Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Centerville MN 7/30/2011

Enjoyed dinner with family members in WBL as we watched the storms progress from the North and West and after dinner, asked my brother-in-law if he was interested in joining me in a short chase.

By then, things were progressing through the Cambridge area and headed our direction. We settled on a cul-de-sac in Centerville for our viewing. As seems to be the case this season, as we approached the storm from the south, the visible cloud to cloud was incredible! As soon as we got situated and cameras set up, the lightning became more obscured as the storm mode changed.

But we did manage to get a few shots:


But wait! what the hell is this?


Lightning telling you what direction it's going?


Decided to part company with the telegraphic storm as the leading edge approached. We raced home to have a beer in our hands before the front met us.

Entire chase duration? Less than 90 minutes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Clark County SD 7/26/2011

Decided to make my way to the Dakotas without a real plan of action since there seemed to be a fair amount of variability in where initiation would occur. Flipped a coin and decided to play the northern section of the moderate risk area. Figured Webster would be a good area to start.

Once I made it to 29, it was clear that events would occur south. Aberdeen seemed to be the collection point for the chasers able to get an early start. The line south of ABR quickly went linear and my fear of the day ending before it even started.

Decided for a Tail End Charlie on the southern flank of the line which took me through Watertown and points west. The opportunity for that play diminished as the southern edge continued to extend further as I drove west on 212.

Finally settled on an area north of Huron in between Hitchcock and Willow Lake on Hwy 212 where a tasty looking cell was divorcing itself from the rest of the line and looking rather well defined as it intensified.

As I monitored things, this cell produced several wall clouds with only one demonstrating any real rotation to speak of. In the end, it's bark seemed to be worse that its bite but was one of the most beautiful mesos i've ever photographed.

I was positioned North of a couple of chasers and during their funnel cloud encounter and swear i witnessed a small tube decend about 3 miles SW of my position on 212. I can't confirm this since the sighting was brief, lit only by lightning, and became rain wrapped shortly after. Level 3 data showed definite rotation in the cell so it was entirely possible.

The chasers stated there was no warning given, yet there was a warning polygon that popped up right over the area of rotation for about 5 minutes in my Level 3 data. There one minute, gone the next... Going back and looking at the ABR data for the day shows no evidence of a warning, yet I managed to get a screen grab on GR3 of it before it disappeared.

Caught up to the remnants of the northern storms on my way east on 12 between Benson and Willmar and entered what seemed to be a never ending core punch. I forgot how desolate Hwy 12 is between the two towns and I was pretty much committed by that point. The chase day ended for me at the Willmar Holiday Inn hotel bar five minutes prior to close with a beer in my hand...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Even So, Staying Home Was Not An Option.

After eight hours and three hundred miles of driving the most convoluted chasing route I think I've ever plotted due to Mother Nature not agreeing with my original chase plans, my daughter acting as my chase partner and I finally made it to "Chaser Days" down in Windom MN. I say that because it seemed as though every chaser in the state ended up there by late afternoon or early evening. It seemed as though the only things missing at that point was a tent and a keg of beer.

The setup for the day originally was to head west and wait for initiation but, A line of storms sweeping through the cities from North Dakota early Saturday morning changed the atmosphere enough to where if you wanted to have any chance of seeing a Tornado, southern Minnesota was where we needed to be.

We went South, We went North, West, and East. Finally ending in Windom where the general thought by the great number of chasers present was if anything would happen, it would begin near there. We sat and watched a promising line build as it tried to do something but decided to pull the plug and head home when it was clear things just weren't going to materialize. At least not in the light of day...

Decided to head south to Interstate 90 just on the off chance something would fire in Northern Iowa during the drive back toward Interstate 35. Of course, nothing came to pass with that plan as all of the real fun for Iowa was on the southern fringes of the state.

Began the trek up Interstate 35 toward home when we noticed the storm towers going up to the west of us. We didn't think much of them at that time because the sun had obscured most of the storms progress until they became back lit and by then, no chance to rejoin the party of chasers who had found their target and were circling like a pack of wolves ready for the kill according to our on-board data.

So, rather than come home completely empty handed, we decided to stop just outside of Hope MN. and take some photos and shoot some time lapse since it was a beautiful looking storm with the sun back lighting it. As you can see from the view we had, it had trouble keeping its act together.

My hope was to capture some lightning photos from that vantage point but the cell just wasn't that electrically active at that time. Decided to detour to Waseca for an intercept when we noticed things got more electrically charged just prior to sunset. Saw some great Cloud to Ground lightning enroute but do you think it would throw down one after my camera was set up? Nope.

Punched the storm core between Waterville and New Prague. No real wind to speak of, just a deluge of rain. Thank God for Rain-X. In those situations, it's a life-saver to have that stuff on your windshield.

We were into hour ten by that point. Time to head home.

All in all we had a great day, Saw some parts of Southern and Western Minnesota I rarely get to explore, The on-board technology worked flawlessly for the first time this year, and I got to spend time with my kid who reminded me without saying a word, She's not.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shoreview MN 7/19/2011

This had all the makings of something. Plenty of rotation in between St. Cloud and Elk River. Various Radar samples throughout its path showed it as a sizeable mean looking storm.

After a short, aborted trip up 35E. I came back to intercept it by hoping to travel North on 35W and get above the storm and follow it on the backside since the hail markers were indicating 2.5 inch hail embedded in the business end of the cell.

Arrived at the entrance to 35W from Hwy 10 closed due to previous flooding a couple of days before that created some sink holes that were being repaired. Going up Hwy 10 wasn't an option since that would place me dead on with the center of the cell.

Turned around and headed back east on Hwy 96. Just then I remembered a County maintenance facility that was slightly elevated from the rest of the surroundings. It also had a canopy to duck under if the hail reported actually came true. Off I went.

Arrived at the facility with just a few moments to spare. Enough to fire up my camera gear and catch a little of the arriving leading edge of the storm. It wasn't much to photograph and by this time, any rotation was non-existant so, I just sat in my vehicle to watch the show.

Plenty of CG on the front end. One leader came down within 50 yards of me striking a fence just off to my west and of course, out of camera view. What was recorded was the tell tale "Snap" of a side flash discharge as the main leader struck the fence. The side flash discharged through the canopy down spout about five feet from me.

West Central MN. 7/10/11

Being late to the party as usual this season, and after a trooper "meet and greet" in between Starbuck and Cyrus (She said I was her second of the day. Let me off with a warning however...)

I decided to make my way up 75 to Wheaton MN. and wait. Gave me a chance to take some time lapse of the leading edge/shelf that was making its way through and to shoot some structure. Although the structure wasn't what I would call "photogenic" by any means.

One of the cells that was north of me went tornado warned. So, I decided to try for an intercept. After two particularly nasty bursts came across my vehicle almost sending me off 75 and being without a chase partner myself, I decided to remain on the pavement and let the storm roll over me. Surprising how much sustained energy that cell had.

Once I got on the backside. It simply became a losing battle to try to maintain any sort of viewing.

Came back down south on 55 toward Glenwood to attempt another intercept but, by that time it had gained a fair amount of speed and at that point I gave up due to the shortness of light and patience...

The "Half Tank" Rule sure paid off for me this trip. Sauk Centre? Dark. Melrose? Dark. Freeport as well. Then due to the squall line filling in, it made it virtually impossible to exit and fuel up. Wasn't until Rogers able to pull off and fuel up. The canopy over me looked like it was gonna get peeled back like a sardine can while I was under it.

I surfed the leading edge of that line all the way home. 94 was a mess...

Short lived Southern MN. chase 5/22/2011

I want to keep my posts in chronological order. So,this is just a place keeper for the entry that will be forth-coming.

Stay tuned.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Elbow Lake/Wendell MN. 5/30/2011

"Oh why the hell not..."

That's what I said to myself this afternoon as I quickly assembled my chase apparatus in response to a "Moderate" Risk of severe weather over a fair portion of west central MN. the western Dakotas, and Nebraska.

The thinking was, as I sat in my driveway pondering the setup, that this weekend I celebrated my 50th year of life. Had a wonderful time with family and friends, and had celebrated in grandiose fashion as anyone turning the age of fifty should.

So this could be the icing on the proverbial cake? Could the final day of my birthday weekend hold a successful chase in the cards? Something I could share with the grand kids when I turn 90?


OK. to be fair the setup was iffy right from the start. That tornadoes COULD occur during the early stages of initiation but storms that fired would line up very quickly into a squall line shitstorm shutting down any hopes of seeing a birthday wedge.

I didn't care. It was my birthday damn it. Karma would prevail and send a tube my way from an unending field of dirt where nothing fell into it's path except me of course.

I would have been fine just sitting at home letting the few remaining hours tick off inactively thinking about work or some such shit. I had to tempt fate however, and make a 376 mile trip into bustville. Plenty of chasers out and about, aligning their plans and hoping they pan out.

Me? I just point the truck to the northwest and figured God would intercede at the exact moment. Some two hundred miles from my driveway.

In a little town in Northwest Minnesota called Wendell, the message was sent...

Stop here. Wait and see...

Some divine message. Seemed like good a place as ever to stop without getting all rooted up into going North Dakota way, Or South Dakota. Take your pick.

No, the reasoning was simple. An old dear friend I'd grown up with lived in that small burg of a town. And I thought, the REAL end to my birthday weekend should be to pull up at his home, wrap on his door, and say hello since it had been a year or more since I'd last seen him.

The Son of a Bitch wasn't home.

And the storms turned into a linear mess just as expected.

And the chasers parade back down I94 just as they had done a few hours earlier.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Impromptu Chase: 05/21/2011

Fucking Shackleford. The winner in the Preakness Stakes and the horse that robbed me of a trifecta bet that would have netted $700.00 bucks on a .50 cent bet.


Deciding to stick around and finding a couple of other tracks to bet was an easy choice. We gained some ground in the win column but certainly not enough to completely eliminate the sting of the previous loss.

Flipping around the television dial while waiting for the next race yielded another possible adrenaline boost:

Tornado sighted in Maple Grove.

It was an easy choice to bolt from the betting parlor since I had all my gear in the truck and ready to go. My brother decided to ride shotgun.

We decided to intercept the slow NNE ward moving storm east of Ham Lake. By then, reports were coming in giving us reason to think that made our decision even easier.

Headed up Interstate 35 toward Wyoming exiting on Co. Rd 22 where we finally intercepted the one cell that looked like it had promise. After a brief bit of angry churning. It simply failed to produce anything of substance.

We were able to get some nice shots of a shelf cloud on the leading edge. But that too looked as if it was having a tough time keeping it's act in order.

We decided to follow the cell east for a bit and headed to Stacy MN. which was a short trip up the Interstate. We basically watched as it crossed Interstate 35 it take its last gasp for life and die becoming outflow dominant.

It was by this time, too dark to do anything further so, we rolled up our tent and headed home.

Wasn't a bad run to test the equipment, and to get my brother hooked into future chases.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Kinda sucks to be out of play...

First real promising chase of the season turns out to be a bust for me in many ways. Circumstances of the day turned into me deciding I wasn't going to make a half-hearted effort to go out late and miss initiation since from the look of things that was when the best chance of production was going to occur.

Turns out things ended up being pretty much textbook with cells following the dryline and at a speed I could've gotten on the late end of the line. Instead, I chose to stick around town and armchair QB with a beer and the laptop.

A few screen grabs of what I got to watch at home.

Next Time.