Friday, July 8, 2011

06/20/11 Nebraska Tornado Magic

Tornado along I-80 near Bradshaw, NE

On Monday, (June 20) it appeared that this may be the "day"! The night before it looked like Iowa may be under the gun for a potential tornado outbreak on this day. That quickly changed though at the storm system slowed down putting Nebraska once again in the cross hairs. I targeted the York, NE area as it seemed this would be the area along and north of the surface low-pressure where winds would back strongly creating an environment favorable for supercells and tornadoes. By midday, this area was becoming quite unstable along the warm front northeast of the surface low. This area featured 4,000J/kg of CAPE, 0-6km shear at 50kts, a moist boundary-layer, decent low-level shear with SRH around 200m2/s2, a supercell composite around 20, and a significant tornado parameter around 3. I could go on and on! By early afternoon, the chase was already on. I headed west on I-80 to intercept a supercell that was producing tornado after tornado from northern KS to south-central Nebraska. Unfortunately, by the time I got close to this supercell it finally dissipated near Kearney, NE. By this time, the atmosphere along the warm front was becoming "uncapped" and supercells began to erupt vigorously. At this point I took the approach to stay along I-80 as these storms were moving pretty fast to the north and northeast. I headed east to intercept a supercell near Kearney, NE. I had to let that storm go and found out it produced a few tornadoes thereafter...grr. I headed east to intercept another supercell near Grand Island, NE where I nearly got pelted by golf-ball size hail. I took some photos and time-lapse of this storm as it tried to drop a funnel at one point. It started to look more ragged so I headed east again not forgetting about my initial target a few miles to my east. Along the way I could tell this supercell was becoming quite dominate as I headed toward Aurora, NE where I got gas watching the supercell funnel at this point. I blasted east along I-80 finding myself watching tornadoes develop along I-80 near Bradshaw, NE. At this moment I observed a nice elephant trunk tornado roping out north of Hampton, NE and the stronger more dominate tornado near Bradshaw, NE just outside York, NE. It was crazy to say the least at this moment! I actually have one photo of both tornadoes occurring at the same time. This ended up being my first multiple tornado day and the first time I've observed two tornadoes occurring at the same time. It was magic! Simple as that! I took a few photos and of course some video at this moment feeling pretty damn good. Not as good as some though that saw double digit tornadoes on this day. I was quite happy though as my target pretty much verified and I executed much better than the day before. My only regret is I wish I was closer for photography purposes, but hey Mother Nature puts down a tornado where she wants and not where you want one. After watching these tornadoes sunset was quickly approaching and the supercells were finally consolidating into an MCS which I wanted to stay in front of as I headed back east into Iowa and into Illinois. It made the drive home that much easier knowing I ended my chasecation like I needed to. Kind of like a story book ending if you ask me! Photos and video from this chase day I've added below:

Hmm...any idea where the warm front is?!
Supercell heading north out of Kearney, NE
Supercell #2 outside Grand Island, NE
trying to funnel (center left)

Wall cloud over Grand Island, NE as the storm
moves off to the north...

Another weird base near Aurora, NE
Supercell #3 had the magic! (wide-angle)
Elephant trunk tornado ropes out (left)
Bradshaw, NE tornado (right)

Crazy shot with two tornadoes occurring at the same time!!!

Click to enlarge...

Another shot as motorists stop to
grab a photo or two on the interstate

Click to enlarge...

Closer view of the elephant trunk tornado (left)...
Click to enlarge...

Wide-angle view...Click to enlarge...
One last shot!
I've added a YouTube time-lapse of the tornado (above)

Well this day for me probably was the most rewarding of the year. You never forget your first multiple tornado day or when you see multiple tornadoes occurring at the same time. That rarely happens and is something you might see every few years if you are lucky! This chase day left me happy to pretty much close out chasing in the Great Plains this season. If interested more I'd recommend you check out Walker Ashley's blog and Victor Gensini's blog as they have detailed chase accounts from this chase day as well. I'll be posting another post soon as I chased the following day as well locally. Until then...