I started the day viewing this chase as a “day before the day” type of event. The parameters weren’t great but it was Colorado, and it would take me in the direction I needed to be for Monday’s chase as well, so it was game on! Moisture and instability weren’t great with dews struggling to maintain in the mid 40′s. The HRRR kept showing storms firing down in the very extreme NW corner of New Mexico, and all models were consistent in showing a shortwave coming through in the afternoon. SPC hatched a 5% tornado probability across a good portion of eastern Colorado that dipped down through the Texas Panhandle and encompassed my target area up in New Mexico. My initial target was Raton, NM.
I took off south down I-25 just a little after 9am. By the time I got south of Pueblo, I could already see convection coming off the Sangre De Cristo’s right on the CO/NM border. That was a good sign. Granted, nothing was looking too great at that moment, but I knew I had found my focal point. I stopped in Trinidad and grabbed some lunch keeping an eye on the storms coming off the mountains. At this point I decided to abandon the Raton target and pushed east out of Trinidad straddling the CO/NM border. Finally, one storm started to show up a little more robust on radar and had a small hail marker on it. I got out in front of it and watched it eject off the mountains. It was a little storm, but the base was sucking scud up and at one point developed an interesting looking lowering. It couldn’t be right?
I couldn’t see any rotation but it did look cylindrical for a few minutes. Eventually, the feature re-absorbed back into the base.
Much ado about nothing. Anyway, I stayed out ahead of this storm as I headed east on 160 toward Kim, CO. It didn’t take too long before I was out of data range and had lost all updates on the radar. My storm that I was tracking was becoming elevated and didn’t look too good. Somehow, in the data-less abyss that is highway 160, my phone gave me a Radarscope update and showed some new cells firing near Pritchett. So I abandoned this cell and got east and caught up with the Pritchett cell. I found an abandoned farmstead and got some good shots.
This storm didn’t remain on it’s own for very long and connected with 2 or 3 other cells in the area forming one big long snake-ish storm. I found another abandoned house and got another good shot.
There were a bunch of birds that lived in the abandoned house, and as I got close, they started dive bombing me. So, I made a cowardly run back to my car covering my head from my aerial attackers. I hate birds.
I maintained my easterly course and just outside of Springfield, I got some of my best shots of the day as the cell’s structure was really nice!
I continued directly east out of Springfield as the cell started to cross Highway 287. Just as I neared the town of Vilas, I took a glance back in my rear view mirror to see a little plume of dust kicking up along the front edge of the storm. I wanted to investigate that further, so I went south through Vilas and got this shot…
I kind of had to do a double take just to make sure the feature above wasn’t rotating. It wasn’t but there were some turbulent motions that might’ve been the cause of the gustnado. This feature lasted for a few minutes and after filming a couple more spin up’s, the cell was threatening to pass me by. I grabbed one last landscape shot before I continued east in to Kansas.
Near the Kansas border, I saw another gustnado happening close to Stonington. It too had some interesting motions going on up above the circulation. It was weird though because it was on the front end of the storm. Land spouts can occur this way, but I wasn’t confident enough, or close enough to make a call on it. My guess is that it was just another gustnado, but the motions in the base sure do make me wonder. Check the video below for this sequence.
I entered Kansas and kept up the routine of staying ahead of the storm and taking shots. The dusty roads took their toll on my car!
Little did my car know what it was in-store for the next day (just a bit of teaser). I kept heading east and after driving through another big gustnado (again, see video below), I decided to make my last stand near Sublette where I was going to finally let the cell go past. I got a shot of one last gustando in the distance right before the cell passed over.
As I sat in the core, small pea sized hail fell but the winds were rocking my car back and forth. As I filmed out my window, a bright white flash followed by a loud clap of thunder scared the hell out of me. A bolt of lightning had struck a fence post about 30 feet away! I put the camera down and got the hell out of there! I’m usually not scared of lightning but that was too close. I ventured back down south to Liberal where I called it a day and stayed the night. Overall, it was a great chase with some great photography.