This is going to be a long one. I’m finding my writing style still so there’s probably more here than necessary.
I had decided on Kimball, Nebraska for my target this morning. I figured that this put me squarely into the designated area, and I could play I-80 as needed once things started. Left the house at 10:30AM.
Very uneventful trip to the target. The roads were almost empty and I was able to pull over a couple of times to film and just enjoy the day. I made it to Kimball around 1:30PM and had lunch at Subway. Not much going on in the sky yet; just lots of fluffy cumulous clouds all drifting north.
I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to head a little west, so at about 1:50PM I got on I-80 and started towards Bushnell. After exiting the interstate, I turned towards Bushnell only to see that the pavement completely stopped right before hitting the town! There wasn’t even a paved “main street”, and unpaved side roads; everything was dirt. I turned around and drove south to the other side of the overpass, found a nice turnoff, and….sat.
I listened to a podcast. I played with my cameras/phones. I sent a picture to Heather. I checked Radarscope.
This isn’t uncommon. In fact, I’d say it’s a problem you usually want to have. It’s good to get into position early so that you catch the whole show.
After about two and a half hours, I noticed that storms were starting to organize south of Cheyenne, moving NNE. I thought about it and finally decided to head west to intercept, but planning on staying east of Cheyenne. I didn’t want to get bogged down in the city, and not be able to quickly get east if I needed to. The attached picture is from later that afternoon, after I’d moved.
I stayed back and for the next two hours enjoyed the show. I was too far back from the storms (in what would become a common theme for today and tomorrow) to get a lot of good structure shots, but eventually the storms started to build more to the east, which let me really get some good pictures….or would have, had I not:
- Been taking a majority of them through my car windshield. It’s too tempting to sit in the car and enjoy the show. I need to get out, move away, and set up a tripod.
- Stuck too close to the car once I got out. The car is in a bunch of my pictures. I didn’t catch onto this until later, for reasons I’ll get into soon.
Rookie mistakes! Well, live and learn I guess.
Nothing severe warned popped up in my area. A few storms NW of me went severe, but nothing tornado warned. I was pretty sure the day would be like this but I had hoped for a little more.
A little after 6PM, I decided that I had a long drive ahead of me, and that I should get to it. Visibility was still good and I wanted to take advantage of what daylight there was left. So I set off east.
Is it me, or does Nebraska smell really bad?
Later that night I was driving south through Kansas. There’s a lot wildlife on the roads this late. I saw three possums, two raccoons, a skunk, and something that looked like a tiny bear. No, I’m not hallucinating.
Then I hit something. I had glanced down for a second to confirm a turn coming up on the GPS and when I looked up it was a small dark shape and a thump. I felt awful and turned around to check the road for a quarter mile looking for whatever it was, but it had vanished. To be honest, I’m not sure what I’d have done if I found it. Then I spent the next half hour wondering if it was a skunk and was now lodged under the car. I decided to keep the recirculated air option turned on. Then I saw lightning. Checking radarscope, I was confronted with the following:
It’s VERY late at this point, and I was already kicking myself for forgetting about the timezone change, which meant I lost yet another hour. But, that looks just like a classic supercell, and it’s right in front of me, moving northeast! No real rotation presenting in velocity, but checking other radar sites revealed that there was some there.
(The screenshot shows me just west of it, I had moved south at that point and it had moved NE).
Here’s where my mind went.
“I’ll just let this move northeast so I don’t drive through it, then I’ll continue on my way.”
“Now it’s severe warned, and it’s noticeably growing stronger. Crazy amount of lightning too”
“…I’m the only spotter showing on Radarscope within miles of here.”
“Man, it’s moving right toward Jewell. And these other little towns might not get very much warning.”
“If this goes tornado warned, I should probably follow it and confirm if there’s a tornado present so I can call it in.”
“Oh god, I’m going to stumble into my first tornado in the middle of BFK at 2 in the morning.”
“Look at all these other cells popping up. And now they’re severe warned too.”
I spent over an hour out there in the dark, watching the radar, the lightning, and my clock. More cells came up to the east, went severe, and pelted the countryside with what was reported to be up to 1.5” hail.
I eventually continued on my way and ended up on state road 372, which took me east, directly past all the storms that had all lined up for me to the north. The lightning show was amazing, and it turns out that cell phones shoot lightning for crap.
Trust me, it was amazing. Biggest fish you ever saw.
During my trek through south Nebraska and north Kansas, I had realized that Wichita wasn’t going to happen. I opted instead for Salina, thinking that it was big enough to have a semi-clean motel. I got into Salina around 3:45AM, and found a Quality Inn. The guy at the counter was apparently used to working at a different Quality Inn further into town (or…somewhere else in Kansas) and almost checked me into another location. Fifteen minutes later, I was able to get into a room.
It’s now 4AM, and I have yet to:
- Dump pictures and video to the laptop
- Check SPC for an updated forecast
- Check Stormtrack for last minute thoughts on targets
- Look at ANY models
Crap. I couldn’t decide whether or not to wait until morning for all of this or start it up. I opted to start the copy, and trolled weather observations while I did it. In the future, I’ll wait until morning. I don’t know how much info I actually comprehended that late.
I got to bed at almost 5AM and got up at 8AM. The room’s AC was broken so I slept on top of the bed.I snoozed until 8:30AM then decided that I would hate myself forever if I made it into OKC and missed everything, having chased hundreds of miles only to sleep in.
Thoughts regarding the coming event were that Kansas was looking at more HP level storms if/when they developed. I knew I wanted to be in Oklahoma (more for the place to stay than anything storm related), I tentatively opted for the dryline setup. Stillwater, OK would be tomorrows target.
- Timezones are a thing, dummy. I lost an hour and arrived later than I thought I would. I have no idea or excuse for why this slipped my mind.
- Don’t be afraid to adapt your plan to fit the current weather conditions. Moving west towards Cheyenne to chase the storms ramping up was the best decision I made. I was strongly tempted to stay put and let the weather come to me in Kimball/Burness. It would have too…at around 10-11PM that night!. The storms aren’t very photogenic at that hour, and Oklahoma would not have happened.
- Wunderground always seems to move the goalposts for precipitation time. Assume that whatever they’re saying early in the day needs about 1-4 hours tacked onto it.
- Having two chase targets that far away made for an unnecessarily long chase. The drive from Wyoming to Kansas was pretty brutal. In the future I might chase towards consecutive targets if I can.
- That being said, I’m glad I did it this time. Chasing a slight risk day in Nebraska & Wyoming was relaxing and fun. The next day was a little more…well, you’ll see.
- Don’t chase every little thing! I ended up in a field in Kansas around 2AM because the storm that popped up in my path looked like a textbook classic supercell on radar. I got curious and stayed way too long.
- Apparently the word “quality” can take a slightly different meaning than the one I learned. Such as Quality Inn. Don’t get into my target town so late that I can’t shop around for a better motel. I arrived around 3:45AM in Salina and picked the first place I laid eyes on (OK, maybe the second. I saw a Super 8 right before that and NO)
- Filmic Pro is a little annoying with how difficult it is to pull your footage off of the phone. You pretty much have to use iTunes. You can tell each video to export to your camera roll, but this has mixed results. I’ll need to look into this further.
- I gotta pack more food with me and quit surviving off of chain restaurants and fast food. They’re going to find me dead in a field from heart failure if I don’t. I know better than this, too. Eat healthier! Stop less!
- I made an effort to drink less soda on this trip and I can feel the results. Do that more.
- Pack some of the starbucks coffee drinks before the trip. I find they’re good pick-me-ups and cheaper when purchased in the grocery store. The large bottles at about $3.50 a pop if you buy them in the convenience stores. Normal energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster give me a splitting headache.
- Examine the role of the dash cam. Is it something to babble incessantly at? Will I actually use all this footage? WHO KNOWS.
- ALWAYS GET OUT OF THE CAR TO TAKE PICTURES YOU IDIOT. I’m reviewing these now and no one wants to see your stupid car hood or windshield. At least put a tripod outside the window!
- Outdoor videos are shaky on my small tripod. It’s cheap, the wind is blowing, and the phone is very non aerodynamic. However you can use the car as a windbreak by sticking the tripod on the side of it.
- The dash cam is shaky when driving, small vibration from dash when stationary. Totally unusable as is. I’ll play with this and see if I can make it tolerable.
- Take radar screenshots to show decision points! What made you want to go X location??
- Bring mosquito repellent too. No problems yet with them, but I think it’s inevitable