I “started” this chase around 11:30AM. I didn’t actually leave Denver until 12:30PM. This was a low risk day, with a 5% chance of severe storms in eastern Colorado and western Kansas. No tornado risk, but I mostly just wanted to get out on the open road and try out equipment. My original target was Burlington, CO on the Kansas border. My thought process was that large hail was identified as a risk, and it takes a pretty strong storm to make large hail. I could photograph storm structure and maybe get really lucky with a photogenic gustnado or landspout.
This chase started with errands and busy work. I realized I hadn’t finished shopping for some emergency gear that I wanted to carry in the car, so I stopped at Walmart to grab it, as well as a plastic tote to dump it all in for my trunk. I also picked up a small tape measure for measuring hail.
I filled up the car, then went to grab some lunch. All the places near me were packed and I could feel time slipping away, so I decided to just eat on the road. On the way to lunch there I remembered yet another important errand which meant I had to go home again, then to my bank.
Great planning there, Bill. 😛
At this point it was well after noon. I desperately wanted to get moving so I headed east out of Denver. I stopped at a Taco Bell in Bennett and ate a quick lunch.
Taco Bell always seems like a good idea when you’re starving. You’d think I’ve have learned by now.
While in the parking lot I saw some people in their cars here and there that might have been chasers, which was interesting. I didn’t approach anyone though. I wasn’t feeling sociable, and I mean…should I just go knock on the side window and say “Hello good sir, you appear to be looking at a laptop next to you. Are you chasing storms or viewing pornography?”
I ate “lunch” and watched the radar. Storms were firing up and petering out fairly quickly, mostly headed NE, with a few odd storms wandering south around Simla. I made a note to watch for that sort of thing, since it was pointed out in my spotter training that supercells are strong enough to occasionally do their own thing. There was no evidence that the storm(s) in question were supercells though. Radar showed no clear rotation in anything I was near today.
I left Bennett around 1:30PM and continued east on I-70. Went through Limon and found myself between a couple of promising looking storms a few miles east, around Genoa. I stopped at the Genoa turn-off, then moved a couple of miles east. The winds were probably around a constant 30MPH with higher gusts that shook the car.
Maybe later I’ll buy a portable anemometer and actually get some measurements to satisfy my curiosity.
It was fairly cold. I might keep with long pants for chases in the spring! Shorts would have been awful today. I found myself wanting to stay in the car a lot, which meant I didn’t take a lot of pictures.
I decided to grab my old window mount for a cell phone out of the trunk and plugged in an old Samsung Galaxy S5 phone to act as a budget dashcam. I think that’s going to work pretty well. I need a longer micro-USB cable to bring with it, but I might be able to run it for a complete chase, depending if it can take the heat of constant recording. If I do this I’ll need to be cognizant of the nonsense that leaves my mouth occasionally when I’m driving. Sometimes I say awful things about bad drivers.
I stayed at my stop for about an hour and a half, until things seemed to wind down in my area. I kept thinking about continuing east towards my original target, but I had wasted so much of the day and I didn’t want to get home crazy late. This was a test run, and not much was happening out here.
In retrospect, that thought process was kind of a mistake. Some decent looking (although still not severe) storms popped up in Burlington and had I just kept to the plan, I’d have been there for their whole lifecycle. I need to start thinking about what happens when I show up to the target early and nothing’s there (yet). Knowing me, I’ll get antsy and bolt for the first tiny storm that pops up in 20 miles, screwing up my real target.
Right now, I seem to have a knack (or some crazy beginner’s luck) for pinpointing where things are going to go down. I need to try trusting it for once.
I headed home on I-70 and realized that I didn’t want to end up in Denver rush hour, so I took US-86. That’s a pretty fun drive. Not busy at all, and very pretty. I ended up getting snowed on (of all things) around Elizabeth and watched a low hanging cloud scraping across the road in front of me. It was nothing tornadic but I was secretly hoping it was.
- Start the GPS tracker in the phone before the chase starts so I capture the route. It beats looking it all up later!
- Commit to chasing before the actual chase day, and get started earlier in the day. I was late to everything, and usually ended up chasing storms moving directly away from me, already in a mature state. In short, I wasn’t positioned to watch them, just run along behind them.
- Supply runs and errands BEFORE chase day
- Keep to the plan, don’t stop early unless the radar shows something substantial
- Write these post-mortems as soon as you get home. This one was written on 4/13, and I’m having to really think about what all happened.
- I think I need compass of some sort. In my car it’s not too big a deal, but in Heather’s car it’s going to keep coming up.
- Alternatively, I should get a dedicated GPS. The old Android tablet worked somewhat ok, but it’s slow, the map application is clunky, and there’s nowhere to put it in the car that it isn’t sliding around. Maybe one with a good size screen so I can check road options. Maybe an atlas too in case of emergencies.
- I think I want to throw a blanket in the car so I can cover electronics easier.
- I’d like a mount for my tablet, although I made do propping it up on my backpack. Maybe I could just use my tripod and get just a tripod tablet mount cheaper? RAM mounts are cool, but expensive.
- Stay warm! Trust your original plan, THEN adapt for whatever happens.
- Heather still hasn’t fixed her lightning detector.
- I need to learn to use that Canon point and shoot, at least for filming.
I-225N to I-70E to Genoa
Stopped just east past Genoa, on a county road
I-70W to US86
US86 through Parker (US83)