June 3, 2014 Norfolk to Blair Nebraska Insane Hail Storm

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Pretty strange day.  First off it looked like a truly insane setup for tornadoes, at least as far as instability and shear.  Every day also depends on storm mode and what goes on in the morning to dictate that.  The worry was early storms would create outflow and kill the later op.  Basically that is what happened.  But before then I headed west, for a target west of Albion Nebraska somewhere.  A storm had been dropping southeast from southwest South Dakota early.  It was a supercell in northern Nebraska by noon but it was north of the warm front.  It was likely to be more elevated for a while but eventually root.  The thought was it would turn into a wind machine with a hail threat too.  But basically it wouldn't have much tornado potential and all that was waiting later.  And that area later was the main target.  But this teased me north for a look, while on my way west.

At Columbus I had realized I wouldn't lose much time in heading west if I shot up to Norfolk, intercepted the storm there, then left back south and west to drive the rest of the way to the main later day target.  Hour or two.  Seemed worth it to check out the storm.  Heck I wanted to drive into big hail.  I also wanted time and room to get out of the way of any tornadoes if it looked like it had potential when I got there.  I saw how busy north through Norfolk was and just opted to head west at it and skip the hail core plan for now.  It had a small hook on the southwest end and that was what I drove straight to.

It was pretty sweet looking.  I let it move at and right over me, prepared for big hail or wind.  It got windy and I had some hail.  I then just wanted to get my but back in gear to head southwest so I wasn't late for the main show, which looked to be violent tornadic supercells.  This would just be a so so interesting mcs moving east or southeast.  Any other day I would just chase it.  But the biggest potential wasn't there, it was southwest on the warm front lifting north. 

I'm dropping south now just west of Norfolk.  I finally cleared the hail shaft.  That is what you see there above, the southwest end of the wall of hail plowing down highway 275.  It is dropping baseballs in Norfolk right now.  I didn't know it at the time.  It seemed on radar it might have been ready to weaken.  It had lost the nicer hook it had for a good while.  It wasn't going crazy bow out.  But even if it did seem better on radar, I still had to leave it to get to the main target.  Again, any other day this likely would have been the best play and an easy choice to just stay with it.  Oh how damn simple it would have been to stay with it too, strolling right down 275 back to home.  The only upside is that it at least never looked any more crazy than it did west of Norfolk.  Anyway, heading south.

Still going south, looking east.  I go over this hill top and get a face full of corn crap flying west.  The same moment on the very next hill I can see a jet of dark crap shooting east off it!  I was like, wow, that is insane the winds right there are raging as hard east as the stuff blowing crap west into my face. 

As I go south it was getting rapidly apparent how much of a problem the outflow off this storm would create for later.  Especially when I had a second to look at satellite again.  The warm front was already pinched north into it further west.  To my south it would not take long before the warm front and this outflow became one.  New outflow boundaries are really never good for tornado production.  Too much cold air to undercut things and make things a big mess.  That is what was readily becoming apparent.  I was like, crap, this day is toast.  I dropped south of Columbus hoping the warm front further east would hurry up and do something, as at least one supercell fired on it in southwest Iowa.  It didn't however.  In no time the two boundaries slammed into each other and soon there was an east-west mess of storms dealing with the new outflow boundary and cold air. 

The radar was more and more starting to show the storm I let go turn southeast for home.  I started calling my parents to tell them they didn't want to get caught in that storm.  The radar had 70dbz cores and hail signatures with the > 4 inch icons.  It was amazing how skinny this crazy intense reflectivity was on the radar further up that storm.  It also tried to get a hook just before home.  Seems that likely helped do some more intense wind damage stuff around Hooper and Craig areas. 

I spent the next hour sitting south of Columbus just trying to get word of what happened at home.  I quickly feared for my cats and rightfully so.  Blair, like many other towns in the path of this storm I was on and left, simply got trashed.  Worst hail damage I've ever seen in person and it's in my home town.  It's 2014 fitting that I let the storm go because of the higher potential play later and for that to go to hell and the storm to go nuts right through home.  I'd have loved to been there sitting in my car in it. 

Some stuff on Facebook began to confirm the town was bad.  There was a complete inability to get ahold of anyone using Verizon, which also was getting spooky.  It was obvious everyone was on their phones.  I had contact briefly twice and lost it.  The tower wasn't gone or anything.  Just overloaded, I'm rather certain. Turns out the back screened in porch was completely trashed, window in kitchen broke out and window in living room broke out.  I can't imagine what was going through the cats minds lol.  I know they had to be out on the porch first.  Least they had one room left that stayed sane.  Finally after an hour of trying I get ahold of my parent's who had now secured my cats for me. 

The damage closer to town picked up almost instantly.  All the sudden bad hail damage.  Looks like this van hit something while dealing with the hail insanity.  There were grapefruits in some of these areas.  A lot of baseballs but clearly there were some monsters too. 

I get further in town and it was just a nightmare everywhere. 

Next morning and day now.  Trying to drive around and get some shots.  Somewhere had to have a ton of plywood in stock, as it was rapidly everywhere. 

This felt like it was some "green house" with the grass roof and all. 

When I first saw this I thought, a tree branch must have fell on their windshield and they then about drove into the creek because of that and the hail.  It seemed it was too bad to have been the hail.  Wrong.  As you'll see from the huge car dealership in town, hail did all that. 

Lucky, so lucky.  That creek had to be rather full fast as stuff trained over this area.  The craziest thing was that someone did the same thing across the highway.  That is just a 25mph side street.  The highway in town is right there though.  And on the other side a car drove through a sign and into a fence, which stopped them from going nose first into this same creek right here. I suppose a person would start to panic and feel they have to drive somewhere to stop the hail. So I could see trying to drive while not seeing very well. Talk about scary though, hello!  Getting beat by a scary bad hail storm and then your back end is going up as you just about go into the creek. 

The Super 8 in town.

Look at the dang gutter!

A used car at Woodhouse Ford.  I think there are 4000+ new vehicles here.  All horribly trashed by monster wind driven hail.  Just look at those front dents! 

Saw this stuff and was like, well I guess it wasn't a tree branch on the creek vehicle.

I would venture to guess if you were actually driving towards the north or west, these stones would be punching holes through even the tempered windshield. 

"Perfect Stay Inn"

Court house has plenty of damage too.  Was surprised when I saw the quadcopter in my picture.  Didn't see it at the time.

Channel 7 was flying one from some co-worker or something.  Thing didn't even have a gimbal on it.  You'd think the news stations would have good gimbaled versions of those.  I take it if they let the news buzz it around there I can go and buzz mine around there.  I won't lol. 

Crop from the same 50mm shot.  Guess I should have telephoto'd this as I didn't know it was like that when shooting it. 

Went back to Woodhouse for a bit.  Using the 135mm to get some "compressed" shots.

I could see someone hearing of the hail sale coming up and thinking, oh cool.  Then get there and be like, ok yeah never mind.  Now a chaser on the other hand, heck yeah.  Slap me a new windshield and windows and well heck yeah.

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