Monday, September 8, 2014

Benton County MN 08/24/14 SLIGHT RISK

GPS Track of this chase is somewhat inconsistent because of loss of signal or other situations beyond my control. The track is correct however, in the areas where it was most important to have detailed location information during the tornado intercept phase of our chase.

Late season full court press to bag at least one tornado this year. Didn't really know how the day was going to pan out while assessing the morning "Day One"  forecast and comments. Took my time getting the truck set up knowing full well that anything that was going to initiate was going to be well within 90 minutes and a tank of gas. The question was: Which direction?

The midday D1 was a little more in line with what I was thinking. Go north an hour or so and set myself to quickly jog west when the line begins to show itself. Plan was to go to Hinckley MN. with an end target around St. Cloud.

While enroute up interstate 35, I stopped in North Branch MN for a top up and a quick view of the radar and hourlies. Noticed a local chaser Brad Winger was in the area in Cambridge MN so I initiated a quick chat with him. We decided to meet up in Cambridge and chase together along with his partner, Wendy. I've had the pleasure of chasing with Brad several times in the past and we've always had great chases regardless of the outcome. Truly a great guy... Him and Wendy clearly make a great chase couple.

We chose to continue our trip west toward St. Cloud MN and taking our cues from the hourlies we decided to hang out at what appeared to be an old abandoned rest stop just adjacent to Interstate 94 at the St. Joseph exit. For about a half hour we watched towers develop literally over our heads. Chaser Matt Salo then joined us and the convoy was set.

The MD above details the situation at the time we were waiting in St. Joseph and solidified our decision making that something would be happening nearby. And soon.

We were fortunate to get out ahead of the development enough to be able to enjoy a few moments of watching the towers climb with little resistance from the atmosphere. In our haste to position, we took a sudden exit which our third chaser, Matt ended up missing. He stayed on the same storm we were on and eventually landed some great video of the storm being in a better lighting position than we were.

Brad suggested we get a weather selfie of the two of us before the chase begins. Smart move! I never think of these things during a chase because I'm trying to figure out my next move given the moment to moment changes in the situation. That's why it's so much more enjoyable to chase with others. Everyone in the group add to the collective knowledge for the benefit of the experience. Thanks Brad!

As Wendy navigated us toward our storm intercept, clearly the storm was looking more as though it was going to TOR. I had great radar data to assist us in getting there, but the sky was telling the story better than any radar could.

The rotating wall cloud pic above was fairly sizable and being still three to four miles away yet, we had to get there in a hurry! clearly this thing was not waiting for us to arrive!

Of course, we always have to deal with the occasional ground obscurities once we make visual with the possible tornado.

By this time the tornado had enough definition from this distance and light angle to be able to identify it. Unfortunately, it was already beginning to become rain wrapped.

Once we got a little closer we decided to get a photo session in before the development became completely rain wrapped.

Textbook tornado image as seen by radar. Nice inflow notch was just north of our position and we decided to make a play toward it.

Here's our GPS track as we approached the now rain wrapped tornado. Various points on this track indicated damage of a minor scale. Trees down, small branches in the road, building materials located near the road traveled.

As you can see we were on the low contrast side of the storm which gave us short views of the tornado as it ducked in and out of the rain curtains. At this time it is most definitely on the ground.

As noted in the photo, path of tornado was determined by damage surveyed by NWS employees and was determined to be an EF-0 tornado event. Compare the similarities between our track and the confirmed track of the tornado. We literally were right behind it as it seems. Both Brad and I are cautious chasers and refuse to drive headlong into an area where a rain wrapped tornado may be lurking.

At the end of this track we were "greeted" by the remnants of this storm. A rotating vortex stood right in front of us and while not what I would call "stout", it was moving things around on the road in front of us. A driver coming from the opposite direction at the time, drove right through the vortex as it was crossing the road in front of us. Remnants of what had just gone through? Redevelopment? we'll never know as it disappeared as quick as it came. Remember, this thing was rated an EF-0 so the remains of that you would expect not to have a whole lot power behind it. But we didn't know it at that time. And playing it safe allows us to chase another day.

The following videos contains highlights of our chase day:

After a brief stop for food and fuel, we decided to see if we could meet up with a developing cell to the south of us over Princeton MN. On our drive down Hwy 169 we encountered the boundary and we experienced about a ten degree increase as we crossed over to the warm side almost instantaneously when both vehicles windshields fogged up briefly.

We doubled back up 169 toward Milaca after noting intensification in the line to the north. Upon further review it appeared to be getting into some dirty air and we gave up on that storm as well. We decided that would be the end of our great chase day and we parted as we usually do saying that we'll do it again in the future.

We were treated to a terrific front lit sunset of a tower rising to our south.

Just to seal the deal.

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