05/10/04 REPORTS: WY, CO

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Mar 2, 2004
Northern Colorado
Sitting at a flying J truck stop in Cheyenne recovering from some major yumz (chicken-fried steak). Not too shabby of a day for a local chase. Sat through a hailstorm 4 miles NE of Carr, CO (about 15ish miles south of Cheyenne) on US Hwy 85 that dropped some stones measuring 1.5 inches in diameter. Jeff P. reported a brief tornado about 4 miles south of us at that time. Being that Hwy 85 was the only real way N/S, we couldn't get too far into the core to view it. Some other storms fired west of Cheyenne, but nothing as exciting as the hailstorm we tagged. It was a fun day overall; can't complain for a trip down the street. Also noteworthy, this was my first Wyoming chase. Will have a log on my website soon!
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Near Silver Crown, WY
(click to enlarge)

We almost played the DVCZ. We even talked about how perfect it was based on what we learned from Steve Hodanish in Denver this February. But we didn't. Here's what we did instead:


Scott E, Scott C, Eric N, and I began the day in Valentine Nebraska and noted the strong shear forecast along the front range in southeastern Wyoming. For days we’ve been plagued with weak midlevel flow and we leaped at the chance to improve our lot with upslope on the business end of a moisture train from the southeast. With the synoptic low out west deepening rapidly, we debated the merits of the Denver area and the famous DBCZ. We considered that with great moisture, the famed post cool-frontal environment was nearly ideal for landspouts or weak tornadoes. However, midlevel winds were forecast at 15 to 20 knots, at least as of the 15Z RUC, and when we checked the Medicine Lodge (?) profiler near Cheyenne, we noted 40 knots at 500 millibars as early as 4:00 PM. Wyoming’s lack of moisture concerned us, but when you’re at 5100 feet (840 mb at one point), you don’t expect to need low 70’s, right?

Our first storm fired near Wheatland and we raced up 85 to catch it. It grew into a fully mature supercell with an impressive beaver’s tail and distinct rain core. We followed this storm over rural roads that led to “open range,†wide and empty country where the rocky cliffs, buttes, and mesas leave the impression that not another human being walks the planet. It is desolate and beautiful in the sort of stark, ambivalent way that chasers understand. A few brief lowerings appeared before our storm’s base grew linear and a new tower to the south grabbed our attention. Scott C and I left our first storm for the southern cell when the latter developed a backsheared anvil and ours began raining through its own updraft.

After we left, the storm re-intensified, of course, and Eric and Scott C enjoyed a great structure show, following the storm deep into east central Wyoming, finishing near the South Dakota border. Scott Eubanks and I finally intercepted our new storm east of Cheyenne, and drove south of the city to Carpenter to observe some weak wall clouds and follow the storm back through the city. The storm had produced a tornado report just across the border near Rockport, but Cheyenne only issued severe warnings for it, so we assumed the rotation had subsided.

We followed it through the city and drove north on 25, as the storm changed shapes and became a bowl shaped and impressive. Another cell to the southwest, however, began spinning like a top, and the striated updraft base hypnotized us into following it northwest of the city, in the direction of Federal. This storm was a gorgeous barber poll updraft LP, with the tightest and most dramatic striations I’ve seen in a long time. The show continued for over and hour, from around 7:00 PM to 8:20 PM Mountain Time, leaving Scott and I in the silence that an awesome storm dictates. The only sound we heard was rapid inflow and the electric whir of our camera shutters. Several times scud attached to the base and began organizing, but the inflow was cool and dry by this time and tornadogenesis was impossible. We didn’t care.

Of course I wish we’d gone to Denver and seen all the tornadoes. Earlier in the day, in fact, Scott Eubanks joked about a likely Denver outbreak since we were passing up Colorado for southeastern Wyoming. As they say, sometimes the bear eats you. But our consolation prize tonight was a fine one—a breathtaking high plains LP in the beautiful open ranges of Wyoming. Many thanks to Jeff Gammons and Steve Miller for nowcasting, and congratulations to Scott Weberpal and other chasers around Limon. Let's try it again tomorrow!

Full report and more pics on my blog here.


I got so wrapped up in the dynamics in Wyoming, I blew off the convergence zone which lit up later that evening; awesome vids out of there guys! Congrats on an incredible storm!

I, on the other hand, was having some pretty good times myself, even as it wasn't tornatic, I did have a hail of a time (that must get old :roll: - hehe).

My girlfriend, Dania Walker, met me on campus as I finished my Mesometeorology exam (which oddly enough, a part of the exam was an evaluation of the convective potential for this day). We filled up and took off, heading north on I-25 to Cheyenne. We arrived shortly after 4:30, stopping at the Flying J Truck Stop for a quick look at data. By this time, we were heading reports of a good sized storm well off to our north, but since my exam wasn't finished til after 2, I ended up missing out on that.

Anywoo, storms were beginning to fire south of us in Colorado, so we left the truck stop and headed a few miles east on I-80, jumping off to gaze at the towers going up to our south. We intercepted the first storm a few miles south of Cheyenne, following it back northward along Hwy 85 as it was SEVERE WARNED for hail that had gown quickly from pea-sized to quarter-sized. We bailed on the storm when it continued north into aras where roads weren't going to take us.

Another developing storm on its heals looked impressive. I made a call to Doug Kiesing to get a radar interpretation and made the choice based upon his info to intercept that storm. We followed old tracks along Hwy 85, this time diving about 5 miles back into Colorado. The storm quickly caught us, dropping hail as big as 2 inches in diameter! That's the biggest hail I've encountered live! It was pretty intenese! We stuck around and filmed, allowing the hail to pass to our north. As we were scooping through the hail on the ground, an excited Jeff Piotrowski pulled up behind us and informed us of a small tornado which briefly touched down about 4 miles to our south. We hung together for a bit as we pulled stop and go moves while trailing the slow storm which was tornado warned shortly after Jeff informed us of his find. Finally it passed over Cheyenne and off into unchasable territory, never again dropping a tornado from the very pronounced wall cloud (not visably rotating, though).

We decided to call it a day as dark was falling, even as other storms were firing, nothing too exciting was kicking up. We enjoyed some truck stop food and relaxed for a bit before returning to Denver, hearing news of the mini-outbreak in Eastern Colorado from the 7 messages I had on my phone (a good sign something happened that I missed).

I dropped Dania off at her car and returned home; catching up with Blake Naftel and others before crashing out for the night, hoping to get enough sleep to get me through the Tuesday road trip that lay ahead of me.

Special thanks to Dania Walker for braving my storm chasing obsession and coming along. She's quite the trooper, you should've heard her enjoying the sounds of shotgun blasts on my car :lol: ! Also special thanks to Doug Kiesing for his invaluable nowcast and to James Carnegie who always has a word for me while I'm out. Not the success that others out east had, but I love a good hailstorm! Very well worth the trip up north! A nice warm-up for the days to come!

Some Records and other Noteworth Items...

First chase in Wyoming
Largest Hailstone (2.0in)
Trip Mileage: 291

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