I was excited to head out for the chase yesterday because not only was it local, but for the first time this year I got to be a passenger. Also, my expectations weren’t very high, so a let down wouldn’t have made me too upset. All the model outputs fired cells across the whole Colorado region in the foothills where they would eject out on to the plains and possibly become severe. Tony Laubach, Tom Dulong and his wife Sherri picked me up and we decided to venture down south towards Pueblo where it looked like the best parameters were setting up. Lamar and La Junta were already reporting dew points in the mid 50′s and the cape was nearing 2500 by lunch time. The winds veered weakly, but it was enough to get storms to rotate later in the afternoon.
We stopped in Pueblo and had lunch at Wendy’s and could already see convection forming over the Wet Mountains (thanks Cameron for the correction! Haha). We ate and hung out for a few hours to see which storm was going to look the best. One was near Salida that I thought for sure would be the ticket, but it fizzled. Finally, one came off the mountains back near Colorado Springs that started to look pretty good so we went back north after it.
We caught it on the southern end of the Springs, not too far from Fountain. It looked good visually!
We photo’d and filmed this for a few minutes before jumping back in the car where we got under the core right off I-25. It had mostly peas, and perhaps a few larger. It really started to gust out and didn’t look very good shortly after it went over the Springs, so we abandoned it. We noticed a few cells back up north near the Denver area (which had gone severe warned for wind) and at the same time saw that the dews down south were starting to mix out. Lamar which had once registered a 54 dew point, was now down to 45 with 96 degree temps. That’s not good. We decided to head back north toward the Palmer Divide and the Denver storms.
We got back to Limon via Kiowa and Highway 86 and fueled up. Our storms had started to line out and the few that had looked good on radar at one point, now didn’t even seem worthy of pursuing. We could see off in the distance way out east a few towers that were trying to go up in front of the line that might have a chance. Was it worth the hour drive out there though? It was only 4pm and all of us in the car were nowhere near ready to call it off, so we got after it. Turning point of the day.
As we got ahead of the line, we saw all kinds of gustnadoes being kicked up by the outflow winds. With nothing of significance under our belts for the day, we got off I-70 in Stratton and had some fun with an approaching gustnado that went right over us…
I was spitting out dirt for hours after this, but it was fun. We mockingly yelled “deploy the lexan!”
It was at this point that we noticed the line of storms we were messing around with was actually putting out a nice outflow boundary ahead. There was another group of storms that were coming up from the south that was sending out a boundary as well. It looked like both of these boundaries would collide out near Burlington. When boundaries collide, all bets are off as to what can happen. We needed to get to Burlington!
As we approached Burlington, one of the cells that was coming up from the south went tornado warned and had a tornado reported on it near Eads. We were a little skeptical at first, but upon further looks at the radar, there indeed was some rotation and a few TVS markers showed up. We got to Burlington and dove south trying to get to where the two boundaries were going to collide.
As we approached our area of interest, the tornado warning extended up to our position. We had found the boundary intersection, and immediately, things above started to spin!
We watched a really broad rotation overhead and just as we got back in the car to head back north, a big ground circulation kicked up in the field next to us!
We stopped and jumped out. I glanced up at the base and the broad circulation had tightened up a bit and was clearly responsible for the dust plume on the ground. This persisted for a few minutes and then died. We pressed on north where I was able to snap a few good structure shots while hanging out of the passenger seat window.
We then started heading east again on more dirt roads. At one point, Tony’s windshield had gotten pretty dirty. As he turned his wipers on with wiper fluid, the first swoosh of the wipers actually smeared the dirt and made it worse. The second swoosh cleared the windshield only to reveal we were about 5 feet from driving into a barbed wire fence and a ditch! Tony slammed on the brakes, steered to the left a little bit, and we swung out right to middle of the road, almost as if it were a planned rally-cross move or something. The sequence of events was quite impressive minus the “FENCE!!!” yell out.
It wasn’t much longer before we had tracked back to the boundary intersection again, and there were little spin-ups happening all over the place. We saw one that definitely looked more tubular and as we approached it, another nubby funnel poked it’s head out of the base. Our second confirmed landspout!
As we went down this road, three separate gustnadoes were happening at the same time. It was pretty spectacular. I don’t think any of these were landspout’s because the line had finally congealed together, the boundaries were being washed out, and it was becoming very outflow dominant.
After it went outflow dominant, we navigated back to I-70 and went to Goodland for a few minutes to catch our breath. It was a great surprise ending that saw us eating lunch in Pueblo, but ending our day in Goodland. Who’d have thought? And I am certainly glad we didn’t call the chase off in Limon. I did shoot some video yesterday but after reviewing it, it’s completely worthless. As I shot the gustnado back in Stratton, a bunch of dust got into the lens shutter which now will not open completely. All of my video of the events is blurry and you can only see half the screen anyways. So I’ll just refer you to Tony’s video since it was much better.
The thing that made these land spouts possible yesterday was the interaction between two boundaries right out on the border. Below are a few radar grabs of the event illustrating this interaction that Tony put together. Also, better than I can do, so I’m using it as well.
2012 Chase Statistics:
Total Mileage This Chase: 662
Total 2012 Chase Mileage: 7,804
Tornadoes This Chase: 2
Total 2012 Tornadoes: 8
Milestones This Chase: First CO Tornadoes of the Year