May 21 2010 Wyoming Hail

Feb 27, 2012

Highway to Hail

Summary:
Chose to play the uplsope terrain of eastern WY where lee trough along with upslope convergence magic could potentially spark gorgeous tornadic supercells. Intercepted storm noting nice rotating wall cloud and multiple attempts at tornadogenesis that failed. Pursued storm on highway that suddenly turned to mud that had been covered over in hail. Had some fun with the 4×4 before calling it a chase and heading to Valentine, NE where we booked up for the night to get into position for the next day.
Stats:
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: .75″ [penny] Note* this does not count hail on the ground that we encountered.
Wind: est 30mph thunderstorm gust
First state ever visited/chased: WY
Danny and Bens faith in me driving on a muddy road: Minimal
Detailed account:
Still sore over our major fail 2 days ago, we chose to head to the high plains where local terrain can actually help create tornadoes in environments that otherwise would not produce. The added bonus to this area is the clear air that often provides awesome structure. We departed Hays and set off by taking multiple county roads that wound us through NE, KS and CO before finally reaching WY. On the way my truck, only 2006 crossed its first major milestone.
Today had the same potential over a large area, our decision to go to WY was slightly biased because none of us had ever been there. As we pressed on we noticed storms were slowly going up. Many of them died out as wimpy showers but eventually one began to blossom well off to our NW.
It was the only storm in the area so we made that our play. As irony would have it, we spent a good 3 hours in wyoming in great chase area with no towns and good views but as we began to close in on the storm we found ourselves in several towns and much worse terrain with many gorgeous yet storm blocking bluffs on the horizon.
Fellow chaser Scott Weberpal had now reported a rope tornado and I was quite angry about missing it by minutes [especially after not wanting to stop and get food because I just knew this would happen.] We found an area with probably the best view we could get and pulled over to watch it.
At one point, behind those hills a noobnado touched down. I call it a noobnado because if we did not know any better it sure looked like one, but the fact we couldn’t see the ground will always cast a shadow of doubt in my mind. I never heard any other reports though, so it was likely just a wall cloud or even low scud.
An RFD began to cut into our storm and we thought a great show was about to unfold before our eyes.
The RFD never wrapped around and seemed to just slice in and choke off the area of interest, which started drifting off in the opposite direction while still showing impressive rotation.
A new area of interest then formed and started moving away from us so we kept pace form the backside. We cleared a hill and saw what looked like a tornado rapidly retreating back into the wall cloud and sure enough a new tornado report popped up on Spotter Network. How uncool is that? Owned by a mountain.
Frustrated and ready to swerve into oncoming traffic, I kept pace. We followed along on some sandy backroads which occasionally had some puddles on them. My truck was now filthy and hard to see out of. We found another great spot to move over, luckily for us the storm was crawling along so each time we got into position we were able to watch it and film it for quite some time. Time lapse video will be released at a later time.
A new wall cloud started developing that appeared to be anticyclonic.
While standing there filming the wall cloud and getting ready to leave and reposition Ben let out a huge, girlish screech “OH MY GOD THATS A HUGE #$*%# RATTLESNAKE!!!!”
Sure enough there was a large, hissing snake sitting next to my door coiled up and ready to strike.
Some locals drove up on the scene, interested in seeing a DOW truck in person, they examined the snake and informed us it was only a non poisonous bull snake. I was unafraid at this point and ready to step over it to get inside but they threw their hats over it. I got in my truck and drove away making sure not to run it over. Ben and Danny hopped back in and we continued the chase.
The storm had weakened by this point, yet we continued pursuit. Storms in this country are big time hailers and I started contemplating a consolation prize core punch. Not long after making this call our road suddenly ended as a muddy path covered in hail.
Other chasers in our caraven turned around at this point, not wanting to take that gamble. If the road stayed in this shape [which it did] it was a good 10 miles to the next road. We pressed on, the chase was pretty much over at this point so we just enjoyed a little off road action.
Video, not sure what happened to the title being out of frame but regardless, here it is.

Once this was over we called the chase and pulled over to discuss our options. I pitched Valentine, NE as being a good place to stay because we could easily get into position for the next days chase which would likely take us into South Dakota. We grabbed some dinner at a Pizza Hut and arrived in Valentine around 1am.
Conclusion:
The tornado ended up being a very skinny looking funnel that barely made it to the ground. Considering that, this was a fun chase with good structure, interesting wildlife and off roading. I was still a bit down that so far on this lengthy trip I had not bagged a tornado though.
Map, arrow shows location of noob-nado and circle shows the hail highway.
SPC Storm Reports:

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