It appeared to me that there were two legit targets for the day; one in the NE corner of Colorado and pushing into SE Wyoming where easterly surface winds and relative high dew points in the mid to high 50's were being drawn in by the Denver Cyclone effect, while the second target was the Palmer Divide where storms often fire and move east or south east into the plains. I decided to play the NE target first where storms were likely to fire earlier and see if they became tornadic before heading for the south target once things got messy up north. I moved to Fort Morgan once again but before I finished the 90min trip from Denver, a tornado watch was issued for the area and a storm in SE Wyoming (about an hour to my north) was already showing signs of producing a tornado (which it did).
Sure enough storms fired to my SW and I moved to intercept south of Wiggins where I saw early and brief signs of supercell structure and got hit by golf ball hail and torrential rain as I core punched several times. The storms in the area were again moving NNE like the day before and radar showed some strong rotation in the upper and mid levels and it seemed the storm may go tornadic however it split and the preferred right split did not survive with the left split dominating leading to low visibility and a lot of rain = no fun. In the meantime storms were firing off the Palmer Divide about an hour to my south so I made the same decision as the day before to abandon the NE mess and head south.
The main storm of interest soon became a supercell and dominated its environment and I recieved messages from John regarding its behaviour on radar and reports of rotating wallclouds and funnels as I drove......with purpose.
Once I closed on the storm from the NE I could see the tell-tale signs of a monster supercell that was going to be worth the effort and I quickly gained position on the interstate to the west of Limon as the storm moved south at 5-10mph. Similar to the day before I could see the base, wall cloud and interesting lowerings on the forward flank to my west.
|The first view of the low base features to my SW near Agate, Co. Photo: Brad.|
|Surface interaction was evident as the forward flank produced weak funnels and kicked up dirt. Photo: Brad.|
Today I decided to go straight at the monster and get close so I went west to within about 500m and then paralleled the storm southward with incredible views of the most intense broad rotating structure I have ever seen up close. And then there was the beaver tail and 100km/h inflow winds to boot. Wow - what a storm, and I knew that the mid level and upper structure was likely epic from a distance but you cant be in two places at once. Photography and video was difficult do to my proximity and the insane inflow that made it difficult to stand upright but you get the picture from the shots I did get.
|Direct intercept! heading west at the slow moving supercell. The beaver tail is developing above me as a ghostly white lowering can be seen in front of me. Photo: Brad.|
The broad rotation of this storm was something quite amazing. The white low level cloud in the photo below was ripping left to right around the storm so quickly, hopefully I got some video of it amongst the chaotic wind and excitement.
|Awe inspiring low and mid level structure at this stage with 100km/h inflow and incredible broad rotation up close now. These are wide angle shots! Photo: Brad.|
I was so close to the storm now that only wide angle lenses could begin to capture it and even then it required panoramic photos and stitching software to begin to do it justice. It was a challenge to photograph due to the conditions but below is a crude stitch that gives some idea of the structure.
|Stitched wide angle panoramic (5 shots) to demonstrate the structure. Note the 2 wall clouds and RFD. Photo: Brad.|
As I drove south in parallel with the storm a strong persistent cone funnel emerged to my west but I was unable to confirm a tornado myself despite other reports in the area.
|A possible tornado to my west but I couldnt confirm touchdown from my position. Photo: Brad.|
I found my way south to a west road and went closer again, this time with 100m of the advancing hail shaft that was now an irridescent blue colour and contrasted with a magnificent, strong bright white beaver tail almost overhead, that was intersecting the mesocyclone from the east. You dont get much closer to the business end of a monster HP supercell than this - without getting smashed by large hail or a tornado. I allowed the storm to advance on me until the last moment where I had my GoPro wide angle camera mounted on the back of the car and then I fled eastward for a south road.
|Beaver tail!!!! moist easterly inflow feeds directly into the mesocyclone as the core advances on me west of Limon. This stitched pano is comprised of 7 wide angle shots and that core is only 200m away! Photo: Brad.|
I was less then 5mins into my east move when I just had to see what was behind so I took a shot out the window and was so blown away by what I saw on my screen I had to stop right there! exposed ringing supercell structure all the way into the upper levels and a clear view of the beaver intersecting the mesocyclone. Add to that the menacing dark shadows under the storm where I had just come from and it was a chasing moment I wont forget.
|Okay, so picture this....Im bailing east to avoid getting smashed and I turn to look out my drivers window to see this behind!|
|Wide angle stitched pano (7 shots) west of Limon. Photo: Brad.|
|Just about speechless at this point. Structured supercell with monster beaver tail at sunset north of Rush. Photo: Brad.|
|Okay, speechless now! Photo: Brad.|
|Colours and a new tornado warning on sunset, stitched pano taken near Rush. Photo: Brad.|