USA Storm Chase 2018

Day 6: Limon, CO to Garden City, KS

The weather models for today were showing some nice long-track supercells, initiating in Eastern Colorado and moving east into Kansas. It was a leisurely start at noon as we headed east through the scenic rolling countryside of the Black Forest / Palmer's Divide area of eastern Colorado. The cumulus fields started to form in earnest as we drove along:

Clouds

We made a quick stop for lunch at Walmart, Elizabeth, CO, but whilst we were inside the storm just to the west of town exploded and developed a very nice rotating wall cloud. This is the view we had from the car park:

Wall cloud

We made a dash for it and headed slightly east for a better view. Unfortunately it lost some of its structure but was putting out some impressive close lightning strikes and a few small shear funnels overhead:

Storm

Storm

The storm then organised further and turned into a huge High Precipitaion (HP) supercell. It was roughly following the Interstate and here we've stopped to watch the leading edge approach. As the gust front hit us the temperature must have dropped around 20-30F in seconds!:

Storm

Storm

Storm

Another small chaser convergence:

Storm

We continued ahead of the storm, stopping every now and then to take photos before it caught up! It now had large hail so we wanted to avoid that (for now!):

Storm

Storm

Storm

Storm

Here is a view of the storm coming towards us, right down I70:

Storm

At the next stopping point we were faced with this view as the monster storm rolled towards us:

Storm

We decided to have a play with the edge of the hail core, which was only a mile or so from us by now. We were unsure of the size, but knew they were around 2.5 inches or more:

Storm

We drove in on a dirt road near Flagler, CO. Within 30 seconds or so we had cracked the windscreens on 2 of the 3 cars! I was in car 2 and a baseball-sized stone left a 6-inch wide circular crack right in the middle. Luckily they held together and nothing smashed through. For a few minutes we were bombarded with horizontal golf-to-baseball-sized hail as we tried to get back ahead of the storm. The sound was deafening, but it was great fun! We finally got out and reached the town of Sharon Springs, KS where we could briefly assess the damage before we let the storm roll over once again. Luckily this time hail was only around 1 inch or so:

Hail

Hail

Hail

After it had passed we drove out of town to see if we could find some large stones on the ground as the core passed just to our south. Along the way we saw vegetation all over the roads, stripped from the trees, and a semi-truck and trailer in a ditch where it had skidded on the hail on the road. We found what we were looking for just south of town:

Hail

Hail

Hail

Hail

Hail

Hail

The storm ended up travelling over 300 miles, across 3 states, causing havoc on the Interstate. We watched the storm move away into the distance around sunset and all took photos of the battle-damaged cars:

Rainbow

Rainbow

Damage

Damage

Damage

Damage

Sunset

Sunset

The fun wasn't over later in the evening either. We had a further line of mid-level thunderstorms pass over the hotel until the early hours of the morning:

Lightning

Lightning

Lightning