5/29/97-6/6/97 chases by Bill Reid


Hi gang,

Another week has passed, and I am back at Charlie's in Amarillo.  The weather
pattern remains generally terrible for severe weather on the Plains.  There is
hope for this weekend, however, as an upper low moves eastward from Arizona.
I'll head home after this weekend system has done its thing.  Now, let's see if
I can recall what happened the past week....I believe I left you all (I mean,
"ya'll") on pins and needles after getting pulled out of the mud in Sudan,
Texas, on May 28th....

Thursday, May 29th

Keith's friend, Adam Thorin, was flying in from Southern California --- and
arriving in Liberal(!) at 3 p.m. --- so Keith left Amarillo at 1 p.m. to pick
him up.  Rob Allison and I went to Ch. 7 at 4 p.m. to discuss the weather
situation with Jason Laney and company.  The outlook for severe and supercells
was pretty good!  Computer models suggested that we wouldn't have to go very
far, as WNWerly-upper level winds were decent over the Panhandles, and enough
low-level moisture was in place.  Jason thought that the poor-road region from
Vega to Dumas would be hot, so Rob and I headed west to Vega on I-40.  Skies
were clear and cloud towers were not evident, so we had dinner at Dairy Queen in
Vega.  Storms were firing up in the Oklahoma Panhandle, so I tried to contact
Keith on his cell phone----no luck.  Finally, after 6 p.m., we were able to make
out some convection to the northwest.  It was up near Nara Visa.  The last time
I was at Nara Visa was on June 2, 1995.  I saw a tornadic supercell, but I
couldn't get in any decent position storm-wise because of the horrible road
network.  I missed the Friona/Dimmitt tornados on that day in '95 because I
chose to chase that first cell that went up in northeastern NM, and I ended up
well out of position to recover to the south.  I swore to NEVER let that happen
again!  So, Rob and I took the dirt road north out of Adrian a couple of miles
to watch the approaching storm, still well to the north-northwest.  I wanted to
stay close to I-40 in case another storm developed near Amarillo.  That turned
out to be a very good decision, but luck was not with us this day.

Rob and I stood and watched cows and the storm NNW of Adrian for at least an
hour.  If you ever want a lot of cows to approach you, just ask Rob to "moo" for
you.  The storm's anvil passed overhead, and we had a good view of the storm's
updraft base, though it was over 20 miles away.  Beneath the base a potpourri of
scud swirled about, and for awhile it appeared as if a large wedge tornado was
in progress!  The black scud apparently reached from ground level to cloud base,
but my camcorder zoom showed little or no rotation.  Also, we weren't sure that
we could see the ground surface below the storm, as a low hill interfered.  The
low scud was very intriguing and continued to make excellent tornado
impressions!  Poorly trained spotters, or any person spotting at night, would
almost surely deduce that there was tornadic activity beneath that rain-free
base.  Meanwhile, lightning activity was increasing in another cell to our
north-northeast.  We kissed off the weakening cell (and cows) to the NNW and
tried to get in front of this new storm.

We zoomed east on the frontage road just north of I-40, and the C-G
(cloud-to-ground) lightning strikes just to our northwest were awesome!  A
severe tstorm warning was issued for Potter County.  The storm looked rather
disorganized and HPish to us, however.  I even TRIED to find hail as we came
into Amarillo, but all I got was heavy rain!  Rob was hearing reports of large
hail around town on his scanner.  It was dark as we arrived back at Ch. 7.  I
gave Jason some lightning video for the 10 p.m. news, and then a tornado warning
was issued for Randall County, just south of Amarillo!  Radar showed a nice,
compact storm with a hook over Canyon.  Rob and I decided to go for it!  Reports
of baseball-sized hail, funnel clouds, wall clouds, and an intense tornadic
signature on Doppler radar came over the scanner.  Canyon and Happy were in big
trouble!  The storm was headed south, and so were we, along I-27, and then U.S.
87 out of Canyon.  In front of us was a monster updraft, tilted way over towards
the south.  Frequent lightning lit up the tower and the base, which had an
obvious laminar look.  Rob picked out a large funnel/tornado silhouette on a
couple of occasions --- it was about four miles to the south.  I never saw it
--- I must have been looking in the wrong spot while watching the road.  More
reports of very large hail along I-27 near Happy came in ---- we had taken U.S.
87 to stay a little west of the core. 

The storm continued southward from Happy, where we decided to let it go.  (As if
it needed our approval, right?!)  Nighttime chasing is kind of dangerous,
especially when tornadic supercells are involved.  We never did get any hail, or
see any hail on the ground---that was weird.  We watched a new cell with more
incredible and frequent CG lightning just northwest of Happy, and then we drove
back to Amarillo.

This was one of those days that could have been spectacular, but the good stuff
waited a little too long to get going.  At least I wasn't up at Nara Visa while
tornado warnings were being issued for Amarillo....but then again, it would have
been neat seeing that scud close-up!


Friday, May 30

No severe weather in sight ---- a bunch of us went to see Austin Powers.
Groovy, Baby!


Saturday, May 31

The weather pattern remains pretty pathetic as an upper high continues over the
West, but some West to Northwesterly flow is progged for Eastern Colorado this
weekend.  Adam, Keith and I take the Pathfinder north mid-afternoon, and at
Kerrick, Texas, we see a promising storm surrounded by clear skies to the north.
At Keyes, OK, we decide to head ENE to Elkhart, KS, to catch the cell, which is
moving SSE from near Bristol, Colorado, in Prowers County.  We learned of a
tornado warning for the cell while we were north of Elkhart, and we had a good
view of its base, even though it was still about 60 miles away.  A wall cloud
lowering and a funnel cloud were even visible for awhile from this distance.
The storm had a good LP look to it.  The cell was now trekking south, and we
were too far east.  We navigated some paved and some dirt roads west and north
to close in on the storm.  I saw Stonington and Walsh, Colorado, for the first
time!  When we reached Two Buttes (of Two Buttes fame), the updraft was just to
our northwest, and moderate rain was falling.  Radio reports from KLMR (920 AM)
were excellent, and said that the cell was now moving SSW!  They also reported
that no tornados had been reported yet.  Unfortunately, our arrival south of the
updraft did not coincide with tornadogenesis and chaser euphoria ----- it
prompted Updraftus Dissipatus and a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth
among these California chaser.  The cell's updraft totally disappeared in about
20 minutes, and all that was left was an orphan anvil.  The anvil drifted off to
the SSE, and its mammatus laughed at us.  It was about 7 p.m. MDT, and all we
had were clear skies and an orphan anvil.  We found a motel in Burlington,
Colorado, along I-70.


Sunday, June 1

There was a slight risk of severe storms for E CO this day, and the discussion
out of Pueblo mentioned supercells for SE CO.  Keith, Adam, and I headed to
Wray, and then Akron, and saw an "agitated area" to the southwest, towards Last
Chance.  This area of cumulus towers was surrounded by clear skies, so it looked
to have potential.  I wanted to be east or southeast of this development, and I
wanted to keep an eye on new stuff going up way down south in SE CO, so we took
Road 63 south all the way to I-70 at Arriba.  It is dirt part of the way, near
the Lincoln/Washington county line.  Well, that turned out to be a poor
decision.  Severe tstorm warnings went out for our "agitated area" now to the
north, and for another cell near Colorado Springs to our WSW ---- but the storms
just looked like garbage.  Our mushy "activity" to the north obscured the best
storms of the day, up near Kimball, Nebraska.  The stuff in SE CO died early.  I
wish I had stayed in Akron to watch the development.  Instead, we sat around
Arriba and Genoa for hours watching junk.  We went back to Burlington and found
another motel.


Monday, June 2

Not much has changed --- E CO is covered by a slight risk.  NE CO looks better
than SE CO, so we camp out just N of Last Chance during the mid-afternoon to see
which storm moving east off of the foothills is worthy of closer perusal.  A
storm near Fort Collins moves east and triggers a tstorm warning for Weld
County, so we head towards Fort Morgan.  The storm is moving ESE from near
Purcell to Briggsdale, and radar detects a "possible tornado."  The road network
is rather sparse, and I decide to catch the storm as it nears Briggsdale, though
I know it would probably be just southwest of me at that point, and I would be
battling the core.  That is what happened.  As we neared Briggsdale, we had a
great view of this HP cell, but we were in moderate rain.  There was neat
banding and a skirt of scud-puppies around the greenish/gray updraft.  This
thing was spinning pretty nicely!  Unfortunately, it was an HP supercell, and
the (visible) tornadic potential seemed remote.  We had to get in front of the
storm, so we went back east and south to Fort Morgan, and set up the tripods
just southeast of Weldona.  A beautiful green wheat field swayed in the
foreground as the HP storm slowly advanced towards us.  The storm was outflow
dominate, so I expected some strong west winds and maybe a gustnado along the
gust front.   As the storm neared, there was some obvious rotation in the low
clouds hanging from the front end.  We noticed some dust beneath this
circulation about a mile away, and soon a significant tornadic circulation was
churning through the yard of the farm house about 3/4 miles away to our west!  I
zoomed in and saw cows running from the dusty whirlwind, and some debris was
tossed up into the air.  The event lasted about a minute.  When the gustnado
moved over the wheat field, it weakened and was very hard to see.  Spotters had
seen the gustnado, too, and soon a tornado warning was issued for Morgan County,
and the sirens were sounded in Fort Morgan!  This was clearly a gustnado --- it
was not associated with a classic wall cloud, but with a low-hanging and
rotating scud/shelf cloud-fragment.  There was no condensation funnel.  It was a
strong gustnado, however, so try telling the locals that it wasn't a tornado!

We visited briefly with Dean Cosgrove and Tim Samaras at Log Lane Village, and
then headed east to Brush to get ahead of the storm again.  It seemed that most
Ft. Morgan and Brush residents were watching the storm activity from their
yards!  We found a pullout east of Brush along U.S. 34, and watched the storm
lose its HP characteristics!  Precipitation ceased to fall from the updraft, and
the storm was now an LP, with a clear slot south of a rotating lowering!  The
rotation persisted, but a significant lowering and/or a funnel never
materialized.  The storm continued east, just north of U.S. 34, with numerous
chase vehicles in tow.  Rain again fell from the base, and the storm elongated
and weakened a bit as dusk fell.  We had several moments there along U.S. 34
when a beautiful, backlit tornado seemed possible, but it was not to be.  We
punched north through the rain from Akron to Sterling ---- hoping for some small
hail again! ---- but had none.  We had a late dinner at Village Inn in Sterling
during a heavy thunderstorm.


Tuesday, June 3

We awoke in Sterling, and I called Dean to get his feel for the severe weather
possibilities on this day.  He thought that the prospects were bleak --- but
maybe stuff could develop way out near the Kansas border.  A strong upper
circulation over Nebraska was causing north winds over NE CO.  There was a
slight risk in W KS, so we drove to McCook, Nebraska, and then south to I-70 at
Grainfield.  Cumulus congestus was persistant well to the southeast, but was far
from spectacular.  At sunset we were in Garden City, with no storms to look at.
We had dinner and headed for Amarillo.


Wednesday, June 4

Awful ridge over the High Plains and a trough digging along the West Coast....We
barbecued at Bary's and watched PeeWees Big Adventure.


Thursday, June 5

Summer-like pattern with very weak flow aloft and moist, southeasterly surface
winds....two friends from L.A. arrived, Phil Barone and Jeff Brown, and we
watched some active lightning west of Channing, Texas, between 10 p.m. and
midnight.


Friday, June 6

When will that SW low kick out, and will it cause severe weather when it does?
Should I be chasing the 4-Corners area this weekend?  Hmmm.

William Reid
Woodland Hills, California
CompuServe 73551,2512

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