June 3rd 2014 Nebraska Hail Monster

Jun 08, 2014

Summary:

Got on tornado warned storm in wrecked environment. Had a few intense brushes with the core and witnessed several gustnadoes before letting storm go as darkness fell and it became apparent the storm wouldn’t produce.

Stats:

Tornadoes: 0
Hail: 2.00″
Wind: est 75mph forward flanking core gusts.

The Forecast:

Warm, moist and unstable airmass in place across Nebraska with developing surface low forecast to evolve over western part of the state. Directional and speed shear were both excellent for tornadic supercells, especially across a warm front forecast to only slowly lift north. Stout but breakable cap. Despite forecast models lining out storms quickly, it appeared the setup was quite ripe for tornadic supercells capable of strong tornadoes, SPC went MDT risk for hail and High end SLGT tornado probs, but later upgraded to HIGH risk for damaging wind potential ahead of an evolving, very intense bow echo.

Detailed Account:

I originally did not plan to chase today, as the NAM was showing a very favorable setup for tornadoes the next day in my backyard and a high likely-hood of today being a cap bust. It turned out the NAM was on crack, and apparently so was I for putting faith in it. Today became the day to chase, and it actually held high potential and my hopes were up. It was on a Tuesday so that meant a few days off work, but the tornado potential was real (or so I thought) and worth the trip. Joe Pudlik and I set sail around 3am and made good time arriving to the target area near Grand Island, NE. We chose to sit in St Paul, about 20 miles north of there because the area wasnt mobbed with chasers, but we did manage to meet up with a few including Matt Cumberland, a good friend who used to chase with me all the time, but not in recent years due to a move to Minnesota so it was nice to catch up. A few other chasers passing through joined us, as well as some curious locals as usual.

A large complex of storms was ongoing to the north and began sending surging outflow boundaries south. Right away this concnerned me as a potential fly in the ointment for the day. Storms were taking longer to develop than I was lead to believe (afterall I initially believed today to be a cap bust so I wasn’t entirely surprised.) Eventually a few tiny struggling cells went up to our west but they were enough to get me on the move. En route one of the ongoing storms went tornado warned, but it was obvious it had been undercut by a surging outflow boundary. I was not pleased by this but it was the only game in town as storms were failing to initiate anywhere else so we detoured towards it.

It took a few hairy roads and crazy navigating to get into the notch, but once we were there we were greeted by a pure evil looking sky.

Unfortunately as I feared, the surging outflow had completely destroyed the environment and the air temp was only a chilly 59 degrees. It was likely we would not be getting a tornado. Still, the storm had incredible inflow and it looked like it was inhaling the entire sky, which was pretty intimidating. I’ve only seen that on storms that go on to produce big tornadoes, so that added to the dissappointment in knowing we likely wouldn’t get one. Still, it was the only game in town so we stuck with it, making aggressive moves in the notch, having brief encounters with the core that were pretty intense with 70mph straight line winds hurling large hail, some sounding larger than golf balls at us. I actually became concnerned for a brief time I would lose the drivers window but we emerged unscathed.

Staying in the notch and moving around we witnessed quite a few gustnadoes, which of course caused some fake tornado reports to come in. At one point near Belgrade, NE we encountered some rapidly swirling rain bands, the kind that are almost always associated with a tornado. For a brief moment I thought I saw some ground condensation and I thought it could have been a tornado, but a check of the temperature reaveled it was still in the mid 50s. It seemed un-probable that a tornado would form in such a cold environment, but I suppose in the world of weather anything is possible, there are always exceptions. For now though it will remain in the vault of uncertanty.

Video of this can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152170350323807&set=vb.530973806&type=2&theater

There were some pretty convincing look-a-likes in the rain too. I wanted to believe we had a large tornado, but sadly I know better and the environment was just not conductive of them anymore.

We decided to let the core roll over us one more time to see what large hail would come of it. Given the fact they were being driven by 70+ mph winds I parked next to a wall to avoid having one side of the vehicle being completely obliterated, but the assault was extremely short lived, and probably only dealt hail up to golfballs. Moving ahead of the storm again, only this time further to see what the far away structure looked like. It wasn’t much, just a brutal core, but the contrast with the setting sun in the updraft area was pretty neat so we opted for a few structure shots before calling the chase completely.


There was nothing new worth going after, as the outflow had surged to the Kansas border. By now a huge MCS of storms was ongoing, so we just called the chase and began to head back east towards home. I was running on fumes from only having a 3hr post-work power nap before the chase, and Joe was running on no sleep at all. The next days setup wasn’t worth chasing and we decided rather than try and marathon it back home which meant driving through an MCS the entire way while on no sleep that we would just spend the night in Council Bluffs and get some rest. Council Bluffs is somewhat of a shady town, but the one exit has all my favorite stops. A Perkins restaraunt (a personal favorite of ours) next to a funky Motel 6  (another prefered place of ours since its budget friendly) and a nice sized gas station with a Hardees (another favorite!!) so for me its the ideal place to stay overnight. I live in Chicago so the “shady” aspect of it doesn’t bother me, I just have to make sure I bring all my gear into the motel…which has hardwood flooring and some funky towel holders.

It didn’t take long after hitting the pillow (around 11pm) for me to doze off. I awoke at 7am to tell my boss I wouldn’t be coming in, and went back to sleep waking up again around 11am. The long nights rest felt amazing and we both were re-freshed and ready for the drive home. I need to do that more often on chases.

Conclusion:

Another big day fell short. The big story came from the initial bow echo that damaged over 4,500 vehicles at the nations largest auto dealer in Blair, NE. We passed that dealer only a couple hours before that happened. Had I known the main target would end up busting the way it did I would have just stayed there. I hate 2014. At this point I am so over this year I just want the jet to leap into Canada so I can begin partaking in other summer activites I enjoy instead of worrying about when the next big letdown will occur. Some of the smaller setups are producing weak tornadoes, and dime a dozen mothership structure that would be nice to see, but nothing that I get upset about missing, nor would justify a huge expensive trip to New Mexico. 2014 sucks….I hate this year.

Map (click for full res:)

SPC Reports. I do find it amusing how the storms almost completely avoided the HIGH risk area. Even SPC is having a bad year…

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