2015 Chase Diaries, Day 4, 5/31: Supercells in NW KS/NE CO

GPS logs:


[There was a lot of looping around on this day. The order is Goodland –> St. Francis –> Wray –> Idalia –> towards St. Francis –> back down to Burlington –> back up through Wray to Sidney.]

[Note: this writeup is a day late since I didn’t get to my hotel last night until midnight.]

Started the day in Goodland, KS. Figured I might take on some SE WY magic that occurs from time to time so I drifted on northwest to Wray, CO. By that time however, the short range modeling honed in on NE CO, so I stayed put and adopted the wait and see strategy.

During this time, multiple storm chasers had converged on Wray (specifically the parking lot where I was sitting around), and I met Ian Livingston, Mark Ellinwood, James Hyde, and Jeff Frame. Really cool to put a face on those names you know online. Also saw a storm chase tour van. A lot of anticipation for a Marginal Risk (“See Text”) day, lol.

There were some elevated thundershowers ongoing in northeast CO and I wasn’t sure whether to go for those or wait for new development on the wind shift boundary in eastern CO. After all, the latter wasn’t guaranteed. Drifted south to Idalia where a few towers had gone up along the boundary:


Behind me, the anvil from the aforementioned elevated convection was encroaching upon us. I made a decision to sit in Idalia and see what the towers would do.


The initial towers came and went but about 30 minutes after the first photo I noticed one particular tower looked fairly robust, with decent vertical motion.


Within a few minutes the clump of towers behind it had also developed explosively:


The cap was breaking. The two cells together, in their infant stages.


By this time the right one (north of Burlington, CO) had a nice rain/hail shaft. But the backsheared anvil of the left one (near St. Francis, KS) enticed me more. The latter also had a better radar presentation. So I booked it on over to the KS cell.

Not surprisingly, I was greeted with a rain/hail shaft- rainbow combo. Those have been treating me well as of late.


After the rainbow had dissipated:


Now I had a choice: book it to St. Francis and down to Goodland again, braving a potential core punch, to get ahead of this cell; or, go back west and south towards Burlington to catch the other cell. The latter avoided the core punch and generally had better road options, so I took the Burlington option.

Good decision. A few minutes after deciding, the St. Francis cell seemed to choke a little, while the Burlington cell gained steam. A monster updraft greeted me:


The St. Francis cell was still going with even a lowering but it clearly did not have the updraft strength of the Burlington cell.


Additional views of the spectacular Burlington supercell (the former image with its St. Francis twin).

20150531-DSC_8327 20150531-DSC_8332

The cell continued south past Burlington and I followed it. Eventually I reached an overlook south of the town with cows and the storm behind it. Decided to try and take some CG shots, though I didn’t realize how early it still was:


Meh. Only shared it because I spent so much effort on that CG shot. After awhile the supercell, which hadn’t even been close to tornadic, had some type of attempt at a lowering.


Note the additional rain shaft on the right; it was merging with a cluster of storms to its south at this point.

I return to Burlington to get gas and was greeted with a magnificent sunset:


Afterwards, drove to Sidney, NE to stay overnight and position myself for the next day of storms.


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