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Realtime Updates

8 AM – Good Morning, Tornado Alley!

Morning everybody. Another day, another change of plans. We were originally going to leave at 8 for Montana, but now we’re chilling until 10 and we’re just going a little further west into northeastern Wyoming. Luckily our new target is quite a bit closer; today was looking to be a really long day. It looks like there is a good potential for some nice rotating supercells, maybe even a tornado. (I did it! I said the T-word!)

11 AM – Wooo

We just had a little learning session with Roger in his hotel room on supercells and how they form. He has some awesome photos of all types of storms and tornadoes as examples.

The setup for today is quite a bit better than yesterday. We are targeting east-central Wyoming, where there is good shear, decent mid-level wind speed, and a moderate amount of moisture. Dewpoints in northwestern Nebraska are already in the mid-50s, and the easterly wind combined with an upslope flow of the surface winds should fire off some storms by mid afternoon. These will likely be high-based, but hopefully will move into the better, more moist air to the east, where we can follow them back towards tomorrow’s target of Iowa. Tomorrow’s going to be the big day, but I’m hoping today will not be too shabby, either.

Long summary

Today’s forecast was marginally better than yesterday’s, yet still no better than marginal. We moved our target much closer from Montana to eastern Wyoming, so we had plenty of time to kill in the morning. We had a teaching session in Roger’s Hotel Room for an hour before leaving, and then we cruised west on Route 20 to Chadron, where we took a break in Chadron to have lunch, go to Wal-Mart, and to assess the situation. Alex had the bright idea of playing everybody’s favorite one-hit wonder,Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5,” on the jukebox at the Pizza Hut. Boy did we leave there in a hurry.

The biggest limiting factor today, as forecast, was the amount of moisture available. Alex and I tried hopeleslly to play frisbee or football in the Wal-Mart parking lot, but it was impossible because of the steady wind screaming out of the southeast. We were hoping that this wind would bring up moisture from the gulf, but dewpoints in the region failed to rise above the low 50s.

On radar, we watched a huge storm go bonkers in northeast Colorado and then decided to cruise south into more moist air. We intercepted a little storm in Sioux county, just off Route 71, and watched it for a while. The first advice I received upon stepping out of the van? “Watch for snakes.” The storm was multicellular with two updraft bases, but everything was poorly defined and fuzzy, and it showed no sign of intensifying.

Roger was going nuts about a storm just moving into southwest Nebraska, about an hour south of our location. He was concerned because he didn’t want to get so far from our hotel reservations way up in northeast Nebraska, but we were finally able to get cellphone reception, he cancelled our rooms, and we shot south into Kimball county. Of course, by the time we arrived, the once lightning-intensive storm had gusted out and had turned to crap. Blast.

We had dinner in Sidney, claiming itself as “One of America’s favorite stopping places since 1867” in brochures, and witnessed some awesome mammatus out of the dying supercell. I talked with a truck driver who was en route from Seattle to Memphis, and he told me, as you have probably guessed, about his UFO encounter out in Nevada.

Meeting time is 8 AM tomorrow; we’ll see what happens.

Final Thoughts



4:52 PM – This is the first little storm that we stopped to observe. We saw a few lightning strikes and heard some thunder, but that was all. Nobody around for miles.

5:24 PM – As the storm propigated over us, it tried desparately to develop a new updraft base, but failed. We left right after this picture.

7:36 PM – Arby’s and mammatus clouds: it just doesn’t get any better.

8:17 PM – Looking out the window on the way back. I wish we could have stopped to photograph that for real; it was just beautiful.

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