Severe Thunderstorms produce a rash of gustandes near the small town of Rose, Nebraska followed by a large gustando near O'Neill.
May 29, 2011 - Lincoln, Nebraska - Storms Fail To Break Cap
Today we set forth for the plains and head for Nebraska. The region was looking at some severe weather potential, but it wasn't too promising for tornadoes.
The start of the trip became interesting. Severe storms were ongoing in central Illinois so we decided to drive south to near I-80 to intercept a bow-echo. The storms looked decent on radar, but to no avail, the only excitement was some cloud to ground lightning and heavy rain. We traveled west and set our sights on the Omaha, Nebraska area.
The short term high resolution models were hinting at some isolated storm development across southeastern Nebraska. A very warm and humid airmass was pooled across Nebraska into southern Iowa. A stationary front had settled across the area along with some decent low level convergence. Satellite imagery showed an interesting area of towering cumulus southwest of Omaha, Nebraska that had persisted for 2 hours. Around 6 p.m. it appeared some storms were indeed trying to form. We pulled into Council Bluffs, Iowa to stop for gas and make a decision to chase. The first storm went up, but was soon choked off from a stout cap. A couple of storms soon followed but the same result had occurred. The sky was full of orphan anvils and we thought about finding a hotel for the night. While upon doing so, there was one storm northeast of Lincoln, Nebraska, that persisted and appeared to break the cap. We decided to get back on I-80 and travel southwest toward Lincoln. Shortly thereafter the Storm Prediction Center had issued a tornado watch for most of the region. If storms did manage to sustain themselves, they would have had a good chance of producing tornadoes. Instability and shear was more than adequate for sure. We soon reached the storm and it had a very high base. The reflectivity on radar was also decreasing. We pulled over and watched the storm die a slow death as the updraft became cut off. We drove through Lincoln, Nebraska and found a hotel full of storm chasers and called it a night.
May 30, 2011 - Gustnadoes Across Nebraska
Today was expected to be a big day. Not a big tornado day, but a decent severe weather day across the high plains. Our target area was going to be eastern South Dakota or northern Nebraska. The HRRR and RUC model was consistent in developing convection across Nebraska along a stationary front. We decided to target this area. 0-6km shear was around 50 knots and instability was in the 2500 j/pg range. We headed east on I-80 to Grand Island, Nebraska and then drove north along Highway 281. The terrain and road network became concerning as we entered the eastern part of the Nebraska Sandhills, but that was to be expected. We got stopped in O'Neill at McDonald's. A cumulus field developed along a convergence zone on the front west near Atkinson, Nebraska. We drove on highway 20 to where the front was located and waited patiently. It was only a matter of time when storms would initiate. Shortly after, SPC had issued a tornado watch.
Storms began to fire across central Nebraska and the chase was on. However, we had a decision to make. Do we wait for them to travel northeast towards our location or travel south to meet up with them? I wanted to hang back and wait as they would mature so we could utilize the better road networks across the far northern part of Nebraska. James wanted to go south and get on them right away as these storms were predicted to go linear. rather quickly. Will they go linear right away or stay discrete long enough for tornadic potential? James took the laptop, made a decision without my input and we headed south on Highway 183. Our goal was to get down there and see if it would produce anything as it traveled by. It appeared there were no west or east options to follow the storms as the progressed northeast.
Satellite Tornado - Rose, Nebraska
We eventually entered Rose, Nebraska (very small uninhabitable area) and noticed a lowering to our southwest. It could have been a shelf cloud from the rear flank downdraft, but we were too far north to tell. At this time, the two isolated cells congealed into one and it appeared to becoming more supercelluar on radar. The storms were out in open terrain which was another good thing. We were feeling good about our chances, but little did we know, our luck had run out. When everything was looking good, I started to equipment problems. We soon lost our internet connection causing the radar updates on GRLevel III not to be accurate. On top of that, my laptop was freezing up due to the dirty electricity possibly from the power inverter. The HD camcorder was low on a battery and had to plug it into the converter to charge it up. I powered the camcorder back up and hit record, so i thought.
We focused our attention southwest toward the HP Supercell. It was a dirty looking storm and had a dark brown appearance. Interestingly, no storm chasers were to be seen. We were in the outer edge of the mesocyclone with the wall cloud further west. As the storm drew closer I was busy drying to fix the laptop and assumed the camcorder was recording. The inflow was increasing into the storm blowing from northeast to southwest toward the lowering. Boy, was I wrong.
Suddenly, the inflow increased drastically gusting over 30 to possibly 40 mph. I knew something was wrong. This wasn't the inflow like Shannon Lupton and I experienced last year when we stood east of the Bowdle, South Dakota Supercell. This inflow wasn't gradual, it was sudden and felt very different. The inflow ramped up even more with debris swirling up up next to the SUV full of dirt and dead grass. We bolted south and saw storm chasers down the road videotaping whatever was behind us. It didn't seem like a gustnado because the rear flank downdraft|outflow was still to our southwest. I looked out the window behind us to detect a localized vortex eddy along the mesocyclone which picked up debris that nearly went over our SUV. We stopped about 3 miles south and the inflow was now out of the south blowing due north. The rear flank downdraft about to hit us and drove south again to see a small gustando in the field. There were reports of storm chasers having their vehicles damaged by large hail north of our location along highway 183.
O'Neill Nebraska - Gustnado
We headed back east towards O'Neill as an additional storm appeared to becoming more supercelluar. While it moved to our north, there was considerable dust being picked up. This appeared to be a large gustnado. The cloud base appeared to be rotating, but we were also moving which made the cloud movement seem worse than it really was at that time. The debris from the gustnado reached all the way up to the cloud base. Storm Chasers reported this as a tornado, but we seemed sure it was only a gustando. We ended the night as we drove back east on Highway 20 and found a hotel Sioux City, Iowa. I was excited to watch the footage of the satellite tornado that hit us. To my disappointment, the camcorder didn't record and lost good footage which is now only entrained in my memory.
Make sure to browse the chase logs section for additional Storm Chasing Fever Chasing Adventures.