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Catching a monster … then having it chase us …

Catching a monster ... then having it chase us ...

This is what chased us away from Denver on Thursday. We went there to find it, though, locating as close as we would ever dare to that sprawling metropolis, barely east of Denver International Airport. We watched planes take off and land at the airport for more than an hour, but we were there to catch an expected supercell thunderstorm rolling off the mountains and over the Denver metropolitan area. And that’s exactly what happened, quickly becoming tornado-warned due to intense rotation detected on radar (and clearly visible visually).  We never saw the tornado, as the whole circulation of the storm became wrapped in rain and turned into a “high-precipitation supercell.” Soon, we had to move east before the storm’s strong winds and big hail could catch us. We stopped a few times to look back at the monstrous storm spinning madly as it pursued us and hundreds of other chasers who had come for the same reason. Many if not most of those chasers ended up on Highway 36 eastbound through the Colorado plains, and the traffic soon became the number one hazard. Recalling a similar situation we faced near Kingfisher, Okla., in 2010 with extreme chaser convergence, and also noting storms developing to the south that could join with this one and trap us, we decided to bail off the storm after about 3 hours of chasing. We found a weak spot in the storms to the south, punched through some heavy rain (but no hail!) and made it to Lamar, Colo, for the night. But watching this storm roll off the Rockies (never really visible behind the storms) and ramp up into a wildly rotating supercell is exactly the kind of experience we bring the students out here for.

— Kevin Myatt

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