Storm chasing is grueling. Most people I speak to about chasing don't realize how exhausting it really is. It's a lot of work for very little reward. You spend 10-15 hours in the car everyday, eating crappy food, not getting enough sleep, and putting yourself in high stress situations again and again. The goal is always to see a tornado, but occasionally the universe gives you a non-tornadic gift of a stunning supercell. Days like that, especially in the high plains of Colorado, South Dakota, and Nebraska are good for the soul. They help me recharge, refocus, and reflect. We were lucky enough to have two of those days in a row this year.
After leaving Liberal, KS on 5/24, we headed up into Northwest Colorado where we had a fairly uneventful and unsuccessful chase that ended in North Platte, NE. Since I'd gotten very little sleep the night before, I tried to go to bed early-ish and I missed an incredible lightning show. These things happen.
The next morning, we woke up in North Platte to absolutely incredible weather outside. It was truly spectacular. Low 80's, sunshine, with a nice cool breeze. Perfect. I spent some time in the morning talking on the phone to my husband, whom I've been away from way too much this month. It was lovely. We got on the road around 11am, and headed north out of North Platte to meet Roger in Chadron, NE to chase in northern Nebraska/southern South Dakota. I was really excited about this because these are two of my favorite states, especially South Dakota. It ended up being one of the most beautiful chase days of the trip.
After seeing some towering cumulus up north near Rapid City, SD, we decided to head in that direction. I had never been to this region of South Dakota, and it was truly spectacular. We were on the edge of the Black Hills and the Badlands, and I need to return to explore both. We went north out of Rapid City and began chasing one of the most beautiful storms I've ever seen. The landscape was perfect, the storm was perfect, and the lighting was perfect. The lightning, however, was trying to kill us. There were several really close lightning strikes that sent us all scurrying back to the car.
As we continued east on 90, the storm began to dissipate, and we ended up on a hill looking out over the Black Hills, watching the sun set behind the tilting updraft of the dying storm.
After the sun set completely, we went back west on I-90, had dinner in Rapid City, and drove back south toward Chadron where we stayed in the surprisingly nice, Western Inn.
The next day was a similarly beautiful chase, except this time in Nebraska. We drove back to North Platte and waited for storms to initiate. Towers began going up a little east of us, so we headed back down to I-80 and blasted east. There was this huge, explosive updraft, with a great anvil above it, and nothing was showing up on radar! All the science guys in the group were a bit perplexed; until we got to the storm and realized that it was a LP (Low Preciptation) supercell which was hardly raining at all. But it was so beautiful.
In the end, even after a couple of chase days without tornadoes, I felt healed. In many ways, the Moore tornado damaged my soul and my psyche. The two days of beauty in the High Plains helped to heal me a little bit. In the words of Roger, I needed some "High Plains Therapy."