Chase Accounts

May 30, 1999
Pictures from this day.

This was the first day of my chase vacation in the Plains with Scott Blair and Kevin Scharfenberg, and we targeted southwest Nebraska on this minimal day.

At approximately 3 p.m., we watched a few storms begin firing in eastern Nebraska while on our way to the state from Kansas. However, we stuck with our target area, which had plenty of sunlight to aid the unstable atmosphere.

We arrived at Elwood, Neb. on Hwy 283 at approximately 4:50, and we had a decision to make. Several severe thunderstorm warnings and one tornado warning had been issued for a few cells to our east, and a Tornado Watch had been issued for western Nebraska. Another storm was developing to our north near Broken Bow, was well-isolated and had gone severe a few minutes before yet wasn't in the watch box. We could either go after the isolated storm to our north or we could target the watch box to the west or the storms to the east, which were moving away from us. We targeted the storm to our north since it was isolated and showed promising structure. The location of the storm and its southeast movement would also allow us to intercept with plenty of daylight left.

While moving to intercept, explosive convective development was noticed, and the anvil began to backshear.

The importance of Kevin's laptop/GPS navigation system became apparent during the intercept as we were forced to take some small dirt roads to get in a favorable position near Brady, Neb. Near 5:40, we found the perfect area to pull off and watch the storm's evolution. Not only was this a superb location for viewing but also provided a beautiful photo opportunity of the storm with the tall grass that was waving with the storm's inflow.

We had wonderful contrast, and at 5:50, scud began developing under the base. Within ten minutes, a fully developed wall cloud formed, and for the next 30 minutes, we stayed in the same location and watched the wall cloud's evolution while it remained nearly stationary and produced several small funnels while the precip shaft continued moving east. During this time, the meso actually regressed slightly to the west.

However, around 6:20, the RFD started to become visible and the west side of the wall cloud began exhibiting downward motion and erosion as it began to tighten in appearance. The meso then began to rapidly move east and precip began to start wrapping around the wall.

Now, in order to keep the meso in sight, we were going to have to change locations, and we decided to head south on Hwy 47 since the road option would get us ahead of the meso again and allow us to fill up the gas tanks. However, our plan was thwarted by hail, and we had to backtrack north. Soon after, a tornado warning was issued for the supercell.

While out of position and fueling our vehicles at 7:15, we were treated to a beautiful display of mammatus overhead but also heard a spotter report of a tornado. Soon after leaving the gas station, we took Hwy 40 southeast to Hwy 183 and began another intercept.

Just after 8 p.m., we began to regain position, and the meso and a funnel began appearing from behind the precip. shaft. However, by the time we got into a good viewing position just after 8:30 near Holdrege, the wall cloud had been undercut by outflow. The chase ended in Holdrege as the outflow dominated wall cloud moved over the city and began to take on the characteristics of a shelf cloud .

This supercell did produce a slow-moving F1 rated tornado for 32 minutes, but unfortunately, the tornado occurred during the time that we were out of position.


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