Friday, June 11, 2010

A classic, isolated supercell....finally

Hello out there! If you've been keeping up with us on Facebook and Twitter, you've seen that we've been pretty busy the last week or so. We've covered every mile of I-80, two or three times for some stretches. Last night we finally found ourselves operating back in Colorado. Storms were initiating just off the mountains, and found themselves in favorable environments, so we spent the afternoon scooting down there from northwest Nebraska, where we had stayed the previous night.

Yesterday actually brought two targets, and therefore two deployments for us. The first supercell had a rather impressive wall cloud for quite a while. StickNet team 3 managed to get a few probes down before it became apparent that a storm coming up from behind was going to overtake the target storm. We therefore shifted our attention to the southern storm, which turned out the be the right decision!

My team was the eastern most team of all StickNet teams, so we had a great view of the storm as it approached from the west. We saw the first tornado touch down from 35 miles away! I would say it was on the ground for about 5 minutes before it either dissipated, or became to rain-wrapped for me to see. So I'm sure you're asking, "where's the tornado picture?" Well, I was driving, trying to get to our deployment road, so no picture-taking while driving for me. The mobile mesonet and radar teams reported a second tornado not long afterward, but our view was too obscured by rain to see anything.
My team made deployments on two roads, US 36 east of Last Chance, CO, and Colorado Highway 63 north of Anton. We placed four probes on the first road, then took off to the east to make the northward turn out of Anton. I had Chris Weiss on the phone with me for the last two deployments, as he was trying to position us exactly so that the mesocyclone of the storm would pass right over those last two probes. Its not often that he says, "well, where I'm going to place you depends on how soon you make the north turn." This is more what you would expect for the fine-scale array teams (i.e. non-trailer teams). But on this particular day, because of the huge gap in roads, and the spread between our StickNet teams, my team actually was working on a fine-scale array, needing more precision than our typical course array.

After making the last two probe drops, we headed south for safety near Anton, and watched the storm for a while. The picture I'm including was taken at this point, after we'd finished the deployments and were waiting for the storm to pass Highway 63. This storm was, by far, the most photogenic storm I've seen this year. All the features were very clear and well-defined. Storms like this make our jobs much easier, as we know exactly what we're looking at, and can adjust our positions and the arrays accordingly.

Well, I guess that storm decided it did NOT want to be sampled, because it made a huge looping turn to the north and then northwest as it approached those last two probes. It never crossed them, as the storm began cycling just before Highway 63. What a disappointment! Oh well, there's nothing we could do about it. We made the best deployments possible given the road network, and the previous motion of the storm. The storm did pass over our array on US 36, and through the arrays laid out by the other three StickNet teams. And the other V2 teams were hard at work collecting data as well. From what I saw during operations last night, it looks like the radar teams did a good job of covering every phase of the storm.

So far, we are unsure of any damage reported with this storm. It mostly passed over open land. It did pass near the town of Last Chance, and one of the other StickNet teams reported that they saw some mobile homes that may have had some roof damage, but were unsure if this was caused by the storm, because of the lack of damage to nearby trees and power lines. I will be driving through there in the next hour, so I'll have a look myself. It may have been caused by last night's storm, or could be pre-existing damage. I hope I am able to tell the difference. If the damage was caused by last night's storm, knowing the wind speeds in the area would certainly be valuable.

Well, back to the driving for me.....


  1. What a terrific photograph. I'm so sorry the storm turned and didn't pass over your array, but you all have been doing phenomenal work and those of us reading about it send you our thanks.

  2. Thanks Ann Marie! We certainly appreciate your support. And its just one of those things! I guess this is why the project lasts so long, so that if we miss sampling exactly what we want, at least we can try again tomorrow! And that we did! Sampled a storm merger the very next day!

  3. Verdict is in. Damage seen by StickNet team 3 near Last Chance was likely not from this storm. The damage pattern just didn't line up. There were several homes just upwind of the damaged ones that saw no damage. And there was no debris scattered downwind of the damaged houses. Also, the primary damage was to the siding material, not the roofing material, which is not consistent with wind-damage. These houses were likely in this condition before the storm.