Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chase Log - 4-22-2011

Incredible day, chasing a beastly tornadic supercell in the St. Louis metro area. Challenging, and also the closest I've come to dying on a chase to date.

Headed to Colchester, IL, to meet up with Jesse. Also had Dr Tom Williams from WIU, and Eric Apel along for the ride. Targeted Kingdom City, MO, initially. Got there, sat for about an hour, and our storm popped up west of Jefferson City, MO - just where we had forecasted. Let it become more organized, and intercepted just north of Jeff City. Large recycling rotating wall cloud became apparent, with the biggest beaver's tail/inflow jet I've ever seen. Chased this through central MO, staying right in the hook echo for most of the time...met up with fellow chaser Nick Nolte as well. Passed Reed and the Dominator before we got back on I-70. Noted strong rotation, and strengthening inflow, but no tornadoes - yet. Once on I-70, encountered 2-2.5 inch hail, and easily 60+ MPH winds. Started getting reports that a tornado was on the ground as we got out of the rain core, and realized that this was probably true once we got out, and got slammed with a 70 MPH inflow jet.

Pulled over as the tornado was crossing I-64 after affecting Dardeene Prairie, and nearly got hit by a semi while stopping traffic. Streamed the circulation crossing the interstate live on the Weather Channel, while Jesse conducted a live phone interview. Kept on the storm through St. Louis metro, noted power flashes as the tornado hit Lambert airport, and, after the tornado had lifted, went back to the airport to help out/document damage. Conducted another live stream/interview with TWC while streaming the image of the bus up on the concrete ledge, and then went back to Colchester for the night.

All in all, definitely the most intense chase of my career to date...chasing a rain-wrapped EF-4 tornado in a major metro area with power flashes and a debris ball is about as crazy as it gets. Ended up with about 800 miles, and got to bed at 4 AM.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

INSANE video from St. Louis tornadoes...

First, the tornado as it crosses the interstate 150-200 yards in front of us...heavily rain-wrapped, but you can just barely see a funnel...then, a large wall cloud, power flashes over St. Louis Metro as the tornado hit the airport, and then damage at Lambert International airport, as we were able to go back to the airport and get great footage of some incredible damage.

Chase logs to's 4 AM, I just got back to Jesse's house, been driving for 18 hours straight, and I need to get some sleep. Our video may be on all major networks tomorrow morning...still waiting to hear back on that.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chase Log - 4/19/2011

Worst chase of my career to date.

Chased with Jesse Risley and Kevin Crawmer. Started out in Springfield, headed SE to Vandalia. Started heading NW when an isolated cell took a right turn, started riding the warm front, and producing tornadoes. Caught this cell just west of Carrollton, IL, lost data, and found out too late that storms had popped ahead of it. raced east to get on the new storms, and missed a view of two beautiful, large cone tornadoes by a combined distance of about 8 miles. Incredibly frustrating. Still, good to have these days every once in a while, I suppose...makes it sweeter when you do get something.

Possible redemption tomorrow...probably chasing southern IL again.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chase Log - 4-15-2011

Chased a local cold-core setup with Jesse Risley...ended up with a couple of nice rotating wall clouds/funnels, and a storm that tried to put a tornado down right on top of us a bit south of Springfield, IL...just couldn't get it done. Pretty crazy...insane rotation and a nice funnel, literally right over us...could feel the surface winds changing and rotating as it passed overhead. Also saw some golf-ball sized hail. Hopefully we'll have video edited at some point...I'll post it when I can.

I'd go more in-depth into everything, but I'm in the middle of working extra hours/immersing myself in tomorrow's (4/19) setup...potential for a few significant tornadoes exists over MO/IL if the morning convection can clear out...stay tuned!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Southern IL later today...

Heading out at noon for southern IL - targeting between I-70 and I-72. Marginal cold-core low setup could yield a few tornadoes, and it's close enough to home to gamble on enough instability materializing to pop up a few supercells.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Iowa Tornado Outbreak - 04-09-2011

Incredible cyclical tornadic supercell over western and northern Iowa Saturday afternoon and evening...we're still reviewing video to determine how many tornadoes we actually saw. We know for sure that we saw at least 10, with possibly more than that.

To set the became increasingly obvious throughout the day on Saturday that there was a significant threat of tornadoes - and that any tornadoes that did develop could be strong. Mike Brady, Roman Totten, and I left Peoria at 6 AM, targeting Onawa, IA.

A low pressure center over western NE was forecast to move northeast, and deepen throughout the day. Backed SE surface winds intensified ahead of the low, and brought unseasonably warm, moist air north into IA/NE. Record to near-record temperatures reached the upper 80's, with dewpoints just below 70 by 4 PM. This created a very unstable convective environment, with surface based CAPE reaching well in excess of 3000 j/kg by 21Z (4 PM CDT). The wind fields near the warm front/triple point in western Iowa were extremely favorable for tornadic development, with Surface-3 KM Storm Relative Helicity of 391 m2/s2 (per OAX 21Z sounding). Hodographs were large, and curved clockwise, as clearly shown by the aforementioned sounding.

A few blips started to appear on radar before 5 PM, and one started to become dominant. It started moving northeast, but as the mesocyclone's rotation increased, it began to turn right, and slowing down. By the time the storm crossed the river, it was moving ENE at 35 MPH.

We moved east of Onawa, and parked up under the meso. After getting hit with golf-ball sized hail for a bit, and seeing several funnels, the rotation and motion under the meso started to ramp up rapidly. A small, non-condensated tornado touched down briefly about 200 feet down the road, and dissipated after about 30-45 seconds.

We raced east after the tornado had lifted, and tried to navigate some terrible terrain/soupy dirt roads as fast as we could. We missed the 3/4 mile wide tornado that struck the town of Mapleton (video from my friends Skip Talbot and Mike Boik), and entered the town minutes after the tornado went through. After a quick stop to make sure that people were ok, we got through, and continued after the beastly supercell.

The inflow into the storm at this point was incredible - easily 50 MPH, backed to the SE. This continued for about the next 5 hours...when inflow into a storm is that strong, it's not a matter of if it'll put a tor down. but when.

As we got east of Mapleton, we noticed that a new wall cloud was developing outside the rain curtain. Then, the fun began...

Tornadoes just started dropping. One, after another, after another. Beautiful stovepipes. A multiple-vortex. Several ropes. Power flashes. We found tornadoes in our video that we didn't even notice that night because we were focused on bigger tornadoes elsewhere. And, we were on what could be the largest tornado in recorded history - a final number hasn't come in yet, but the path width was measured between 2 and 3 miles wide. Here's some of our video still captures...

Most of these tornadoes were between a quarter and half mile wide at some point in their life cycle, and EF-2 to EF-3 in strength - they would drop, strengthen, and then either become rain-wrapped, or get ingested by the 3 mile monster.

After about 5-6 hours of dropping tornadoes, the storm weakened, and we drove to Mason City, IA for the night. An absolutely incredible storm, and an absolutely unreal night.

#1 lesson learned...backed SE winds can do anything.

Here's our video from damage in Mapleton, and some more stills from the tornadoes...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Never understood how people could forget how many tornadoes they saw until tonight. Saw at least 8 tornadoes, including 2 on the ground at one time, a multiple vortex, and an unbelievable cone/stovepipe. Got video, not sure how it'll turn out since it was all after dark. Prayers go out to people affected - these were large tornadoes that caused major damage.

Tornado outbreaks possible today and tomorrow...

...and I'm leaving for N IA/S MN in 20 minutes. Chase partners Mike Brady and Roman Totten - the next two days have the potential to be absolutely incredible. Live stream at under either my name or Mike's.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chase Potential - Saturday/Sunday

Saturday is currently looking like the first major tornado threat of the year. Still tough to lock down the details, due to timing differences between the models, but it looks like the target area is centered over eastern IA/western IL/northern MO attm.

Storm motions are currently holding at 30 kts. CAPE is forecast to be over 3000 j/kg. EHI at the surface is over 4, with over 7 aloft. Shear may be veered from the SE, and is running at 60 kts. Hodographs are showing large, clockwise curvatures. Capping doesn't look to be an could be a huge day.

I'll be out in the field with Mike Brady...stay tuned for what could be a historic day!

Monday, April 4, 2011

4-3-11 Eastern IA/NW IL Wall Clouds/Hail

Tough forecast yesterday paid off big dividends with a couple of rotating wall clouds, and hail up to quarter size....amazing structure!

Because of my proximity to the chase zones of interest, I was able to stay at home in Peoria til a little after 3 PM. My main point of indecision was whether to target the triple point in NE IA/SE WI, or further south, along the cold front. I decided to go with the 4 KM WRF model, which showed decent initiation around 23-00Z (6-7 PM local time).

A bit before I hit Burlington, IA, the SPC issued an MD saying that a watch would be issued soon...based on this, I decided to head a bit further north than I had initially intended. I hit Mt Pleasant and blasted north as storms erupted, going from blips to massive supercells in under 20 minutes. I initially targeted the northernmost storm because of its proximity to the low pressure head.

About 10 miles out from the northernmost cell, near Iowa City, a large lowering became evident. As I got closer, medium rotation became evident, and the wall cycle several times. At one point, it tried to drop a funnel, but it wasn't meant to be.

I pulled off north of Iowa City, and let it go right over me. Absolutely fantastic motion, and it's always great to feel the winds changing at the surface under an area of rotation...ended up getting blasted by 35-40 MPH rear-flank downdraft, and, as the wall cloud became rain-wrapped and started to crumble, I decided to bail and head back south towards another supercell that was starting to show the makings of a hook.

I was able to get onto the southern storm, get onto the wall cloud (which was another beauty), and let that go right over me, as well. Got behind Mike Brady as the RFD blasted us, and ended up tailing him home...not before we core-punched a few hail cores, though. Best we got was a fairly heavy bout of quarters.

Navigation was pretty tricky without a co-pilot, but I managed to pull it off without too much of a problem. Also, I'll need to get a camera of some sort...taking pics with my phone while blasting down the interstate is a supreme pain.

Some good shots of the southern storm/second wall cloud from my friend Brandon can be seen here. Here's one of the shots of the wall cloud he took, not too long before I let it go overhead...

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Chase later today


Nice tor threat in my backyard...can't pass that up. Updates to follow!