Friday, June 6, 2008

06/04/08 HP Supercells in Nebraska

Large shelf cloud with occasionally mesocyclones hidden

After chasing the previous day in Illinois with a MDT RISK we checked out of our hotel early in the morning east of Des Moines, IA and headed our way to target central Nebraska with another MDT RISK of severe weather. Our initial target was York, NE as strong daytime heating occurred all day setting the stage for an active afternoon and evening across the state. Early-on a warm front was the target as it would provide the focus for severe convection and tornadoes in the evening. After driving across a moisture-rich state of Iowa with some dense fog we punched through the fog near Omaha, NE where we found quick breaks in the clouds and destabilization.

The great state of Kansas (I'll be here more next spring)...

After sitting most of the day we decided to venture to the KS/NE border since I've never been in the state of Kansas We thought the cap was too strong to target that area for the evening.

The first HP supercell of the evening near Grand Island, NE

We began heading back north on Highway 81 and preceded west on I-80 toward Grand Island, NE to track the first storm of the day that went severe-warned/tornado warned to our west around 5pm and I found myself on one of many of Nebraska's dirt roads. Yuk, at least it wasn't wet I guess but after taking so long to get off of it the storm I was tracking weakened. However, a new cell formed and quickly exhibited rotation and became a HP supercell. Unfortunately, for us this put us out of position on the Aurora, NE tornadic HP supercell that caused damage in that town back to the east that Victor Gensini was chasing. Nevertheless we tracked several HP supercells along the I-80 corridor from Grand Island, NE to Lincoln, NE using Highway 34 and I-80 to get into position.

One of the lowering(s) off an HP supercell
This nice looking mesocyclone was just to the east of Grand Island, NE where the sheriff deferred my attention from it for a few minutes...ugh!

A nice boundary/warm front was nearly running parallel to the interstate allowing a focus for convective initiation. These storms were a mess however. All of them were HP supercells and mostly rain wrapped making it hard to photograph and observe tornadoes. They were easy to keep up with, but you had to be really cautious as they were attempting "hand offs" most of the day as one mesocyclone would reform back to your southwest once when the area of rotation you were watching weakened. I was on the HP storm that was just east of Grand Island, NE that dropped a confirmed tornado back to my west. As I was photographing off Highway 34 a Nebraska sheriff pulls up behind me. His first words were "what are you doing?". His tone said it all. I didn't think it was illegal to photograph severe storms right? I told him there was a tornado heading this way and that I was a storm spotter/storm chaser. At first he didn't believe me, but whatever I was thinking in my head. He was an old man that didn't know anything about the weather and was acting like an *** if you get my drift and that's being kind. His county was under a Tornado warning yet it appeared he didn't know this. I told him the direction the tornado was moving and which way not to go and he preceded heading in that direction anyway. This was the only time I've ever had a problem with law enforcement while in the middle of a chase. It provided a nice story however later that night. Anyway after that I took several more photos and continued east on Highway 39 catching new mesocyclones forming off old mesocyclones. Some of the supercells I was on had confirmed tornadoes and at times I thought I had one, but it was incredibly difficult to see them with bad lighting and being wrapped in rain as well.

One last photo off  before we got "munched"

Later on however we made it to Lincoln, NE getting munched by the storms and took cover there. We called it quits and booked a hotel room for the night for tomorrow's significant severe weather outbreak anticipated in tornado alley. However, before hitting the sack for the night we were mesmerized by a brilliant lightning display outside Lincoln, NE with what I like to call "backwards lightning". That's the best way I could describe it as the storms back-builded along the warm front. There were several times you could see the updraft of the storm and lightning shoot northwest as the storms were drifting southeast or sitting stationary. It was strange and the first time I've witnessed this strange lightning display. Also in our hotel parking lot there was some small tree limbs snapped from the 30-40mph wind that blew in at dusk. So after marveling at the lightning display it was time for a good nights sleep and another chase tomorrow.