June 19th 2011 McCook Nebraska Tornado

Feb 26, 2012


Targeted CO/WY/NE border region for high plains action. Started chase once first storm went up noting photogenic mean green HP structure but cold inflow and little tornado potential. Abandoned storm for better parameters back east with storms initiating on the way. Attempted to get into position for better looking storm on radar but our efforts became hindered by poor road conditions and an overall unfavorable network. Got on east storm that didnt produce, eventually let storm go to sit and wait for the next storm to come to us noting brief yet very obvious tornado once it got close! Let storm go as night fell and booked up in Kearney, NE for the night.
Tornadoes: 1
Hail: .25″ pea
Wind: est 50-55mph inflow
Detailed Account:
Since I started chasing in the plains [2007] the first half of June has always been my best month. Never has a June gone by where I didn’t get awesome storms and tornadoes. June 2011 however saw a dismal pattern with very few tornadoes and overall unfavorable setups. I was beginning to think my favorite month would go to waste until finally a decent setup appeared to shape up. It was decent yet finicky as the models were struggling worse than I had ever seen before to get a grip on the system. It appeared Monday the 20th was the main event, however there was some major flip flopping as to whether the day before or the day after would be better days. After some much debate and an SPC day 2 moderate risk we pulled the trigger to chase this day. I teamed up with Skip Talbot, Jonathan Williamson and Jennifer Brindley. My trucks A/C went out and it would be overall a much cheaper trip for the 4 of us this way.
Due to scheduling though we could not leave till around midnight which meant a marathon drive was in store. I got us to around Lincoln where I finally turned it over to Jon around 9am. I awoke a few hours later to us sitting in North Platte, then again in Julesburg Colorado. We grabbed some lunch and noticed a storm had already popped on radar in CO and it was only around noon. We could see the developing storm in the distance, I love the visibility out there!
We decided to go for it and made our move. Making good time we found a nice spot to watch the storm in the Nebraska panhandle just north of the CO border. Our storm had what appeared to be a wall cloud but seemed a bit high based.
Skip Jen and Jon doin their thing…
I love this area for its great terrain and how desolate it is. We sat there for probably over an hour and only 1 other vehicle drove by, also a chaser. We continued to watch the storm as it approached which put on a dramatic structural display as it sucked in scud and tried to get a good wall cloud and rotation going, but the cold inflow I was feeling told me another story. The storm was north of the boundary layer and probably would not tornado for us. It was still pretty to look at though.
I shot some time lapse of these features which will be used in later video productions.
I had been waiting all year for some photogenic structure like this, it was one of the things that the 2011 season was largely lacking for me and another reason I love June due to the fact this area lights up with storms like this on a regular basis!
Eventually we had our fill with the storm which did not look good on radar.
This plus the fact the storm was obviously outflow dominant we decided to finally let it go and move towards a new target along the KS/NE border. Of course after about 10 minutes later it goes tornado warned so we pull over to take a look, still outflow dominant.
The warning was based off a spotter reported rotating wall cloud so we just continued on our way. En route storms began to initiate once we arrived around North Platte again, and we went back into intercept mode. The part of Nebraska we were heading into isn’t as generous with terrain and roads as most of the state, so it became a tricky navigation quest to get the best veiw. As we made our approach we were greeted with yet another HP beast.
There were 3 storms on radar with the middle one looking the best, we were on the eastern-most storm trying to make our way to the middle one. We ran into a tricky road network that would dead end us with minimum maintenance roads that Skip did not want to chance his van on. We decided to just play the eastern storm.
This storm was also dramatic in appearance. As we let it pass we could see a massive RFD cut but we decided rather than try to get ahead of it we would let the better storm come to us, which of course had a reported cone tornado which left us slightly disheartened.
As we moved again a woman flagged us down. She was having trouble trying to get her dog back into her truck for whatever reason. We tried to help to no avail. This is another reason I prefer cats…the pup would just smile and run away as we would try and coax her near us. Even beef jerky didn’t work.
It was probably a good thing though, because this ended up being our location to watch the storm approach. Things began to take a turn for the tornadic side. We had watched the storm way in the distance approach us for a good hour with no tornado. As it approached us the inflow dramatically picked up, it seemed to blend with the outflow from the storm that had just passed overhead, but was still somewhat warm and moist. As this occurred a rapidly rotating wall cloud developed before us.
As the inflow winds howled the rotation really picked up, I began filming and shortly after sure enough, I watched in disbelief as a brief, yet obvious tornado briefly touched down.

Here are a couple video stills.
Excited the trip was a success and June did not let me down, we moved to stay in good position with the storm, hoping for another.
We stayed in good position with the storm only now we had caught up with every other chaser on the planet and were fighting a new issue. We detached ourselves from the hoards as best we could though. The storm would not put down another tornado and we let it go after another hour to head for a place to eat and room up. The chase was a success and we had scored a nice needle in the haystack tornado. We made our way to Kearney. NE which looked a good starting point for the next days setup. We found a Perkins restaurant that was overwhelmed and despite being completely exhausted due to lack of sleep, managed to eat a tasty celebration meal before turning in for the night.
Always nice to get a tornado on the first day of the trip. The storm likely had a favorable interaction with an outflow boundary from the other storm that allowed it to produce that brief tornado. Watching that whole process unfold and getting a decent shot of the reward was fascinating. Too bad the tornado couldn’t last longer. The tornado we did miss was a bit nicer, a fatter cone funnel with dust swirl under it, but it too didn’t last very long, so we were pretty happy with our catch.
Map. Red X’s show where we had to turn around due to bad roads. Arrow shows my best guess where we were when filming the tornado.
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