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Chase Log: Fort Morgan
Date:May 20th 2004........
: Minimal 
Location: Fort Morgan Colorado. The wall cloud formed just south of Greeley Colorado.

We had a clear view of the Supercell forming over Weld County in Colorado. Today we sat on hi-way 34 near Riverside Reservoir where we filmed a Classic Tornado on July 21st 2000. That storm moved south/east where today's was moving east northeast. Colorado storms tend to go over the same areas. They seem to like to head towards Fort Morgan no matter what direction they come from.

We drove ahead of the storm until we got to road 144 where we saw ground disturbance just beneath the center of the storm about 30 seconds before the national weather service issued its first tornado warning for the cell based on Doppler radar detecting rotation within the storm. A Doppler indicated tornado does not mean there is a tornado, but that radar detects rotation of a possible tornado. Krystallin who was with me was impressed at how quickly the warning was issued after we saw the ground disturbance.

The storm became difficult to position at this point because it lost it's tight base, which now seemed slightly fractured. We stopped for a short time just north of hi-way 76 by road 144 that leads to Orchard trying to decide which direction to go. While sitting here we saw a tube like funnel coming from the center of the storm and going all the way to the ground. The clear tube like funnel was barely visible and just south of all the hail and rain, near the center of the storm. The funnel was almost completely transparent and was probably weak tornadic spin. Debris was underneath  it, but it was very weak, and there were multiple down drafts in front if it and to its south. Doppler radar indicated a tornado, but sitting just to the north and east of the storm we couldn't tell how much spin was in the debris cloud..

We came to I 76 and had to choose where to go. We decided after sitting for a few minutes to drive about 2 miles north on hi-way 39. Once we started going up that way it was clear there was more hail moving at us than we wanted to endure and I didn't see anything very exciting so we turned around. The hail had moved more south at this point than it had been just 10 minutes before which would mean the storm made a slight right turn for a short time.  A funnel was slightly apparent in the storm but not impressive or very convincing. If it hadn't been for doppler radar indicating a tornado I would have thought the storm was only producing strong downdrafts.  Here we met up with multiple chase vehicles along with a sheriff with his lights flashing along the road. They were all heading south on 39 towards I 76 which is what we did also at this point.  Later I heard from my friend who lives in Weldona that he was hit in the head with a golf ball sized hail shortly after this while watching the storm. He didn't even know there was a warning on the storm. He also said golf ball size hail really hurts when it hits you in the head.

At this point the storm looked more disorganized to us. Where once we had a clear circular supercell, we now had something that looked more like multiple cells. The tight circular base was now rounded at the front, but lengthened out as it trailed southwest and looked more like an egg shape. The backside of the storm looked fractured and even though a doppler indicated tornado warning was still in effect for the storm.  We wondered if it was dying out. Large sections of clouds appeared to break off from the main storm. We drove towards Fort Morgan to get back ahead of the main storm and couldn't help but notice there wasn't a clear wall cloud to be seen anywhere. Rain and hail were not just to the northeast of the storm, but now were directly east of it. I wondered how any updraft would keep going if no warm air was being channeled into it anymore.

The most intense part appeared to be to the north of Fort Morgan, but the debris was very close to the Old Sugar Factory.  We saw at least 8 storm chase vehicles parked on the far western corner of Fort Morgan just east of the weigh station all looking to the north. Arriving in Fort Morgan, looking north of the Park a funnel looked to be leaning sideways towards the city, but it wasn't very distinct. I thought of the old position of the storm when it was south of 34, and if the storm had moved east north east it should be just north of the city as it appeared to be. But yet all the debris and winds seemed to be closer to the city.  It is possible it was the RFD or FFD of the storm that was blowing so hard.  Home

Wall Cloud forming before tornado touchdown Click for large view

It was a great view with little rain or hail by us. All the rain and hail was north and west of our position on hiway 34. When we came back an hour later there was hail piled up to about one inch deep all over 34 just to the east of Masters Colorado.

Wall Cloud forming before tornado touchdown

Looking behind the storm and to the northwest of us, we could see hail was falling over Hi-way 34.

Last photo before we moved further east past Masters.

The hail and rain event is seen here just to the west of the storm and was being blown in a northly direction as it fell.


Time Lapse Video of Storm Forming Minutes before tornado

Time Lapse video of this storm building and others as they near tornado formation.

It was a classic supercell. We measured dew points of 45 degrees with our Kestrel 3000, which may be why it was never a low based wall cloud. We saw a low wall cloud the day before in South Dakota.


Tornado Warning is issued for the area


Tornado Warning is issued for the area


Tornado Warning is issued for the area

Tornado Warning is issued for the area

Look below at this rare August Tornado in Agate Colorado on August 9 2004.

Agate Tornado August 9 2004
Click above for Agate Colorado Tornado August 9 2004.  home of Tornado Tim