Some images and brief commentary on storms from both of our trips to the plains. The first trip was characterized by murky daily forecast challenges which produced fairly consistent threats of severe weather, but less-than-ideal set-ups for tornadoes. The second trip followed a long haul from Texas north to South Dakota in search of storms as the weather pattern transitioned into summer. Both crews were fantastic companions on the road, and I truly enjoyed my time with everyone.
So, here we go:
Storm north of I-10 in Southwest Texas. We made a long haul from Blacksburg to Texarkana (900+ miles) for the first night, and then a second long day to intercept this storm on day 2.
The view across the Raton Mesa region on the Colorado/New Mexico border: stunning views with dramatic storms rising over the high terrain. We set a Hokiestorm elevation record on an actual chase day: 8400′ or so high atop the mesas.
After bailing off of storms on the high mesas, we traveled north into Colorado…storms were winding down at this point, but no one really noticed with this spectacular landscape unfolding on our northward heading.
Samantha Wright’s hair provides a clue as to what is unfolding in this scene: air races inward toward an organizing wall cloud. Strong inflow winds combined with persistent rotation increase the odds that a tornado will develop from the wall cloud. It did.
Alex Thornton’s photo of the tornado from the Leoti Kansas supercell. This was as close to an ideal chase day as one could hope for: a spectacular storm, a good road network for a close intercept, and uncrowded roads.
Trevor White’s photo of the Leoti storm, including incredible lightning displays along with classic supercell structure, in a remote location with little damage potential. What more could one ask for?
Closing in on the Leoti storm shortly after the tornado. Inflow winds were so strong at this point it was difficult to stand at times, let alone take pictures!
A lowering sun provided spectacular back-lit conditions on the Leoti storm toward sunset. Here, Anne Gale scans a wall cloud in the evening light.
Michael Krise, Kerrie Simmons, and Samantha Wright monitor the Leoti storm at sunset.
The explosive updraft of a Texas Panhandle storm. This storm produced a brief tornado that picked up a tractor-trailor on Interstate 40 and deposited it in the median.
Early in the game on the Dodge City supercell. Here, one of the earliest Virginia Tech storm chasers Seth Price (N3MRA) and WFXR’s Taylor Kanost who joined us for a story watch the early development of the wall cloud south of Dodge City Kansas.
One in a series of tornadoes touches down just northwest of our position. Crew members look on as it tracks northward.
Yet another tornado from the Dodge City supercell. This particular tornado stayed on the ground for a very long time, and was still churning across the open country while two others touched down…three vigorous tornadoes on the ground at the same time.
Another view of the tornado, taken by Trevor White. Hard to believe something so beautiful could be so destructive.
The tornado that refuses to dissipate, and another forms under the new/eastern side of the wall cloud. Photo by Trevor White.
Seth Price’s photo of the menacing, ground-scraping wall cloud just south of Dodge City. Note the circulation under the left-hand side of the cloud: a tornado is already occurring, and would grow to be a large, multi-vortex storm. A tornado emergency was issued for Dodge City Kansas based on this storm.
The Dodge City multi-vortex tornado. Fortunately, it passed west of the main part of town, producing damage only on the outskirts of the city.
An intensifying small-scale line in South Dakota begins to produce a photogenic shelf cloud.
Shawn Rosenthal clips a quick photo as the storm closes in on Eagle Butte SD. We played tag with this across the state of South Dakota.
The small white circle shows our position ahead of the new, severe-warned bow echo. We were able to stay ahead of the system as we headed eastbound. A few places ended in close calls as road work and changes in direction allowed the bow echo to close in on our position.
The view out of the van window at the time of the radar image above. After a record-setting (fast!) gas stop followed by a southward turn in the road the bow nearly caught us, but we turned eastbound again and gained ground on the storm after that.
Caitlyn Stone checks out yet another approaching shelf cloud in southern Minnesota, as once again we were attempting to stay ahead of a storm the following day. We spent much of this chase in the whale’s mouth just behind an advancing shelf cloud.
One last picture as the shelf cloud races overhead, followed by strong outflow winds. We would play tag with remnants of this system all the way back to Virginia. In the end, our crew logged nearly 11,000 miles over the course of the two trips, intercepted dramatic storms both tornadic and non-tornadic, and witnessed miles of spectacular scenery throughout the Great Plains.