September 15th, 2010- Eastern Nebraska Scenic Storm


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This ended up being one of those days that things just sort of fall together. I knew we were under a slight risk for late day thunderstorms, but the parameters were rather run of the mill and there was a strong cap in place so I didn't think much of it. I had the day off so I figured I would monitor things and just take my camera with me to document the sunset somewhere. Around 6pm I headed to a family dinner and packed my camera gear into the car. As I was headed over a friend texted me about a mesoscale discussion mentioning brief severe storms and a possible watch for our area. Visible satillite showed some towers developing along a weak wind shift to the northwest of the Omaha metro. I headed to dinner and didn't really check on anything for awhile. An hour or so later... as I was leaving I noted some anvil blow off to the north and west and figured I better atleast check radar. To my surprise a nice little blip on radar was moving towards me rather quickly and we were now under a severe thunderstorm watch. I hate dealing with metro areas while chasing, so I figured I'd head to the west side of Omaha and wait for the quick moving cell at Wehrspann Lake, which would leave me a couple of highways to get out of the city in a hurry. Here was my first view from the pull off at the lake. You can see the base of the storm I am waiting for on the right, it was not a very tall storm by any means with the fuzzy updraft and anvil above. Another tiny storm further west made for some pretty shadows and rays over the lake.

This storm was moving alot quicker than I anticipated... I took a couple of shots of sunflowers in the sunset light, and when I looked back north it was kind of a shock to see this structure emerging to my north.

A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for quarter sized hail and some strong winds... people really didn't seem to mind and just kept going about their business. There really wasn't much electrical activity with this at all either... regardless I thought this shot of joggers on the dam in front of the leading edge of the storms base made for a cool perspective and helped give the storm some scale!

The storm kept approaching and I was pretty surprised at the structure I was seeing as it kept intensifying. Here are a couple more shots as the storm pulled in some long inflow bands but continued to struggle with outflow.

Because the storm was approaching so quickly... I decided to try and get out of the lake area and avoid traffic. I headed back to Highway 50 and headed south a few blocks towards I-80. I had to stop one more time before getting out of town as the storm gusted out and became a pretty nasty shelf lit up with orange in the sunset light.

Here are a couple more shots of this textured shelf as the storm picked up even more speed and went completely outflow dominant.

I didn't really know what to do at this point with the storm accelerating and being stuck in city traffic. But I figured I would jet down highway 50 towards the Springfield area and see if it would light up any better as the sun set completely. I cleared city traffic as I got south of the interstate and that let me put a little space between me and the storm. I turned east on Capehart Road and headed east until I had a decent north view. The storm looked pretty amazing in this light... with the textured and tiered shelf and sun lit rain curtains turning pink and orange.

Looking northeast was probably the best view as you could see the various little 'notches' in the line and the various layers in the shelf cloud as it pressed on to the east.

As it got closer it got much rounder and I could see the textures on the underside of the shelf cloud.

Finally the storm was overhead... and I have to admit to modifying this image a tad. The sign was for Capehart Road, but beacause CAPE is an acronym for us weather nerds meaning Convective Available Potential Energy, or the measure of instability in the atmosphere... I couldn't help but have a shot of a shelf cloud, with rain curtains bathed in pink on CAPE Road! Sometimes the local days you don't expect are the best chase days because you don't expect anything. I drove home elated with the images I was able to capture on only about 40 miles in gas.

What a fun local day!


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