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.