2023-08-08 REPORTS: CO, KS

Mar 2, 2004
Northern Colorado

Ya know, I lived in Colorado from 1997-2013... during that time, I saw like... ten tornadoes... it was kinda gross, actually. Okay, lots more than 10, but maybe, MAAAYBBBEEE 10 legit, decent tornadoes I'd brag about to my mother... after I moved in 2013, particularly in 2014-2017, I had quite a few solid days. Then came 2023... and you've all seen/read about my Akron adventures. Thus it makes it even better that today, as amazing as it was, was only the SECOND best chase I've had this year...

After a hailuva chase the day before in northwest Kansas, I was waking up rather non-nonchalantly in Colby, and after gathering myself and my things and looking at the forecast, the last day of what was now a seven day trip was going to point me in the direction of Big Springs, Nebraska (AKA the I-76/I-80 junction). CAMs were hot and heavy for I-80 and north, but surface obs and SPC were harping northeast Colorado. A preliminary Big Springs target allowed me the option for either (and I was already leaning toward the home state). With plenty of time, I departed Colby on the exact same route to Ogallala I had done several days earlier. And with that exact same route, came the exact same construction dudes near Palisade... I swear, I have never seen so many one-way construction zones in a season... but I have also beaten my personal annual high mileage count, so that may have something to do with it.


Two of those along US-6 before Imperial gave me a lot of in-car stationary time to look over things, and by the time I reached Imperial, I was sitting about 80% Colorado, 20% I-80. Still, I promised myself, STICK TO YOUR TARGET; and my PRELIMINARY target was Big Springs. So I said, stick with it, you're only losing 45 minutes, and you'll still have time to go back to Sterling... so I wasted that amount of gas because when I got to Big Springs, I took the I-76 exit and drove my happy butt to Sterling anyway.

With about 45 minutes before my 3PM hit and cells already making an attempt to fire over and just south of town, I again (word of the log) non-nonchalantly went into town for a grab-and-go lunch, then ate it on my way back to I-76 where I gassed up and did my first live hit with the southern cell behind me, making the comment that "this is the cell I would be concerned over tornado potential later". I then had nearly two hours til my next hit at 5PM...


So I tossed the gear in the car and made the roughly 25 minute drive over and down CO-61, getting a few pennies dumped on me as I crossed the core. With the business part of the storm still west of CO-61, I got off the pavement via CR-58, took it over to CR-KK, and basically SLOWLY rolled south with it along the CR-KK/CR-LL corridor. There were two distinct cycles during this timeframe, both, while showing some hefty cloud-level rotation, didn't look close to tornadoing. Still, it was isolated, and I remember well from Akron, there was nothing to its south to screw it up. I knew it was only a matter of time, and I'm sure just about everyone I came across on the dirt road heard me tell them that haha


As the storm slowly moved south with enough eastward movement, I was forced back to CO-61 north of Cope. I got on another east/west dirt road north of Cope as heavy amounts of dust were starting to get kicked up. Numerous small circulations were noted during this phase of the storm, perhaps a couple were briefly tornadic, it was honestly hard to tell as a lot of this action was occurring very near me and I had limited view (partially due to proximity, partially due to low visibility through the dust). Still, nothing looked significant, but it was definitely a step up from the previous cycles further north. And it was clear "the show" was coming.

Without having a legit GPS program running, I'm not sure the EXACT roads I was on when 'The Show' kicked off... normally I could easily depict this from my video by simply grabbing a still frame at an intersection and extrapolating from there. But my view looked like this...


Whatever southbound dirt road I was on became overrun with RFD winds and dust, meanwhile off to my immediate west was the developing tornado. It was during this point that it all became a little hard to differentiate what was RFD, what was blowing dust, and what was perhaps the developing tornado. Depending on where you were looking from and how far away you were, this might've been the wedge that people got pictures of. I have no idea. But once I got visibility again (and was now south of this dusty feature), I turned east on another dirt road to give myself a little breathing room and hopefully put enough distance between me and all this so I knew what the hell it was I was actually looking at.

It was about 10 minutes or so before my hit, so I logged in via the stream and was on my headset chatting with producers. They have the ability to capture remotely what's on my feed, so I jack-ass-style mounted my phone camera to the open window and aimed it behind me and it was becoming clearly evident that my uncertainty whether this entire mass of chaotic dust was a tornado was confirmed, particularly when the condensation funnel started to emerge from the dust. I stopped shortly thereafter because I wanted a shot that wasn't at 60MPH, and also to see it clearly, because now that I knew what it was, I wanted to actually enjoy it.


With it now confirmed to me this was a legit tornado, I went a little further east to give myself a time buffer so I could ensure I would remain stationary for my hit. I figured a little distance would give me the ground to stay put, and allow me plenty of time to not only gather some still photos after I was done, but to also give me my escape without cutting it too close.

When I reached my spot, I flipped the car around to face the tornado, loaded up my dash cam, my stream cam, and stepped outside super quick to grab a couple phone shots so I could send back some media super quick.


The live hit started as most others in my AccuWeather stint have; a live stream voice over. I was aimed perfectly and ready to go. I began my hit and then suddenly, out of the blue, it hit me. Dummy, GET OUT AND GET IN FRONT OF THAT THING!! It was a very spontaneous decision in the moment of, so not how I drempt it up, but none-the-less, it finally happened. This has been a long time bucket list of mine to do a live standup hit in front of a tornado--in-progress. Again, not how I drew it up, and I'd certainly do it better, more organized next time, but for that spark to hit when it did, I just took it with what I had. I have done a recorded standup in front of a tornado back in 2017 for WSIL during the Carpenter tornado, but not one live as the tornado was in progress. This was a definitely one of my favorite moments in nearly two decades making TeeVee happen.

I ran the hit as long my time allotted; and once it was done, I was free to get out the Nikon and snap away. The contrast was hit and miss depending on the dust that was swirling around the thing, and as it got more directly north of me, I lost some contrast to the backdrop, but was still able to snag me another Colorado wall-hanger, my second one in less than two months...


With RFD starting to wrap into my area, including hail that was growing in size (I sampled this while I was trying to frame up the car shot); I needed to move. The tornado, still ongoing, was still very visible, but I needed to get east and south. Once I lost sight of this tornado, I never saw it again, so I do not know how much longer this went on for, but I had certainly made the best of the time I had with it.

From here on out, it was just kinda trying to stay in the notch. The storm was growing HP, and while the area I was coming out of was beautifully gridded and the dirt roads were dry and well maintained, road options were starting to run thin, and there were few roads that had straight shots east or south to the next paved highway. Still, I managed views on a couple other brief little tubes in the remote bumble-screw areas north of US-36 and east of CO-59.



Two more live hits the following tops of hours basically kept me with this storm, even as I had mentally checked out, despite it's continuous tornado-warnings. By this point, the tornadic region of this storm was off to my east and south, and with a lack of super direct routes, I figured it was futile to try and get ahead of this thing. I plotted a south and east course to Burlington on the map to see if I had a shot of beating the storm there, and with darkness on the horizon and the chances of me actually getting into a viewing spot again being slim, I basically rode it out to Kirk, hoping maybe to eeck out one last view of a tube to get the count up to five, but after four tubes, one being another wall-worthy nader, and the live shot of my career, I was more than fulfilled.

20230808_171819.jpgI routed myself up through Yuma to get some mop-up coverage in the area, then made the hair-band soundtracked drive back home, arriving just after 11PM after seven days straight on the road, the longest chase trip I've had in August.

I don't know what there is to say at this point... after the three day Akron/Highlands Ranch/NE-WY triple play, I was leaning to calling 2023 my best season ever (collectively including several other chases prior). This slam dunked that in a hurry. I've been in this game approaching three decades, and God have I had some incredible seasons, but this one stands above all of them. After this chase, I was several hundred miles over my highest mileage season (2011 season) and continued to add to the highest tornado count in a year record was setting (up to 49 after this). Add to that my number one chase day of all time (Akron), a top 10 tornado intercept (Ottumwa), and now my best ever tornado live hit, it's just surreal at this point. I posted on my facebook page earlier this month about how August is a sneaky month for tornadoes in Colorado, but definitely not like this. The three other piddly birdfarts were more in line with what I was referring to. I certainly did not expect to be ordering another canvas for the wall.

I think what puts this over the top is the big ones have been here... in Colorado... my adult homestate. The first stint here was not great for tornadoes and me despite the numbers saying otherwise. Certainly no chase prior to my leaving in '13 was going to make any top 10. And even after that, just a couple of amazing chases dotted the calendars through the years. Even Carpenter, my long-standing favorite tornado, was technically in Wyoming when I got my favorite pictures of it (it was birthed in Colorado). Of course, this new stint all began on move-in day with the (unofficial) tallest tornado in Colorado history just a few miles off the front porch less than two hours after we got the keys. Clearly, the powers that be wanted to make sure that I knew I was where I was suppose to be.

So yeah, that's August 8 in a nutshell... I'm just over the moon with this season... not sure what I did in a previous life to bestow this upon me, but God am I enjoying it. :)



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I had been eying the 7th and the 8th for a little while before they came around. Chase on the 7th ended up being basically nothing except for a brief hammering from some intense RFD. On the 8th I left home a little while after noon and waited North of Brush, CO for initiation. After the storm northwest of Otis intensified to the point where I was confident it wouldn't die out, I decided to target it. I went East on US-34 until I reached Otis at which point I moved North a few miles and watched some weaker elevated rotation for maybe 20 minutes. After that died out I moved South of Otis anticipating the supercell to cycle. It did indeed begin to cycle, but more rapidly and further south than I expected. I did not want to be forced onto dirt roads so I opted to quickly take US-34 eastbound and reposition South of Yuma where there was a consistent paved southbound option. As I left Otis, a considerable amount of dust began swirling around the intensifying mesocyclone slightly south of the town. I managed to get South of Yuma and pull off onto a dirt road to begin filming just before it produced the first tornado. This was my view of that tornado at about 4:57 PM MDT.
I continued to watch this tornado through its life as it eventually became more tube shaped.
When the tornado lifted, I began to move further South to stay ahead of the storm. However it only lifted momentarily and quickly planted again when I was proceeding south. This was the view from my GoPro stuck to my passenger side window.
Managed to pull over and get one last shot of this tornado presumably near the end of its life.
After that tornado had dissipated I continued to track south. At around 5:45 PM MDT the storm encountered a favorable merger. It produced another tornado which I was able to capture roping out as it emerged from the rain.
After that one had dissipated I continued to track south but was unable to gain a visual on any more tornadoes due to low contrast from precipitation and an apparent shift towards a more high-precip storm mode. I was able to get a somewhat neat shot in front of some nice structure before I ended up calling the chase.
Overall another great 2023 chase with some really memorable tornadoes. I still need to edit a video together soon with the footage I was able to get.


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