Storm chaser Mike Hollingshead recently encountered what he calls the most spectacular nighttime supercell in his 13 years of experience. Here are some of the shocking things he saw in McCook, Neb.
- 16 Photos
- (Photo: Mike Hollingshead/Mike Hollingshead, ExtremeInstability.com | Date: Jun. 19, 2011)
The small community of McCook, Neb., is seemingly a mild-mannered place: The local rag yesterday was running with stories about grain-elevator erection, a softball game and an exhibition about the town's historical settlers.
Oh, then there was this one: “Back to the basement -- Tornado sirens sound in McCook for second night in a row.”
McCook, about 230 miles west of Lincoln, Neb., almost on the Kansas border, is home to the fearsome weather systems that zap and slam the bejeezus out of much of the Midwest every year. And it was to McCook that storm-chasing photographer Mike Hollingshead found himself headed on the evening of June 19, 2011.
Hollingshead, who runs the site ExtremeInstability.com, had no idea the magnitude of the storms he was about to run into. "It's pretty messed up to me the things that would be seen in roughly the following 24 hours," he says on his website. "What would be my most amazing night supercell and then the next day what would at least be my best tornado still photographs I've taken (which has never been much to begin with)."
That day, the Storm Prediction Center collected 14 reports of tornadoes and nearly 300 reports of fierce wind and hail across the country, including multiple tornado spottings just to the east of McCook. The supercell that grew over the farmland there was more than worthy of such a merciless day; it stretched into the celestial realm past midnight, with Hollingshead skittering around its swirling base like a mad flea, snapping photos.
"You really half felt," he says, "this thing is on the wrong planet right now."
Hollingshead has been nice enough in the past to allow WJLA to use his eye-banging photos. And here he's letting us publish his pictures from that demented June night with no stipulations at all. So I'm going to add one: The photographer can't do this kind of work forever without support. So if you like what you see in the gallery (LINK), why not check out his chase videos and still photography of fire devils, bird storms and upside-down rainbows? There's no way you'll be disappointed.
Oh, and he recommends you view this slideshow while listening to the first part of the "Exogenesis Symphony" by Muse. That's a matter of taste: I would suggest either "O Fortuna" or Verdi's "Dies Irae."