Scott, Peter and “The Twister”?
2004 05 10
MN to NE


It was a sunny but cool morning. The cold front that triggered the previous day’s thunderstorms had cleared things out quite nicely. I was feeling a bit better now - I found out later in the trip that it had been my mild allergy to grass causing all my problems. I guess with chasing on the Prairies I should have thought of this! Some allergy meds and all was fine again…D’oh!


There was no WI-FI at the Days Inn in Sioux Falls, so were able to grab just a bit of data for the day – enough to know that we had a lot of driving to do. It looked like the panhandle area in western Nebraska would be the hot spot. We left Sioux Falls around 9 am and headed west on I-90.


At about 12:30 pm, we decided we needed some food and stopped in Murdo, about half way across the state. We ate at The Diner and the locals didn’t know what to make of us at first. This is what I imagined towns on the Plains would be like – wind-weathered and dusty with simple but friendly people. They were mostly farmers, and once they figured out we were storm chasers, they had fun talking weather with us. And the food was great!


Main street in Murdo.


After a bit of looking, we realized there was no chance of getting WI-FI in Murdo and gave up on getting more data. A route to our south looked to give the most options, so we headed down 83 toward Nebraska.


We entered the Rosebud Indian Reservation after we got off of 83 onto 18 - a very lonely road that would take us south and west. At around 2:15 pm, we pulled off and got some pictures of neat wave clouds that were covering the sky. A little farther along, we found little whitish craters marring the landscape – there were hundreds of them! I noticed that near each one was a little Prairie Dog, and we had to pull over to get a better look. They were pretty cute, but very shy. A few stayed out of their holes long enough for us to get some video.


Photograph of wave clouds, facing roughly south.


The landscape heading south down 83.

We see the holes, now where are the dogs?


Come on, little doggie…

 Aha…finally an appearance!


At around 3:30 pm, we stopped in Gordon, Nebraska for gas and data. A man looking like a real cowboy (the Stetson, the embroidered shirt, the jeans, the big belt-buckle, etc.) asked us if we were storm chasers and of course we said yes. He said he owned a radio station called The Twister just a few miles up the road and that we should come by. I asked if he had internet there and if we could use it to look at some data and he said sure. So, we were off to The Twister!



“Well you said you wanted to see a Twister, didn’t ya?”, and Mark getting data at the station.


The radio station was a tiny building in the middle of nothing but was inviting inside. His daughter and his dog greeted us and he showed us around while we perused a bit of data on his computer. There appeared to be some convection in our target area and the US Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has issued some mesoscale discussions (MDs). We decided that we needed to head for the Alliance, Nebraska area. After grabbing a stack of The Twister bumper stickers and saying thanks, we were off again.


The Twister bumper sticker.


At around 5 pm, we stopped north of Alliance. There was some cumulus (Cu) with limited development, but it didn’t seem that storms would be popping anytime soon. It looked like we might stay here for a while to assess the situation, so it was time for some photo practice with a few “creative” shots…none of which turned out very well. This was practice, after all.


Mark on the cell phone with Scott and Peter.


It was at this point that Scott McPartland and Peter Ventre, veteran chasers from Queens, New York, joined the convoy. They brought news that storms had developed but they were in Colorado and Wyoming – we were really out of position. We decided we might be able to intercept a storm or two in Wyoming, so we headed southwest along 385 ending up in the aptly-named Scottsbluff at around 6:30 pm. We decided to get some food here as well as a few photos of what we assumed to be Scott’s Bluff (by this time, Scott had claimed it for his own).


Dave Lewison with Scott, Peter, Mark and Sarah.


It was getting late now, but the only action was well west of us in Wyoming, so we decided we might as well head west and hope for some lightning shots. We reached the Wyoming border at around 8 pm with storms that appeared to be dissipating to our distant west and south. Time for a few more “creative” shots. We found out later that there had been a really photogenic tornado in Colorado – rats!


Photograph of the sun as it sets behind distant storms, just inside the Wyoming border facing roughly west.



At the Wyoming state line.


“Drive-Up Liquor” at The State Line bar.


It was getting dark, so we headed back to Scottsbluff, disappointed. While we ate dinner, a severe warned storm hit giving some nice lightning and a bit of wind. With our target area being western Nebraska again the next day, we drove to Ogallala, Nebraska to sleep with storms raging all the way. We got into Ogallala at around 12:30 am.



All text and images by Dave Sills Copyright 2004

(except for Twister bumper sticker)

Unauthorized use prohibited. All rights reserved.



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