Verne Carlson 6/3/95 Colorado Chase


Storm Chase Report

June 3, 1995 Adams County, Colorado Verne Carlson (VerneCarl@aol.com) The following is the account of my first and only successful tornado chase of the 1995 season.

The spring of 1995 was an unusually cold and humid one with many of the traditional spring events of the Denver/Boulder area being spoiled by rain showers or damp, cold weather. The Saturday of June 3, 1995 started out as typical of this cold, cloudy pattern. By noon the low clouds had started to break over the eastern plains of Colorado with bright, late spring sunshine filtering through the forming puffy cumulous clouds. By 3 o'clock in the afternoon, temperatures had climbed to the seventies with dewpoints in the mid to upper fifties.

A week upper air disturbance was pushing through the rockies from the north west and had started to develop a strong thunderstorm in the vicinity of Castle Rock to the south of Denver. By 4 o'clock there were spotter reports of funnel clouds and a possible tornado near Parker, CO. I grabbed the camcorder and the weather radio and jumped into the car. NOAA weather radio reported that the storms were moving at 20 mph to the north/north east. Checking my mental map of Colorado, I guessed that the Strausburg/Byers area of eastern colorado would be my intercept point for the storm now to the south in Parker. As I headed out I-70 east of Denver past the new DIA airport, the weather looked as far from tornadic as I had seen it. There was a lot of unorganized cumulous clouds drifting in the sky and no storm development yet. About thirty minutes later things changed dramatically.

At 4:45 pm I began to observe a developing line of storms to my east, stretching for 50 miles to the south and north of Strausburg, CO. The vertical development in these storms was quite impressive with cumulous tops bubbling rapidly upward at a rate such that you could easily see their upward movement. All the low lying unorganized clouds to the west of the line had completely dissappeared. I pulled off I-70 at HW 79 at the Bennet exit and got the camcorder ready. The line of storms had developed a dark flat imposing underside with small wall clouds spaced along its underside every 5 miles or so.

At 5:06 pm from my vantage point I observed a long sharp funnel immediately appear to my north-east. It appeared to touch down briefly and then pull back up. Rain began to fall at my location and was beginning to obscure the funnel cloud. I jumped in the car and proceeded up the highway to get ahead of the rainfall.

At 5:09 pm I was in position a few miles further east and ahead of the rain shafts. From this location I had a great view of the wall cloud that had developed the first brief funnel. A small nub funnel was visible in the center of the wall cloud with a developing dust cloud directly beneath it. For the next five minutes the dust whirl continued on the ground with only a faint visible connection to the funnel above.

At 5:19 pm things got much more interesting! I had turned off my camcorder to conserve batteries and was driving down the interstate further to stay ahead of the rain when out of my side window I saw that the funnel was now a fully connected tornado churning up the field to my north-west. I watched for the next few minutes as the tornado strengthened, grew darker and began to stand more and more vertical. It was clearly spinning up and becoming more intense.

At 5:21pm as the tornado strengthened as the parent thunderstorm began to pick up speed and was moving more rapidly to the north-east. I was left behind on the Interstate with no nearby exits and was unable to follow it any further! But I had seen about twenty minutes of developing funnels, churning fields and the final wedge moving strongly along the ground and marching away. All in all a successful chase!