MAY 30

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by Hummer Storm Chaser

The Only Storm in the Sky

Bassett Nebraska pizza Hummer
Dark supercell Wood Lake Nebraska
Storm over Wood Lake Nebraska

After a day of equipment testing in Topeka, the VORTEX2 project was left with choices of two potential storm area activity in either northeast Kansas/northwest Missouri, or some areas of interest in far northern Nebraska. The steering committee deli berated and settled on the system farther away, and at the end of Friday they had chosen wisely. The northeast Kansas activity evaporated, while a large supercell brewed in northern Nebraska, and left Wood Lake with one-inch hail dropping all over like a golf driving range gone mad.

The VORTEX2 armada pulled out of Topeka in the morning, headed for Lincoln, Nebraska, but by the time the vehicles reached Lincoln it was clearer that something was coming up in the northwest. There was concern that the storm was too far west, although it was moving east at about 20 mph. The roads were getting smaller and spaced farther apart as the VORTEX2 crews aimed up at Taylor, Nebraska, at about 7 pm. Stopping only for fuel, the armada of 40-some vehicles covered 400 miles from its departure in Topeka. In the lead was the Doppler On Wheels number 7 radar truck with Dr. Josh Wurman directing radar placements around the 20-square mile area of burbling skies filled with tall, puffy cumulonimbus clouds.

Just in time, three dual Doppler radar trucks started collecting their images, capturing the storm as it moved over Wood Lake, dropping its little frozen missiles on the town. The exceptionally dark clouds had streaks of white on the rear flank of their organized mass, a sign of hail, which reflects much brighter than rain. Sandy shoulders on the road almost prevented the DOW number 6 truck from leveling itself with its large hydraulic stabilizers, but the crew made use of wooden cribbing to right the 26,000-pound machine and get the radar level.

The only supercell to be born May 29 in North America had been caught and captured in multi-dimensional radar images by the VORTEX2 project, adding another set of accurate data about how these atmospheric monsters originate and evolve. At 9 pm, the vehicles started their return trip to Grand Island, 200 miles to the south, to prepare for potential storms farther east, although the outlook is for storms in Illinois, out of the domain of the project.

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