Colorado Tornadoes June 5th 2015

Sep 30, 2015

Summary:

Colorado upslope magic pays off big with several beautiful tornadoes!

Stats:

Tornadoes: 6
Hail: 1.00″ (quarter)
Wind: est 80-90mph RFD

 

The Forecast:

Repeat of the previous day. Slow moving trough and frontal boundaries not making any real progress allowing for moisture to remain in place. Favorable upslope flow would once again provide a potential focus for thunderstorm development. SPC went with a 5% tornado risk due to the expected isolated nature of the storms.

Detailed Account:

Missing the ridiculous show in Colorado yesterday stung. We had some debate about whether or not the same thing could happen out there 2 days in a row. I could not think of any past events where it happened, but I couldn’t let superstition be the reason I don’t choose the right target. We awoke in our hotel and made a hasty departure towards Colorado. En route a storm went up near the Denver metro area and quickly began producing a tornado. We were about an hour out. I pulled over for gas allowing for Alec and crew to get ahead of me. As I got back on pursuit on the one county road available I found myself stuck behind a country sheriff that would frequently drive 5mph below the posted speed limit. Im not sure if he was trying to get me to pass him to try to pull me over, but it was extremely maddening. Photos of tornadoes were appearing online and I was at my wits end. Driving into a ditch to prevent myself from any more failed storm chasing seemed like a great idea.

Needless to say the Denver storm crossed a boundary and died out as I got on it. The collapsing base was nearly touching the ground though and quite some chaotic motion. Fortunately new storms were going up to the east and I quickly detoured to check out a new storm. The storm was tornado warned and briefly displayed an interesting shape on radar, but in person it was quite elongated and shelfy looking. The shelf did have multiple tiers with it so that was kind of cool, but not what I was after. Here is a cell phone pano
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I was not overly impressed with the storm, but new development was starting to occur further east, in what I believed was a better environment. It was time to make a call and I chose to dump this storm despite it still being tornado warned for this new development. Heading back east the backsides of the storms were approaching.

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The storms were close together, forming a somewhat messy complex. Unbeknownst to me at the time, SPC had put out an MD saying these storms were moving into a localized environment of enhanced SRH (Storm Relative Helicity) and that tornado chances would be increasing in the area. I punched through the core of the first couple cells to get ahead of them. I stopped in the inflow area to observe the storm. The structure wasn’t too visually appealing but there was evident rotation in the base with lots of swirling rain bands. I stopped to watch and to my surprise and amazement, a tornado developed not soon after I got there.
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The tornado morphed into a snakey trunk and danced around for a couple minutes before dissipating. I repositioned closer to the storm as the next, much larger tornado slowly developed.
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This tornado lasted longer and morphed from a barrel (above) to a large cone (below.)
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At one point a brief satellite rope tornado occurred, but it did not last long. This tornado began wrapping in rain and took an apparent turn to the north, directly towards me. I crawled along carefully, watching the tornadoes movements. I let it get about 20 yards outside my window before moving out of the way.
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A new area of rotation was developing and I thought the storm would cycle, but a new storm caught my attention on radar. To the south a more isolated, beautifully sickle shaped storm was moving east, and I had a play for it if I bailed south, so I did. You can see the edge of the warning polygon (white) near the bottom of this radar capture.
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I punched the core of this storm and emerged with a beautiful wall cloud with a funnel cloud just to my southwest. I had made it and was in great position.
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The tornado, to my dismay, only briefly touched down. I jumped out to let the remaining funnel pass almost overhead as this meso began to occlude and a new cycle began. I was hoping it could reach back down and touch the ground since I was so close, but instead the funnel just slowly roped out. Still, it was beautiful and some of the swirling motions during that stage are nothing short of amazing.
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I moved slightly south to get out of the way, but for some reason began focusing on finding new roads to go east as opposed to just stopping to watch the new show. Once I did stop I jumped back out and was amazed at the structure. A large meso with rapidly rotating tornado cyclone undearneath. The colors were of a greyish-purple-pink. It reminded me of the structure/colors I saw on June 17th 2010 – my best chase to date. The new wall cloud produced another brief tornado just as it crossed the road.
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The yellow lights up ahead are Alec and Twisted Sky Tours! We had been cat and mousing the storm and it was nice to see them making similar decisions and scoring awesome stuff as well. I moved back north to keep up with the storm, and caught another distant view of a larger tornado that was too difficult to catch on film due to driving, low visibility and rain. My fuel was getting low, and there was nowhere to stop that had gas. The gas pump in the nearby tiny town of Kirk was not working.

I sat there for a few moments debating what to do. Keep chasing and risk running out of fuel, or just call it and work with video. A new storm was approaching so I decided to sit for a few minutes and let the new storm approach. Other chasers came up to try the gas pump with no luck. Eventually I decided to get back on the pursuit, I caught back up with the storm and was hit with one of the strongest RFD blasts Ive ever encountered. Sideways winds probably of 90mph nearly pushed me off the road along with flying tumbleweeds and other debris. For a second I thought I was driving into the backside of a tornado, but just outside my window the sky was blue. I was confused for a moment, but pulled over to let it pass.

I kept up on muddy backroads for a time, but the road conditions themselves got worse and I found myself slipping and sliding all over, at one point nearly going into a ditch. I had to put it in reverse and slowly back up a hill. To make matters worse, some of the roads were flooded over with running water. I called the chase and made my way back towards pavement, about a mile short of pavement, rushing water was going across my muddy road. I sat there for a moment pondering the stupidity of going through it, but went for it and made it.

I found fuel, caught back up with Alec and crew where we met at Dennys for a celebratory steak dinner. It took forever to receive service but we were so happy over the day we didn’t care. I cut the steak into 6 pieces. One for each tornado we saw.
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Conclusion:

I needed this. While at my lowest low, and the point of total frustration, nature delivers me a grand slam reminder of why I do this. I felt reborn and alive. The struggles of the past 3 weeks were suddenly wiped away, and I had a great chase with multiple great tornadoes.

Video:

Map. Arrows show locations tornadoes were viewed:
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SPC Reports:

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