Bill Reid's June 21-24, 1996 Chases


From "William T. Reid" <73551.2512@CompuServe.COM>:

Hi everyone,

It's Tuesday --- my 5th day of chasing here in CO with Dean.  It may be my last
day before heading back to SoCal.

On Friday (June 21) we were near Akron when a nice storm approached, but it didn't last
long.  There was too much cloudiness and rainy-ness on this day.  We ended up in
a rainy graveyard in Wray, CO. (Nice view from the graveyard!)

On Saturday, we were watching a storm try to strengthen south of Brush, when a
better-looking one went up towards Burlington.  We finally decided to head
towards Burlington, and the storm looked terrific and had a tornado warning for
a while (we were still 60 miles from it).  Unfortunately, it became part of a
line of tstorms and weakened.  It was about 40 miles into Kansas when we finally
got to Burlington and we gave up the chase just before sunset.  There was an
awesome rainbow at sunset!

On Sunday, we hooked up with Martin Lisius and his cameraman/sidekick Kurt.
They were interested in creating a new chaser documentary -- which follows the
chasers all day, hopefully culminating with a great tornado.  We had lunch in
Yuma, CO, and watched the Weather Channel at a fast food place.  The High Plains
were capped, and nothing happened until sunset when some weakish thunderstorms
fired near New Raymer (and near old Raymer, too, for that matter.)

Monday looked like it would be a good storm day---it was, but not at the right
times.  At 5:30 a.m. the NOAA alarm went off---there was a severe storm SW of
Akron moving slowly NE.  Dean said, "let's go," so we called Martin at the motel
and told him we'd meet him under the updraft.  The sun was already up, and SE
winds were quite strong -- about 25 mph sustained.  Dew points were up to about
62F, and scattered low-level stratus clouds were screaming northwestward.  As we
approached Akron from the west, warnings were extended for the storm cell, and
it was now slowing down and heading east!  Soon we were treated to its
magnificent updraft tower and back-sheared anvil through the breaks in the low
stratus.  Dean was ga-ga-eyed as he peered out the passenger-side window to view
the tower to the south.  It looked like a supercell---it likely was a supercell!
He said he had never experienced a storm like this in Eastern Colorado so close
to sunrise.  Radar indicated the likelihood of two-inch diameter hail, and  with
the storm SW of Akron by about 10 miles, we had a road problem.  We could try
the wet dirt roads to go west of the updraft, or stay on pavement into Akron and
see if we could chance the road south in front of the tower.  We decided to stay
on the paved roads.  We quickly got gas in Akron, and I was able to videotape
the storm tower at the same time.  It was still just 5 to 10 miles southwest of
town.  We ventured down the road south of Akron, with the tower now obscured by
low clouds and some precip.  We encountered nearly one-inch hail and we had to
slow considerably, but it was not quite large enough or heavy enough to stop our
progress.  About ten miles south of Akron we were out of the precip, but there
was still a low overcast.  There was a dark base-like area to our northwest, but
it was not impressive or dynamic.  Another warning was issued for the storm, and
we were in the right spot, supposedly, but we could not see much.  We went back
north on Road 63 towards Akron and got back into some nickel and quarter-sized
hail.  We also met Martin, who was coming from the north.  By this time it was
apparent that the storm was weakening.  Two other storms had formed in the area,
so we no longer had a single, dominating supercell.  Low cloudiness continued,
so we went trophy-hail hunting off to the side of the road and took some hail
video.  Dean found a broken speciman which looked to be from a stone which had
been at least two inches in diameter.  We heard a report which said that
one-inch hail fell continously for 55 minutes 8 miles southwest of Akron.  At 8
a.m. we abandoned the cloud-shrouded storms and headed back towards Fort Morgan.
Segments of U.S. 34 head northwest from Akron to Brush----on these segments, the
shadows of the stratus clouds were overtaking us, even though we were driving at
60 mph!

Dean and I did some interview stuff for Martin just north of Fort Morgan around
noon.  By mid-afternoon we had a developing and rather isolated storm slowly
approaching town from the SW.  The stratus clouds had cleared by this time, but
good southeasterly winds continued.  We watched the cell struggle along, almost
stationary, for several hours.  Meanwhile, we could see a really nice tstorm go
up well to the north, along the WY/NE border---maybe two hours away.  We were
very frustrated as the storm we were watching, just south of Wiggins, would
weaken and strengthen several times.  Around 7 p.m. small and weak funnels were
spotted by us, and by spotters, and the NWS issued a tornado warning.  The NWS
suggested that people use blankets and pillows to protect themselves, but Martin
suggested that they be used to get some sleep because the storm was boring us to
death.  The funnels were not associated with any impressive cloud features.
Finally, around 7:30 or so, another storm developed just to the south of the
original one, and they sort of collided.  There was very nice banding and hints
of large-scale rotation for awhile, with a large and dark base.  But towards
sunset it went into a weakening phase again.  The activity refused to move east,
where there was better low-level moisture.  Inflow from the east was good and
there was excellent shear, but these storms never really exploded.  After dark
they strengthened significantly, and a severe cell moved NE over Fort Morgan.
It looked really nasty in almost-continuous lightning.  The base was very ragged
and turbulent-looking with good lowerings.  We were very tired, though, so we
ended the chase at 10 p.m. in Fort Morgan.   We were bummed that nothing really
neat occurred with the afternoon activity during daylight hours. 

The outlook for severe storms looks pretty good out around Sterling today, so
Dean and I will try again.

Bill
William Reid
Woodland Hills, CA
CompuServe 73551,2512