Spouting Off around Cheyenne Wells

August 27, 2008 by
Filed under: Summary 

Cheyenne Wells and Kit Carson CO storms
19 Jun 8

SHORT: Viewed three nonsupercellular tornadoes (NSTs) over S-central Cheyenne County CO, from line of TCu located S of persistent left-moving storm.


We started the day in Colby and didn’t have to travel very far. Surface analyses as early as late morning showed a well-defined boundary — convergent and weakly baroclinic — from near the central KS/NEb border WSW through a kink (later a mesolow) in the Colby/GLD area, arching SW across the Cheyenne County CO region. The portion WSW GLD was drifting S with NE winds to its N, while the rest stayed quasistationary most of the day. The mesolow, at times, was visible as a curl in fine lines when looking at reflectivity products from the GLD unit. Juxtaposition of 0-3 km CAPE and surface vorticity kept appearing hour after hour at and ENE of the mesolow in automated mesoanalyses.

Despite convection erupting 150-250 nm away in almost all directions, I decided to hang around the mesolow all afternoon, growing ever more impatient but not giving up. So, after lunch at the rest stop with the fake palms, we went SE to Oakley to watch the boundary from a slight distance. This offered a broader perspective than sitting right under it with more limited view through Cu in Colby.

At Oakley, we toured the Fick Fossil museum for the first time, while waiting for initiation. This is a diversion I strongly recommend, especially for those with paleontological and geological inclinations. They’ve got a great collection of fossils and minerals of all sorts, most donated by private individuals. A couple of the rock and fossil specimens are wrongly labeled, and there are numerous misspellings (sloppy, sloppy!), but if you know what you’re looking at, you can ignore the errors and appreciate the specimens for what they really are. They’ve also got a small insulator exhibit too, and I did take some photos for Steve Corfidi and any other insulator enthusiasts who haven’t seen there: A, B, C, D, E.

Best of all, they were running a big National Geographic exhibit of absolutely stunning Flint Hills photography by Jim Richardson, who is based in Lindsborg KS and has a gallery there. His work appeared in the April 2007 edition of the magazine; and all those photos (plus a couple dozen more) were displayed as posters at Fick. Elke, who is a Flint Hills appreciator of the highest order (read PrairyErth twice), says that some of the photography nearly brought her to tears, in a good way. The exhibit will be in various towns in southern and eastern KS through Nov. 24.

We saw a thick cluster of towers to the distant W upon leaving the museum, and moved to the Buffalo Bill statue overlook to watch towers bubbling back over the Colby part of the boundary, E of the now-retrograding mesolow. Meanwhile, a vigorous Cb sprouted from the earlier TCu clump, near the trailing portion of the boundary, WSW of ITR. The chase was on.

As we entered CO, a pronounced left-moving supercellular updraft (mirror image) came into view on the NE side of the convection, with occasional stingers extending toward the NE at various levels (wide angle view across the fields of young corn, and mirror image). What is it with photogenic, NW-flow left-movers moving E across the Colorado plains for Elke and me? [See 15 Jun 2 storm near Aroya.] Meanwhile, intermittent right splits would form brief bases before dissipating.

The left-mover appeared to be slightly N of the boundary, not on it, based on a zonally aligned line of growing TCu to its S, with enhanced storm-relative inflow from the backed (E to ENE flow) on the N side of the boundary. The left-moving portion took optimal advantage of the ENE-NE winds N of the boundary, and resultant enhancements to its storm-relative flow, for 2-3 more hours, moving only slowly E and ESE.

While driving on US-40 W of Cheyenne Wells and SSE of the left-mover, our attention got diverted to the TCu line fast. An NST suddenly appeared to our SSW, manifest as a partly translucent dust tube extending about 1/2-2/3 upward from ground to cloud base (wide angle view). Two more rather crappy “spouts” appeared under the line in short order — one to the W (normal and super-enhanced views) and another E (no photo) of the original. It was about that time I got a cell connection, managing to call GLD. They already had reports of one of the NSTs, but not the other two.

I’ve deduced the geospatial specifics the best I can, obtained from our GPS logs and estimates of distance:

    Spout #1: Tall dust tube without funnel, 2332-2339Z, looking ~5 SSW from 4.5 E Firstview CO, putting tornado location at ~6 SE Firstview CO

    Spout #2: Diffuse, POS dust whirl under a ragged funnel that persisted after the dust went away, 2336-2337Z, looking ~6 E from 5 SE Firstview CO, putting tornado location at ~4 S Cheyenne Wells CO

    Spout #3: Diffuse, weakly rotating dust plume 1/3-1/2 way up to cloud base without obvious funnel, 2336-2342Z, looking ~8 W from 5 SE Firstview CO, putting tornado location at ~5 SW Firstview CO

The TCu line filled with rain after that and produced no more NSTs, eventually evolving into a somewhat discrete, high-based, rainy CB that we watched from a wide open Great Plains vantage N of Kit Carson. Another storm, initially with backshear and overshoot, went up fast NNW of Kit Carson, but got undercut by outflow from the left-mover — whose forward-flank rain shield treated us to a gorgeous double rainbow. Meanwhile the left mover lurched on ESEward toward the KS line, finally dying as a pretty, chicken-neck updraft, bathed in the sunset light.

We spent the night in a funky motel in Kit Carson (the only one I’ve ever seen with a screened-in porch front-to-back), leaning toward going home after wherever we would chase the next day. We had fun with the NW flow for a few days there on the High Plains, but each day’s round of MCSs was performing a slow torture on the air mass; and we don’t want to spend much more time and money on it. Fortunately, this day’s chase used less than a tank of gas, nabbing us some “landspouts” and decent photos.


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