MONDAY FORECAST DISCUSSION: Yes. Another possible tornado.
Another spectacular display of atmospheric dynamics Sunday in the Bear Lodge Mountains.
A right-mover supercell that was tracking East through Crook County and Devils Tower took a sharp turn South around 5:30 PM Sunday evening – dropping golfball hail and gaining speed.
After passing through Sundance, hail quickly grew larger than golf balls (around 2”) and began rotating aggressively as it approaches the a Western Hills.
Once again, I thought to myself. “No. Surely not again in the Western Hills.”
Sure enough, a storm chaser North of Newcastle, Wyoming around 6:30 Sunday evening captured a photogenic cone tornado 🌪 ripping through open prairie Southeast of Sundance – in the Lee of the Western Black Hills.
I am NOT sharing his picture here, because I believe the picture belongs to him – he worked hard tracking and documenting this storm and I haven’t -yet- gotten permission to share it. If you want to see the picture, you can check out his twitter account – (David Baxter III) @dyb3_ohiowxnut
There was a severe thunderstorm warning, but no tornado warning ever sounded. Why not?
The national weather service in Rapid City does an exceptional job – they had an extremely tough call to make with little data. Here’s where the issue lies.
There is a LARGE radar-hole in Northeastern Wyoming. All weather data for areas West of the Black Hills through Campbell County and Gillette has to come from either satellite, in person reports… OR…. the New Underwood radar station… many miles EAST of the Black Hills.
Radar beams fired by the radar are at a slight upward angle, so by the time they reach the Western a hills you run into three major problems.
1. Curvature of the Earth
2. The Black Hills themselves
3. Lack of complimentary radar on the Western side of the Hills.
This means that radar beams are only detecting the higher portions of thunderstorms out towards Crook, Weston and Campbell County. NOT the lower levels.
At that height, EVERY thunderstorm Sunday was rotating like crazy. Spinning like tops. But just because it’s spinning at the top doesn’t mean there’s tornadoes at the bottom.
Could you imagine putting a tornado warning on EVERY single thunderstorm we had yesterday Northeastern Wyoming? Madness! There would be so many false alarms it would defeat the purpose.
So, I sat in the weather studio. Mic’ed up 🎤 ready to go on the green screen for a tornado warning. It’s our policy to not cut in for a possible tornado unless we have independent confirmation of a tornado from storm spotters or a declaration by the national weather service.
By the time reports started streaming in of a brief tornado in Weston County, the storm was already over.
I’ve asked Santa 🎅 several years now for a NWS radar station in Northeastern Wyoming – those lower level scans are SO important, and even if a storm spotters sees a tornado in that area, they have to drive to an area with cell service to transmit the vital information.
Thankfully, so far there are no confirmed reports of damage (I think the trees have had enough) but the hail certainly made enough noise. The national weather service will more than likely head that direction in the next day or two to confirm the tornado report.
What about today?
The Black Hills and areas east of the hills are in a slight risk (2/5) risk for severe weather this afternoon and evening. Large hail and damaging winds will be the main threat. (and the possible isolated tornado)
The jet stream will lift northward by Tuesday and Wednesday, we’re looking at 90s all the way from Wednesday to Sunday. With the summer heat dome locking in place – our thunderstorm activity will shift to very isolated storm-bombs that are very typical of July and August. That is to say is most of us will see no rain at all, but off in the distance you’ll see a cumulonimbus anvil cloud that looks like a giant explosion. If you’re under that storm – it’s one heck of a storm.
The heat dome of high pressure puts a lid on the atmosphere. The heat and humidity is there, but heat is unable to rise to due the “cap” on the atmosphere.
If a storm DOES manage to break that cap, now you’ve dropped a match in a gas truck. That storm will use all that energy to become a stand alone marvel. So, In other words, you have a very low chance for a very big, slow moving storm Wednesday through Sunday. Impressive and beautiful from a distance, an absolute monster if you’re underneath it.
Keep all plans in place – this is the summer you’re looking for this week with plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures. Just make sure to have a contingency plan. Storms in the Black Hills region don’t mess around in the summer.
So, the only question you have to ask yourself as you’re making plans this week is….. are you feeling lucky?
Happy hunting – keep the pictures and storm reports coming.