Salvaging Fascination from the Convective Junkyard

August 7, 2007 by
Filed under: Summary 

SW Nebraska and NE Colorado

12 Jun 2007

Elke and I began intercept mode while eating lunch and making the NOWcast via free wi-fi, in Ogallala’s Country Kitchen. The line of heavy rain producing storms intercepted us with thunderous booms — and that was just from the number and size of raindrops. There was lightning too. Several curious travelers came over to ask us about the weather where they were headed, which was fine. We were glad to help. At least they didn’t ask us if we were storm chasers, with the usual 35-odd list of the same tired old questions.

We escaped the flash flood situation by heading E on I-80 through the east edge of the waterfall. It became apparent that the messy, linear convective mode was going to dominate the area of best moisture and low level shear, in central NE. So we headed S just ahead of the line, hoping to grab a few rotating updrafts from the showers and isolated thunderstorms forming in the free warm sector, One small, ragged, slowly rotating base SW of Sutherland got undercut quickly by a combination of its own outflow and that of another storm just to its SE that sported a photogenic rain foot.

We threw in the towel on this regime in MCK, after letting a kidney-bean shaped left mover pass NWward over us. This storm had slow but pronounced anticyclonic shear in its main updraft base, which was on its NW flank. Farther S, drier air and higher dew point depressions ruled the boundary layer, and attempts at development either were linear or, if discrete, weak and transient.

The only hope left for the day for photogenic skies was if the bow echo developing ENE of COS still had some of its vim and vigor by the time we could intercept. This was the same convective system intercepted by MesoMikeU, but farther N and a little later, owing to our dalliance with the early activity in Nebraska. Shelf structure was gone by the time we caught it, NE of LIC near Joes CO, but it still was worth observation and photography. Deep, mysterious, slate-blue darkness loomed, sandwiched in between ghostly gray scud streets overhead and the golden hues of ripening wheat, punctated by a windmill, for a threatening scene of Great Plains grandeur (zoom a few minutes later).

The anvil briefly was visible through the intervening cold scud, before we plunged on through en route to Denver. Heavy rain and very little wind greeted us; indeed, while the countryside spoke “Great Plains,” the precipitation rate screamed “Mobile Bay.” After years of drought, through which came most of my experience on the Colorado plains, a most welcome unfamiliarity greeted us in the form of countless miles of rain across a verdant grassland, soaked not only by this event but many others datign back to some heavy wintertime snows.

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