June 7, 1995

Storms Near La Junta, Colorado


Several days in June of 1995, I chased with Al Moller and Chuck Doswell. This was one of those days.

We started the day at the Dodge City, Kansas National Weather Service Forecast Office. This office is staffed with friendly professionals, whose courtesy and knowledge are always a benefit.

A "cold" front had passed through Kansas and the high plains of eastern Colorado the day before. There was a chance that upslope easterly flow at the surface would develop behind the front as a large upper level storm system intensified over the southwestern U.S. and sent waves of instability northeast over the Rockies. Often during late Spring, this scenario produces severe weather outbreaks in eastern Colorado, spreading into Kansas and Nebraska overnight. This was one of those events.


The Dodge City, Kansas National Weather Service Forecast Office.

Al Moller checked wind profiler data. He was looking for the development of easterly upslope winds flowing toward eastern Colorado, north of the surface front .

Al and Chuck reviewed their hand drawn map analysis of weather conditions over the central and high plains.

A close look at the 850 mb chart showed a high pressure ridge over eastern Colorado that would have to move further eastward for upslope winds to develop later in the day.

By noon, dew points began to rise at the Dodge City office. The wind direction had changed from northerly to northeasterly. Both were good signs that upslope flow was developing.
The 500 mb chart revealed a short wave approaching from Arizona. The general lift from this feature when combined with high speed mid and upper level difluent winds flowing over the mountains would contribute to development of a lea side trough and upslope winds at the surface.
Shortly after noon, several other chasers arrived at the Dodge City NWSFO. Lively discussions ensued. Many of these chasers are meteorologists with an intense interest in severe weather forecasting. These happenstance meetings often develop into mini-symposiums on severe weather forecasting techniques. There is no doubt that the local forecasts benefit from the lively discussions and the concentration of knowledge and expertise.

Another key to the puzzle - a cirrus streak of higher velocity winds was approaching eastern Colorado from the Gulf of California. Cirrus streaks and the associated upper and mid-level wind maxima are often associated with severe weather when combined with favorable surface conditions.

We departed Dodge City later in the afternoon and drove to a location just west of La Junta, Colorado. The time shown in the image is in Central Daylight Savings time (CDST), which translates to 7:34 p.m. MDST. Looking SSW at a developing supercell, with a shallow wall cloud underneath the rain free base.
After further development, the anvil developed a straight edged look on its SE side, an indication of a strong steady-state updraft. The wall cloud had grown in size and also lowered to tap into the moist boundary layer air.
A close-up of the wall cloud revealed rain curtains wrapping around its southern side.
Looking WNW at a second mesocyclone. I checked into the local SKYWARN net and reported the development of these two impressive supercell thunderstorms directly to the National Weather Service in Colorado.
Lightning zits danced around the wall cloud/rain free base intersection.
Looking WNW at the "second" meso.
Looking SSW at the approaching "first" meso.
Looking WNW as a CG penetrated an inflow / tail cloud northeast of the "second" meso. The sirens sounded in La Junta about the time this image was taken. Doppler radar indicated a possible tornado. I did not spot a tornado, but did see funnel shaped clouds when lightning provided needed, but brief illumination under the wall cloud.
Same CG a few video frames later.
Lightning revealed the ragged underside of the wall cloud.
Looking SSW again as an RFD notch developed with the first meso.
Looking WNW as the two mesos couple.
We abandoned our spotting location as the leading edge of the southern storm moved over our location.

Copyright 1995 - Samuel D. Barricklow - All rights reserved.


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Last revised: November 29, 2003