Wray, Colorado Tornado May 7, 2016

Like many May days in Tornado Alley, a chance of severe storms presented itself on Saturday the 7th. We’ve learned over the years that if there’s a chance of severe storms in May, you chase. Let all of the small details work themselves out as the day progresses.

Models indicated storms might fire along one of two boundaries draped across Northeast Colorado. Knowing that it was a 5 hour drive to our initial target of Last Chance, Colorado, my chase partner Justin Dean and I departed Wichita, Kansas at 7 am. It is our ritual to eat at certain fast food establishments when in particular areas of the High Plains. Our good luck charm for Northwest Kansas and Eastern Colorado is Burger King. We aren’t particularly certain why we eat at specific places, but it seems to be a good luck charm. We arrived in Colby, Kansas at noon, visited the local Burger King and continued west into Colorado.

Storms began firing on the western boundary at around 2:00pm near Denver. These storms looked messy from initiation, so Justin and I decided to play a little further east. Our storms began intensifying an hour later to the east of Limon. We re-positioned further east and let the storms build as they pushed in our direction. I always tell Justin that patience will prevail, and once again that rang true.

At approximately 4:05pm our storm was placed under a Tornado Warning. By 4:14, we had a small, brief spin up near Heartstrong, Colorado. No damage was reported as the tornado kicked up dust in an open field.

The storm continued on a northeasterly path, crossing the Eckley, Colorado vicinity. Here, a boundary was draped east to west, and as the storm interacted with the boundary, a beautiful elephant trunk tornado developed.

As the storm moved north of the boundary, the tornado dissipated and the supercell became elevated.

We stayed near Wray, Colorado as another storm was moving in from the south. We were intrigued as to what the storm may do when it interacted with the same boundary that helped the previous storm rotate.

The base of the storm seemed sky high as it approached Wray, but as it continued north and approached our location, the base began to lower. We watched as RFD blew dust across the horizon and noted intense rotation only one mile south of our location.

The tornado slowly continued north, almost churning in the same place at times. It was rated EF-2, with the roof of a house, farm equipment and an 18-wheeler truck taking the brunt of the damage. A couple people also sustained non-life threatening injuries.

Overall, it was a low-end severe weather day with amazing structure, stunning tornadoes, and definitely worth the 900+ mile journey.

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