2008 Storm Chase VII - August 13th - "Alta Vista Tornado"

     Michael and I decided to meet at the Park-And-Ride near I-70 and Peña Boulevard.  I arrived at precisely the time I intended to and we saddled up and hit the road.  Our target for the day was the Limon area.  I had forecasted a repeat performance of the previous day where supercells formed along the far eastern tracts of the Palmer Divide and rolled straight south.  Michael saw an outflow boundary come in and stall just west of Limon earlier in the day though, so we decided to stay close. 

     Convection had already initiated along the Palmer Divide and on a convergence boundary that stretched southwest to northeast. By the time we passed Deer Trail, our attention turned from the cumulus to the east to a cell popping up just northwest of Limon.  

20080813203112Z-ElbertCounty3NNWAga.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813203622Z-ElbertCounty1SSEAga.jpg picture by leporinis

20080813203824Z-ElbertCounty1NBuick.jpg picture by leporinis

     As we approached it, the storm began to look stronger.  The updraft base was very robust and it began to tower.  I envisioned paralleling it southward out of Limon on CO 71, but Michael thought it would be better to get closer and track it on dirt, which was the right choice.  We left I-70 at Cedar Point and stopped on a hillside to survey the scene. 

20080813204338Z-ElbertCountyNearCed.jpg picture by leporinis

     At this point, we were on anterior side of the updraft.  The main flow was coming into the storm from the south and maybe with a little easterly component.  We decided we wanted to get to the south of the storm.  We headed south on Elbert County Road 153 and made good time on dirt.  The next few photos were taken en route south.

20080813205314Z-ElbertCounty4WSWCed.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813205620Z-ElbertCounty6SWCeda.jpg picture by leporinis

Crossing Colorado 86 and then southbound on Elbert County 149.

20080813205804Z-ElbertCounty6NMathe.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813210410Z-ElbertCounty4NMathe.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813210604Z-ElbertCounty3NMathe.jpg picture by leporinis

By this point, we had come through the main downdraft of the storm, only experiencing some moderate rain.  The photo below was taken just before we drove through the town of Matheson, crossing US 24.

20080813211002Z-ElbertCounty1NMathe.jpg picture by leporinis

     We stopped about one mile south of Matheson.  Michael wasn't all that aware of the beautiful structure playing out as he was driving and could not see out the right window.  I was mesmerized by the structure. We had a good view from the hill we had stopped on and when he got out, he was astounded!  A windmill was spinning very rapidly as the inflow winds howled into the storm.  We were just a few minutes ahead of the outflow of the main forward-flank downdraft at this point.  This area is visible on the pictures below  with pronounced curving (almost shelving).  Another very interesting feature of this storm was an anterior updraft which had signs of anti-cyclonic rotation.  It was my belief at the time that the storm was to split.  In fact, later, a few flanking towers did split off and move along the anterior-side forward flank downdraft outflow.  (And actually, with similar setup the next day, a storm moved in almost identical fashion to this one and did split).  The low-precipitation nature of this now supercellular storm gave us an amazing skeletal view of the storm's anatomy.  
     Michael and I hung around until the outflow arrived, taking some video and pictures and just enjoying being in the presence of this amazing storm.  

20080813211324Z-ElbertCounty3SMathe.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813211352Z-ElbertCounty3SMathe.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813211506Z-ElbertCounty3SMathe.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813211526Z-ElbertCounty3SMa-1.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813211626Z-ElbertCounty3SMathe.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813211820Z-ElbertCounty3SMathe.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813212016Z-ElbertCounty3SMathe.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813212148Z-ElbertCounty3SMathe.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813212334Z-ElbertCounty3SMathe.jpg picture by leporinis

      We had only been back on the road for a minute or so before I saw a field of sunflowers on the west side of the road.  I thought it would be a good place to take a few more pictures and Michael agreed. 

20080813212506Z-ElbertCounty4SMathe.jpg picture by leporinis

20080813212512Z-ElbertCounty4SMathe.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813212542Z-ElbertCounty4SMathe.jpg picture by leporinis

      Back on the road, we continued south to keep pace with the storm.  We stopped again at the junction of CR (County Road) 149 and CR 46.  I got out and took a few more photos and really focused on the motion of the storm.  Looking to the north and then northeast, there really wasn't all that precipitation.  The main core had shifted far to the east with very turbulent-looking clouds bridging the core from the updraft.  It was a neat storm. 

20080813213444Z-ElbertCounty7EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813213512Z-ElbertCounty7EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis

 Looking off to the north-northeast.

20080813213520Z-ElbertCounty7EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813213642Z-ElbertCounty7EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis

 All of the sudden, we see an elevated funnel cloud traveling west to east along the tilted updraft tower. 

20080813213736Z-ElbertCounty7EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813213744Z-ElbertCounty7EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813213812Z-ElbertCounty7EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis

      No longer willing to sit this far away, we traveled east on CR 46 to get in better position on the updraft.  The structure became more clear as we approached.  I'm not sure if it was rapidly strengthening or whether we just had a better view.  The updraft was rotating fairly rapidly at this point.  It was bizarre to see a well lit mesocyclone.  I called this feature the "jellyfish meso" as it was bulbous and seemed to have tentacle-like appendages (mainly scud) twirling around its base.  

20080813214226Z-ElbertCounty5EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813214352Z-ElbertCounty5EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis

      We stopped for a good while at the intersection of CR 46 and CR 137.  We had position on the storm as it began to really interact with the stalled outflow boundary which had basically become a moisture discontinuity or dryline.  I think it was this interaction that facilitated tornadogenesis.  From this point forward, dark horizontal rolls could be seen in the updraft.  The updraft must have picked up the vorticity rolls from the boundary.  This was an exceptional scene unfolding before us! 
     Still, I kept my eyes to the beautiful scene to the northeast.  The bridge from the updraft to the main core was quite long and occasional showers would fall out of it.  The visibility to the north of the storm was fantastic.  The towers that had split off and rode the outflow to the north were beginning to strengthen, so I was watching those as well. 

20080813214546Z-ElbertCounty4EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813214558Z-ElbertCounty4EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813214930Z-ElbertCounty4EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis

A wall cloud begins to form on this unique mesocyclone.

20080813215102Z-ElbertCounty4EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis

 A strengthening tower to the northeast.

20080813215124Z-ElbertCounty4EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis

 Awesome mesocylone and wall structure.

20080813215414Z-ElbertCounty4EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813215432Z-ElbertCounty4EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis

 Looking due east to the main core.

20080813215604Z-ElbertCounty4EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis

 Horizontal vorticity tubes picked up by the updraft.

20080813215948Z-ElbertCounty4EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis

 Very interesting formation on one of the northeast towers.  It persisted for about five minutes.  Though I could see no obvious signs of rotation on the tower, I'll leave the posibility open that it could have been a non-supercell funnel as that tower was riding the outflow boundary.  If it weren't for the fact that our storm was spinning like a top, I would have loved to have intercepted this storm and see it up close.  As it turned out, the feature disappeared shortly thereafter and our attention returned to the storm at hand.

20080813220024Z-ElbertCounty4EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813220400Z-ElbertCounty4EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis

Again, horiztonal roll in the updraft.

20080813220500Z-ElbertCounty4EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813220512Z-ElbertCounty4EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813221248Z-ElbertCounty4EAltaV.jpg picture by leporinis

 BELOW: Amazing iridesence overhead.

20080813221602Z-ElPasoCounty1NEAlta.jpg picture by leporinis

     We traveled north a mile or so to Harrisville Road and then west into El Paso County.  The storm had lowered quite a lot ... it was amazingly low considering the dry conditions.  Our eyes were focused hard on the updraft and soon Michael saw something peeking out while I was taking video.  It took us only a moment to realize what exactly it was ... (this part is on the video) ... and we saw a beautiful cone-shaped funnel veiled in updraft scud.  

20080813221650Z-ElPasoCounty1NEAlta.jpg picture by leporinis

      My gaze shifted to the west-southwest and my jaw dropped.  There was a large cloud of dust on the ground.  It took a moment to process and I pointed excitedly.  Debris! Debris!  I brought up the video as Michael said "we have a touchdown!"  I was literally shaking (having never seen a tornado before).  I did my best to capture the moment via video (which is pretty bad video!) and then I saw the red battery light flashing!   
     I ran back to the car to dig into my supply of double A's when my spotter training kicked in.  I dropped my camera and got on my phone.  I dialed the Boulder NWS as I wasn't aware we had passed into El Paso County.  I'm not exactly sure what I said (my memory seems to shot off on occasions like this), but I told them we had a tornado in Elbert County and eventually was able to figure out what road we were on (Harrisville) and a general location.  This was enough to get the warning out for Elbert County (a small sliver).  El Paso County was warned a few minutes later by Pueblo.  
     I quickly threw in some new batteries and continued taking video.  Michael wanted a closer intercept, so we hopped back in the car and drove southbound and parallel to the tornado on Simla Highway.  Unfortunately, we didn't have a good east-west intercept option, so we settled on a hill with a good view and watched the tornado dissipate.

20080813222402Z-ElPasoCounty1SEAlta.jpg picture by leporinis

      Moments later, we began getting calls and texts.  "The storm you are on is tornado-warned!"  ... we knew.  THAT was an awesome feeling.  I called Boulder back to let them know the tornado was gone and cleared up as much information as possible at bout the location and duration.  
     The storm's updraft quickly lost strength and a consolidated along the "bridge" to the east.  It passed over us without a drop and we decided to follow it to the east and then south.  We were in contact with Tony too, who wanted some shots for the 5 o'clock news at Channel 7.  We found a place with good cell coverage and Michael uploaded some photos.  I took the time to take some more photos of the storm as it moved off to the south east.

20080813224722Z-ElPaso-ElbertCounty.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813225000Z-ElPaso-ElbertCounty.jpg picture by leporinis

 Amazing rear-flank downdraft "hole" or "punch".  (Subsiding air possibly related to the collapse of an overshooting top). 

20080813225210Z-ElPaso-ElbertCounty.jpg picture by leporinis

Anti-crepuscular rays made apparent by hail falling through the rear-flank downdraft.

20080813225350Z-ElPaso-ElbertCounty.jpg picture by leporinis

     We hung out there for a while and I even spoke with a member of the Elbert County Sherrif's Department who was out tracking the storm.  Tony was texting us updates on the storm's progress as well as other severe storms that had developed to the south.  We decided to try and intercept.  The following images were taken on Colorado 94 as we raced east to Colorado 71. 

20080813231004Z-LincolnCounty7SEKut.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813231228Z-LincolnCounty4WPunk.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813231420Z-LincolnCounty2WPunk.jpg picture by leporinis


20080813231510Z-LincolnCounty1WPunk.jpg picture by leporinis

      We cored a storm to the south of Punkin Center that had heavy rain and some small hail (maybe dime-sized at largest).  Minesweeping for hail was certainly on the agenda as well.  Coming out of the core we found out that the storms to the south were weaking, so we stopped to take recon at BB Road in Crowley County and decided to turn back.

20080813234702Z-CrowleyCounty17NSug.jpg picture by leporinis

  As opposed to "fast danger"?

20080813234754Z-CrowleyCounty17NSug.jpg picture by leporinis

Another shot of a rainbow on the way back north.

20080814000130Z-LincolnCounty10SWKa.jpg picture by leporinis

     We took a nice leisurely ride back to Denver and met Tony and Ed Grubb at Outback near the park-and-ride for a big steak.  That's what you do when you see a tornado, you eat a big freaking steak.  I had the porterhouse cut.  It was fantastic. (although the picture below looks really gross!!)

20080814033526Z-DenverParkfieldColo.jpg picture by leporinis





= Tony Laubach
= Verne Carlson

Miles Traveled:
Rotating Storms:
Funnel Clouds:
at least 2
Cores punched:
Largest hail encountered:
Music of choice:
Scary Kids Scaring Kids
True North Honey Wheat Peanut Crunches
Outback Steakhouse (Denver)
Memorable quotes:
"That's my first tornado ... right there ...and I'm out of batteries!"



20080813ChaseMap.jpg picture by leporinis


This first video is the first cut I did of our chase.  It's basically the raw footage with sound along with the 7NEWS footage.

This is the recut footage including time-lapse of the storm structure, the Good Morning America footage, and the sound is replaced wiht music.