Yesterday's chase day was intense. We experienced softball sized hail, tornadic circulation at close range, and some ugliness on the part of other "chasers."
We headed Northwest to O'Neill, Nebraska from Omaha. I was driving and cruising along at 80 MPH when I was pulled over for speeding. Sigh. Into the glove compartment with the other ticket. It's part of the cost of chasing, I suppose.
We finally get into O'Neill and continue northwest into Atkinson. We weren't hopeful because the storms started off looking like they were going to merge into a squall line almost immediately. That didn't happen and a couple of them began to look like messy supercells. We stopped to take a bunch of photos and video, but when we started getting hit by cold outflow instead of warm inflow we decided to leave that storm, let it go past us, and wait for the next one.
As we're driving down this narrow country rode toward Highway 11 at a decent speed (though nothing excessive), I see a GIANT hailstone hit the road in front of me and explode into a zillion pieces. I say, "uh, was that hail?" Keith says, "I suppose it could have been," as we both see another GIANT hailstone hit a pond and produce a splash that went at least 3 feet in the air.
I start flying down the road and huge hail is falling all around us. I just want to get the hell out.
But I can't.
I can't because Sean Casey and the TIV and the Discovery Channel Crew are blocking the whole road. They refuse to let me pass because (I assume) that it will ruin their shot. When I finally get around one of them, they come flying up behind me flashing their lights and freaking out and generally trying to run us off the road. By this point everyone in the car is screaming obscenities, I'm leaning on the horn, and we all want to KILL the discovery channel fuckers.
As we finally make it to the intersection of Highway 11 and Highway 20, the TIV and crew are blocking the intersection. Large hail is still falling around us. I say "fuck it" and go around them on the grass. They get so pissed off that one of the Discovery film crews nearly drives right into the TIV. It would have been poetic justice.
Hail is still falling all around us so we decide to take cover. The only place we could find was a under a tree on someone's front lawn. It was our only option. I would have driven right into a random person's garage had it been open. This hail was huge.
Once the hail danger passed, we decided to head back into town to see what was coming next.
We decide to go after the next cell in the line and take this road that appeared paved on the map. It would have been fantastic, except the pavement ended. I had to drive us on muddy, rutted, dirt roads as a rotating supercell heads our way. Dave and Keith tell me to turn left, and as I do, we all see a disorganized tornadic circulation kicking up dust right in front of us.
We backtrack and get the hell out.
At that point the storm began to lose strength and show signs of becoming outflow dominant. We decided to let it get away from us and shoot pictures of the outflow sky. It was really incredible.
All in all, this was one of the tougher and more stressful chases that I've had.