It doesn’t always have to be about tornadoes, clear slots, and core punching. Sometimes you just need a photogenic thunderstorm in Nebraska in late June to make an enjoyable chase.
Tuesday, June 30 was a sweltering hot day, with temperatures in the 90s and dewpoints climbing into the high 60s, even 70 in some areas. There was also a slight risk for thunderstorms across South Dakota and Nebraska, the southern edge of the risk area included portions of Dawson County and all of Buffalo.
The reason for the risk was a nearly stationary cold front, sitting just to the west of Dawson County in a north south line. Almost visible on satellite thanks to the cloud formations, winds were out of the southwest ahead of the front and behind it, nearly 180 degrees difference.
There was also extreme instability, with CAPE values reaching around 4,500 to 5,000 j/kg. Yet storm formation was held off until the early evening thanks to very warm temperatures aloft in the 700 mb range. As the cold front began to advance east, it would allow cooler temperatures to move in above the unstable air, leaving air parcels only one way to go, up.
The Storm Prediction Center placed most of central Nebraska under a severe weather watch during the late afternoon hours.
Around 7 p.m. a discrete thunderstorm formed just to the west of Lexington and began moving northeast. This cell seemed to take on some rotation and could have shown low precipitation supercell characteristics, but this was short lived as wind profile favored more upscale growth.
I left Odessa around this time to catch up with the storm and had a good view of as I traveled west. At Lexington I turned north and had my whole field of vision looking north filled with the developing thunderstorm updraft and an inflow tail which was coming in from the southeast.
I moved north using the county roads to keep up with the storm as it continued on, heading for the Sumner area. I had to do a little back tracking as the north road I was on indicated no outlet and my right turn resulted in a dead end road.
I finally found a Road 444, paved roads are a godsend when storm chasing, and headed north but stopped a couple times to get more photos of the storm as a rainbow appeared. By this point the storm had picked up a severe weather warning and was dropping inch sized hail in the Sumner area.
I turned east on Highway 40, which has become one of my favorite roads during the 2020 season, and shadowed the storms as they moved away. I chose to not press so close because I actually couldn’t get all of the storm structure in even my wide angle lenses’ frame.
I turned north once I reached Miller and found a hill to sit on and let the storms move further away so I could fit more in frame. By this point my storm was showing signs it was weakening.
I headed further east on Highway 40 and found a great spot to turn off and watch. As my cell weakened, a new storm was developing over Hall County and was beginning to dominate the sky, but while I was waiting for the sun to go down, I had a view of my dying storm to the north and a growing one to the northeast.
I held positon here snapping various shots near a corn field which was being irrigated. I wanted to wait until the sun was going down, because the light from the setting sun can create some amazing views and colors in the clouds.
Sure enough, as the sun dipped below a cloud deck, I had a brilliant orange display to my back with the storms illuminated orange and pink in front of me.
After the sunset I was treated to an orange glow on the western horizon. After this I chose to call the chase due to the fading light.
All in all, this was a simple but enjoyable local chase.
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