2009 turned out to be a great year after a slow start. MaryLynn and I decided to take a chance and head down to the Southern Plains in early May to see if we could get lucky since the weather pattern for that time period did not look promising. Maybe not the smartest thing to do, but we both had vacation and thought at least the road trip would be a fun idea. We ended up having two successful chase days with some very photogenic storms but ultimately did not end up with any tornadoes, which was fine with us as we got to witness some incredible storms. Thereafter, it was quite slow for the Upper Midwest till the middle and end of June when I was fortunate to witness and film the Austin and Alden tornadoes of June 17th and 21st, respectively. These two days were by far the best days of my chase season, although I did have a couple more decent chase days in late June and July, one of which was in southwest WI where a pair of supercells produced several wall clouds and a brief funnel over relatively rough terrain to chase in. It was difficult to find the time to chase this year due to traveling for work weeks on end, but the days I did go out ended up being very good this year, although I have to admit that there were a few busts as is with any year. You always take the bad with the good. Now on to the 2010 Chase Season!
07-27-09 CHASE LOG: WI
Quite glad that I went out today as MaryLynn and I chased a couple of strong supercells through the rolling hills and trees that is southwest WI.It ended up being a surprisingly good day, all things considering.Upon leaving Burnsville, our course of action took us to Rochester, MN where we waited for initiation as a mesoscale discussion had been issued, talking about the development of supercells with primarily a damaging wind and large hail threat as well as an isolated tornado or two.A severe thunderstorm watch was then issued for all of southeast MN and most of south-central WI into northeast IA.Thunderstorms had already developed across the border right on the warm front into WI and, realizing the trough and associated wind shift were passing to our east, we decided to head east on I-90 towards La Crosse, WI.Storms in WI continued to get their act together and become severe, showing signs of strong rotation as we made it through La Crosse and towards Sparta, WI where we came upon the first storm of the day.This storm was still exhibiting strong signs of rotation and here is where we witnessed the first wall cloud, and a large wall cloud it was, although quite ragged.As the storm passed south of the Interstate near Sparta, we pursued on Hwy 71.This is where the VIL’s spiked and the storm started to have a couplet.We got directly out ahead of the wall cloud at this point as the motion started to greatly increase and inflow winds became stronger, also while we encountered some dime sized hail.I was rather nervous at this point being directly out ahead of the rapidly rotating wall cloud with the storm having a TVS signature on radar but, surprisingly, the storm never produced a funnel through the entire time we were watching, just outside the town of Norwalk, WI. We continued south on County Road T ahead of the storm as different storm became tornado warned 35 miles to our southwest.This was the storm that dropped a confirmed tornado in southwest WI today.We were not able to get to this storm due to the bad road network and the likelihood that we would have to core punch the storm to have any chance of seeing anything.Therefore we stayed on our storm to the north and this storm ended up becoming tornado warned as we were witnessing another developing wall cloud, although short lived.Near Hillsboro, WI is when the chase ended as the storms congealed into a big HP mess.
Back edge of rain shaft on a storm in La Crosse, WI.We had to punch this storm to get out ahead to get to the storm near Sparta, WI.
Large wall cloud on the storm near Sparta, WI. This storm was severe warned for large hail and damaging winds at this time.
Screen shot of the velocity imagery at the time we were approaching this storm near Sparta, WI.
Image of inflow into wall cloud from right to left. Hail/rain core is on the left side of the image.
Velocity imagery near the time we had the strong rotation very close to us in the video.
Wall cloud near Hillsboro, WI shortly before the storm became tornado warned.
Anvil of supercell on I-90 near New Lisbon, WI as we got back on the interstate to head home.
Sunset near St Charles, MN on the drive home with towers going up close to the Twin Cities.
More photos from this day can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39991047@N02/sets/72157621751427445/detail/
06-23-09 CHASE LOG: MN
I went with Donya Gjerdingen to southern Minnesota to get out ahead of an quickly approaching severe thunderstorms with a massive shelf cloud. We left Northfield, Minnesota and drove down to east of Faribault, Minnesota on Highway 60 near the eastern shore of Cannon Lake. Here, the storm approached us with a nice looking shelf cloud but was weakening and tending to fall apart as the gust front outran the main precipitation core. We left this area and went further south to the Hope, Minnesota exit where the gust front and shelf cloud overtook us with winds only around 40 mph as the line continued to weaken. Overall, not a great chase by any means but it was close and nice to see a decent shelf cloud, which I have not seen very many of so far this year.
Shelf cloud about to overtake Owatonna, Minnesota near Cabela's. Notice the smoke from a fire rising up into the storm.
A lot of dust being blown around as the gust front approaches. Dirt and dust was very thick and limiting the visibility as a result.
Underneath the shelf cloud after the feature overtook us. Still windy as you can see the grass bent over in the ditch.
More photos from this day can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39991047@N02/sets/72157621522145947/
06-21-09 CHASE LOG: MN
Peggy Willenberg, Melanie Metz, MaryLynn and I decided to play the warm front this day and ended up heading down Hwy 169 from the Twin Cities to Algona, IA. On the way down, we did pass a developing storm with a VERY nice lowering near Elmore, IA. This storm was well north of the warm front and appeared to be moving quickly to the northeast into a not as favorable environment, so we continued south to Algona and sought after a storm that was looking impressive on radar as well as being right on the warm front. This storm did produce a couple of funnels east of Algona and then seemed to be undercut by the warm front and lag behind, therefore gradually weakening as the fast moving warm front continued into southern MN. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the storm that we passed up quickly became tornado warned near Blue Earth, MN. We waited around for several radar scans on the southern cell and then bailed towards the cell heading towards Easton, MN. The storm had reports of a few funnels and a tornado near Easton before we got there, but our crew managed to get on the storm between Easton and Wells where we witnessed a funnel ¾ of the way to the ground. It did not look like this touched down at that time. After lifting, we followed the storm past Wells, witnessed another funnel and then the tornado around 2 miles west-northwest of Alden, MN. It was interesting that the storm that produced the funnels and tornado near Easton and Wells was not the storm that produced the tornado near Alden. The storm that produced the tornado near Alden developed to the south and quickly became severe. The tornado formed on the eastern part of the storm, which was interesting because the inflow was out of the southeast of the storm and did not seem to be directly into the action area. The low level shear this day was very high while the deep layer shear appeared to be not as ideal. Therefore, the storms that went up were not supercells but were quite low topped with hardly any lightning and tops that had a difficult time exceeding 30K feet. Basically the tops could not reach far enough past the freezing level to produce any hail and even lightning. It was very interesting to see these low topped storms have so many lowerings, wall clouds, funnels, and overall motion.
First funnel cloud of the day near Algona, Iowa.
Second funnel cloud on a different storm further to the north near Easton, Minnesota.
Third funnel spotted on the same storm further to the east near Wells, Minnesota.
Fourth funnel cloud a short time later near Wells, Minnesota.
Fifth funnel cloud on a different storm moving up from the south between Wells and Alden, Minnesota.
Short lived tornado around 2 miles to the west of Alden, Minnesota.
A second picture of the tornado 2 miles to the west of Alden, Minnesota.
Tornado roping out near Alden, Minnesota.
More photos from this day can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39991047@N02/sets/72157621646848788/
06-17-09 CHASE LOG: MN
I chased with Twister Sister Peggy Willenberg today and we ended up targeting near the Mankato/New Ulm, Minnesota area for initiation.An intense supercell that later spawned the Austin, MN tornado quickly developed 25 miles southeast of Mankato and we were quickly on this storm near Geneva, MN.There was a large wall cloud on the storm that was being shielded somewhat from the intense hail core but we could see the edge upon following the storm to the east to Highway 218.Upon briefly getting cored with some nickel sized hail, we emerged very close to the meso, which was violently rotating on the northwest side of Austin and very low to ground.Under the meso, there was no condensation funnel at that time, but there was debris underneath the meso, so this was indeed the first touchdown of the tornado at that time.We then progressed south towards I-90 and came upon damage to structures, trees and downed power lines as well as snapped power poles.After getting through Austin and emerging on the southeast side of town, a newly developed mesocyclone let to a second touchdown, and much stronger, about 2 miles east-southeast of Austin.This tornado was much larger and had multiple vortices as shown by the video.This was quite the incredible but sobering experience at this point as the tornado sat over a farmstead and large wooded grove of trees for around 4-5 minutes about ¼ mile to our south-southeast.There was large structural damage done here as well as numerous power flashes with this tornado upon meandering slowly to the northeast.We also got into some golf ball sized hail at this point that did put a crack in the windshield.The tornado eventually diminished but soon cycled, with a third touchdown of the tornado as we traveled southeast on Highway 56 near Rose Creek, MN. This tornado was a nice cone structure with a needle towards the ground and intense rotation about ½-1 mile away from us at that point.It did not appear that this third touchdown led to much in the way of damage, thankfully.Thereafter, we followed the storm further southeast towards Adams and Leroy, MN, witnessing a pair of horizontal funnels (very cool looking I might add) as well as an organized and rotating wall cloud that did not put down a tornado before we lost daylight, although it very much looked like it would at a few points in its cycle.All in all, a terrific chase day for us, close to home, and actually too close to home for me considering I grew up in this area and knew a lot of the areas that were hardest hit by these tornadoes.
Image of the supercell taken near Amboy, Minnesota.
Strong thunderstorm updraft taken near New Richland, Minnesota.
Tornado 1/2 mile to the east of the Austin Municipal Airport. This tornado went over a farmstead and caused considerable damage to that area.
Tornado 1/2 mile to the east of the Austin Municipal Airport. Condensation finally reaching the ground here.
Tornado 1/2 mile east of the Austin Municipal Airport. Police on the scene at the farmstead to the right of the tornado.
Tornado east of Austin, Minnesota. Large wall cloud over the tornado as well.
Tornado 1 mile to the south of Rose Creek, Minnesota. Final tornado of the day with this amazing storm.
More photos from this day can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39991047@N02/sets/72157621793443334/
05-08-09 CHASE LOG: OK/TX
Not a great day overall with rather weak shear and a cap till later in the day when storms were able to bust through.Models were consistently forecasting over near 5000 j/kg for the late afternoon and a non-capped atmosphere with precipitation breaking out in all the main model solutions. However, this was a cold front situation with weak southerly inflow winds resulting in not as favorable shear profiles as one would hope. Also, another limiting factor was the weak upper level support and really little to no jet support. All in all, not a great day but it was nice to see some severe storms and a few wall clouds.
We started the day in Davis, OK and sat around in a church parking lot till 5pm when things really started to get going. We first went to check out the initially developing storms to the north of Ada. These storms had skinny updrafts and were not all that impressive, but had some decent updraft bases nonetheless. Not liking the overall look of these storms, we doubled back down to near Davis where some more impressive cells were going up to the west of I-35.These storms quickly had shear and hail markers and quickly became supercellular with severe thunderstorm warnings issued by the NWS. We did take a few wall cloud pictures and some storm structure. A better storm soon developed to the east of Wichita Falls, TX, just to the south of the Red River. We bailed on the northern storms and shot down I-35 to Gainesville, TX and then west on Hwy 82 to near St Jo, TX. As we approached this storm, it was after sundown and starting to get really dark, but it did become tornado warned with radar certainly indicating some strong rotation and an impressive hook. I tried to shoot some lightning pics here but there was just not enough to get some decent pictures and we could not see under the base at that point to see if there was any sort of lowering. After that, my wife and I drove through the night to get back to Burnsville before noon the next day. We made it in 11 hours, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it after chasing that day. What an incredibly long drive! But with 2 drivers, it was doable.
In Oklahoma, we noticed a sign for Minnesota Road!
Non-rotating wall cloud on our first storm of the day near Ada, Oklahoma.
Image of a wall cloud and inflow on a supercell near Davis, Oklahoma.
Thunderstorms developing in the distance at sunset.
More photos from this day can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39991047@N02/sets/72157621669956731/
05-05-09 CHASE LOG: TX
Not too bad for the first chase of the year! My wife and I started out the day in a cockroach infested motel room in Wichita Falls…actually by far the worst motel room I’ve ever slept in.Ended up meeting Theresa and Chris in Haskell where we sat around till 3:30pm and went south towards Abilene. Had a nice CU field upon reaching Anson but noticed the CU was being eroded quickly from the west so we decided to follow the more robust CU on Hwy 180 east towards Albany. MaryLynn and I ended up sitting around Albany for a little while before heading southeast to I-20 as a new MD was issued with development being imminent. The thinking here was that storms would develop along Hwy 180 from Albany to Breckenridge and then slide southeast towards the Interstate where we would be in perfect position. Well, the storm near Breckenridge was clearly elevated at first and quickly moving to the northeast. We considered going north to intercept this storm, but decided against it due to the elevated nature and how quick it was moving, not to mention not being all the impressive on radar.
The storm of the day developed near Breckenridge in the wake of the first storm and we came up on this cell from the southeast on some unmarked road and Ranch Road 717 as it was starting to mature and become surface based fairly quickly. The first shot below is what I believe to be a large funnel that did form near Necessity to the southeast of Breckenridge. In the picture you can see the RFD cutting in from the left.This funnel had to have only lasted around a minute, if that, but it did get rather far down. Thereafter, we drove underneath the meso on I-20 to try and get ahead of the storm with a south road option and encountered some rather interesting wind shifts and incredibly fast moving rain curtains as we did so. I have some video of this and, if it looks alright, I may post it later. Saw the TIV on our south road option of Hwy 16 and then got some lightning shots as it turned dark just west of Stephenville as the storm really started to die.
I did take quite a bit of video today, as well as a poorly constructed time lapse. Also, I know the Vortex 2 was not out yet but, wow, there were a ton of chasers down here!It’s wasn’t terribly bad, though, as everyone seemed to mind the road alright and not do anything stupid. Quite the caravan trying to get ahead of the storm and to I-20 in time before we got cored. Needless to say, we made it but, had we been there a few minutes later, we definitely would have gotten cored by the 4 inch hail that some storm chaser reported totaled his car.
This is the supercell quickly developing near Breckenridge, TX. This storm quickly went supercellular and was tornado warned after 45 minutes of initiation.
Here is a funnel cloud to the southeast of Breckenridge, TX.
Another picture of the large funnel cloud to the southeast of Breckenridge, TX. Notice the RFD cutting in from the left of the funnel. The funnel was short lived and only lasted around a minute and did not touch down.
Lightning shot when storm was in dissipating stage near Stephenville, TX.
Another lightning shot near Stephenville, TX at the end of the chase day.
More photos from this day can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39991047@N02/sets/72157621794019518/