Scottsbluff and Night Structure - May 22nd

Posted on 24th May, 2018

We had a relatively leisurely start today, although I had been woken up by the neighbouring room at 3 in the morning. I'm not sure what was going on - it sounded like a cross between a massive argument and rampant sex. Either way, it was disturbing and struggled to sleep after that. I was in a room far away from the others so met up at breakfast. Interestingly, See Nature's Fury stayed in the same hotel and it was once again good to catch up.


It was my turn to put some miles in and around 9:30 we set off north and up through the I25 into Colorado. We were on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains and the drive was the most spectacular journey I have ever undertaken. Canyon-like terrain with snow-topped mountains in the background. It was stunning! I've often become tearful with awe when it comes to weather, but it's the first time a landscape scene has overwhelmed me.


Rocky Mountains in the background, driving along the I25

Nice view of the Rocky Mountains on our drive north along the I25


Pulling in the miles, we stopped in Puerto for some fuel. For a massive city, we really struggled to find a gas station. After a real convoluted trip around the suburbs, we eventually found one, topped up and then continued our journey.


Daniel and Dave had already ended up about 60-80 miles to our north by this point, so (for today at least), it was just the three of us. They aimed to meet us in Castle Pines, which is south of Denver, for lunch. They were long gone by the time we were able to reach them. We stopped for lunch at Pino's Italian. Our server, quite possibly Pino himself - we never did ask, was very attentive and friendly. Great sandwich, a Dr Pepper and a comfort break saw us back on the road, with Olly taking the wheel.


The journey took us north up through Denver. Driving on the main route through Denver was a bit fraught, where high speeds, lack of people providing braking distance and last minute lane changes made this part of the journey higher octane than chasing a storm! Once through the centre, we head north west towards Sterling for a refuel and then onwards to Sidney in Nebraska, to re-evaluate models and see what was kicking off around us.


At Sidney, we decided that given the models and the direction of the storms that were kicking off, that Alliance may be the next logical stop. It would appear that Dave and Daniel also had the same idea - as they ended up missing some of the storms that kicked off in the south of South Dakota. Due to lack of data coverage (thanks Nebraska...) we missed the mesoscale discussion issued. Reading through, we decided that we would need to head back west towards Scottsbluff and potentially then onwards into Wyoming. Letting Daniel and Dave know, they also confirmed they had decided to return to Scottsbluff (which was our earliest target suggestion today...) and we would meet up and discuss what to do next. 


We had arranged to meet in the Walmart and whilst waiting, a storm cell had shown explosive initiation to our north-east guessed it, Alliance.  What a troll Mother Nature can be. Given our position, the speed and the road layout of Nebraska, we wouldn't have been able to reach the storm, as it powered off into the north. Our only option was to sit as the storms from Denver rolled over to our position and hope for some lightning. 


The troll supercell, initiating where our target had been

What a troll... we were heading for Alliance but didn't stick with it!


I gave a shout to head towards the Scotts Bluff National Park, where some dramatic foreground of the bluff would make for some amazing photo opportunities. We parked up on a layby near the entrance and awaited the storms to roll to us. We were there for some time as the light started to fade - the storms were a good 40 miles away at the start, so we had a lot of time to kill. We were there for so long in fact that the local sheriff came to ask us what we were up to. He was fine with us being there, although warned us of the dangers that lurked within the grass (mainly the odd rattler, or the coyotes in the area...). He seemed a bit more distracted by a corvette that sped pass us whilst chatting to us...


Eventually the storm rolled in over the bluff...and the following photographs speak for themselves. They lacked the lightning we had hoped, but the long exposure on their structure was well worth waiting for.


Long exposure of a shelf cloud rolling in over the Scotts Bluff National Monument

Storms rolling in over the Scotts Bluff National Monument


With a strong gust front to finish off the photography session, we left towards Applebees for our dinner, before retiring to our hotel rooms at the Super 8 in Scottsbluff. Despite seeing little storm action, we'd still consider the positive photography session a success. Our next chase area for tomorrow is yet to be decided, but with risks all around, we are perfectly positioned to at least get a storm. As always, thanks for reading!

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