As the guests from Tour 6 left, I had time to do my laundry and get ready to meet the new group of guests who would be chasing with me on Tour 7.
On Sunday morning, we rushed to wake up very early at 5:30 AM and packed up the vans because we had to travel from Denver, CO all the way to Minnesota. This was because all of the data suggested strongly that there would be a significant tornado outbreak there. The suggestion by the data was so strong that our guide, Roger, said he hadn’t seen anything look so good since the last tornado outbreak all the way back on April 14, 2012.
That day, we drove 970 miles with very quick bathroom and food breaks to try to get ourselves in the best position to see the storms develop. After our arrival, the clouds appeared to be developing, but Roger was not convinced that things were going as they appeared to be by the data we had seen as we traveled. Storms very slowly developed and it was a disappointing surprise because Mother Nature was not performing as expected. Every time a storm developed, it would quickly die, due to excess warm air at cloud level. This situation is commonly referred to as a cap because the atmosphere can get so warm that the air will basically kill any clouds that try to rise. In order to get a thunderstorm, the air around the cloud that is rising has to be colder than the cloud itself, sort of like a hot air balloon. In a lot of cases, when the atmosphere is capped, it can be a good thing because if one cloud can break the cap, then the thunderstorms will develop in an explosive manor.
So, after traveling all of those miles, it was a bit of a disappointment to see things die so quickly. It was however, a blessing to those who lived in those areas. As the tour continued, we had several more days of situations similar to what we experienced in Minnesota where things looked great on paper, but one thing would be missing from the mix and the storms wouldn’t quite get going as forecast.
Finally on Friday, the last day of our tour, we came upon a storm in Nebraska. The storm was quite a small storm, but it looked very impressive. Even better, it was over a huge field of grass. We watched the storm for a long time and it just kept itself together. Suddenly, the winds began to increase. The wind blew at a steady speed for at least 30 minutes. It was like someone took a huge fan and just kept turning up the speed. This steadily increasing wind was actually the inflow wind to the storm. Roger told us this was a good sign because it meant the storm was slowly gaining strength. Suddenly, just as the sun was about to set, the storm produced 3 small tornadoes, one right after the other. Everyone was so surprised and excited. After all of those miles traveled, which was about 3,850, we finally saw a few tornadoes.
None of us wants to see a tornado form and destroy people, animals, or property so it is a strange thing to go chasing storms hoping to see one. Yet, each year, as the chasers work, they send information to the National Weather Service to help them make the forecasts better and to improve the warnings for severe weather and tornadoes. So while we marvel at these powerful storms, we’re also doing more to keep people safe when they arrive.