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The Last Chance Chase
Last Chance, Colorado, July 21, 1993
By William T. Reid

The following is a storm-chase account written in the autumn of 1993 for Storm Track Magazine.  Slightly different versions were published in the American Weather Observer and TESSA's Weather Bulletin.

Late last May I had the opportunity to read many of the early issues of Storm Track.  My friend and fellow chaser, Charles Bustamante, had packed nearly a dozen volumes of Storm Track for our latest excursion to the Plains.  Near Glendale, Nevada, I recall reading a fantasy article/cartoon by David Hoadley.  The star in this "Gentleman's Chase" wakes up somewhere in tornado alley, has a leisurely lunch, watches a storm develop nearby, and photographs a tornado while in perfect position after a brief drive.  For him, it was just another typical chase day.

Charlie and I were making the long and arduous drive home to Los Angeles at the time.  We had
chased for five days and had seen--maybe a gustnado, maybe a funnel cloud--but certainly no
classic tornado.  It was my fifth return trip from the Plains in three years, and I was batting way
under my weight, tornadically speaking.  I laughed to myself while becoming quite envious of
Hoadley's fictitious character.  How dare this individual reap nature's reward without suffering
hours, weeks, and years of frustration!  As I strained to stay out of the Nevada sun, I wondered
when my chase efforts would pay off.  It did not look like 1993 would be the year.  It certainly
was not likely to be the way of this "Gentleman's Chase!"

Charlie and I were on the road again--in mid-July!  We had the opportunity to stretch a weekend into five or six days, so we threw the cameras into the Pathfinder and trucked through that great

Great Basin trough to the plains of Colorado.  Ahhh, Eastern Colorado!--upslope flow, great
CBs, fabulous shear, big hail!  Awesome storm photography!  Tornadoes?  Well, a debris-whirl
here, a landspout there, here a funnel, there a funnel...  Well, Colorado tornados are weak.

Four days of successful severe-storm chasing and photography behind us, we awoke in Colorado Springs and debated whether to head home or to stay and chase one more day.  We definitely did not want to make that dreaded drive home much longer than it already was, i.e., by ending up well into Kansas or Nebraska at the end of the day (it was Wednesday, July 21, 1993).  Jim Maxwell, NWS forecaster in Colorado Springs, informed us late that morning that extreme northeastern Colorado could go severe that afternoon.  We could deal with that!

Several severe weather parameters were forecast to combine from Eastern Montana to Northeast Colorado.  Surface low pressure along the front range was drawing moist, low-level air from the east and southeast into Northeast Colorado.  A dryline situation, Colorado style, was to develop, as warm, low-level air pushed eastward off of the front range that afternoon.  In addition, a warm front, slicing across the corner of Northeast Colorado, would aid moisture convergence from about Sterling to Akron, according to Mr. Maxwell.  Upper-level winds from the southwest were to increase that afternoon over the region as a jet streak/vort max moved over Colorado.  This would enhance lift and encourage rotation of any storm activity over Eastern Colorado.  Also, forecast upper-level diffluence and lifted indices (near -10) were excellent.  All of these parameters were courtesy of an unseasonably strong and persistent upper-level trough over the Great Basin.  It's a good thing that clouds don't know what month it is!

Charlie and I had a leisurely lunch in Colorado Springs and drove north towards Denver, with the option (very much in the backs of our minds) of jumping onto Interstate 70 and heading home to California should nothing significant develop.  Denver was hot and dry at 1 p.m.:  91 degrees, 14% relative humidity, and light winds.  At 1:30 p.m. MDT Denver NOAA Weather Radio issued a statement concerning a small shower which we could see to our east, near Deer Trail.  I thought that those clouds hardly warranted a statement, but chasing is in our blood and we headed east!  This would definitely be our final chase, our last chance for something special in 1993.

The cell was caught around 2 p.m. MDT, near Byers.  We visited a grocery store in Byers, just southwest of this small and isolated thundershower.  I called my weather office back home for the latest update.  (I am the climatologist for Continental Weather Services, Inc., in Encino, California.)  A mesoscale discussion for the region had just been issued by Air Global Weather Central at Offutt AFB in Omaha, Nebraska (acting in backup capacity for the National Severe Storms Forecast Center): "Moisture convergence increasing in Eastern Wyoming and Northeast