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.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Chase 050315 Ramsey County MN

Alright, so it wasn't a chase per se. But the Maehem Mobile was out in the elements and took the brunt of the hail core that bulls eyed the Maehem Mansion. Without even getting behind the steering wheel, it gave me an opportunity to shoot some video with my a77 which hasn't seen the light of say in a while and I'm planning to use quite a bit this season. It worked great but I'm finding out a few things about the camera that I'm really not liking. Like positions of knobs and switches. It's crazy that even if you use a camera continuously, you can lose all tactile knowledge of it in a very short period of time.

This storm itself was no big surprise. It made its way in from out west on a cold front that came in around 17:00 local and brought in a nice leading edge gust front and hail core as it passed through.

Now let's see what the rest of the 2015 season has to offer.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

OK So I Lied...

I guess I should know better than to say I will never do something ever again.

I speak of my earlier decision to jettison my ability to stream to the masses. Come to find out, several folks asked if I was going to do it again this year. Well? after further review, my reasons for not streaming have been pretty much unfounded and the system simplified tremendously.

So much so that it should now be nothing more than a "push of a button" to place my stream "on the air"

Truth be told, last years performance (or lack thereof) of my original streaming provider really put a sour taste in my mouth so much so that I kind of felt duped. Promises made early in the season that drew me in never made it to fruition and any questions regarding the improvements to the streaming site were basically met with radio silence.

I jumped over to Severe Studios late last season and never really had the opportunity due to lack of weather to see how their system(s) performed. So? lets give it another go.

In the next couple of days I'll set up their "Zoom Radar" on the "Live Chase Map" page allowing you to locate me and watch my adventures just as you have in the past.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dashboard Lightning Show North Oaks MN 040115

After I finished my field photo session, I attempted to get back to the leading edge of the line in order to get a few more shots. It was for naught except for my continuously rolling dashcam which captured several positive CG strikes as well as a few base crawlers.

And here is the frame series covering the time I was out:

Friday, April 3, 2015


On the evening of May 6th 1965, a line of tornadoes traveled across the metro area destroying many areas in the path including the Spring Lake Park and Fridley areas which sustained much of the damage.

Radio Station WCCO was on the air at the time providing warnings, information, and listener reports live to listeners who were listening on their battery operated radios when power had failed to the affected areas.

'CCO received many awards for their community service providing crucial information to the general public and undoubtedly saving lives in the process.

With the 50th anniversary of this event fast approaching, take the time to go listen to the hours of recordings that have been saved and placed on the website "RadioTapes" and are a great piece of historical record of the "Fridley Tornado" and its aftermath. And as you listen remember that this was a time when all the modern conveniences, immediacy, and advancement of electronic news gathering we enjoy today didn't exist. Instead, first person eyewitness accounts via telephone ruled the day...

WCCO Radio Tornado and Severe Weather coverage airchecks

Photo Courtesy of the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lightning Show North Oaks MN 040115

As storms moved in, I set myself up in the green field in the map above for an unobscured view of the line of lightning rich cells coming up from the Southwest. Unfortunately, while the view was great, The line was moving fast and before I knew it, was on top of me. And when you are the tallest object next to a vehicle full of antennas in a forty acre flat field with lightning flashing all around you? The smart money is on not sticking around long...

Fortunately, I managed a few shots before Zeus started throwing bolts my way...

Best CG I've seen in years! I hope this is indicative of what's yet to come this season!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Less is More...

At least so I'm told...

After some serious consideration, I decided it was time to reevaluate my chase setup.

This season, we're going to go out a little more simply. And while the photos may say differently, it really is a less complicated (and I hope) a more reliable system. The original point of all of this was to make it easy to setup and easy to take down. I'm afraid over the years it became less about that and I was reaching the point where it was beginning to become a drudgery to set things up. This isn't what it's about for me. Hobbies are supposed to be enjoyable ya know?

Gone are the laptop and mount which gives me plenty of room for say, an occasional partner or ride-along? In any case, I get the front seat real estate back.

I also 86'ed the Deep Cycle battery and inverter that rode in the back. Even though it was firmly strapped down, I never was comfortable with the possibility of a sixty pound battery making its way to the front of the vehicle in the event of a "sudden stop" or "Barrel Roll". Not that I plan to place myself in either situation, just one less thing to worry removing, installing, charging, testing before hitting the road, etc. Good riddance.

My large HD camera and Film Tools mount are history as well. Although that will come back periodically in a cameo appearance from time to time, it won't be in the regular package. Several smaller Sony HD "Action Cams" will take its place. In fact, they will get lots of use this year given how well they performed the few times I had them out last season.

And last but not least, Streaming will not be back... Ever.

The ridiculous amount of time I spent making sure that streaming was functioning while on the road was just too much. Couple that with a less than enthusiastic streaming provider who would take weeks to answer a simple question and smart-assed troll viewers who basically would tell me how much my stream sucked, the expense to provide a data stream, and you have the makings for a non-starter this season.

This year, I'm chasing for me... And maybe a few riding shotgun.

Yeah yeah, I know. It looks like overkill. But really, everything has a purpose. If I find out it's not getting used? Out it will go.

This is the year of the tablet. I found an extremely inexpensive Windows 8.1 tablet that (should) do everything the previous notebook did in a fraction of the space. Still a couple of things to work out but nothing insurmountable. My iPad will also be going out for the ride as well.

As a matter of fact, maybe this should be the year of the iChase vehicle. Since no less than four iDevices will be running providing data, radar, backup dash camera, and of course, phone service. I'm finding that decommissioned iPhones have many uses for chasing after they stop being phones...

New this year is a standalone wifi system. In years past I was always tethered to a phone for data which served me well... Until someone called. Then I'd have to re-establish service once the call was complete. Not the type of thing you need to be doing as you're greeting a growing supercell. I will be very curious to see how reliable this is in the coming months. Hey! The hotspot I bought on-line for twenty bucks new and I'm operating prepaid. If it sucks? I'll throw it out front of the vehicle and run over the thing in effigy to Verizon as a big fat "Fuck You"

Minus a couple of cameras, this is pretty much my setup for the 2015 season.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

2015 Minnesota Severe Storms Conference

Join a bunch of us storm starved chasers who need a fix... Soon.

Head to the website for more information.,,

Tornado Forecasting Workshop with Rich Thompson - Class 1

Here's a link to class one of a nine class workshop on Tornado Forecasting. Lots of useful information but you have to work with some of the meteorological indices in tornado forecasting in order to take advantage of the lessons being conveyed. If you feel your brain scorching after class, stick with it. I've found plenty of good examples you can take in the field with you. Aside from that, Rich Thompson delivers a great workshop. And it's...


You Fuck With The Bull... 5/30/2013

I wrote this shortly after I found out about Bettes and crew rolling their rig courtesy of the monster El Reno F3/F5 which as it turns out after final analysis of the data they drove right into. I guess my ultimate point was to chastise Bettes for the hippocracy of the moment he found himself in against words he himself uttered the season before about chaser safety and behavior beginning to erode on the road.

It was of course written well before we learned about the loss of Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and chasing partner Carl Young.

Out of respect to them, I decided to put my little "rant" aside. My righteous indignation wasn't going to change the situation. For some reason, I didn't push the "delete" button on the whole entry. And looking at it today? I'm glad I didn't.

To read it after the fact? It may seem a bit snarky and self serving but still very pertinent.

We are not omnipotent. 

If we take chances, if we place ourselves in harm's way regularly, harm will eventually come to us.

Call it Odds, call it Karma... Whatever.

In the end and in hindsight? Both teams were victims of bad decision making. and once they realized that, it was too late to turn back. And this was a group that was known for its safe chasing behavior. 

You would never label Tim Samaras a "careless" chaser.

But, he always knew there was a chance that one day, he wouldn't come home.

And so? this is the primary reason I'm now posting this two years after the fact. To remind all of us we need to be continuously mindful of the risk this hobby presents to us.

I wish all of you a safe and enjoyable 2015 chase season.



You get the horns.

An old saying that certainly applies here.

The Weather Channel's Mike Bettes and his "Tornado Hunt 2013 crew came upon this reality yesterday afternoon, May 30th 2013 when the tornado they were "chasing" just outside of El Reno Oklahoma decided
to take a left turn right in front of them causing their vehicle to be "tossed" (their words) some 200 yards off the roadway rolling several times and ending up in a field adjacent to the road they had just been driving on.

As you can see, the vehicle sustained some mighty tough injuries. Fortunately for Bettes and his crew in the vehicle, they all walked away from this with only minor injuries with cuts and broken bones being reported.

They were lucky. Very, very lucky.

And this is the same Mike Bettes who two years ago, had this to say:

Man! Talk about being beaten over the head with your own words. Which of course, puts Mr. Bettes into just a bit of a hypocritical light. I call BS on you Mr. Bettes. Your mishap served to reinforce every negative stereotype that has been placed on storm chasers and it is us, the responsible ones that will pay the ultimate price and end up being looked at with wary eyes in the future. No amount of on-air "Mea Culpa" will bring back the hard earned respect that many chasers worked on to maintain and give this hobby some credibility.

So, I'm going to ask you Mr. Bettes, to go on the air and with the same flourish, the same gusto, the same highly polished and promoted means by which Tornado Hunt 2013 was aired to TWC's audience and tell them:

"We screwed up. and don't let our mess be representative of all storm chasers. There are very good chasers who do this as a hobby and not for financial gain and are intelligent enough to maintain a safe distance from the storms they are chasing. 

Glencoe/Hutchinson MN 07/07/14


Looking at my "Draft" file just now found four entries in incomplete form. So I guess I'm going to have to drag out my memory of this event kicking and screaming. As I recall, this day was an "Iffy" one at best. But given the storm starvation diet everyone seemed to be on, plenty of us took the bait...

The nice advantage to this setup was I wasn't going to have to go clear out to the Dakotas to meet up with the line and I chose Glencoe MN as my initial target. I finally chose to wait it out in between Glencoe and Hutchinson MN. when I began to see some evidence of a robust updraft in the incoming line.

Which was pretty much eliminated by the cap that was in place at the time.

As the line approached, There appeared as though a couple of cells had broken off and were ahead of the main approaching line. If there was going to be anything producing, this was going to be it since it had basically all of the attention of the atmosphere forward of the now expanding squall line behind it. And it really did have some significant updraft as evidenced by the small rotating wall cloud on the approach.

Well, within that period of a few minutes, the storm evolve into a shit show of outflow domination and I was (again) treated to a mean assed shelf with about a 70 MPH gust front greeting me.

Once the line came over me, Time to call it a day. I basically surfed it all the way back to the cities. I've got to learn to hold my horses, let the line pass over me and drive back on the back side. But that presents a new set of problems if I have to go through areas experiencing short term flooding and all the stupid drivers associated with that end.

As I said up front, it was a flip of the coin type setup. Had the cap busted, I would have been right there for the main show. It was disappointing but not unsatisfying...