Monday, July 24, 2017

Chase 070917 Blue Earth - Nicollet Co. MN

The GPS Track is not true due to equipment outages mid-chase. It is however, accurate enough to provide background and position detail. This is one time when carrying back up equipment saved the day. I think location and positional data is critical both during and after a chase.

Since the NWS does a much better job at "Day After" wrap ups, I'm going to begin to eliminate information pertaining to the actual storm event and focus on items exclusive to our chase alone. The reason being is I'm realizing these entries are a LOT of work to put together and end up being duplicated by the NWS anyway. So, a summary of this event can be viewed at the MPX NWS Web Page

I initially drove to Sauk Centre MN thinking the initiation would occur just north of there mid to lat afternoon. After noting the boundary had begun to set up south of there, chase partner Brad Winger and I decided to meet in Wilmar MN. As I drove, the CU field began to become robust indicating we were where we needed to be. Now all we needed was an updraft.

This was a fun cell to watch just explode before our eyes. It's been a while since I had an unobstructed view of the birth of what would become the supercell thunderstorm we'd chase for most of its life cycle.

Chaser Brad Winger pointing at the cloud.

Chaser Brad Winger turning around to camera with cloud behind him.

This well rooted (and well sheared) anvil was just to our west and feeding the new initiation in the video below.

This is why you don't chase at night. The ragged cloud overhead was in fact, a rotating wall cloud.

And the lightning was so quick, We never even saw it. Point #2: Never expect lightning to light your way.

That touched down shortly after it crossed the road ahead of me. This became the Courtland MN F0 TOR which occurred north of town. Fortunately, it produced a small amount of damage to the siding of a nearby barn.

Not a good idea to get out of your vehicle during one of these...

Here's a replay of the chase. Focus was hosed for most because this was recorded using an old iPhone with the "Broadcast Me App. Works great except for one very important thing:

You can't disable auto-focus. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Chase 061117 Monticello MN (Morning) SE MN (Afternoon)

We're going to call this one "The 2Fer". Early Morning MCS plows through the metro like a boss dumping a shit-ton of hail in the NW suburb of Coon Rapids. You can read the Day 1 here. Along with the Preliminary Storm Reports.

I sure hope this isn't going to hurt...

My view of the approaching line.

As you can see, This line was not messing around.

Radar view shortly after Coon Rapids received the ice beating it got.

My Sunday morning drive. Don't you people sleep?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Chase 051717 Northern Iowa, Owatonna MN, New Prague MN

We get two route maps on this one. GPS tracking unexpectedly quit on the first leg so, the backup was put to work. This is why we have backups.

Exactly one day after the Chetek WI tornado, a major portion of  Iowa, and slivers of SE MN and SW WI were under an enhanced outline in the 1630Z (i.e. 1130 CDT) day one outlook from the Storm Prediction Center.

10% TOR? Yeah, let's go.

Target: Mason City IA. As I head down to meet the front, this greets me.

I decided to keep out of Mason City proper choosing to hang out just North of the city. By this time, the sky was really beginning to boil.

A short time later, things just exploded and the chase was on... North.

And then the second tornado watch of the afternoon popped up. How fortunate, right where I was going...

Storm Prediction Center's Severe Weather Event Archive of this day

More to come as I sort through the photos and videos...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Chase 051617 Chetek WI. (EF-3)

First chase of the season found me dashing out of work at 1635 right into rush hour traffic at 1645. Heading east on I94 at that time of the day is not for the faint-hearted or impatient. And I dove head long right into it. No matter, the storm I was interested in was dead ahead and churning wildly.

Radar at the time was showing things moving in an east north-east direction and if I was going to have any chance of getting near it,  I was going to have to move North... Quickly.

I ended taking Hwy 95 to Stillwater where I prayed to the nautical gods that the bridge spanning the St.Croix was down and letting vehicles pass through to the Wisconsin side.


With that little bit of drama set aside. I bolted up WI 35 just as fast as I safely could falsely empowered by the new radar detector perched upon my windshield. 90% of the time, I drive in a realistic fashion (i.e. following with the pace of present traffic. I mean, think herd mentality, they can only chase a couple of us down right?)

I will say the detector is a nice addition just to tell me what I'm coming up on even when speed isn't a factor. If it's not barking at me, In this situation, i'm getting a little heavy on the pedal to make up lost ground. Maybe 10% more speed. Detectors mean nothing if you're in a ditch.

East on WI 64 gave me a wonderful view of what I would eventually be under (provided I caught up to it of course.)

Finally within reach, I made the fatal move of not continuing east on Hwy 64 choosing to follow Hwy 53 North toward Chetek which by then, had already had the storm pass through it. The better choice would've been to continue east and then intercept north on Co Rd. 73.

In all, it was good to get the rust out. Plenty of items that need to be reassessed before the next time out. Time to go have a beer.

The National Weather Service survey of the event can be found here.  As it turns out this tornado is now the longest track in Wisconsin at 83 miles!

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.