issued. We stopped on the Kiowa/Bent county line and took a few pictures of the storm, which was already looking supercellular. The storm's visible presentation already had me very excited.

As we continued on south in Bent County, we began to encounter precipitation. It was light rain at first, but as we approached US 50, we were in hail, the size of which was increasing.

Base Reflectivity (KPUX) and our position in pink at 1903Z.

The precipitation wasn't thick enough to obscure our vision, so we saw the wall cloud start to form while we were still a few miles north of US 50. Reaching the highway, we had a pretty good view, so we pulled off on the shoulder less than a half mile from the intersection of our paved route from the north. I sat there wide-eyed, as the wall cloud began to tighten and a funnel began to form. I decided to report the situation to Pueblo and as I was dialing, I noticed debris getting kicked up under the funnel. It was only 1905Z and we were already seeing our first tornado of the day. It would not be our last.

Base velocity at 1912Z.

The storm was already severe-warned for hail, but after a couple of minutes and with our report relayed, the tornado warning was issued. We watched the tornado (not fully condensed at this point) skipping across open terrain about 2ESE Las Animas Junction or 2SSW For Lyon (Veterans Hospital). If anything, it was moving a bit to the east as it continued north toward us on the highway. I was taking pictures and video out of my window while Scott ran around and sat in the back seat behind me to do the same.

Unfortunately for us, we were fairly deep in precipitation, so we had to document from inside of the vehicle. Since I didn't have a tripod to set my video camera on, I made the biggest mistake of the day. (At some point, I'll be able to get my video up from the day, but as of now I don't have a decent way to edit the HD material in a way that I want... so it'll come in the future) As I watched a second wall cloud wrap around the first and a second tornado touch down (1t 1911Z), I wanted to get some stills, so I put my video camera in my lap and took a shot with my point-and-shoot.

Unfortunately, when I put my camera in my lap, I didn't hit "stop" and when I brought it back up to continue filming, I immediately hit the button again, which essentially stopped the recording. So, the next five awesome minutes of video will have to be relayed via this report from my memory as it is lost to history.

Please get your imagination ready:

Due to the heavy precipitation and the tornado's approach of our location on the highway, Scott evacuated the back seat and prepared to drive us out of there. Luckily, I would still be able to film since he had to drive (sigh). I watched in astounded delight as the two tornadoes began to rotate around each other, seeming to dance. Hail began to pound the vehicle as we slowly made our way to the east on US 50. Some of the hail on the highway was baseball-sized and a few large stones dented Scott's hood. I held my inactive camera out the window as we got out of the tornado's path and watched the two tornadoes twist around each other and then eventually rope and dissipate.

If you want to see some incredible from a much more DRY perspective (to the east), check out Michael Carlson's video here: SERIOUSLY, YOU NEED TO WATCH THIS

After the storm passed to the north of 50, we ran into Tim again and chatted with him a bit about how awesome the tornadoes were. The storm was rapidly pressing to the north at this point and we were low on fuel. So, we headed on into Lamar to fuel up. I didn't expect much to happen to the north as the storms pushed deep into the cool but moist air north of the front, so I was all about heading across the border into Kansas where storms were already starting to fire.

We were quite happy that we had scored locally and had not made the trip to Texas. Very happy indeed! As we moved east on 50 toward Kansas, we passed through a couple of cells which had previously dropped their warnings. This was a little disconcerting, but I wanted to stick to the forecast and continue east. To our northwest, our original tornadic cell was still warned and still producing tornadoes! It was hard not to second-guess our decision-making at times like this, but we really couldn't catch it anyway, so it was eastward-the-wagons.

Soon, a newly severe-warned cell was exhibiting signs of rotation as it pressed north, near Ulysses, Kansas. As we began to taste its outer fringes, the couplet strengthened significantly. There was some worry that we were not going to be in a good place but I assured Scott we'd make it through well ahead of the couplet and he trusted me and soldiered on through.

As we emerged from the precipitation, we slipped south a mile or so on a dirt road to get a better look. We were approached by a local who seemed none-too-thrilled with our presence. "Can I HELP you?" we were asked in a "why are you here" tone. We were on a main county road, so it wasn't like we were trespassing, but we decided to move along anyway and headed into Lakin.

Just south of the town, we were able to get a good look at the structure of the storm. I could see a fairly stout RFD core and then something else... it wasn't precip, but it looked like the base of the storm was on the ground. Soon, a report of a "mile-wide tornado" came across Spotter Network, so we had to go get a closer look. We drove through Lakin and headed back west on 50, keeping ourselves about a half mile from the precip core.

As my eyes adjusted, I realized that lurking in the core was a large tornado. I don't know if it was a mile wide, but it was a big fat wedge for sure.

Hartland EF-2

Base Velocity at 2156Z

The tornado quickly began shrouded in the precip as it continued to wrap around, now over the highway. We tried to get a little closer, but the RFD was howling across the road in front of us, keeping the tornado shrouded. We decided to head back to Lakin and get on the state highway 25 north to stay ahead of it. Unfortunately, we never did see it again.

We were a couple miles north of Lakin and realized that the storm was going to cross the state highway and that we would either have to progress east on dirt or go back south to get on 50 to stay ahead of it. We opted for the latter. On 50, we proceeded east to Deerfield where we found a reasonable road and headed about five miles north and then another mile back east to have a look. The area was rather low on contrast but we did our best to see what was going on.

After a few minutes, it appeared as if we were watching a distant tornado touch down. After a few seconds, we realized our eyes were not deceiving us! I have very crappy video of this tornado as I didn't have my focus set right and for whatever reason was shaking like crazy in the wind, but here's a screen shot of this tornado, which we call the "Deerfield Tornado". It was actually about 5 miles northwest of Deerfield. Near the end of my video, I remembered to check to see if I was recording, which I was. Unfortunately, Scott was not. The two of us are very paranoid now... always checking for the little red dot.

Screen shot of my video showing the distant "Deerfield" tornado. This was confirmed by other chasers in the area including Michael O'Keeffe

Velocity data at the time.

We repositioned a bit north and watched the storm try to produce again, but it couldn't quite get its act together.

We decided to avoid the temptation to travel on dirt roads at this time and retreated back down to US 50. We planned to make our next intercept on US 83 south of Scott City. Unfortunately, this would lead us away from the storm for a while. For about 45 minutes, we basically lost a good visual on the storm as we navigated through the northwest side of Garden City and then north on US 83. The storm was still warned throughout this time with an occasional tornado being reported. We finally made contact again once in Scott County. I believe we made two excursions off of the highway onto county roads to take a closer look. Both times, strong rotation was evident, but it appeared mostly that the inflow was wrapping behind the RFD core, which seemed to be becoming more prominent. Another intercept west of Shallow Water yielded the same results.

As we approached Scott City on 83, the storm was finally looking to head over the highway. A mile or two south of the city, we pulled along side the road near where TWISTEX operations were taking place. To our south, the RFD was pulsing over the road, but the rain was wrapping around rapidly... almost violently from east to west. The couplet was still very strong at this point and I was worried that there was a large tornado hiding behind the RFD curtain. As it reached us, I think we both came to the realization that it was time to go, especially when we turned around and realized no one else was still there.

We rolled into Scott City to find it deserted and under the eerie howl of the tornado sirens. The city had a lot of water on the streets but we didn't see another vehicle on the road. This was very strange as there were chasers all over the place not five minutes prior. Because we were in precipitation in the town, our visibility was not that great. I could see rapidly moving clouds overhead along with the precip, but that was about it. We turned on Kansas 96 eastbound and Scott gunned it. We were in some heavy precipitation and decent wind for a while, but then light came from behind us and it seemed that we were in a relatively dry RFD cut. Suddenly, barely to the south of the highway, I watched a rapid rotation in the clouds above. Though the rotation was rapid, it was not concentrated. Scott pulled off to the side of the road where we met a wet and frightened dog. We just sat there for a few minutes in awe as a carousel of clouds crossed the road right in front of us. The wind then shifted and rain began to wrap back around from behind us. We pulled forward a bit so that the "open carousel" circulation was directly north of us and prepared to get slammed with RFD, but that never really happened. Eventually, the circulation disappeared into the ether to the north and we found ourselves having difficulty picking out any structure. Even on radar, the storm looked to weaken.

A few miles east, we pulled off the highway between Grigston and Amy. We were fairly pleased with our results for the day... and by pleased, I mean excited! Another chaser pulled off here as well and we were thinking about leaving, so Scott flipped around but the right front tire started to sink through the soft berm of the road. We didn't want to end up in the ditch, so I hopped out and planted my feet, telling Scott to punch it (and hoping that the entire vehicle didn't roll into the ditch on top of me!). Luckily, my horizontal force pushed the vehicle right and we were stable again.

Suddenly, Scott's phone rings and it's his mom claiming that she just watched me push him out of the mud, streaming live on the internet. Sure enough, the other chaser was pointing right at us! So, we went and introduced ourselves to Mr. Randy Denzer and had a good laugh. We chatted with him for a few minutes and took a few pictures before we were on our way.

What boggles my mind is that later on, I would see a video that Randy posted showing a tornado and the sky looking precisely as it was while we were talking to him. Check out the video here (starting at 3:18 in). He said this happened after we left and since it was off to the southwest, I figure that it had to be a second cell which had formed behind, but in the same line as the first cyclic tornado-maker. I do feel stupid that we missed it. We probably only had to look behind us as we were heading east on KS 96 into Dighton.

We were thinking steak... I think that's what it was. Unfortunately, it seemed that the entire town of Dighton had shut down for the evening. We decided to head up to I-70, try our luck there and maybe get another intercept of the storms which were still heading off to the northeast. We ran into TWISTEX again near Shields and stopped to say hello, accidentally interrupting a Tim Samaras interview with our shenanigans. We chatted with Tony Laubach and Ed Grubb for a bit and while Tony saw some tornado action that day, he didn't seem too pleased.

When we left, we tried to head north on KS 23 to Grainfield, but the highway was closed for construction. At that moment, the nearby storm appeared to have a nice lowering on it, so I tried to film that for a while but it didn't come out very good as it was almost pitch black out aside from the lightning.

Our detour took us west on KS 4 and we got into a deep hail core that had almost zero visibility. It wasn't that the hail was overly large, but the quantity was extreme. The racket that it made as it pounded the vehicle was absolutely cacophonous. Scott couldn't see at all and wound up on the wrong side of the road. We just took our time out of the core, eventually making it back to US 83 and turning north with the raging thunderstorm lightning to our east keeping things interesting.

Neither of us had had a meal all day aside from a bagel many hours before so as we reached I-70, we prayed to find a place open. We were wanting steak but that soon became an unattainable goal. We ended up at the Sonic in Colby, which was seemingly the only open restaurant of any sort anywhere in northwestern Kansas. I will tell you, however, that the meal at Sonic was amazing. Was it anything special? Probably not... but after not having eaten all day, it was divine.

From there, it was on home to Denver with a full wind in our sails. Not only had we seen tornadoes that day, but both of our targets had verified. Sure, if we would have stayed in Colorado, we probably would have witnessed a few more tornadoes, but for some reason, being able to be a part of both storms ranks up there as a seriously legitimate verification. Dual-target verification!! I still get pumped up when I think about it.

I want to take a moment to reflect on a couple of things.
1) I mistakenly thought that the Colorado storms would die after they crossed the boundary, but in reality, the low level winds were even more conducive for tornadoes and while the temperatures were cooler, the air was very moist. There were a lot of tornadoes north of the boundary!

2) What an incredible storm the Lakin-Scott City supercell was! Throughout its life cycle, it maintained a very strong couplet with multiple mesocyclonic circulations wrapping in and continuously producing tornadoes. We missed several of these but did see two, including the EF-2 Hartland wedge. A second supercell that formed on its heels eventually caught up with the first and they seemed to merge eventually north of Dighton. Awesome storm!

3) Our positioning on the Kansas storm could have been better. After pouring over others video of some of the tornadoes that we missed and even our own experiences with the storm, it appeared that a better observation point may have actually been the back side of the storm where many of the tornadoes were accompanied by a decent and continuous clear slot. Most of the time, we seemed hampered by wet RFD wrapping back into the main circulation.

I definitely feel that while this was a successful chase, I learned a lot of important lessons, including but not limited to: MAKE SURE YOU ARE RECORDING!

Mileage: 770
(Year-to-date): 4596
Largest Hail: 2.75"
Other: Strong RFD winds, minor flooding in Scott City.
Tornadoes: 4
1)Fort Lyon I EF-0 - 1905Z Bent County, Colorado - 2ESE Las Animas Junction
2)Fort Lyon II EF-0 - 1911Z Bent County, Colorado - 1S Fort Lyon Veterans Hospital
3)Hartland EF-2 - 2150Z(possibly much earlier) Kearny County, Kansas - near Hartland
4)Deerfield (not rated) - 2234Z Kearny County, Kansas - 5NW Deerfield

Other reports on the date:
Scott Hammel
Michael Carlson
Tim Stoecklein
Scott Blair
John & Michael O'Keeffe

NWS Pueblo
NWS Dodge City

Official Storm Reports for April 22nd.

You can watch Scott's video from the day here:

Detail Map: