Today, we started out in Guymon, OK, and headed north and then west for the threat in Colorado.
The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) had issued a Slight Risk and a less than 2% Tornado Threat for this area. As a side note, they later upgraded the tornado threat.
We got on our first storm near Wray, CO. It fired quickly and went severe warned soon after it formed. We ducked south out of Wray, and then east, as another storm formed along this boundary. This storm rapidly intensified.
Now, a little note about the Colorado road network. When we finished our run down US-34, we needed to jog north on US-385 for two miles before US-34 turned east again. When we arrived at this intersection, a new storm had developed in two radar scans. We could not turn around and go west. North and south were out due to the existing storms. The only way east was to go north for two miles.
As I turned down this road, I asked Kathryn, “How many miles is it to 34 east?” “Two.” I looked out my window and saw that there was very large hail falling not 100 yards to my west. We weren’t going to make it to the turn without seeing some hail.
At first, I remember the birds. Birds came screaming out of that field as fast as they could fly, every bird for his or herself. There was a loud thump on the top of the car. “Probably a bird,” I hoped. Soon there were more loud thumps. Large hail- golf balls to baseballs. Finally, I reached the turn and gunned east.
We managed to keep the windows, but we did get a few hail dents.
Just as soon as we cleared the hail, Kathryn checked the RADAR again. “That rotation has really tightened up,” she said. About that time, Alex radioed to us, “Tornado on the ground!” “Told ya,” Kathryn replied calmly.
I couldn’t see it at first. It was behind my roof pillar, maybe 300 yards to my southwest, and moving our direction. I continued east to get ahead of it- and the large hail that was quickly gaining on us.
The last image of my livestream was the debris ball soon after we cleared the hail.
We drove about five miles with it behind us. At some point we had gained enough ground that we were able to stop and take a few photos.
Even though this storm was tornado-warned off and on, a new storm had developed to our southwest, and if we got ahead of it, we could go look at it. It had picked up an outflow boundary and had the opportunity to rapidly intensify as well. We abandoned our tornadic storm (which had become wrapped in rain and hail) and headed east and then south to get ahead of the new storm. The new storm was impacting Goodland as we looked at it from the northeast.
We got ahead of this storm, though it soon propagated and caught up to us, as we fueled up. We went through some heavy rain and pea-sized hail on I-70 eastbound until we could get ahead of the storm. When we did, we snapped a few more photos.
Between intercepts, and ending our night, we had a great conversation over the radio with the folks from College of Dupage. We use their website frequently for our forecasts, so it was nice to talk to Paul and hear about his chasing experiences.
We gave up chase soon after sunset, had Pizza Hut for dinner in Scott City, KS, and then spent the night in the Super 8 in Colby, KS.
Here is a map of our route:
Starting: Guymon, OK
Ending: Colby, KS