On April 8 a few severe to tornadic cells moved through parts of northeast Colorado, northwest Kansas, and extreme southwest Nebraska. I had been watching the situation during the afternoon and deciding whether it would be worth it to chase or if I might do better just waiting until something came to me in Goodland, KS. I took the wait-and-see approach, because while the environment was very favorable south of I-70, there didn’t seem to be a strong forcing mechanism. I watched a cell strengthen in eastern Colorado, and as it was passing I-70 just west of Burlington, CO I noticed the cell trying to split. A right turn would mean the storm could cross into Kansas and be fairly close to me, so I and a friend decided to make a go at it.
We took to KS-27, a paved highway north of Goodland and about 5 miles north made a left turn to head west on dirt roads. The cell was moving north-northeast but appeared to be weakening. Even so, this low-precipitation storm looked pretty great from our vantage point and we were able to get some good photos! This was my first time chasing in the Plains and seeing a real supercell thunderstorm in person. I was very thankful to have a co-pilot guiding me where to drive (and when to stop) – I couldn’t imagine going out there alone.
After about an hour of watching the storm it appeared to be weakening, so we decided to head back to Goodland. As I was about to get back on the paved highway KS-27, I stopped to glance at my phone and saw a text from a friend: “JOE CONFIRMED TORNADO ON THAT CELL NOW TURN AROUND.” Knowing how my friends and I joke with each other, I figured he was just kidding me. While I was without radar data for a time, based on what we saw of the storm structure it didn’t look exciting. I continued on the road and my co-pilot checked out the radar to see my friend was not kidding! Soon after I received a call from NWS Goodland asking what I could seem, since my last Spotter Network location was near the storm. I told him we were already on our way back to Goodland and he let me know that they had multiple land spout reports. The storm later went on to produce 2″ hail and another tornado warning.
While I missed the landspout, I was very curious of what had happened since there were a ton of chasers on the storm. Below are a number of videos from the storm showing the landspout which I found on YouTube:
Another from the same folks above:
And one last one showing the intense blowing dust (skip to 1:00):
All in all, I thought it was a great first “chase” of the season – a good dry-run of things to come this spring. And I really can’t complain about the location of the chase – within a half hour I was getting great photos and was home before sunset.