The Valparaiso University Storm Intercept Team was faced with a decision to either keep spotting massive, high-precipitation rain-wrapped storms in Kansas or take an adventure to northeast Colorado where confidence was extraordinarily high that an isolated supercell would develop and trek from Denver into Nebraska. Knowing that less moisture in CO typically results in beautiful storms and easy-to-spot tornadoes, as well as the fact that every storm chaser and his mother would be in Kansas, we took this route, stumbled upon hardly anyone and watched a picturesque storm for hours.
As there were initially two storms that looked formidable, we hesitated on committing to either for a long while. As the southern storm became increasingly intense and started destroying the northern storm with its heavy rain and hail core, it was clear that this one south of Fort Morgan, CO would win out. At first it had multiple scuddy lowerings, like it was not sure what it was doing.
The base was very thick and so was the hail core.
The lead vehicle watches.
The ribbed scud at the surface tilting up into the vertical into the storm was amazing.
The chiseled mothership structure was incredible.
We all watch.
It put down a series of knobby lowerings with each subtle rear-flank downdraft surge and clear slot.
A second or third RFD surge finally consolidated the wall cloud into a large but compact lowering.
This lowering was further eroded into a tight and rapidly rotating cone which morphed into a very large funnel that never quite touched the ground, though tornadic winds were assumed at this point.
What a funnel.
Radar revealed the supercell’s complex inner structure. This tornado was situated within one of multiple occlusions, this one coincident with a tight hook echo just south of Fort Morgan. Meanwhile, a new mesocyclone was forming out ahead over our location.
It took one more wet RFD to tighten this wedge-shaped lowering into a classic elephant trunk tornado. It danced in the rain a bit before it lifted.
Knowing that this rotation was occluding and a new mesocyclone was forming ahead, we did the best we could to use a terrible road network to follow the storm. We opted to come in safely right behind it as another quick tornado formed.
The area of rotation it carouseled around was quickly tightening up but becoming extremely wrapped in rain and hail.
One short peek at a funnel and it was gone, dealing tornadic damage from this point onward as it crossed the road in front of us. The circular shape overhead was unreal.
We were cautiously following under the RFD in weird lighting and lots of strange motions.
We finally poked out from behind and were treated with a spectacular beast of a Colorado storm.