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A great lightning show was on display on the night of October 8th, 2014. Tropical Storm Simon remnants made their way across the midwest which produced copious amounts of rainfall and the best lightning display that I have witnessed in 2014.
The storms continued track east but the lightning never ceased for over an hour and a half. The night sky was alive and fully charged!
I saw an opportunity for storm chasing on Sept 9th, 2014 in southeast Nebraska and northwest Kansas. A quick check of the weather models and I made my way towards my target area. Along the warm front, it appeared that storms were struggling to maintain development in the area that I had chosen. So I pressed further west and south. I watched a small storm start putting down some awesome looking CG lightning strikes along with a developing wall cloud! The storm was not warned but I decided to investigate anyways. The lightning show was great but the wall cloud quickly occluded and the storm moved on. I ended up following this storm back to my home and shot lightning when the opportunities arose.
I watched a line of storms develop early this morning (9/3/2014) and thought to myself “This could be fun”! I was hoping that the storms would have arrived at my house well before sunrise since, in my opinion, the best lightning images happen at night when you can view the most branching off of the main stroke. I guess these storms didn’t feel like putting on a performance as they took their sweet time getting to me. Ha. They arrived around 10:00am. This is what I managed to squeeze out of them using my Canon T3i and NeroTrigger lightning trigger.
I also witnessed one of the most beautifully arrayed sunrises I have seen in a long time.
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A beautiful group of storms moved through the middle portion of Missouri, near Kansas City, and gave me an excellent display for some amazing lightning photography. Get your prints below!
Gilman City, MO Tornado Chasing – 6/30/2014
A small group of outflow boundaries mixed with an advancing cold front from the northwest made for a great day in north central Missouri to chase storms. The possibility of tornadoes was fairly high up in Iowa along I80, however, the storms fired a bit early and a resulting derecho formed causing wind damage through parts of Iowa and Illinois.
I chased a discrete storm that formed near Bethany, MO. I made my way out in front of it and positioned myself in the hook. Several wall clouds and some broad rotation were observed but I never could confirm any ground circulation mostly due to trees and terrain.
The storm eventually went outflow dominant and with no other storms taking on supercell characteristics, I decided to call the chase and head home. Storms were firing along the cold front but cold fronts are not big tornado producers due to the undercutting nature of the cold front. The storms were not severe when I intercepted them and I figured I would try to at least get a nice lightning shot. Checking the radar, I noticed a small area of rotation that was just to my southwest. So I jumped on the interstate and pushed south to get a better look. Keep in mind, FROPA (FROntal PAssage) had already occurred at this point. Again, due to their undercutting nature, cold front storms are fairly non-conducive to tornadogenisis.
However, as I made my way south along I35 a feature in the rain began to form. The rain tapered and to my surprise there was a rotating wall cloud with a nice bowl funnel crossing the highway a few miles to my south. I was impressed! I figured I might see a wall cloud but a full fledged funnel? Thankfully, there was an exit just to the south of the mesocyclone.
I took H highway towards Gilman City, MO in Harrison county and paralleled this developing tornado. It was a fairly weak tornado but it was still a good tornado! As soon as I saw the ground circulation, I phoned Clinton county emergency manager (Corey Sloan) as I knew he could relay a report to the NWS. He took down my report and within minutes Pleasant Hill NWS was calling me to confirm what I was watching. They promptly issued a tornado warning for the storm I was on.
A while later, I spotted another tornado (a very weak tornado) just north of Chillicothe. It was probably a good mile or more away from me but it was weakening and moving right at me so I positioned myself just a few yards to the south of where I thought it would be. It kept coming towards me. The funnel was easy to see as it moved over the top of me.
After all was said and done, I was treated to the best lightning display I have seen since 2011!
I took my mid kid storm chasing for this setup since it was close to home. We drove to Platte County Missouri through the windy terrain of northwestern Missouri and watched a great lightning show as the updraft intesified. We also watched a nicely structured mini mesocyclone thunderstorm complete with stacked plates / striations. It was pretty epic for how short of a distance we ended up driving.
Pretty incredible for a small chase, too! The mesocyclone showed good rotation. The lightning showed the storm intensifying but there ingredients that could have led to a tornado / landspout just weren’t there.
The drive home was bittersweet since we did get a great lightning show and a great storm but the sun set was tremendous!!!! I love storm chasing!!!!
The Pilger tornado event. I am not sure what to say about this other than it was the greatest day of tornado chasing I have ever had. I witnessed seven tornadoes on this day. The down side to this story? Two people lost their lives in the town of Pilger, including a 5 year old little girl, Calista Dixon, that passed away due to her injuries.
Let me start from the beginning:
I forecasted an area along the boundary just to the southwest of Stanton, NE. My target area was between Norfolk, NE and Humphrey, NE. Chris Rice and I met up and waited along highway 91, just west of Humphrey, while the storm we wanted started getting organized about 3 miles or so to our north. We decided to make our move and ended up getting separated along highway 91 somewhere. So, I did what I do best. I hit a gravel road and took off to the north. Catching up with the storm as it began its tornadogenesis, I was 3-5 miles south of Stanton, NE. I watched as the supercell storm began to show signs of an inevitable tornado. Sure enough, within a few moments, there was debris on the ground and a nice funnel fully condensed. I started northbound on 15 highway, towards Stanton, and paralleled the intensifying tornado. What a sight! As I went through the town of Stanton, I could see the tornado had started getting bigger….or maybe it was getting closer? I couldn’t tell so I found a hill top to the nw of Stanton. On a gravel road, I watched this menacing and massive wedge tornado with the most insane occlusion I have ever seen a mere mile or more to my north.
As I was blasted by RFD winds, I moved to the top of the next hill. It is an eerie feeling when there are no more chasers where you are. I positioned myself about 1/4 mile south of where the wedge tornado was crossing the gravel road in front of me. All I could see was rapidly rotating rain, dirt, and debris falling from this incredible beast of a storm. As the tornado moved off to my northeast, I drove east to 15 hwy where I started moving back to the north. As I made my turn, I looked to my southeast and saw a NEW tornado forming. I was mind blown.
I thought at first it would end up being a satellite tornado, which is not uncommon. Then I checked the radar and saw two distinct areas of rotation. I worked my way down highway 275 towards Pilger and was amazed at what I was seeing. A newly developed tornado and now, a SECOND tornado was forming a little further to the southeast. It was amazing but terrifying at the same time. This was the stuff my nightmares have been made out of for years. I used to dream of my house being surrounded by two or three tornadoes. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide. Then to actually see it happening with my own two eyes? This was surreal!!!
I pushed to get closer to the first tornado. I saw debris being lofted into the air. I recognized this to be a grain elevator but I was so fixated on the tornadoes that I did not even realize there was a town 1 mile up the road from me. The tornado crossed the road and the second tornado intensified. There were now TWO VIOLENT EF4 tornadoes on the ground causing damage. I watched the tornado that hit Pilger hit a farmstead near the intersection of HWY257 and HWY15 north.
The farm house was completely damaged but still stood since it did not take a direct hit by the tornado. I didn’t even pay attention to how close the tornado was when I jumped out of the car to check for people and/survivors in the house. While I was yelling into the house, there was still debris flying into the house (small tree branches, trash, etc) because the tornado was less than 500yds from the house. Literally, it was in these peoples back yard. I yelled for a while but heard no response so I ran back out to my Xterra and shot some video of the damaged house and yard. About that time, FIRE/EMT’s arrived and I gave them a quick report on what I had done. Then I was back on the road. I watched the next several tornadoes in a state of awe and amazement because this was just too crazy to see things from my nightmares come to fruition.
So, this Nebraska storm chase was one of the most intense and extreme chases I have ever had the privilege of being on. I met up with Shane Kirk early on the morning of June 3rd, 2014. We knew we were heading to Nebraska but wanted to pinpoint our initial target area. We looked at the weather models, reviewed the Storm Prediction Center text, and decided on Ord, Ne. The car was loaded. Our camera gear stowed. We were soon on our way. We monitored the boundary positions and upper level winds on our way and everything looked to be in place for a fairly nice tornado day followed by a giant hail event across portions of eastern Nebraska.
Stopping in Seward, NE for a bite to eat, we decided we would double check our initial target. Ord was still in our sights and, at this point, only a few more minutes up the road, too. I looked through Facebook and started seeing a few other chasers talking about possibly heading west of Grand Island, NE, towards Kearney, NE, for what they thought was going to be a better show. Shane and I stuck to our guns and headed north and west to our target of Ord. Along the way, a small cluster of storms began to fire along the boundary. This was our storm but we were still a little ways from Ord. Nothing to worry about though. The storm still needed to mature.
As we drove into the town of Ord, the storm went tornado warned. However, our hopes for seeing a tornado were quickly smashed. Why? Because just south of Ord by about 1 mile, we crossed the boundary. We went from hot and humid temps to mid 50 temps. The storm was north of the boundary and therefore, would not produce a tornado. There were several reports of a confirmed tornado that was on the ground causing damage, however, being within a mile or so of the “mesocyclone”, Shane, myself, and numerous other chasers could never confirm anything being on the ground, except for maybe a gustnado or even outflow gusted dirt being lofted into the air.
We quickly changed course and headed towards the York/Seward area to get gas and dinner. This looked like a bust. After a quick meal, we decided we did not want to come back empty handed so we opted to chase other storms in the area for lightning photography opportunities or even hail damage photos. Boy, were we surprised!
Check out this video below. Near Dorchester, NE we were overtaken by a massive hail producer. My car was destroyed. Even better? The Weather Channel ended up doing a phone interview with me.