June 5, 2014 Trinidad Colorado Supercells

by John Farley

Although it would be the next day when Trinidad, CO would get a lot of attention due to a couple large tornadoes, there were also some pretty impressive supercells in the Trinidad area on June 5. I had decided to chase the next day and left Pagosa Springs for the Front Range around 2:30, figuring I would overnight in Walsenburg or Trinidad to be in position for the next day's chase, but also hoping I might catch something interesting in the late afternoon or evening of this day. I was not disappointed.

I could see storms in the distant east/ESE even when I left Pagosa Springs, and by the time I crossed La Veta Pass west of Walsenburg around 5:30, it was evident there were some pretty impressive storms east of the mountains. In fact, supercell thunderstorms were scattered over much of eastern Colorado, but in particular a series of storms were forming near Trinidad and moving east onto the plains. The first in a series of such storms had dropped 1-inch hail in Trinidad around 4:30, and now a second strong storm had popped up in the same area.

I was on I-25 heading toward Trinidad by around 6 p.m., and by 6:15 it was evident the storm was becoming supercellular. I stopped an exit or two south of Walsenburg and got these pictures of the supercell as it produced some interesting lowerings under the updraft, as well as a series of overshooting tops:

I hopped back on the freeway to get closer to the storm, but again exited soon to get a picture when a rainbow formed in the precipitation under the storm:

Just after I took this picture, a SVR warning was issued for the storm, and about 10 or 15 minutes later, it began to drop golfball hail between Trinidad and Trinchera.

When I got to the north edge of Trinidad, I exited at the U.S. 160 exit and worked my way a short distance to the road that connects Trinidad and Trinchera. This road goes through some hilly, semi-wooded terrain on the north slope of the Raton Mesa, but after a mile or two gets to some spots with good views. I worked my way southeast on this road, but not really gaining any ground on the storm moving away from me. It did, however, offer me up a nice view of sunlit mammatus:

I was now aware that two more storms had formed over the mountains west of Trinidad, one on a track to pass just north of town and the other to the south, near Raton Pass. The north one took on the character of an LP supercell, with occasional rumbles of thunder in the anvil being carried downshear just to my north, and a nicely-structured updraft and beavertail:

There was very little precipitation visibly coming out of this storm, though I would not be surprised if there was a little hail somewhere northeast of Trinidad. I watched the storms until around 7:30 or 7:45, then headed into Trinidad to get a room for the night, get dinner, and get ready for the next day's chase.

Chase mileage for the day: 230 miles.

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