Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Chase 052316 Central Iowa/South Central Nebraska

We begin our birthday week with a couple of days on the plains chasing. Several setups were possible according to the SPC Day 1 forecast from MN through IA, NE, and south through the remainder of the alley.

I decided to make a play toward Lincoln NE but first, ride the boundary that was setting up to my West. Parallel to I35.

I decided to play a possible "Tail End Charlie scenario with a cluster of cells that had popped up southwest of my position fairly quickly and looked promising.

Racing South on I35 to meet up with the cluster, I watched it line out quite rapidly taking out any chance of a cell being able to parlay what little shear there was available to get things rotating.

Just outside of Audibon, I was able to find a side road that rose quite impressively so much so when I reached the top, I was able to see the entire valley to my west along with the oncoming front and a very ragged shelf cloud on its leading edge. Basically signally the end of the chase before it even started.

Little lightning, a little thunder, a little hail. Not much in the way of productive elements when you're out chasing for Tornadoes. The positive was I wasn't veered off my original planned course so lost no time with this slight detour.

You can see elements of a Meso attempting to get its act together, Just not enough atmospherically to play with and soon it died. Some remaining low hanging "cloud fruit" made for an eerily strange palate to the afternoon.

Screw this. Actually? All I had lost was the time I'd fiddle fucked around chasing this storm "wanna be" Time to get back on course and maybe put a little lead to the pedal to make up for some lost time.

It was about that time I'd received a text from Amanda Hill letting me know that they were located not too far from where I was and her and Nick Elms were headed back home after a protracted period of successful chasing in NE. I had been tracking their progress the following week and that had been one of my deciding factors for choosing Central NE as my base of operations for the next couple of days.

As I plodded along, I had originally thought Lincoln NE would be about the length of time I wanted to be in the vehicle for the day.But as I entered the area, I realized I didn't want to be in any metro area overnight. And so, I expanded my choices on I80 to include Grand Island, Hastings, and Kearney if my back and ass could tolerate a few more hours of freeway punishment.

Remembering that Amanda had mentioned a brewery in Kearney NE called Thunderhead Brewing and knowing full well that other chasing friends had made the trek there to sample their wares, who was I to miss out on an opportunity to combine two of my favorite hobbies: Drinking Beer and Chasing Storms. You simply don't go that far into Nebraska without stopping there. It's going to be my new rule.

I mean how many places can you go to drink beer and pregame your activities while watching the home team hit atmospheric batting practice? I never did get into the record store across the street.

After a couple of beers and a little nosh at Thunderhead, Decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel but only after a brief stop at the local liquor and cigar stores. I squealed like a little girl when I found out that Thunderhead was canning the very product (their Honey Wheat Ale) I was fawning over at dinner.

Sitting out on Kearney's Country Inn's front "patio" overlooking the parking lot sussing out my immediate domain, listening to the StormviewLive crew on Zello and smoking my AF Curly Head Natural, I began to hear excited chaser voices exclaiming the storm they were on in Grand Central NE. Fifty miles to my east.

I poke my head around the corner.

Oh! Would you look at that!

Do I drive to intercept? Nope. I've been drinking and in strange territory. We'll sit this one out. Besides, the thought of another 100 mile round trip doesn't sit well with my ass at that point in the evening.

Zello: "Heavy Rain and Hail in Grand Island"

One look at the radar can confirm that bit of news...


Zello: "You ought to see the lightning show I'm witnessing right now"

Well? as it turns out we all were getting a show. A heavy duty cell had developed to the SE of my Hotel patio and was casting off some wonderful cloud to cloud lighting that could be seen where I was.

Having burned off any buzz I'd acquired I decided to try my hand at grabbing a few shots of lightning before retiring for the evening. I was a bit disappointed at the performance of my lens but the fault was entirely my own for not taking the time to set it up with my camera body prior to hitting the road. The focus at infinty basically sucked.

Lesson learned.

Keep in mind folks this view was almost sixty miles away!

After about 45 minutes of mindblowing long distance cloud to cloud, I was completely fried. I was lucky to make it back the five miles I had taken to get to the open field in view of the storm at hand.

But I had one last stop to make before beddy bye.

The setup for tomorrow is looking promising.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Well? Let's see how this works...

A new season. Time to clean out the old and come up with a new plan. A better plan.

It's what I do. I am an engineer. You know, Better, Faster, Cheaper. Always improving, always looking for that "better way", taking your lessons learned and applying them to the next.

I've decided one thing for sure. I'm not going to record my adventures eight ways to Sunday. Christ! Why have three different videos showing the exact same thing from a slightly different mount. Enough! I can't even finish my entries from last season because of all the "Media" I chose to capture with last year!

JPG's RAW, XAVC, GIF, MP4! And I've made not dime one from any of it because I concentrated too much on the product and not the moment.

Streaming? Gone. Although I will maintain some way of "getting out live"
It's going to be a one button push. Anything more than that, and it's going out the drivers side window. I can think of nothing more frustrating than concentrating on providing a feed to ungrateful viewers telling you how to shoot the storm in front of you all while the data meter is running $$. You're a chickenshit fuckwad if you fail to drive right up to the storm and give it a big 'Ol French kiss. Good bye.

So there you have it. I'm streamlining for me. A couple of tablets, a dashcam, my radios and a dslr. One antenna hanging off the roof this season... Not four. 


If we have a season like we had last year, at least I won't feel like I worked hard to get there.

And maybe I'll have some room for beer this year... Good beer.

Here a pic of the end result. From the backseat.

Where I never am.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Chase 071215 Central MN Moderate Risk

Nothing much to say about this one. Those who were early to the show were treated to a couple of short-lived tornados in west central Minnesota. It just didn't end up being what was advertised in the day's SPC day one.

I took a leisurely drive up toward Little Falls with the intent of meeting up with the leading edge of the storm for a possible UUUUGE! "Shelfie" cloud pic and maybe a little lightning.

By the time I reached Buckman MN, the party was already in full swing. I decided the prudent thing to do was to run parallel to the line for  a half hour or so and see if I could find an active point in the storm and grab some lightning with my Hood Cam. Little if anything came in the way of even remotely usable video.

Had an interesting moment crossing the dry line and able to record the instant condensation that takes place when you exit 67 degree air and enter 85/72 air.


Purely by chance, I decided to pull over for a moment to retrieve something from my back seat and end up interrupting a white tail doe's meal in the ditch. Something tells me that had I not pulled over when I did? I've a feeling the local food shelf would be receiving a "fresh kill" and I would be having a chat with my insurance agent. In any case, let this serve as a lesson: not only do we have to endure the perils of lightning, hail, wind, shit flying through the air at Mach 10, and sleep deprivation, we also have to be extremely aware of these "Ditch Rodents" and their propensity to ruin a chasers day.


One of the very few photos of the day focused in on the texture of the sky, the agriculture, and the land around it...

Be safe out there.

Great Radar Animation of 071215 Derecho

Meteorologist Tim Buckley posted this wonderful radar animation of the Derecho that began in NW Minnesota on Sunday and made its way to North Carolina basically in the same form and intensity it had when it began its journey.

LONG-LIVED LINE OF SEVERE STORMS: Here's an animation of the incredible line of severe weather that moved from Minnesota...

Posted by Meteorologist Tim Buckley on Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Chase 051715 #2 West Central MN.

A nice Sunday drive but, what a dud of a day chase wise. Basically, this was the day two setup from Saturday. The 30% was severely contracted in the second day one forecast but still concentrated on East Central MN and West Central WI as the focal point for later day storms.

Until the atmosphere was "scrubbed" by the morning storms that cruised through the metro. 


After conferring with my chase partner Brad Winger, we pretty much decided that the original target was plainly going to struggle to regain Td's and surface temps to establish another boundary for storms to fire off from.

Looking to the West and SW, it appeared that There was a sizable CU field growing with Td's and temps in the favorable range and sheer appeared to be just flying. CAPE was marginal at best at 1000J/Kg but we decided it was still worth the drive since there was an incoming cold front coming in from the west that things may latch on to for a ride.

We chose Shakopee MN as our meetup spot. Neither one of really wanted to spend the entire day driving if things did go to shit and we need to fold up the tent. It turned out to be a good plan.

The first wave of storms came in promising with several large isolated cells appearing as though they were going to play somewhat as we expected. That thinking quickly evaporated when they shortly began to fill in and become linear lining up parallel to us as we headed toward Hutchinson MN.

Game Over.

As you can see, there were several mean storms which if under different circumstances, most certainly would've netted us a TOR or two.

But fear not! you can actually ride along with us and share in our disappointment condensed in time thanks to the wonder of time compression. You can watch this roughly three hour and twenty four minute chase in the time it takes you to enjoy a beer. A blistering ten minutes thirty five seconds.

OK, fine. In the time it takes ME to enjoy a beer!
You may need one if you easily get carsick!

I hope everyone has an safe, peaceful, Memorial Day weekend.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Chase 051715 #1 Northern Ramsey Co./Northern Washington Co.

Well color me surprised when I walked out of my garage at 1100. The dewpoint machine already cranking based on the amount of sweat that was already beginning to soak my t-shirt and looked up to see this: 

Ruh Roh. Did we miscalculate the arrival of the cold front lumbering in from the west that was supposed to arrive much later in the day? Clearly this was a boundary pounding on the atmospheric door above my head. And it was cranking. I mean really robust updraft. Could this be the system showing its hand already? A quick look at the radar showed no one within high speed chasing distance nearby...

This was my storm. The one all chasers dream about. No one but themselves there to witness the event. And in the northern metro area no less. Only chasers in the very isolated areas of the alley are able to lay claim to something like this. Which would make this moment all the sweeter on a day where chasers are expecting big things to happen hours later.

Having setup the truck the night before, I raced North toward the cell that was clearly getting its act together. Fortunately, it was running parallel to I35E NNE toward the town of Hugo MN. a town that's no stranger to tornadoes crossing the freeway and ending up in someone's backyard saying hello to a newly built housing development. It has been a few years since the last episode and had me wondering if I was going to witness another.  

I decided to stop in Hugo at a closed and seemingly abandoned bank adjacent to the oncoming storm. Low level shear and inflow were on the increase and it was beginning to take on the look of what one would expect from a super cell toying with the idea of leaving a calling card.

It was nice of someone at the weather service to drop a track marker right next to where I was. It gave me confidence that I wouldn't be late for lunch If I stuck with this cell to its conclusion. I think it's the NWS's version of the Ned Flanders "Hidee-Ho Neighbor!" greeting.

A brief glance at the radar gave me even a little more confidence that (for once) I completely read the moment correctly and will shortly be rewarded with something resembling a tornado.

And once the rain core passed my position,  There it was. Rotating slowly. And the moment I grabbed my phone to call it in, It stopped.

Goddamnit! Here it was. MY storm! the one that would've landed in an un-populated area just NE of where this photo was taken in Columbus. Just a jump off the freeway. Camera at the ready. Wide open field, no visual obstructions, Sucking in the ingredients that would sustain its life.


Until the cold air from the top of the cell 45,000 feet above my head decided to rocket to the ground and interrupt the whole process by choking off any further ingest of warm humid air.

One day? I will get My Storm.

It just won't be today.

Chase 051015 NW Iowa / SE South Dakota

I love driving to the target. But, this was a pretty aggressive day trip track without a partner.

This was certainly one of those days that was either going to be big, or bust for many of us. What gave the appearance of a promising setup midday, turned out to be an exercise in confusion and frustration. Many chasers were successful in the activity down in the OK panhandle and Central TX on Friday and Saturday and were planning on catching this days setup on the travel day back north.

Early in the day however, the small town of Delmont SD was wracked by an EF2 tornado which basically went through the center of the tiny town. Further details of this and other incidents of the day can be found on Wikipedia.

Those who landed in West Central IA late in the day and were patient enough, were rewarded with a tornado going through Lake City IA. I however, did not and was halfway home before the storm was even served up.

Not that I wasn't close. I sat in Sioux Center IA directly north of the Lake City area that afternoon. I could have had lunch, taken in a couple of movies, had dinner and still had time to drive to the target area in time for the show. But my need to wake up in my own bed aborted any chance of that occurring.


After watching things interact with the boundary, It was clear nothing was really going to TOR immediately. So, I decided to head north toward FSD and take up residence on I90 just east of town since the entire line crossing the boundary was as expected, moving to the NE.

Shortly after arriving in Brandon SD the cell embedded in the line to the south of me, went TOR warned.

Looking at VIL identified a cell just to my SE that was beginning to show some serious activity. I guess I must have been living right since I decided to stay put and monitor the progress of both the storm due east of me as well as the quickly intensifying storm to the south. Had I chosen to head toward Luverne, I would have no doubt driven right in to the eventual heavy rain and hail core that crossed over I90 minutes later.


Having driven through the remnants of the first cell crossing I90, I maintained watch over the cell south of my position now moving toward Luverne. Unfortunately, the atmosphere had basically been scrubbed forward of the cell and killed off any further progress and basically sent me the message that unless I was willing to hunker down and head south, My likelihood of seeing any tornado activity was heading toward nil.

At this point I decided the chase was over for me. Time to head back home. But first, I noticed my frequent chase partner, Brad Winger had decided to make the trip down at the last moment and was located just east of my position. Maybe the day wasn't over quite yet.

A quick phone call found he'd just been hammered with some sizable hail from the cell directly north of his current position. Yet another moment of good fortune since I was headed down the same stretch of road and would have no doubt driven into it had I not stopped for our phone chat.

As you can see by the video, while on my commute to meet up with Brad, things were really churning with plenty of low level sheer and visible updrafts. So much so that I half expected my own personal hail core to develop over me and make my life miserable for a few minutes. Fortunately, that was not the case. 


We decided the best course was to "stair-step" our way toward home and chase the cells developing on the outflow boundaries of the storms to the south. Nothing ever really developed from it but it kept our heads in the game while making the journey home.