Start: Hot Springs, SD
Lunch: Scottsbluff (The Shed)
total miles, July 6 and 7: 1037
The day previous (July 6) was a reposition day for the most part, though we did wind up with a nice lightning show during the evening in Hot Springs. We drove the Enchanted Highway and visited Mount Rushmore, too. Unfortunately, we were stuck in a restaurant in Hot Springs as the thunderstorm approached. I hate it when that happens.
We had to play relatively closely to northeastern Colorado on the 7th, since this was the tour’s final chase day and we needed to be back in Denver by midday on the 8th. The weather gods smiled on me and provided a severe storm chance on the central High Plains.
Northwest flow at mid-levels was more than strong enough to provide adequate storm shear, and dew points near 60F on east-southeasterly upslope flow contributed to modest instability. SPC was only marginally impressed, and they plastered a “Marginal Risk” of severe weather on the High Plains.
But first, let’s share the exciting images from the previous day.
Perhaps someday the Enchanted Highway will attract more visitors than Mount Rushmore —- but hopefully not.
After lunch in Scottsbluff, we made our way south to the southern Nebraska Panhandle. A cluster of cumulus clouds drew us towards Ogallala, Nebraska. From a high spot in the Sandhills north of Lake McConaughy, we observed a strengthening and organizing storm base to our west-northwest.
It quickly became clear that this storm was worthwhile, and I needed to be closer. It was rotating hard and turning to the right, or dropping to the south. We maneuvered around the north side of the lake, and barely made it in front of the hail core to our south option near Lewellen.
The storm base was on the high side and there was a prominent clear slot near the hail shaft. I wanted a good look at the storm structure, so we headed south towards Big Springs.
The updraft base moved south and was not too far to our west-northwest, near Big Springs. The sun was setting and the light was great…and we were WAY too close for the structure. I knew that the storm structure would be the main show, and I had allowed the storm to get too close. We had to dash west a few miles and then south again to get good structure views in the great light. I never really did get as far away as I would have liked, until we were near Juleburg at dusk. Still, I managed to get some impressive structure shots with my wide-angle lens, and with Michael’s even wider-angle lens. Thanks, Michael! (My primary wide angle lens had been accidentally left behind in Denver at the beginning of the tour.)
Since the storm had been accommodating, we headed to the base hotel in Denver for the night, and I began my drive back home to L.A. a little after midnight! My storm chase tour season for 2017 had ended.