Saturday, September 20, 2014

9-20-14 Tornado Warned Storms in Sargent County, ND

We got one more in us for the year I think!

After a day which left most meteorologists scratching their heads with EF-1 tornadoes in NW Minnesota,  I was bound and determined not to let this day pass me by.

After bugging Robert this morning saying "LET'S GO!  ONE MORE BEFORE THE SOONER GAME!"  (Ok, in reality, we were texting Apollo 13-style countdowns to each other)  we left.

Not long thereafter, we started paying really close attention to the storm in Dickey County.

As we approached, it became severe, and then Tornado warned.  Unfortunetly we were never able to see the main updraft base at first when the couplet on radar looked the most pronounced.

Nice shelf along the cold front!

It was a mean looking shelf.  I was actually somewhat shocked none of the danglies were called in as funnels/tornadoes.

We crossed the border into SD and after seeing some pretty decent piles of hail along the side of the road and sending in a quick report, we came across this:

Now, this was attached to the cloud base, and it was just hanging out.  We stopped to take one more quick shot:

And quickly realized the storm potential for the day was pretty much done.  The cold front had caught up and was going to eat up the rest of the storms.  There was still going to be some pretty good wind out ahead of it, but the system was moving at 50mph+, which makes keeping up with the storms, much less getting ahead of them, next to impossible, so Robert and I called it a day.

Not too bad of a day when you go leave the house at Noon, get on a tornado warned storm, and then get home in time to see Sooner Football!

The question now posed, is this the last chase day of 2014?  We know the temps are going to warm back up into the 80's this week, so the temps need to come back down at some point....but will they?

8-23-14 Tornado near Cresbard, SD

This day started off like no other.  Zero tornadoes seen for Robert.

We changed that today.

I'll spare you most of the details, and get straight to the awesome pics!

Nice Shelf outside of Orient, SD
As we came up on the storm (after harassing Skip Talbot) it looked rather shelfy.

But, that would change as we got further along in the day.

Or not.  Still really Shelfy!  But, that just means time for us to goof off since we were able to meet up with my really good friend Bill Doms and Joel Lampe and Mark.

Let's see those pearly whites Joel! 

Lots of danglies along the leading edge.  But, would it do anything? 
As we kept watching the storm, it kept acting like there was enough shear to get it to do something. 

Not what you think it is....
It would even go on to produce some good scud nadoes! 

Robert, scanning the skies like a DOW!
We ended up having to go a little north at this point.  The storm was starting to spin, and we all knew what that meant...GAME ON! 

A few miles up the road, it dropped one.'s not moving left or right...but it looks like it's getting bigger....I wonder what that means...
And then we pulled off on this road and watched the tornado...and it wasn't moving left or right.  

A minute or so later....

Yep, time to move! 

We didn't even get a chance to get a picture of Robert in front of it.  It was one of those where we were just in awe of what we were seeing.  The rain curtains wrapping around it, and then when it went by us, we could hear the roar.  It's a sound when you're a chaser you don't forget.  You don't always get to hear it, and in our case, we could.  Some people describe it like a freight train, but not all tornadoes sound alike.  Bill Doms has an excellent photo of both Robert and I in front of it - visit it at if you haven't already. 

We also happened to catch the end of this tornado as well just after we cleared the trees.  A pretty neat day!  

As we were wrapping things up for the day, we did get a nice shot of a shelf cloud.  It was still tornado warned at this point, but really we couldn't see the updraft base any more. 

This day was pretty memorable for me, since I was lucky enough to be there when Robert saw his first tornado, and even able to see it next to my best friend Bill.  A pretty happy day for everyone!  It's not every day you get to experience something like this.  No matter how many tornadoes I ever see, no matter the storms, this one in particular will always be special.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

6-21-14 Severe Storms in Eastern ND.

Normally on a day like today, I'd like to sit here and at least put a general area of where we went.  But, I'd be listing stuff all day.  Over 360 miles.  1 incident of driving like I'm in England.  1 dead bird.  No, wait, that was on Friday.  Three gas stops, one gas station sandwich, one gas station rice krispy bar, and one case of a REALLY bad road choice.  As in this wasn't Bob's Road.  It was Bob's uncle's twice removed road.

This was also the day of back and forth, back and forth where at one point I think Robert and I were on the same road three times in the same day....on different storms.

First stop of the day had Robert and I heading west to Jamestown, and then we were going to hit up Dickey County, since it looked like there was a boundary sitting down there where storms may fire.  This boundary stretched all the way from near Bismarck, and then wound its way up and down the I-94 corridor, ending in Barnes County.  Yeah, it fired....about 40 miles east of Jamestown.  After we thought about it for a bit, and finally after looking at the radar scans seeing the tops on it go over 40,000 feet, it was time to accept defeat and go east.

High based, but still very pretty.

Near Oriska

It was during this time when I got a frantic phone call.  Apparently this storm has triggering a TVS (Tornado Vortex Signature) with a debris ball signature on radar, and people were wanting to know if this storm was producing.  It wasn't even producing a wall cloud from what we could tell.  Still, some decent hail shafts.

This storm kept moving closer and closer to Cass County.  This and another cell were both severe warned for hail.

Rain and hail shaft. 

Once it got into Cass County, it started to try to get a wall cloud going.


The question was - with the high cloud bases and lack of shear, would it really get it's act together as it approached Fargo?

"Bubble, Bubble, toil and trouble.  Making thunder I am." 

"Going Green Cap'n."  

As Robert and I kept getting closer to Fargo, the storm started to lose it's characteristics and really started to fall apart.  We could at times feel the inflow getting warm, then we'd feel outflow.  Then some inflow into the storm.  Then cold outflow.

Until it finally petered out just before it got to Fargo.

After a quick stop at the station to upload some video for the 6pm, Robert and I piled back into the car, and back west we went.  We started to watch some storms as they approached Valley City in a very disorganized manner.  Nonetheless, the storms went severe warned for hail.

What was awesome about these storms was the almost constant rumble of thunder.  It's something I love to listen to, and it was neat to hear on this day.

Hail, anyone?
Once we started getting closer to Oriska (again!) and Buffalo, it started to look a little ominous.

As we got closer to Casselton, we started heading north out of town.

Now, before you freak out and go "OMAHA OMAHA OMAHA....HAHN PASSES.....TOUCHDOWN!"  this was along the leading edge.  So it was a shelf cloud with lots of danglies under it.  This is what you would have seen in Fargo.

It was shortly after this time that I made a mistake.  I went down a dirt road.  Now, normally these are not an issue for me in the chase vehicle.  Good tires, 4x4, etc.  This was a mistake.

The road quickly went from being a county road to an unmarked road to a minimum maintenance road.  Bad idea. This is what we call in the chaser world as "Getting Delormed".

Now, during this time Lisa from the station calls.  I quickly hand the phone to Robert because I'm worried we're going to get stuck.  We didn't, but I'm sure it was a little intense in the truck for a while.
"Roads?  Where we're going, we don't need....roads."

One last shot there of something that's really innocent, but looks pretty nasty. 

Overall though, having two good chase days with a partner really helps.  I'm glad Robert was able to come with.  Now we need to look forward to this weekend.  Will the Euro pan out, or will the GFS win and bring back storms to the Midwest?  Will the drought in the southern plains get quenched?  Will I end up having to face the choice - go visit family this weekend, or go chasing?  Stay tuned!  

Sunday, June 22, 2014

6-20-14 Ottertail Tornado-Warned Storms

As I sit here this Sunday afternoon after tending to my garden, doing some yard work, and starting to clean out the chase vehicle after a very busy week, I looked at radar and ventured down south.  While up here in the Red River Valley we are currently dealing with too much water, down south, many of my Oklahoma and Texas friends are dealing with some very long term, very damaging drought.  Up here, we have more than enough.  Down in Pawnee, OK, they are so close to running out of water, the city is having to drill emergency wells in order to supplement their water supply.  In Minneapolis, there are road closures, people sandbagging, and even 35W is getting an emergency dike put up due to the rising waters.  Just interesting how weather works.

Now, back to the reason everyone!

On Friday, I was sitting in my office at the day job, and chatting with a coworker in Texas.  Next thing I know, I get an alert popping up on my phone saying this:

WFUS53 KFGF 202018

318 PM CDT FRI JUN 20 2014









And I quickly look at radar and go "Hrm...this could be interesting."  Not long thereafter, I get a message from my manager asking when my live video feed would be up.  I ask her then "Is this permission to leave a little early today?"  I love my dayjob.

Right away, I get a text message from Robert Hahn at the station wondering what my plans were.  Since he worked the early shift for Mick since he's on vacation, I ask him if I should pick him up.   Within 10 minutes, we were loaded up, and ready to go!

As we started to approach the storm, we would already see the wall cloud with lots of action underneath it.  We just wanted to get to an area where we might be able to get a view of the bottom of the cloud.

View from I-94

Lots of scud action and upwards rising motion into this storm.

Once we were able to get off the Interstate and started working some country roads, my knowledge of lakes country was going to be put to the test.

Pretty disorganized.
Now that we were on roads where we could stop, look, and film, it was time to enjoy the fact we were on a tornado-warned storm.

Same photo as above, just with much wider angle lens. 

What was clear to us is that this storm meant business.  It was in an environment where it could produce a tornado at any given time.  We were lucky enough to have some pretty good cell coverage in the areas we were in so we could bring what we were seeing back to the station.  It was also pretty awesome to have Robert with me to help with things like navigation, radar, and adjusting the streaming camera.

This photo was taken right after it produced a very pronounced funnel over Ottertail lake.  As soon as we saw it produce this funnel, we called into the station and got right on the air.  I was nervous for all my friends out there on Ottertail, and especially my favorite eatery on Ottertail lake.  But more on that later.

When this storm passed over Ottertail, we noticed the storm really started to fall apart.  Both Robert and I wondered if there was some interaction with Ottertail lake which helped the storm lose some of it's punch while it passed over the cold waters.  Might just be a coincidence, but it was fascinating to say the least.

After this point we got closer to Deer Creek, and took a few shots:

Nice rain foot!

Happy Robert.

Once we made our way into Deer Creek, and the edge of our viewing area, we noticed there was a TON of hail still on the ground.

Most of this hail had been sitting there for a little while and it was still over an inch in diameter.  We did see lots of leaves down in the city of Deer Creek, but thank goodness no major damage.

On our way out of town and back to Ottertail, we could see the culverts were just overflowing with water.

And, we even saw a 'multi-vortex tornado'!.  And I use that term loosely.

We then started the long way back to Fargo.  But, since we were so close to Zorbaz on Ottertail Lake, Robert and I did the only sensible thing.

Stopped for dinner.

Geno'z Burrito. 

Great food, reasonable price.  And the fishing on Ottertail Lake isn't bad either!

Good news is as of 6/22/14, no confirmed tornadoes yet from the Ottertail County storm.

One of the questions I was asked over Facebook was why is it so hard to get pictures from lakes country back to the station?  Great question, and thank you for asking!  One of the biggest issues you run into in lakes country is the trees and the hills and the lakes.  All the things which make lake country great, also makes it very hard to spot or chase severe weather.  It's entirely possible for you to be under a tornado warning and not know it because of the lack of cell coverage in the area.  Both Robert and I use different providers for cell service, and even we found it hard to maintain coverage.  In my chase vehicle, I even use cell amplifiers and I was having trouble.  If you are in lakes country, I really encourage you to get a weather radio.  You never know when you might need it.  Just imaging if this storm came through on a Saturday afternoon.  Having a weather radio would be handy.  Two things to have with you if you go to lakes country - VNL StormTeam Weather App, and a weather radio!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

6-18-14 Dickey County, ND and Brown County, SD Severe Storms

This was the second Wednesday in a row I ended up chasing.  Another day, another trip to good o'l South Dakota.  This was also the day of the very destructive tornadoes in Wessington Springs.  I wasn't able to make it all the way that far south and back in one night, so I stuck to the northern storms.  I have to say while I wasn't rewarded with a tornado, I was still rewarded with some pretty awesome structure shots.

One of my biggest challenges for this day was since I was already in Brown County, SD would be to get north to the storms in far southern ND.  I was going in and out of cell signal which made feeding video back to the station difficult at times, and made it even hard for me to call the station and talk to Hutch and Lisa!

This photo was taken looking northwest towards Ashley, ND.  Somewhere in there would be the tornado. 

Another shot. 

Once I was able to get to Forbes, ND, I got a little north and ended up taking this panoramic shot of the shelf cloud, which stretched almost from horizon to horizon.

Somewhere near Monango, ND. 

Somewhere north of Forbes, ND
Quite a good day chase wise, but not a great day for many other people.  We have received so much rain here in ND and SD in the last month, the rivers are I think higher than they were with the spring melt.

That said, here's the storm reports from this day:

Quite a day.....