6/2/97 Colorado Chase by Matt Sellers


From: Matt Sellers (chaser13@ou.edu):

Colorado Supercells.....by Matt Sellers

The prevailing pattern on June 2, 1997 in Colorado was one more suited
for winter--cool, moist upslope flow, the same type of pattern that
produces 2-foot snowfalls up in the foothills. But in June, that means
severe weather. At 1:30 that afternoon I made the decision to head out,
based primarily on the fact that a tornado watch had been issued for
northeastern Colorado. The low clouds had burned off and the high June
sun was heating up that moist air. Dewpoints were in the low 60s. From
Pueblo, I drove to Ordway, then north on SH71 to just south of Last
Chance. I noticed large anvils to my west, but since I have hardly any
specialized equipment and the cellphone and weather radio were out of
range, I really had no idea as to how severe the storms were, if at all.
I decided to investigate. It was just my luck that the anvils were all
that was left of those storms. By now it was about 5 pm, not too late
for supercell development but late enough that you want to find one soon
and close. At Kiowa I turned north, noticing far-off anvils again. I
can't remember the name of the road, only that it was like "Bob's Road."
But it was the shortest way to Bennett and SH79. While on SH79 I noticed
what seemed to be a swirl of dust ahead of me, though miles away from
the storm. It was the leading edge of the outflow. In my two years of
chasing I had never seen as sharp an outflow boundary. At Prospect
Valley I turned east on SH52, then drove back onto the other side of the
boundary, into the light southeasterly winds. The road then turned north
toward Wiggins. I later found out that the storm did produce a tornado
at about the time I was making that last northward push (6:45 pm MDT),
but it was rain-wrapped. The sirens were blaring in Fort Morgan and
Brush--another first for me. People were scrambling up under overpasses
(just like the KS bridge video). The storm developed a beautiful wall
cloud, and from time to time, small portions of it would begin to rotate
quickly. No tornadoes touched down from this storm while I was watching
it. It was getting dark as the storm moved east. Then, driving toward
home on I76, I got wrapped up in another storm. This one, however, and
as far as I could tell, was just heavy rain. And I mean heavy. I had to
slow down to 30 mph on the freeway to keep from hydroplaning off the
road. And 40 mph northwesterly outflow winds weren't helping anything.
Eventually, around mile 60, the rain ended, and I had a nice peaceful
drive home (except for the 11:30 pm traffic jam in Denver!!) All in all,
it was my best storm of a very boring 1997 tornado season.

Matt Sellers


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