We begin our birthday week with a couple of days on the plains chasing. Several setups were possible according to the SPC Day 1 forecast from MN through IA, NE, and south through the remainder of the alley.
I decided to make a play toward Lincoln NE but first, ride the boundary that was setting up to my West. Parallel to I35.
I decided to play a possible "Tail End Charlie scenario with a cluster of cells that had popped up southwest of my position fairly quickly and looked promising.
Racing South on I35 to meet up with the cluster, I watched it line out quite rapidly taking out any chance of a cell being able to parlay what little shear there was available to get things rotating.
Just outside of Audibon, I was able to find a side road that rose quite impressively so much so when I reached the top, I was able to see the entire valley to my west along with the oncoming front and a very ragged shelf cloud on its leading edge. Basically signally the end of the chase before it even started.
Little lightning, a little thunder, a little hail. Not much in the way of productive elements when you're out chasing for Tornadoes. The positive was I wasn't veered off my original planned course so lost no time with this slight detour.
You can see elements of a Meso attempting to get its act together, Just not enough atmospherically to play with and soon it died. Some remaining low hanging "cloud fruit" made for an eerily strange palate to the afternoon.
Screw this. Actually? All I had lost was the time I'd fiddle fucked around chasing this storm "wanna be" Time to get back on course and maybe put a little lead to the pedal to make up for some lost time.
It was about that time I'd received a text from Amanda Hill letting me know that they were located not too far from where I was and her and Nick Elms were headed back home after a protracted period of successful chasing in NE. I had been tracking their progress the following week and that had been one of my deciding factors for choosing Central NE as my base of operations for the next couple of days.
As I plodded along, I had originally thought Lincoln NE would be about the length of time I wanted to be in the vehicle for the day.But as I entered the area, I realized I didn't want to be in any metro area overnight. And so, I expanded my choices on I80 to include Grand Island, Hastings, and Kearney if my back and ass could tolerate a few more hours of freeway punishment.
Remembering that Amanda had mentioned a brewery in Kearney NE called Thunderhead Brewing and knowing full well that other chasing friends had made the trek there to sample their wares, who was I to miss out on an opportunity to combine two of my favorite hobbies: Drinking Beer and Chasing Storms. You simply don't go that far into Nebraska without stopping there. It's going to be my new rule.
I mean how many places can you go to drink beer and pregame your activities while watching the home team hit atmospheric batting practice? I never did get into the record store across the street.
After a couple of beers and a little nosh at Thunderhead, Decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel but only after a brief stop at the local liquor and cigar stores. I squealed like a little girl when I found out that Thunderhead was canning the very product (their Honey Wheat Ale) I was fawning over at dinner.
Sitting out on Kearney's Country Inn's front "patio" overlooking the parking lot sussing out my immediate domain, listening to the StormviewLive crew on Zello and smoking my AF Curly Head Natural, I began to hear excited chaser voices exclaiming the storm they were on in Grand Central NE. Fifty miles to my east.
I poke my head around the corner.
Oh! Would you look at that!
Do I drive to intercept? Nope. I've been drinking and in strange territory. We'll sit this one out. Besides, the thought of another 100 mile round trip doesn't sit well with my ass at that point in the evening.
Zello: "Heavy Rain and Hail in Grand Island"
One look at the radar can confirm that bit of news...
Zello: "You ought to see the lightning show I'm witnessing right now"
Well? as it turns out we all were getting a show. A heavy duty cell had developed to the SE of my Hotel patio and was casting off some wonderful cloud to cloud lighting that could be seen where I was.
Having burned off any buzz I'd acquired I decided to try my hand at grabbing a few shots of lightning before retiring for the evening. I was a bit disappointed at the performance of my lens but the fault was entirely my own for not taking the time to set it up with my camera body prior to hitting the road. The focus at infinty basically sucked.
Keep in mind folks this view was almost sixty miles away!
After about 45 minutes of mindblowing long distance cloud to cloud, I was completely fried. I was lucky to make it back the five miles I had taken to get to the open field in view of the storm at hand.
But I had one last stop to make before beddy bye.
The setup for tomorrow is looking promising.