Oh. My. Goodness. Wow. What?
I scored the storm I had always dreamed of yesterday. Gorgeous, sunlit tornadoes condensing to the ground over fields of green and nothing else. Not a chaser traffic jam. Mudding excitement. It was in a word: awesome. In fact, I am still in awe over the whole thing.
I had the pleasure of once again chasing with my friend Mike, and this time his friend Sean as well. They had their hearts set on southeastern Colorado, and I was totally down with that plan since it meant we’d be closer to home at the end of the chase. They were pointing out cu fields and towers that I somewhat saw (okay, eventually the cu field became unavoidable!), and as storms began to spring up around us, they mostly ignored them. Sure, they grumbled about tornadoes being reported, and that Pueblo storm? What the heck happened there?! But I digress….
Their goal was this little tiny poof of adorableness coming out of the Raton, NM area, slowly drifting into more favorable air. We kept an eye on it, I filmed it as it grew and died, and then it grew some more and died again. At one point we talked about leaving it, but I don’t think they were ever serious. So I sat in the car and wondered if we were going to miss everything, simply because they had chosen their storm and were stubbornly sticking with it.
Then it happened: the winds began to stir up, and the storm seemed to come alive. We encountered a wall cloud that gathered itself for a moment…and quickly disappeared again. Undeterred, we continued to follow the storm. As we came up closer to the area of rotation indicated on radar, we saw it: a crazy amount of rising and sinking motion, accompanied by plenty of rotation. It put out a few tiny, needly funnels, and then everything spread out once more. We followed after it, and not even a mile down the road it condensed. Screeching to a stop off the road, we grabbed our camera equipment and snapped photo after photo of a gorgeous white funnel that slowly condensed all the way to the ground.
The motion was incredible; it danced and spun and, well…let me show you:
Shortly after its incredible display, the funnel turned into a long, skinny one and finally lifted. We chased after the storm, down a reasonable dirt road. After we caught up it dropped another, much larger cone. I couldn’t believe it; as I snapped picture after picture, a satellite tornado roped around it. That video will come later; it’s pretty shaky. I think I was dancing while I filmed.
We leapt in the car and tried to keep on it down some of the muddiest roads I had ever seen. Most avoided this route, and because of that they missed the next round. It managed to drop a few more tornadoes; we only saw one of them, and then the storm started to die out. Whether it was from the outflow boundary from other storms or the freezing cold air just behind us, I couldn’t tell. But, the storm was finished and so were we; we headed home.
What followed was about two hours of snowfall on I-70, I-25, and Hwy 36. Anywhere from five to ten inches fell across the metro area, and it was a ridiculous mess. We lost count after twenty or so cars had gone off the road; but Mike drove like a champ, and I limped my way home in my car from his apartment. I’m still tired this morning, but holy cow was it worth it.
Video not enough for you? Check out my photography page for more, and my Flickr album for a few structure shots as well. When’s the next chase? I should probably figure that out, but man do I hope it’s in that same area next time. What an incredible backdrop. It’s almost enough to wonder how much land costs down there….