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.....

6-11-14 Marshall County SD Tornadic Storm

Quite an interesting day!  There was this little storm in Marshall County, SD which went from Tornado Warning to nothing in about 3 scans.  Never saw the tornado, even though I went through what I thought the 'damage' path would be.

This was also the first of two Wednesdays in a row where I would be chasing.  This storm was a little interesting, as I was sitting in Lake City considering punching the core on this storm, I look at reflectivity and really start to re-think that idea.  I also end up getting a call from Lisa Green over at VNL telling me to really be careful because this storm looked very impressive on radar.

It was fascinating on this storm how in three scans it would go from looking like armageddon to hardly a rain shower.  Bring on more 2014 weirdness!

This was also a sad day for me, as after this I went back to Fargo to attend Hope Hanselman's going away party for her and her fiance, as she had taken a job in South Carolina.  Hope is a wonderful anchor, and I always looked forward to working a show with her.  Always relaxed, and I really loved the chemistry we had when we did a show together.  Hope is a great anchor and reporter, and I know she's going to flourish at her new station.

Rainbow at the end of the storm. 

Beautiful evening behind the storm!
Marshall County at rush hour. 

Little did I know, this day would be the start of a number of busy days coming up for me.  The severe weather season was starting to come into full swing here in the upper plains!

Friday, June 6, 2014

6-5-14 Cass/Ransom County Tornado Warned Storms

So first of all, I have to say a BIG thank you to someone for letting me go chase today.  So, uhm, THANK YOU mysterious person!  :)

Now, this was a day which I got up, looked at the HRRR, and said "yeah, we're going to see some pop up storms today.  Maybe a few hailers."  Robert Hahn on the other hand, said at about 1pm "The non-supercell tornado parameter looks interesting in ND today."  Note to self, listen more to Robert, because boy, was he right!  Right around 4pm, we saw our first tornado warning show up for Cass County.  And, I was out the door like a flash. I think between door to chasing was all of 4.5 minutes.  Not that I was counting, but it helps when you keep your summer 'go bag' ready at all times.

I was off for Casselton as quick as I could, while Ashley Bishop and Matt Moore were already off covering the storm.

Once I got a little south on 18, I was treated with a really nice rotating wall cloud.  Too bad I was on the wrong side of it, and got a ton of rain and hail so nothing turned out.  Boo for being late to the party.

I kept party rocking on though, and got a little south and got out of the core and was treated to this on the leading edge.  You can see the precip core off to the right.
Lighting anyone? 

During this entire time, the storm was tornado warned.  The wall cloud I had previously seen had gotten eaten up on the backside and totally fell apart, but this did not mean the storm was totally done.

Better shot of the leading edge.

The storm started to gain strength again, and as I went south, I went through the town of Leonard, and went west a little bit.  I could tell from my radar updates things were starting to get a little more interesting.  I also could tell the storm was starting to get much more organized, and I knew where the action area most likely would be.  This meant giving up some road options in the event something happened, but I knew I still could be safe if need be. And here's why:

This is a textbook North Dakota wall cloud.  Hi there!  Precip off to the right, with the updraft area starting to get cranking.  This wall cloud was rotating and spinning quite nicely.

Mmmm...wall cloud up close and personal. 
Yep, and it started to get it's act together.  While I was sitting here, someone came up behind me.  And it just so happened to be this guy.

Some unknown Kansas guy in front of a wall cloud.  To that I say, BOOMER SOONER!
I know he works for 'the other guys', but it's nice to know even though we compete against each other, we were able to watch the storm and chat about weather for a bit.

It was while Aaron and I were talking that things REALLY got cranking.  The inflow into the storm started to pick up to the point of where the trees were bending over, and we could see the inflow into the wall cloud start to pick up.  Would we see something today?

More wall cloud....and then?

Yep, we would.
If you look to the center of the main wall cloud, you can see a little needle-shaped thing sticking out.  That is called a funnel cloud, the precursor to a tornado.  Yes, the inflow was cranking.  Yes, this wall cloud was rotating.  Did I call the NWS?  You bet I sure did.

Another shot of the wall cloud.  You can see the inflow off to the right, and the RFD cutting in behind it. 
While this wall cloud was cranking away, we started to get some precip in here.  It sure left an interesting feature.  Hutch and I talked a long time last night about what this feature was, including looking at video, speeding the video up, looking at it in real time, and whatever it is, it sure looks like a neat little feature.

Hrm...I vote downburst.

Maybe not my brightest move of the day. 
Once the wall cloud started to surge south, I knew it was time to get out of the way.  The VIL's on this thing had spiked to over 70, and the hail marker was getting bigger.  Yep, time to get east.

At one point here, the updraft was so strong, it was sucking up the precip off the field and pulling it into the updraft.  This means we had some strong inflow just cooking into this storm.  Not many times have I seen a storm suck stuff up like this and not produce.  I tried to go east, but the hail started to get a little large for my liking, and I ended up backing off.  I think this was a pretty good idea, as I didn't feel like explaining why I needed a new windshield to someone.

Once the storm got south of 46, it started to lose strength quickly.  I was at least treated with a nice rainbow to end my day!

Overall, a pretty good chase for short notice.  One thing I did notice is there were a number of other spotters/chasers out on the road, many more than I have noticed in years past.  I'm not sure why on this storm, if it was just because it was Cass County, or just because it was close to Fargo, or people are now getting more excited about weather.  Either way, it was good to see everyone respectful of everyone else, no one driving poorly, no traffic jams, etc.  To all of our viewers on VNL, thank you for tuning in and watching all of us work to bring you your severe weather coverage.  Thank you for trusting us to help keep you and your family safe.  As we get into the heart of severe weather season for the valley, I hope you continue to tune in.  I know I couldn't be more lucky and blessed to work with such a dedicated and hard working group of folks, from Hutch, Robert, Lisa, and Mick, to our awesome news staff and management, to our production and camera operators.  We're really a team over at VNL and I feel proud every day I get the opportunity to work with these fine folks.