June 5, 2015 Eastern Colorado Tornadofest

Tornadofest in Eastern Colorado!!!

Here are a couple images I was able to capture of the tornadofest that ensued across Eastern Colorado. We observed 6 tornadoes from 2 supercells near Cope, Vona, and Aton Colorado. One of the larger tornadoes pictured below was a wedge at one point, nearly stationary, with a satellite, and on the ground for over 20 minutes. We got visual of another large cone/wedge tornado near Vona but I was unable to capture any images of it.

Tornadoes; 6

Hail: 0.25″

Wind: 50 mph inflow

Strong Stovepipe Tornado

Flagger Colorado Tornado


June 4, 2015 Northwest Kansas Tornadic Supercell

June 4th featured a couple different plays in which one could choose from. Either the warm frontal boundary near the KS/NE state line further east which featured explosive amounts of instability (~5000 J/KG) along with strong shear but a formidable capping inversion. Or you could play the front range again and gamble with that working out, as the past couple days had not really worked out. I chose the KS/NE state line this time and picked a target from Alma, NE to Phillipsburg, KS. I arrived in the area fairly early and sat and waited and waited and waited. Some of the composite indices were completely off the charts and of the kinds I hadn’t seen since 16-18 June 2014.

stpc_15060421 ehi3_15060421 sbcp_15060422

This time the cap was stronger though with stout warm air aloft, so we needed a well timed disturbance. The morning disturbance set off storms across Central Nebraska north of the front. So being on the tail end of this disturbance, I was betting on a cap bust by mid-afternoon when no storms had formed despite an incredible environment.

7pm finally came around and storms finally formed in an arc from SW NE back to SW KS, several quickly became tornado warned and the chase was on. The first storm we came upon near Atwood, KS was un-remarkable and quickly died, however the second storm further south near Seldon (I-70 area) was off the charts incredible. This was the first view I got of the storm coming south looking through the vault of it into incredible clear air (cell phone image):


Epic Supercell

And the structure/lightning combo that followed that was out of this world amazing…


And then the after-dark lightning show was the best I had seen topping my previous top show from June 2009.

Epic Lightningj

All in all this was an amazing chase day despite not *officially* logging any tornadoes (although I did see a possible one). The storm was tornadic, and may have even produced a tornado, however. The structure though was a career best for me and incredible to say the least. The Colorado target panned out though with a cyclic supercell dropping several tornadoes near Simla. The next day would offer tornadic redemption for me though…

Amazing Supercell: 1

Possible Tornado: 1


June 3, 2015 Gournsey, Wyoming Supercell!

The day before this, June 2nd, featured a warm front play in Southern North Dakota, however by the time I reached this supercell, it had mostly disintegrated. Thus the day was a bust, and no post was made for it

Okay, now that I got THAT out of the way, the target for June 3rd was North Central Colorado into Southern Wyoming where strong moisture/instability was forecast to back against the mountains. Models were showing CAPE values up to 4000 J/KG for the front range, which is completely unheard of. The day of the event came around and instability values were looking much more tame with values only reaching 2500 J/KG. Storms struggled to stay organized all day long as they moved off the mountains, they would just go up and then die. Almost giving up on the day, a storm fired right around 7pm and persisted through dark. Only got a couple decent shots of it, had some pretty good structure, but no tornadoes.

Wyoming storm

Guernsey, Wyoming Storm

The storm tracked through Gournsey, Wyoming state park and was similar to chasing in Arkansas, mountainous and lots of winding roads. So once dark fell, we gave up the chase.

May 9, 2015 Kansas Cyclic Tornadic Supercell!

May 9, 2015 was supposed to be another big day in the Plains. SPC had outline a MODERATE risk of severe thunderstorms about 3 days in advance which is very rare. In fact, I think there have only been about 13 instances of this with the last happening a few years back.


Anyway, looked really crazy on models however the devil was in the details. Them details were what a morning MCS and prior days’ convection was going to do to the environment. My concern was the northern play wasn’t going to work at all because convection had left a large cold pool over the previous days, lapse rates would be horribly worked over, so we wouldn’t get the instability and “juice” we needed up there. So I decided Childress would work again for the night before so if I needed to go south I could. Initial model forecasts were for a strongly sheared, highly unstability dry-line which would support a classic tornado outbreak scenario from Kansas to Texas. Woke up to a squall line pushing through however skies were clearing behind to the west and dew points were into the 50’s over the high terrain. I decided to head north into Southwest Kansas to play the dry line where lapse rates were good (~8C/KM 700-500mb), which allowed for surface based instability of 1500-2000 J/KG. This in conjunction with very strong wind shear, would allow for the potential of tornadoes. Headed north out of Liberal watching towards go up and continuously fail. As I headed west into Southeast Colorado, I somehow missed the storm that went up south of Lamar and pushed north producing tornadoes. I was over 35 miles away and decided not to pursue it due to moving away at a swift clip. Was fairly annoying missing such beautiful tornadoes over my target area and I was certain the day was a bust. Decided to jump on Highway 40 and head east calling it a day.

Dumb luck had it that a storm went up south of the highway and had a tornado warning on it. We were in perfect position. Stopped to get gas in some small town along 40 there and saw the explosive updraft due southeast of us with low level clouds screaming out of the east. The boundary was just to our north and I figured if this updraft could hit the boundary, it would produce tornadoes. I had no idea the show we were about to get….

Updraft looking southeast

Updraft looking southeast

Soon enough we had a visual on what would become a stunning show. The first tornado ongoing near Oakley, Kansas. The tornado was stout and appeared to have a strong base, similar to the Elmwood/Yates City tornado in 2010. Mesmerizing! 10+ minute long life cycle too! Thankfully damage was minimal on this.

Tornado #1

Tornado #1

Tornado #1 roped out and gave way to another tornado, this time right around dusk. A stunning wedge tornado (#2)

Kansas Wedge Tornado

As if that wasn’t enough, a 3rd tornado formed and we had 2 at once. Multiple vortex from the lifting wedge to the left and a satellite tornado to the right (Twins!!).

Tornado #3

Tornado #3

We stopped and a 4th tornado dropped down to our west, while a 5th stovepipe tornado was ongoing to our north (which I failed to capture). Another instance of multiple tornadoes at once and this storm had several areas of evident rotation as well.

Tornado #4

Tornado #4

The 6th tornado we observed was a fleeting multiple vortex after the strong stovepipe dissipated into the night. It appeared like we had 2 on the ground again here, however it was a large multiple vortex tornado in progress! Amazing shape shifting tornado

Tornado #6

Tornado #6

3rd instance of multiple tornadoes at once on this storm. Another multiple vortex tornado to the left here and then another satellite tornado to the right!

Multi-Vortex Satellite 2

Another satellite tornado to the right as the multiple vortex continues to crank (tornado #7)


Shape shifting tornado continues to churn under supercell structure. Possibly dual tornadoes again here (tornado #8), however it appears like the multiple vortex has lifted and a cone is setting down to the right. The storm appeared to be retrograding northwest though in my view.

Kansas Multi-Vortex

Cone tornado now descends as I described above under a classic looking supercell.

Kansas Cone Tronado

Poor quality video grab of a lightning illuminated wedge tornado as the whole base filled in now, assuming its the same tornado as above as we travel northeast with the storm. Radar rotational velocities were quite impressive at this time, so glad it didn’t really impact any towns here. (tornado #9).

Night Wedge

And then this happened….probably my favorite of the night over all the tornadoes we saw. Incredible lightning display with this low topped, highly tornadic supercell over Northwest Kansas. Notice the lightning arc coming out of the updraft!!

Lightning Arc

Overall this was a great chase day with at least 8 or 9 tornadoes being documented by my camera. Possibly more than that though, that is just my conservative count on this event. Probably produced well over a dozen as it plowed toward the Nebraska border. Really an amazing event considering the observations of 57/57 in our area while watching these storms. Extremely strong low level jet and helicity near the boundary certainly aided in this cyclic tornado monster!

Tornadoes: 9

Winds: 60+ mph

Hail: 1.00″

May 6, 2015 Northern OK Supercells

Another chase day on our trip and this time we were targetting Southwest Kansas into Northwest Oklahoma for the potential of a few strong tornadoes. SPC seemed to agree with our analysis of this with a high end SLIGHT risk probability of tornadoes (10% hatched). EHI values in this region were spiking very high on the morning models with values expected over 10 (conducive to significant severe weather).


So we drove from out hotel in Childress, TX up highway 83 and hopped on 40 into Western Oklahoma, eventually up to Alva and into Kansas we went. We noticed that storms to out west firing were struggling in an area of mixed out moisture (upper 50’s). Dew points just to our east however were holding strong in the upper 60s and lower 70s. So I figured we needed to head east and target the storms firing on a pre-frontal confluence zone from ICT down to OKC. We had storms firing near Wichita that we managed to drive underneath, however dropped in favor of a classic supercell that was to our south near Enid, Oklahoma.

Classic Supercell

Classic Supercell

We made this our target storm as it had great inflow air to the east that was untouched and appeared to be moving slowly and was nearly perfect looking on radar. In reality I’m not sure if this was a great decision or not. While it could have produced a nice tornado for us, it never did, and hindsight is 20/20. The storms going up in Southern Kansas ended up moving north of Wichita and dropping a nice stout tornado (rated EF3).

Classic Supercell 2

Classic Supercell 2

As we got into position, we managed to get a view of a large rotating wall cloud and lowering, along with wind driven golf ball size hail.

Enid Wall Cloud

Enid Wall Cloud

Enid Wall Cloud 2

Enid Wall Cloud 2

We continued down this road as this strongly rotating wall cloud crossed overhead and moved away from us. On the back side, we had a spectacular view of the carved meso and RFD cut. Several funnels dropped down out of this and quickly lifted, none of which appeared to touch down.

Pond Creek, OK RFD

Pond Creek, OK RFD

We followed this supercell north of Enid where it displayed some rather spectacular structure despite appearing to be in a dying phase…

Pond Creek, OK Structure

Pond Creek, OK Structure

We headed west for another tornado warned supercell after getting off this one. This cell was near Canton Lake, Oklahoma and had a confirmed tornado on it. By the time we got there, we just had structure to work with. Theme of the day it seemed.

Fairview Sunset Supercell

Fairview Sunset Supercell

Overall this day was a bust in terms of photographing tornadoes with numerous occurring across the Plains states. However we were able to get onto 2 great supercells and one of which came about as close as I’ve ever seen a storm come to producing, without actually producing. Best chase day of our trip so far…

April 25, 2015 – Thompsonville to Morganfield, KY HP Storm

Decided to chase a marginal day in Southern IL for supercells and possible tornadoes along a warm frontal boundary. SPC went with “enhanced risk” probabilities on this day noting large hail and isolated tornadoes as the main risks. Instability was forecast initially to be quite strong (~3000 J/KG) however early day convection limited this to more in the way of (~1000-1500 J/KG). However with 50 knots of deep layer shear this was still sufficient to produce a severe thunderstorm and transient supercell from Thompsonville, IL to near Corydon, KY. The storm exhibited greatest rotation near the Thompsonville area where we observed strong low level rotation in what appeared to be the “inflow notch” region of this storm. Surface inflow was great however despite this, the storm fought outflow characteristics and high precipitation nature reducing any tornado threat that would have otherwise existed. ***I should note NWS Paducah is reviewing the Thompsonville area for a possible tornado touchdown, nothing is conclusive yet though***.

SPC Day 1 outlook

SPC Day 1 outlook

Here are a few images that I shot during the storm’s life. I caught this cell near Thompsonville south of I-64 and followed it into Western Kentucky. Low level structure was decent enough at times and we encountered sub-severe (~50 MPH) winds and marginal hail (0.88-1.00″) near Morganfield, Kentucky before heading home.

Wide angle shot of the HP storm near Thompsonville, IL.

Wide angle shot of the HP storm near Thompsonville, IL.

Thompsonville HP storm

Thompsonville, IL wide angle shot. Low level Rotation ramping up on the left side of the image

Thompsonville Rotation

Close up shot (85mm) of the rotation developing near Thompsonville, IL

Morganfield KY Storm

Wide angle shot of the HP storm west of Morganfield, KY

Morganfield KY Supercell

Morganfield, KY HP storm.