07.06.13

Chase #3: Western Nebraska Supercells

Posted in Storm Chasing at 4:53 am by Rebekah

17 May 2013 shaped up to look like a possible day-before-three-weekend-days kind of event. A deep trough was just entering the western US, a surface low was forming around northeastern Wyoming, a warm front stretched through southern South Dakota, and a dryline through western Nebraska with dewpoints to the upper 50s gave us some hope of a marginal High Plains chase day.

We spent the previous night in North Platte, Nebraska, after having a down day driving up from Dallas/Fort Worth the day before.

We drove up Highway 83 that morning, and then down I-90 towards Rapid City, with the plan to play the triple point and follow storms down the warm front. I had never been to western South Dakota before, so I was quite excited by the prospect of seeing Rapid City and possibly going to the Badlands or Mount Rushmore if the day turned out a bust.

We made it as far as Wall (about 50 miles east of Rapid City), catching glimpses of the beautiful Badlands nearby, when convective initiation in western Nebraska forced us to turn around and go back the way we came.

Just across the Nebraska border, near Valentine, we stopped for a while to watch lightning under a little supercell.

After a few storms lined out a bit, we dropped further south in the hope of getting on a tail end Charlie.

Around sunset, just south of Hyannis, Nebraska, we saw two modest supercells which provided a nice scene amongst the sand hills and the colorful sky.

We stopped for a while to watch the storms, and the one nearest us soon became tornado-warned. We did not expect to see a tornado on it (and never saw more than a wall cloud), as it was so high based, but we ran into another group of Aussies and the lightning photographers had a field day as the supercell was quite a prolific producer. I didn’t bring my tripod on this trip (tried to pack light, but wished I had brought it!), so I just stood and enjoyed the show, and what a show it was!

Showing our position on the tornado-warned cell

Wall cloud under the supercell at sunset, and roll clouds in the foreground above my head.

Finally we had to drag our attention away and think about where to set up for the next day.

As we thought about targeting central to southern Kansas, we decided to push on to Hays, Kansas that night. Arriving in the wee hours of the morning, we found that all the hotels were booked as it was graduation weekend. Exhausted, we finally found a place to stay a little further on in Russell, at 4:30 am.

We traveled this day for 18 hours, 40 minutes, and an estimated 950 miles.

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