|Tornado Alley Expedition 2006
May 29th - June 15th
(c) 2006 Martin Kucera & FloridaLightning.com
|May 29th, 2006
Drove from St. Louis,MO down to Pratt, KS area and intercepted this photogenic storm just south
of the KS/OK border. It briefly displayed severe characteristics, soon became quite outflow
dominant and later evolved into a large cluster of storms with high winds, picking up a lot of dust
in the area. It never had much lightning with it although it kept going well into the night. We
called off the chase after dark and went to Woodward, OK for the night.
|May 30th, 2006
Today we left Woodward,OK for Guymon,OK in hopes of tracking down something better than
the previous day. The initial setup and the SPC forecast did not look bad but early in the afternoon
it became obvious that many things just are not right. There was one storm that made our day
though. A single weird cell that kept moving to the SSW. It kept on going for hours before it
finally merged with a thunderstorm complex to it's west shortly before dark. We were able to
witness an incredible lightning show with this cell. Later in the evening we punched through
some nasty rain and high winds on the right flank of the huge thunderstorm complex just south
of the I-40 in far western Oklahoma. Currently in Shamrock, TX for the night.
|May 31st, 2006
Drove from Shamrock, TX to Limon, CO. Did not expect to chase anything today. Storms were
pretty much about nothing so we planned to head north toward Denver. After driving for more
than an hour through canyons of NE New Mexico it turns out there was no more paved road
and a huge area of heavy rain ahead of us. Turned around and went back to Boise City, OK and
then north all the way to Limon, CO. Lost more than two hours doing so. Saw some nice
localized updrafts and occasional lightning along the way. It is cold here in Colorado for Florida
people. Shot some lousy lightning and stayed overnight in Limon, CO. Heading to the mountains
out west tomorrow eventually reaching Yellowstone, N.P., before turning east again to chase
Dakotas throughout the upcoming weekend.
Inactive storm pattern brought us to the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
|June 2nd, 2006
Another day off or two and a trip to Yellowstone National Park. Stayed overnight in one of the
lodges to be able to work around sunset and sunrise hours which bring out the best of colors.
|June 3rd, 2006
Spent an early morning around the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Woke up 4:30am to be there
for sunrise. After that I hiked down to the Lower Falls overlook - took me about an hour. Funny
how fast you run out of breath hiking at this altitude. Left just before noon for a long drive back
to Black Hills of South Dakota and on eastward for more storm photography in the evening.
|June 4th, 2006
After an exhausting and long drive yesterday this was going to be a true day off. No storms on
horizon until the next day. Checked in the best place to stay while being out here and certainly
the most favorite place of ours, Canistota, SD. In the late afternoon we left for a special place.
Manchester, SD. This town was devastated on one seemingly peaceful afternoon in June of 2003.
There is nothing left today. Nothing. Except for some twisted trees, one old house still standing,
bent sheet metal wrapped around the trees and several concrete foundations. Nothing else is left.
|June 5th, 2006
A day of extreme ups and downs. All morning I was thinking about picking Mitchell, SD as a
today's target area. We spent the previous night in the immediate area. But in the end decided to
stick to SPC forecast and went south-west toward Nebraska/Kansas border. As soon as we got
there a great looking supercell developed just north-east of Mitchell, SD. I have been frustrated
before but this was almost too much to take especially with this season being so slow so far. The
cell got tornado warned soon after and a tornado was confirmed on the ground. Meanwhile
there was a line of thunderstorms developing ahead of a cold front in NW Nebraska. I decided to
go track those but they looked very weak, only adding to the frustration. We would not give up
Following the best looking cell around the area of McCook, NE we observed huge and close
lightning bolts, a wall cloud and a possible tornado obscured in heavy rain. The day finally paid
off shortly before sunset. The sky just went crazy, no other way to put it. I let the cells pass to
our SE and photographed the back side of the cluster with mammatus, plenty of lightning and
large amounts of dust giving the entire sky freaky red cast. What an incredible evening it turned
out to be. All in all we have seen no more than a dozen passing cars in the area. What a great
experience. Spending night in Colby, KS for possible tomorrow chase in eastern Colorado.
|June 6th, 2006
Another day off in central Colorado. Took a trip to the Pikes Peak, which at 14.110 ft.,
represents one of the highest elevations in the United States. The road trip up there takes about
two hours. Once you get to the top the signs of altitude sickness really kick in. Headache,
sleepiness, disorientation and dizziness just to name a few we experienced. In fact it is a very
strange feeling to describe I guess you need to just go up there and see for yourself.
|June 9th, 2006
Today's setup was to play out in SE SD, NW IA & NE NE area. We were in a position to
intercept a quite uninteresting cell except for it's notable downburst/hail characteristics.
The ingredients were just not right and we called off the chase shortly before sunset.
|June 10th, 2006
The best day of the season. Also a day of incredible ups and downs again. We decided not to
chase the line of storms in E Nebraska. Instead we targeted the lonely cell in NE Colorado only
to be quite disappointed as soon as we get to the area. It really struggled for a long time. Rain
shafts all over the horizon all around us, no decent updrafts and so on. Later, about a hopeless
hour later it finally happened. Suddenly the cell turned right and got itself free from other mess
to it's north. We dipped quickly about 25 miles south and the show was on. What followed was
simply incredible. We stuck around the cell till it went weak later at night in NW Kansas. Wow,
what an amazing structure on the storm we photographed. Staying in Colby, KS for
|June 11th, 2006
Targeted Ft. Morgan, CO today. Did not expect as good of a day as yesterday. Storms initiated
first just east and over Denver, CO. We intercepted the only decent looking cell early on. It was
quite outflow dominant and never got it's act together. Later the cell became a part of a severe
warned line of storms that moved over and north of Limon, CO where we decide to call the
chase off. Photographed a nice shelf passing over Limon area during just around sunset time.
Small hail, frequent lightning, gusty winds up to 70 mph and heavy rainfall followed shortly
after. Staying in Limon for another Colorado chase tomorrow.
|June 12th, 2006
On the way back home. The weather pattern is really not working out well this season. May
take a flight out to the Plains in case of any future better set ups but for now, I will do much
better in Florida. The storm season there is in it's prime with lightning activity nearing it's
maximum in July and August. The same goes for waterspout activity. That is going to be a very
active time period for me and the upcoming weeks and months are going to be very exciting.
We are going to do a little side trip on our way back to the Keys. Today we drove from Limon,
CO to Shamrock, TX encountering some good storms along the way.
|June 13th, 2006
Today we are on our way back to Florida. I always wanted to visit a town called Praha, TX. It is
just south of the Intestate 10, some hundred miles west of Houston, TX. A lot of history lies
withinthat small town. The church and a cemetery make pretty much make up for the center of
Unfortunately we arrived after sunset so the opportunities to explore the place or to talk to some
locals were limited.
|June 14th, 2006
Hurricane Katrina, one year later.
Visited New Orleans, LA today. Walked down the Canal Street, (in)famous Bourbon Street and
then we drove to the areas that suffered the most during the hurricane Katrina. The good part is
that the city is in full swing, businesses open and the general atmosphere makes you feel relaxed.
The bad news is that many of the surrounding neighborhood are pretty much gone and in rubble.
Huge piles of junk and debris still cover many streets - seems like in poor neighborhoods especially.
A short trip to St. Bernard Parish - the area that took a full brunt of flooding waters makes you feel
like you just entered a war zone. Most of the places are simply abandoned. It is going to take years
before the reconstruction process moves along. But that is well known already. Just makes me want
to think what might happen if another hurricane struck the same area anytime soon in future.
|June 15th, 2006
The last day of the trip. Saint Augustine, FL. The oldest town in the United States and no doubt
one of the most picturesque. A lot of history can be found here. I just wish we had more time to
explore. Will plan a trip in upcoming weeks to see the town closer and more personal.
|The Tornado Alley 2006 trip is over. 19 days and 11.225 miles on the road. Only several days
spent on the actual storm tracking though. The severe weather pattern was quite bad this year.
Actually one of the worst ever in recent decades. The days we did not photograph storms were
spent on sightseeing. A trip to Yellowstone N.P., was on of the highlights. So many people
traveled countless miles to Tornado Alley this year only to go back home with a large dose of
bad luck and disappointment. During the peak storm season in various parts of the country the
severe weather outbreaks are almost inevitable. This year so far has been very slow speaking of
severe weather. The really positive thing about all of this is that a slow severe weather pattern
takes much smaller toll on human lives and property. While tracking and photographing
storms we should never forget this. It is easy to think the storm chasing community prays for
huge tornado outbreaks so we can chase and photograph storms. As much as it can be true for
some strange individuals no storm spotter, chaser or photographer with a head on straight
wishes for severe weather related destruction or human lives lost. In the first place we do it to
report severe weather and to help save lives and property. The photography, video or just plain
amazement by the storm's beauty and power comes in second. With the trip to Midwest now
being completed I am going to concentrate mainly on my main passion and that is lightning
photography here in south Florida and Florida Keys. The storm season here now is in full
swing so I expect to be quite busy. I also hope that the hurricane season is going to be quite
tame since there is nothing amazing about the destruction and havoc these systems bring. Of
course, should one show up I am going to be there reporting to you from location. Generally,
hurricane conditions and weather disrupt the local atmospheric conditions to a point that one
needs to wait for almost a week till local climatology takes it's place back. Then I can return
back to tracking the amazing summertime Florida thunderstorms.
|All Images & Text