June 11, 2009 Chase

Bridget, Ron Denney (our tour guest), and myself targeted northeast Colorado on this day, anticipating a good upslope event. We left Hays, KS and drove west on I-70, across the border into Colorado and eventually Seibert. I was expecting storms to fire east of Denver along the US36 corridor, so we turned north onto CO59 out of Seibert and headed towards the town of Cope, where we then turned back west onto 36. The country was beautiful but desolate, and I was beginning to grow slightly concerned about our gas situation. Having never chased in eastern Colorado, I was learning just how sparse the population and towns were in this region. I had decided on Last Chance as a place to sit and await storm initiation, and was under the impression we could get gas there as well. Fortunately we came upon a gas station in Anton beforehand, so I just stopped there instead. Once we eventually arrived in Last Chance, I saw that this was a good decision, as there was virtually nothing in town, including the infamous "Dairy King" that chasers had spoken about for years. Now, it seemed to be closed down, like the rest of the town.

There was no decent viewing location from inside or even near town, so I decided to keep moving west along US36. Eventually we began to see what looked like an area of precip starting to our WSW, so we drove until we found a nice viewing spot and then sat, watched, and waited. Within minutes a storm came into view, some distance away. We watched it for a while, but then learned of another storm behind it that was tornado-warned. We quickly jumped into the car and raced west, hoping to beat the storm to I-70, where we could turn southeast and get on the inflow side.

We came into Byers just ahead of the storm, jumped onto I-70, and headed southeast to get ahead of it. After a few miles, we found a crossover road and stopped. To our distant southeast, we could see a lowered base. The storm in front of us looked to move by us to the northwest, so we just held our ground and let it pass as we waited for the lowering on the other storm to move closer. Eventually it did, and after a while, we began to see rotation. The storm was fighting outflow, which was trying to blow it out to the east as a precip core developed and began to accelerate towards us. However, the rotation to our immediate southeast began to intensify. Suddenly, underneath the ragged, rotating base, a debris whirl shot up. The brief tornado lasted maybe thirty seconds, continuing as a dust whirl beneath the rotating base. After it began to dissipate, we turned back southeast onto I-70 and drove out ahead of the storm, which was continuing to surge outward towards us. We moved ahead of it, but by now the storm was taking on a "whale's mouth" appearance, morphing into high-precipitation mode. With no good road to stay ahead of it with, and the vanishing visibility due to rain, we abandoned the storm for a new one forming well south of us near Pueblo.

We drove southeast down US287/40 towards Kit Carson, hoping the storm near Pueblo would hold together. We continued on 287 through Kit Carson and into Eads, where we turned west onto CO96. By this time, the storm had maintained itself well, and we were gaining confidence that it would stay around long enough for us to reach it. We passed through the towns of Hawkins, Galatea, and Haswell. The highway turned towards the south near Arlington, where we turned back west onto CR F. We drove a few miles west, enjoying the wide open view. Eventually we stopped and watched the storm evolve. It had a pair of wall clouds, but neither was rotating or even showing much upward motion. We sat in our spot for a long while, watching the two lowered areas as the storm evolved. Several minutes later, the lowered area furthest south began to fill with precip, and not long afterwards, this popped out of the rain. This possible tornado didn't stay around long, as it was buried when the rain once again began to fill the area. After it vanished, we moved further west, then turned south, eventually hooking back up with CO96.

We'd gotten mixed up on our directions, not realizing at the time our westbound highway had turned south almost due south before we turned onto CR F. The time spent getting our bearings back cost us valuable position time, and we got caught behind the storm for the rest of the event. We dropped south on CO109 through Cheraw to La Junta, where we had to stop for fuel. Once we were back on the road, we spent the rest of the day driving down US50, trailing the storm's core and getting cored by a barrage of pea to dime sized hail, the heaviest hail dump I've ever experienced. We made it to Lamar right at dark, but spent the better part of an hour trying to find a room, as the VORTEX 2 people had arrived in town just before us, and had already taken most of the available lodging. We settled for a less-than-stellar place on the east side of town, which featured a bathroom door that broke off the hinge. A difficult and sometimes-frustrating chase, but it produced my first Colorado tornado, albeit brief and weak.