Like many May days in Tornado Alley, a chance of severe storms presented itself on Saturday the 7th. Models indicated storms might fire along one of two boundaries draped across Northeast Colorado. Knowing that it was a 5 hour drive to our initial target of Last Chance, Colorado, my chase partner Justin Dean and I departed Wichita, Kansas at 7 am. It is our ritual to eat at certain fast food establishments when in particular areas of the High Plains. Our good luck charm for Northwest Kansas and Eastern Colorado is Burger King. We arrived in Colby, Kansas at noon, visited the local Burger King and continued west into Colorado.
Storms began firing on the western boundary at around 2:00pm near Denver. These storms looked messy from initiation, so Justin and I decided to play a little further east. Our storms began intensifying an hour later to the east of Limon. We re-positioned further east and let the storms build as they pushed in our direction. I always tell Justin that patience will prevail, and once again that rang true.
At approximately 4:05pm our storm was placed under a Tornado Warning. By 4:14, we had a small, brief spin up near Heartstrong, Colorado. No damage was reported as the tornado churned dust in an open field.
The storm continued on a northeasterly path, crossing the Eckley, Colorado vicinity. Here, a boundary was draped east to west, and as the storm interacted with the boundary, a beautiful elephant trunk tornado developed.
This tornado near Eckley produced no damage, but was on the ground for three miles and lasted approximately five minutes. As the storm moved north of the boundary, the tornado dissipated and the supercell became elevated. Ironically, this photo was taken where another tornado would do damage an hour later.
We stayed near Wray, Colorado as another storm was moving in from the south. We were intrigued as to what the storm may do when it interacted with the same boundary that helped the previous storm rotate.
The base of the storm seemed sky high as it approached Wray, but as it continued north and approached our location, the base began to lower. We watched as RFD blew dust across the horizon and noted intense rotation only one mile south of our location.
We bolted east to stay out of the path of this developing tornado. It weakened and dissipated just as it was passing over the south side of Wray, however less than a minute later, the most significant tornado of the day was born.
The tornado slowly continued north, almost sitting still at times. It was rated EF-2, with the roof of a house, farm equipment and an 18-wheeler truck taking the brunt of the damage. A couple people also sustained non-life threatening injuries.
Overall, it was a low-end severe weather day with amazing structure, stunning tornadoes, and definitely worth the 980 mile journey.
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