Yesterday was a fantastic chase day. We started out by heading northeast on I-76 towards the Nebraska/Colorado border. We stopped briefly in Sterling to pick up a part for a phone, where it was cool and dry. We needed to blast east.
A few cumulus clouds started to build to our southwest, then they went severe. As we crossed into Nebraska, the storms crossed into Kansas, due south. We beat the Mesoscale Discussion and the Tornado Watch box.
Even though the storms were to our south, we were holding onto the warm front, which had pivoted southwest to northeast through Nebraska. We knew that once a storm latched onto that boundary, it stood a good chance of dropping a tornado.
We dropped south out of McCook to get ahead of the slowly-moving storm. We found our dominant cell and played tag with it for a few minutes.
We lingered a bit too long. Near Culbertson, NE, we got slammed with some hail. There were a few that reached 1″ in diameter, and we knew that it was capable of more. We punched through the smaller stuff, then west on US-6, looking for an overhang. Finding none, we slowed down in a picnic area and took a beating. Thankfully, there were very few new dents, and no broken lights or glass.
Once the core passed, we headed back east.
On the backside of the storm, we could see past the precipitation core and into a new wall cloud. Sure enough, a funnel started to drop:
As soon as there was rotation in the hail fog below, it was considered a tornado. Soon, the hail fog faded, and an actual debris collar formed in its place.
We watched this tornado for several minutes, until it began to rope out.
Our night had just begun! We followed this storm north on US-83 out of McCook, and stopped in a field to launch a drone. By now, the tornado had moved on, and a new cell had formed to its southwest.
We launched the drone and took some photos. However, we soon had problems with the drone. It thought 1500 ft was ground level, and refused to go lower. It was losing altitude slowly, but not as fast as it was losing power. Eventually, the battery died. We hid in the car for a minute or two, as the last transmission from the drone was at 650 ft, and without power, it would drop hard. We never did see or hear it hit.
We abandoned the drone to follow the storm some more. We got behind the storm near Moorefield, but a tornado had crossed the road ahead of us, and the road was now blocked by emergency vehicles. That was the end of the chase for the night.
We doubled back to look for the drone at night, with no luck. We ended up spending the night in the McCook Quality Inn, with the hope of finding the drone today. Thus ended a long, but exciting day.
The route is shown below:
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