Wednesday was the day we’d all been waiting for. It was our Pacquiao v. Mayweather of the week. We’d gone through all of the undercard fights up in South Dakota and Nebraska, but dammit, we were ready for the main event in Colorado. I even pictured Michael Buffer yelling out “Let’s get ready to rumble!” as we saw our first tower go up on the Palmer. The hype was real. The SPC even outlined a 10% tornado risk for the Denver metro area, which included the Palmer and encompassed the entire I-25 corridor up in to Wyoming. It was going to be a big time event. There were 2 feasible targets for the day, the first being up in Wyoming and the second being down in Colorado along the Palmer. You don’t have to guess where we picked.
On big days like Wednesday, the local NWS offices will sometimes do a ‘special sounding.’ What that means is, they’ll get a weather balloon ready and launch it from their office to get real time measurements of the atmosphere to gauge if things are actually as bad as they were forecast to be. It’s very nerdy but very cool. The Boulder office is rarely requested to do such things but Wednesday they were. The sounding from that launch had some very telling information in it that I think some people may have missed. In fact, I would have as well except that Dann pulled it up and gave some good scrutiny to it. The special sounding showed a pretty big inversion at around 700mb. We used that sounding to calculate out the convective temperature for the day. Basically, what temperature does it need to be for storms to overcome the inversion? We calculated it out to be around 73-74 degrees fahrenheit. That’s a big problem since most of the Front Range was sitting at about 71 and holding steady. So, if you don’t have temps reaching what you need, what else can you do? Well, elevation can help. You climb. And fortunately, the Denver area has this great place where you find a nice elevation change; the Palmer Divide. This is why we stayed south and didn’t consider further up I-25 or Wyoming.
I chased this day with Dann and Christa and we decided to start along the Kiowa-Bennett road and after sitting and waiting for about 15 minutes, we saw towering cumulus to our south. That was going to be it. We dropped south toward Kiowa and found a hill to see the first storm of the day. The anvil on it was incredible.