On day five we woke up at 5:45 am knowing we had a hell of a drive ahead of us if we wanted to be anywhere there might be a storm. We were heading to Winner, South Dakota
. We got on the road at about seven and began heading northeast from Liberal. Dave took the first leg of driving up until Lexington, NE and I took the rest so he could forecast and navigate us through any potential storm and tough driving.
After leaving Lexington we headed north from I-80 on Route 183 North through the easternmost part of the Nebraska Sand Hills
. It was truly some of the most beautiful topography I've ever seen. There were farms on the hillsides. The grass blowing in the wind was magical. The layer of green on the hills looked soft to the touch. I was awed. And humbled. And I've looked and looked and can't find a decent picture online. Unfortunately we were in get there mode so I didn't have time to stop and shoot any photos either. Sigh.
We crossed into South Dakota (my first time to the state!) and headed north toward Winner, South Dakota where we stopped for gas and caffeine at the 'Lil Feller gas station, market, and casino. Truly bizarre. And people have very odd accents here.
Storms began bubbling up to the west of us and we wanted to get southeast in time for initiation. So we started driving southeast on these 2 lane highways through the middle of nowhere in South Dakota.
A cell popped up and looked promising, but it split and eventually died off. We crossed the Missouri River and found a place up on a hill to watch the storms come in. A second cell popped up right behind the first and did the same thing. But this time, one of the splits gained some momentum and turned into a large, high precipitation, supercell. Now, all supercells have some precipitation, but when it's a high precipitation supercell it's so much rain and hail that you can't see what's actually happening in the storm.
Through the amazing navigation and forecasting skills of my cousin, he got us into the "notch" of the storm, an area close to the potentially tornadic area with little rain. It's the only place that you can see what's going on. We sat there for awhile while the storm headed toward us. It was raining pretty solidly and I was unable to get to my camera gear. The only photos I have of the cell were taken with my iPhone through the rainy and bug splattered windshield.
After leaving the notch we headed southeast through the hills of South Dakota with the storm to our west. We got caught in some of the outflow
winds as we were driving away and the car was being tossed all over the road. There's something especially scary about driving on a skinny two lane bridge across the widest part of the Missouri River with 50 + mph winds hitting you broadside. I got the hell out of there FAST. We circled the storm and decided to spend the night in Yankton, South Dakota. The storm we were chasing turned into a hell of an MCS
with an incredible lightning show.