Category Archives: 2013 Storm Chase

Eastern Colorado variety – June 23, 2013


This was the last day of storm chasing during my “organized chase season”, before getting home and settled in for “Summer Lightning 2013″.  My Summer lightning photography usually consists of short outings within a hour or so of home, and usually done spur of the moment depending on the location of active storms.

Moisture was somewhat limited over E Colorado, but sufficient to support thunderstorms.  Really, a thunderstorm was all I needed to say that 2013 was a complete season without any busts.  We ended up getting much more and the day was a fun one getting a good amount of lightning and storm structure shots associated with storms between Wiggins and Cope, Colorado.  I ended up shooting lightning late into the evening near Cheyenne Wells, Colorado.

Wyoming/Nebraska supercells, tornado – June 22, 2013


After picking the wrong target area the day before, I decided that wasn’t going to be the case this day.  Especially when the target was as obvious as it was.  Somewhere near the Wyoming/Nebraska border was where a chaser would want to be this afternoon, and I spent the first part of the day in a double time mode heading west.  It’s a long haul getting across the length of Nebraska.

In a little bit of a surprise, storms were already severe over SE Wyoming by the time I reached Scottsbluff, Nebraska.  I found a good viewing position near Torrington, Wyoming where I observed a supercell for the better part of an hour.  The storm had decent structure when I caught up with it and was producing a large number of cloud to ground lightning strikes.  After a brief weakening period, the storm organized again and appeared to come close to producing a tornado.

When things started becoming messy, I picked up and quickly headed south to another supercell which was located west of La Grange, Wyoming.  By the time I reached a good position for this storm, several others were crashing into the area and I continued south to get out of the way of what became some powerful storms.  I ran into Vince Miller and Matt Crowther at this point and our little group continued south while targeting a storm near Pine Bluffs, Wyoming.  Between Kimball and Dix, Nebraska, we stopped and had a good view of the supercell storm to our west and northwest.  While shooting lightning images, a mesocyclone organized just to our northeast, which produced a small tornado near Dix.

After a dinner in Sidney, Nebraska, I dropped south into Colorado to attempt some lightning photography before finally ending the day in Julesburg, Colorado.

Late evening storms in Nebraska – June 21, 2013

The majority of my “north of Oklahoma” chases over the past several years have been confined to the High Plains.  With a couple of options, I chose to play the eastern target along an outflow boundary somewhere in NE Nebraska or SE South Dakota.  This was really the only time this season that I strayed from the obvious target, and I paid the price.

The atmosphere was highly unstable, but well capped in my target area.  Cumulus/towering cumulus formed by late afternoon and struggled through most of the daylight hours before finally becoming storms just after sunset.  The storms that I finally landed on in Knox County, Nebraska were only marginally interesting.  Cloud to ground lightning was limited and storm structure was far less than what I have become used to this season.  About the only thing these storms were good for was keeping the no bust 2013 season alive.

Nebraska supercell day – June 16, 2013

Time lapse of Nebraska storms:

With a target of Central or Western Nebraska, we left Sterling, Colorado and started eastbound on I-80 once again.  Storms were forming overhead as we pulled into Ogallala, and while we didn’t feel this would be the main show of the day, they warranted a look given we were under them.  We dropped south to Grant and Elsie to get a better view, while monitoring storms developing well north of I-80.  We might have waited a bit too long to make the decision, but we finally pulled the trigger on heading north as the storms southeast of Ogallala were high based and starting to surge south as big wind producers.  It was an agonizing drive back north fighting construction on I-80, but we did get back to just south of Arthur and got to watch a small supercell slide east of Highway 61.  Letting this storm go into an area with little road options, we focused next on another supercell approaching Arthur from the northwest.  We let this storm pass over us on Highway 92 east of Arthur before calling it a day.  For me, the goal was to get back home, so I spent the rest of the evening driving to WaKeeney, Kansas.

High Plains storms – June 15, 2013

I made the long trip west through Nebraska on I-80 and stopped near Burns, Wyoming to watch storms organize near Cheyenne.  Model guidance was zeroed in on this area, suggesting that an isolated supercell storm would form and track east southeastward into Colorado.  That was pretty much what happened and I followed a severe storm until it reached Sterling, Colorado.  Near Sterling, several other storms began to form and things turned a little messy.  Still, there was enough lightning, storm structure, and pretty landscape to point a camera at.

Nebraska sky color and lightning – June 14, 2013

The stay in Colorado was short as the target this day was in Eastern Nebraska.  I made it all the way to Columbus, Nebraska when storms started organizing back to my southwest near Grand Island.  I should have held my ground as the storm of the day formed not too far from Columbus near West Point.  I bit on the earlier development and dropped back through Osceola and Stromsburg, eventually landing near York as high based severe storms started to surge eastward.  I had a few opportunities at lightning and some storm structure, but was also treated to a wall of blowing dirt / which seems to be a theme this year / once again reducing visibility to less than a mile at times.  A somewhat ho-hum day turned very good when I captured some nice lightning near Hampton at sunset.  I ended the day at Kearney.

Eastern Colorado storms / surprise tornado – June 14, 2013

I left Goodland, Kansas and drove west into Colorado where I took a position near Cope and monitored storms that were organizing around Denver.  Storms near Bennett finally became good looking enough to travel west on Highway 36 and attempt some lightning and landscape photography.  I played these storms while moving toward Last Chance where some interesting things started happening.  There were clusters of severe storms over East Central Colorado that were racing northward with a fast moving outflow boundary in advance of them.  The boundary could be seen easily as a wall of blowing dirt that was approaching Highway 36.  The outflow/dirt overtook me near Last Chance reducing the visibility to less than a mile and creating conditions that I suspect were similar to the dust bowl days.  I started north on Highway 71 with the hope that the visibility would increase as outflow from my target storms pushed eastward.  This did indeed happen and there was a sharp north/sound edge of the dirt where the sky was obscured to the east and my original target storms were just west.  Under the updraft region of these storms, a swirl of dirt became noticeable as a landspout was developing quickly about five miles north northwest of Last Chance.  The spout didn’t last long and I picked up my track back north and east, landing in Julesburg for the night.  The sunset was pretty on the drive to Julesburg, but lightning limited.  I didn’t end up with much to show from this last leg of the chase.