Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day 4: big supercell day to Grand Island, NE

We started off this morning with a target of Belle Fourche, SD in mind. We got to lunch in Newcastle, SD and saw towers going up to the northeast of us--in a pretty favourable area. We looked at the situation and they issued a tornado watch, so we took off eastward. So goes chasing.

The ride through the Black Hills was interesting. There was a lot of nausea in the back, although nobody had to pull over to un-eat lunch. After we finally got through Rapid City, we got close to a now-tornado-warned supercell near Wall (go to Wall Drug). It showed some okay rotation and lowering so we decided to stay on it.

During a gas stop the rotation tightened up considerably and the storm looked like it might drop a tornado. It didn't, but it augured well for us.

To make a long story short, we chased the tornado-warned supercell for about 8 hours, sometimes with big rotation and lowerings, sometimes with less rotation (at least down low).

A couple of times we stopped to watch the storm ingesting huge amounts of air, evidenced by the 30 to 35 knot inflow winds that kicked up some dust in a series of fields, giving us brief bouts of zero visibility. Seriously zero.

The storm took us to Valentine, NE, where we gassed up quickly and picked up a meal on the go ("meal" is being generous with the kind of foods one often eats on the road) and went southeast. The storm was looking okay but potentially polluted by another storm to its south, so we made the decision to keep going southeast instead of south at a junction.

Bad move.

The storm ingested the new updraft and blew up into a huge HP supercell that looked AMAZING on RADAR. After one false start (almost having to push the vans out of the mud) we got onto a road that took us east toward the storm. It wended its way through a bunch of ranches and splashing through some pretty deep pools of water, and got us to the highway.

Where the mothership was waiting for us.

You talk about it in class and see pictures of it, but until you see a mothership supercell in person, you don't really understand what it's all about. The inflow into the storm from the east was incredible; we estimate 50 to 60 mph, and, naturally, being in the Nebraska sand hills we all got sandblasted. The striations on the mid-level rotation were a delight. Here's a picture; it's a good one, but it doesn't even do justice to what we were seeing.



Or here's a pseudo-HDR version:



It finally got dark and so we got a few lightning pictures, and that's the end of that day. A pretty good day, all around, even though our initial forecast target area apparently got a big tornado today.

Whatever. We saw an amazing super long-lived supercell, and the prospects for tomorrow, pending MCS pollution tonight, are great.

4 Comments:

At 3:24 AM, Blogger Teresa said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 3:25 AM, Blogger Teresa said...

ho... lee....

phenomenal

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger Brandon Brown said...

I just drooled all over my keyboard! Haha. As a structure guy, sometimes structure is better than a tornado! Incredible chase Dave...

 
At 10:32 PM, Blogger Julie said...

"Day 4: big supercell day to Grand Island, NE"
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