Travel by Radar

Heading east on the High Plains yesterday afternoon, we knew that our journey involved some risk.  After all, the massive spring storm that brought heavy snow to much of Colorado had also been igniting tornadic thunderstorms on the Great Plains; in fact, as we drove east from Limon, northeast Colorado and almost all of Kansas were under a tornado watch.  As the driver of our pickup, I scanned the horizons for worrisome cloud formations while my wife intermittently checked the regional radar and weather reports via her I-phone.

From Limon to Burlington, white puffy clouds dotted the clear blue sky, consistent with a relatively low dew point in that region; by contrast, two massive thunderheads rose far to our north which, we later learned, had spawned tornadoes near Akron, Colorado.  As we crossed into Kansas, it appeared that we had also crossed the Dry Line, an atmospheric boundary between dry air to the west and warm, humid air to the east.  In concert, the cloud formations began to congeal and thunderheads now rose high into the hazy air.  Though we had initially planned to spend the night in Hays, Kansas, the sudden instability in the atmosphere, coupled with pop up storms on the radar convinced us to stop in Colby.

This proved to be a wise choice since, within the next hour, a swath of severe thunderstorms moved northwestward across western Kansas, eventually passing between Goodland and Colby.  When crossing the Great Plains of North America, ready access to weather reports and radar is essential during all seasons; their utility is even more vital at night.