May 5 2012 Nebraska Storm Chase – Blue Sky Bust

May 09, 2012


Blue Sky Busted in Nebraska, but spent the day hanging with lots of friends from the chase community.






Tornadoes: 0

Hail: 0.00″

Wind: <58mph

Chasers encountered: > 60-70


Detailed Account:

Saturday May 5th held some potential. I had been watching the setup evolve over the weak. Everything looked to be in place except for good upper air support. There was  good  directional shear coupled with strong instability ahead of a compact low moving across Nebraska, along with what was supposed to be a breakable cap. The concern though, with the mediocre upper level support was that there would either be a quickly forced squall line due to the high cape, or HP storms that quickly gusted out. Still though, when these things line up in May, you chase.

I teamed up with the usual Alec Scholten and Lorraine Mahoney. A photographer from the southside of Chicago by the name of Billie Marcum who had been contacting me for years wanting to come out was also finally joining us, and I recruited the one and only Matthew Cumberland as well. We set course for Nebraska departing Chicago around 7pm. En route we met up with Matt Fischer who was chasing with a friend by the name of Jill at Iowa 80. We ended up caravanning for most of the chase.

My destination was Sioux City, which would give us an arrival time around 4am, but plenty of time to sleep till noon since the target area was just a couple hours west of there. On the way down a distant storm blew up in Iowa, and Lorraine wanted to pull over for lightning photos so we did. As they all took pics the lightning display became less than amazing, so we opted for some flashlight fun.

This delayed our arrival time to the Motel 6 a good 90 minutes or so, and we rolled in around 5am. The good thing about this though is we only had to pay for one night, so we had the option to sleep till whenever as well as returning that same night all for the price of one night. This is not the first time this has happened on a chase either. I may have to utilize this more often in the future.

We awoke in the target area, with a good looking forecast. The air was hot and sticky, winds were gusty and we were getting excited. SPC upped their outlooks and it looked like we would get a great show later. Our drive to the target area was only about an hour. We detoured a bit to meet chasers Jonathan Williamson, Brad Goddard and others in Yankton, SD. In doing so we crossed the warm front boundary and temperatures quickly plummeted from 85 to 66. Skies went from sunny with bubbling cumulus field to a great soupy fog. I did not want to hang out there so back south we went where we chose to hang out around Randolph, Nebraska.

And hang out there we did…all…day. The cu field thinned out, dewpoints mixed. I checked the 700mb temp around 5pm and saw that it was a stout 10 degrees C. We were going to cap bust. We definitely weren’t expecting that. We hung around the area till dusk, encountering numerous chasers along the way including the TIV and DOW crews. It is always nice to meet up and chat with all the friends you have in the field. Some elevated storms went up in SD north of the boundary and we pondered going after them for awhile, but decided to just head back to the hotel room, order a massive pizza dinner along with some refreshing adult beverages, and simply relax and have a good time. A squall line went up once the cap cooled and moved over us, a slight consolation prize.


Definitely was not expecting a blue sky bust, so that was a bit of a let down. I thought there would have at least been some large hail to get into or perhaps good warm sector structure to see in NE/SD. On the plus side though, blue sky busting is probably the best way to do so because in the end you can tell yourself you did everything right and the storms just didn’t happen. Busting due to making a bad call and missing a great storm is much, much worse. Seeing and hanging out with so many chaser friends is always a great thing, and I enjoy doing so everytime. Still though, the under performance in all the setups I seem to chase this year is getting a bit frustrating, as all the tornadoes I have caught were either at dusk/dark or obscured by some terrain obstacle. I have yet to get a shot that makes my season, and thats never a good thing when May rolls around. To make things worse, a prolonged period of downtime looks like it is ahead of us. While this will allow the wallet to recover, I would rather be out there trying and failing than sitting on my rump at home with sub-par results.

Photo Montage:


SPC Storm Reports:

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