Anytime, any place there is a storm to chase, that is where you'll find the Hunters of Thunder.

May 9 - First Chase Day

Hi folks, sorry for the delays, normal service will resume now that we are not covering 500+ miles a day. Very odd little system which caused us to run around a lot.

So as it goes with chasing May 8 turned out to be terribly boring, unfortunately it was pretty much a bust for chasers throughout Nebraska with only a single cell firing north in South Dakota (SD) out of our feasible range on our arrival day. We used it as an opportunity to position from Denver after the long Sunday journey over and we headed for Valentine, Nebraska.

Our first chase day began on the 9th May in Valentine where we enjoyed a surprisingly good breakfast at the hotel before filling up the oversized, gas guzzling top of the range rental (thanks for the upgrade!) and watching the Tornado Intercept Vehicle (as seen on TV) roll past us as the only other car on the road after a trip to the car wash. We made our way to Murdo, SD and encountered the chaser circus (Including Reed Timmer and the Dominator, chase tour groups, Verne Carlson, Mike Umschied just to name a few) as a relatively tight slight risk threat area was present to the west.

As the day went on the tornado probabilities bounced up and down, but the cap stubbornly refused to break. While the herd continued to hang in Murdo we decided to position NW from our location and noticed storms beginning to fire near Philip, South Dakota (while the vast majority of chasers were heading south to fruitlessly intercept the first storms which fired in northwest Nebraska, most didn't make it and busted).

The tail end and easternmost of these cells fired and sure enough began to rapidly escalate in the increasingly favourable environment with the potent low-level jet. A storm rapidly intensified to our south east and we quickly found ourselves on the wrong side of a storm that was becoming increasingly the classic supercell and little option with the road network given the storm motion. Shortly before this scan we were located at the little hail icon you can see on the radar display (John's report to spotternetwork of observed 2" (5cm, bigger than golfballs folks) hailstones, which sent us scurrying west.
The problem wasn't that we weren't going to beat the now tornado warned right mover before it crossed, but a left moving partner which had remained attached before disappating as the storm increased in strength.
As we ran back east now the hail had cleared, the light was quickly fading and making photographs hard (very late initiation), but there was plenty of video of hail falling and lightning illumnation of the storm. We did manage to get the photo above of the rear structure of the storm at the tornado warned stage, and what appears to be a funnel (no way to even suggest anything else).

As darkness descended and the storm moved N with a NE turn we positioned ourselves east of the hook and waited for lightning to illuminate any features.  We began to get hit by strong RFD winds and moved south to allow the circulation to pass as the features weren't visible enough.

The storm continued to show a beautiful radar signature, and shortly after produced a tornado in the dark north of Philips (which nearly took out a chaser who was playing with fire by chasing in the dark too close in when the tornado moved east to west in front of his car). All in all not a bad days chasing, just disappointing the cap took so long to be overcome, but we managed to avoid a bust along with the 3 other chasers on this storm.

And a short video of some of the better moments from the chase.

Full chasing videos will be available on the 2011 Hunters of Thunder USA Storm Chasing DVD available after we return.

Feathers & Crikey

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