June 19, 2021: Sat Day 1 - Severe Storms - SE WY / NE CO: After missing the 2020 chase season due to Covid19 restrictions, we were anxious to get back out on the plains in 2021 and photograph some storms. We first visited with family in Colorado for several days before taking the first opportunity to head east into a "slight risk" area along the far eastern Wyoming and Colorado borders. Along the way we visited Vedauwoo Rocks, a popular rock climbing area, which is located just north of I-80 in the Medicine Bow National Forest. We hung around here while waiting for storms as Nancy grabbed a few photos. We would have liked to have visited this region longer, but storms soon began to initiate to our east and it was time to get moving.
Several storms initiated near Cheyenne and began moving southeast. We cut south at Burns via the Hereford-Keota road and soon encountered some hail near Raymer, Colorado. The storms were rather high-based and disorganized, so only a few photos were taken. Here is one from near Raymer.
We then continued south via highway 52 to Fort Morgan and then west on I76 to Brush as storms were congealing and continuing to move southeast through northeast Colorado. We gave up the chase a little east of Brush, Colorado as there simply was nothing of interest to pursue any longer. All in all it was a good day to shake off the rust and at least see some storm activity. We stayed at the Cobblestone Inn in Brush, a nice place with decent pricing, About 175 actual chase miles for the day.
June 20, 2021: Sun Day 2 - Brief Supercell - Boone, Colorado: There was a marginal risk for severe storms in southeast Colorado. We departed Brush and headed south to Limon for lunch before continuing south to near Yoder and Ellicott along highway 94. There were a few updrafts forming, but none of these lasted very long. We continued west to Colorado Springs and waited at a Circle K with the expectation that a decent storm would form nearby. New updrafts looked promising to our south so we continued south to Pueblo then east on 50/sr96 to Boone. And of course a brand new storm pulsed and became severe-warned back where we were in Colorado Springs! Fortunately it didn't last very long and a new storm formed to our north and began moving east. We were able to intercept this storm from its east along CR611 about 10 miles or so north of Boone. It briefly displayed some nice base structure and looked like it had real promise. Unfortunately, the storm only lasted about 30 minutes before struggling and ultimately dying.
We continued east as more non-severe storms formed, but nothing of any real interest. The most interesting sight was an old tree that stood out against a stormy background southeast of Boone.
We continued east to LaJunta and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express for the night. Approximately 325 chase miles for the day.
June 21, 2021: Mon Day 3 - No Storms - Sand Creek Massacre Site & Little Jerusalem Badlands SP: Today would be a positioning day for Day 2 somewhere in Central/Eastern Nebraska. But along the way we would have ample time to visit a couple of historic/scenic sights that I had on my list of places to visit. The first stop was at the Sand Creek Massacre site near Eads, Colorado. A dark day in American history is revealed here, and a place worth visiting for any traveler to this region of the country. Our second visit was to the Little Jerusalem Geological Park in Kansas. A very scenic area and one I'd like to visit again under stormy skies!
Stayed at the Cobblestone Inn, Oberlin Kansas...lost track of miles on this day, maybe close to 400.
June 22, 2021: Tue Day 4 - Severe Storms - Northeastern Nebraska: A slight risk for severe storms was in place for east central Nebraska eastward into northeastern Iowa. We left Oberlin targeting Grand Island to Columbus as first guess, and wound up hanging out in Columbus waiting for storms to initiate to our north per HRRR and NamNest model data. By late afternoon a broken line of storms had formed along a frontal boundary in northeast Nebraska and began moving ESE initially. We targeted the western most storm and intercepted a nice storm base and a dramatic rain foot west of Norfolk near the town of Tilden.
It wasn't long before the storms strengthened and began moving SSE. We initially attempted to stay on the south and west side of the initial storms via a gravel road network near SR45 heading south. We had a few good views of the initial storms to our north as new ones formed nearly overhead and to our east. The first image below is a panorama view looking back to our north, with the remaining images looking primarily to our east, including an interesting view of a snake-like inflow band.
Unfortunately, shortly after the above photos were taken a brand new storm formed directly to our west and quickly became severe. This new storm rapidly intensified and merged with the storms to our east, and we found ourselves in a messy situation as we continued south trying to avoid the largest hail cores. We left the largest hail cores pass eastward as we continued our way south through intense rain bands. We ended the chase in Columbus near sunset and found almost every hotel was booked solid! I really didn't feel like driving to another town for rooms so we checked into a cheap S8 for the night. We drove a little south of town just after sunset to watch some pretty updrafts from the earlier storms which were now well to our south. I took one photo and then called it a day before heading back to town for dinner. 420 miles driven on this chase day.
June 23, 2021: Wed Day 5 - Slight Risk Central Nebraska: Although there was a slight risk of severe storms, the potential appeared to be that they would not form before sunset. Some storms did form earlier in north central Nebraska, but these were forecast to quickly merge into an MCS with the main risk being hail and strong winds as they headed southeast to the I-80 corridor in eastern Nebraska. I decided not to drive several hours to these storms as darkness would have occurred well before my arrival. Also, I would be heading in the opposite direction of where I wanted to be tomorrow! Nancy and I decided to blow off the chase and relax in a nice park in the town of Stapleton hoping for some storm activity to initiate to our west before sunset. Storms did in fact form about 75-100 miles to our west, but weakened rather quickly. We bagged the day and headed south to North Platte for the night, figuring this would be a good starting point for tomorrow. In hindsight the effort to travel to the east may have paid off as it did produce a fantastic lightning display, but just one of those times where I felt no pressure to drive the many miles well into the night for lightning photography. Just 270 miles driven on this day.
June 24, 2021: Thu Day 6 - Slight Risk Eastern Colorado / Western Kansas east to Missouri: As often happens the risk for supercells was promising over the western high plains while a greater risk for tornadoes would occur along the warm front in eastern Kansas and western Missouri. I had my eye on the border region of Colorado and Kansas, but was not quite ready to make a firm commitment to this area just yet. We headed south from North Platte to Oberlin Kansas to reassess our options. Tormented by the possibilities of tornadoes to our east, we headed east to Phillipsburg Kansas under very dreary skies. After having lunch there and studying more data we decided to drop south to Stockton where we would make our final decision to commit east or west. Based on prior bad luck heading east and having a strong bias for the high plains we committed west and headed for Colby for another data review. The CAMs were bullish on storms forming to our west in Colorado so we continued west on I-70. We neared the Colorado border around 6:00pm MDT as storms began to develop to our west along I-70 and quickly became severe-warned. We made our first intercept near Stratton before backing off to our east along SR24. As we were heading east more storms began forming to our SW, so we decided to cut south at Burlington along highway 385 in order to stay ahead of these developing supercells that were moving east. We cut west on highway 40 at Cheyenne Wells to get a better look at some storm structure to our west before heading back east again to 385,
Once again we continued south on 385 to stay ahead of additional storms forming to our west and south, all the while witnessing some decent storm structure to our west. We cut west on SR96 at Sheridan Lake and encountered some hail with a new cell that was forming overhead. We managed to skirt far enough east to get out from under the hail and took one last photo back to our west.
By this time it was getting rather dark and storms were congealing all around us. With our good lighting conditions gone we decided to end the chase and head to Goodland for the night. The only problem was the storms we had been viewing earlier were now directly to our north and pummeling highway 27 to Goodland with strong winds and damaging hail. We cautiously worked our way back north in darkness slowing down just enough to let the worst of the storm's fury pass off to our east, and this made for a time consuming drive in heavy rain and wind. We made it safely (but exhausted) to the Holiday Inn Express in Goodland with 540 miles for the day logged on the odometer.
June 25, 2021: Fri Day 7 - Supercells - Slight Risk far Eastern Colorado, all of Kansas, south to the Texas Panhandle: A day that held great promise for supercells and one that didn't disappoint. The CAM models were persistent in showing a big cell coming out of far southeast Colorado (Baca County) and heading west towards the Kansas/Oklahoma Panhandle region. We didn't waste any time heading south from Goodland to Elkhart Kansas as a good first guess. By 3pm local we were able to see a big anvil to our southwest while heading south on road 27, GRLevel indicated that this storm had become severe-warned. We traveled west on a dirt road from Elkhart and had our first good look at the base structure to our immediate west.
We held our position for awhile as this storm was totally isolated. Unfortunately this didn't last long as a brand new cell exploded to our immediate south and it was now time to move east. This storm eventually became the southern most storm and would be our target supercell for the remainder of the day. But first we wanted to keep an eye on the original cell as well, so we cut east on county roads C & D from Elkhart. Doing so would allow us to keep an eye on the original storm back to our west, as well as this newly developing storm cell to our south. It didn't take long to decide the storm to our south would be the main show and we would have to head east and south into the Oklahoma Panhandle. Once we were able to get south of this eastward moving supercell we took numerous photo stops looking back north (and west) from Oklahoma Panhandle routes 7 & 412 as well as from a plethora of dirt roads.
By 7pm local were able to get far enough of ahead of the storm and stopped to look back at the approaching structure. This was near the town of Balko a little north of Highway 412. The first photo is looking to our WSW and the second photo is looking to the north...quite a dramatic looking storm and way too much to take in with just one photo.
We then continued a few miles east to near Elmwood and took our final photo of this storm before it suddenly and completely fell apart. This was around 7:30pm local and there was simply nothing left to photograph.
We then headed back west to Bryans Corner for gas, and then north on 83 to Liberal where I had earlier made room reservations. Unfortunately, the storm had knocked out power for the entire town and no one was able to check anyone into their motel rooms. Since it could be hours before the power was restored, I quickly made room reservations in Guymon, about a 30 minute drive to my southwest. 370 miles driven on this day.
June 26, 2021: Sat Day 8 - Slight Risk Eastern New Mexico, Parts of Texas Panhandle & SW Oklahoma: Yet another day with the promise of supercells without having to drive to the "ends of the Earth". Northeast New Mexico looking promising for storm initiation, so we targeted Logan NM as a target to look at data and decide where to go from there. Upon arriving in Logan we had time to kill and headed a little south of town to hang out at a picturesque RR bridge while keeping an eye of the sky and radar trends. Storms began to initiate in the higher terrain to our northwest, so we decided we may as well head in that direction. We first dropped southwest to Tucumcari and then northwest on route 104 to Conchas Dam. There were indeed storms to our north and east, but nothing worth photographing. There were some newly developing storm towers back to our southeast, pretty much where we just came from and it was time to head back in that direction. In hindsight I should have just stayed put as a supercell soon developed right over Logan!
We then proceeded south on 469 and 392 as this storm became severe warned and started diving to the southeast. We continued with this storm down to I-40 and then south into the northwest Texas Panhandle via route 214 to west of Hereford. By this time we were well east of the southeastward moving storm and we able to cut west on CR1058 in order to get a good look at the front end of the storm. Unfortunately the storm was becoming outflow dominate, but still exhibited some nice shelf cloud structure.
We took our final photos from the intersection of routes 214 & 1058 looking back to our west along 1058 as the gusty storm approached. Soon after these photos were taken the storm quickly weakened and merged with other storms.
We abandoned the chase at this point, headed back to Hereford and then north to I-40 and then east bound to Shamrock, Texas for the night. The next several days did not look at all promising for any severe weather to occur across the Great Plains, so it was time to start heading eastward towards home. In all about 420 miles driven on this chase day.
June 27, 2021: Sun Day 9 - No Severe Storms - Homeward Bound: We left Shamrock and headed towards home via I40/I44 which would put us along a frontal boundary with a "marginal" risk for severe weather. Although a few weak storm updrafts were seen, no severe weather occurred. We booked rooms in St Roberts, Missouri and added another 536 miles to the odometer.
June 28, 2021: Mon Day 10 - General Thunder - Most of eastern CONUS: We observed some pretty updrafts along the way to our next nights stay in Cambridge, Ohio...but no storms occurred nearby. 636 miles driven.
June 29, 2021: Tue Day 11 - General Thunder - No Slight Risk of storms anywhere in CONUS: One of the very rare times when I turned my back on the plains and headed for home when no slight risk of severe storms didn't materialize somewhere in the Great Plains, nor would there be any risk for the next few days. 340 miles driven on the last day of our storm chase season.