Tour 6 - Upslope Supercells
What a fantastic week of chasing! The forecast actually looked fairly poor for this week but with good forecasting and mother nature cooperating when she really didn't need to made this a really special tour.
This tour began in Denver, Colorado and for the first 2 days we chased the front range into eastern Colorado. Storms really struggled as moisture just wasn't very good. Since the guest came in the day before his arrival date we added an extra day of chasing. Nobody wants to watch storms from the hotel room! We were able to core punch these storms and got into some golfball size hail which was really fun and added some new dents to the van.
Wednesday ended up being a down day so we went up to the mountains and spent the day in Winter Park, Colorado. Ate good food, visited Rocky Mountain National Park, did a short hike to an intense water fall in Grand Lake, and to finish the evening did a little bowling.
My Wednesday night forecast was starting to show some promise of severe weather and potentially tornadoes in the Northern Plains. We left Winter Park early Thursday morning and made the trek to Montana. We entered the state early evening and were greeted with stormy skies. We tried to chase but the road networks kept us from advancing on the storms efficiently. We really didn't plan to chase since it was a marginal day and we drove up all day from Colorado but since there were storms we tried. We stayed the night in Miles City, Montana.
Friday June 10th was looking like a great day for supercells to come off the mountains west of Great Falls, Montana. We took the scenic route from Miles City to Great Falls. We felt like pizza so we went to Papa Johns, got the pizza and set up down the road just a couple miles outside of Great Falls
We pulled over on top of a large hill and ate pizza while the storm I forecasted was forming right in front of us. It could not have been any more perfect! I explained everything that was going on to the guest. The storm became a magnificent beast supercell and we chased it from it's birth to it's death. Though it was tornado warned it never really could get it together, but provided one of the most amazing sights we had ever seen. A huge wall cloud consuming a Mesa near Square Buttes, MT.
We witnessed 3 separate amazing supercells, each provided something special. I will let the pictures explain.
Saturday June 11th was showing the most potential for tornadoes for several days. We stayed the night in Billings, MT and left for Miles City once again. Ate some lunch and talked with locals and hung out with another tour company who I am friends with. After looking at data we needed to position about 60 miles east to the town Baker, MT. During our travel our target area storms started to fire to our south. The day was starting. We arrived in Baker got some gas and met up with some other chasers for a little chatting. We went south of town and watched the mess of storms that were struggling to establish themselves on the warm front. It was really frustrating since it looked to be our best shot at tornadoes for the tour. While south of town one storm started to become really photogenic and produced numerous cloud to ground lightning strikes. It was breathtaking. Most of the other chasers out that day stayed with a left moving storm that I consider as chaser bait, it was the first powerful storm of the day, but because of it's NW movement I knew that the chances of it producing a tornado was almost impossible. We needed a storm to have an easterly track in order to grab that shear to promote tornadogenesis.
Even though it was beautiful storm it was terribly high based and fell apart pretty quickly. I decided to head back towards Baker as another cell was starting to strengthen. As we got a view in Baker the storm was just incredible! The colors, the formation, structure, everything. We could have stood there for eternity taking it all in!
After a few minutes of photographing and shooting a little video it happened! I saw a debris cloud on the ground and screamed out TORNADO! There it was and it was amazing. Saturday came through and my guest got his first tornado, as well as my first Montana tornado. A state that eludes many chasers. In fact ( shameless plug ) we were the ONLY tour operator to capture the Baker, MT tornado! This tornado unfortunately hit the town of Baker and was rated an EF3. That was pretty shocking because the tornado appeared weak. It was because it traveled so slow that it kept pounding the same structures over and over again.
After the tornado the storm fell apart and we stayed the night in Bowman, ND. Sunday was a travel day back to Colorado for one more final day of chasing. We made it a fun and laid back travel day, we stopped in Sturgis and Hot Springs, SD to look at motorcycle stuff and explore the mammoth fossil dig site. We also made one last stop before dinner in Sydney, Nebraska to visit the massive sporting and outdoor center Cabelas. The last day of chasing was frustrating with too many storms firing over the mountain range at one time over casting the skies and ensuing large amounts of storms that would not organize.
It was time for us to depart and after dropping the guest off I went ahead and got into position for chasing the next day. I left from Limon, Colorado and headed for Childress, TX. I was by myself and was headed home but you know, storms on the way home means detours! I nailed the forecast and the storm was firing just south of Childress upon my arrival. It was a beautiful blue sky supercell. It was tornado warned for a good period but never could quite get it done. The structure was impressive, it was a fun storm and a great way to end an amazing journey throughout our Tornado Alley.