April 23, 2022


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Britton, SD
Hitchcock, SD 7:30 AM 4/23/2022
Medford, MN 12:46 AM 4/24/2022
Browns Valley, MN; Fargo, ND; Beltrami, MN
50 mph
Rotating Wall Cloud


Warm front quasi-cold core play on the SD/ND/MN corner. Targeted far ne SD for initiation with storms producing toward the Fargo area by midafternoon. Intercepted developing storm on border river at Browns Valley, MN. Pursued tornado warned complex into Fargo, ND noting only updraft bases before retargeting mini supercell near Beltrami, MN noting rotating lowerings. Chased warm front convection east into Minnesota until dark.

Crew and Equipment

Solo chase. Equipment: Sony AX100, Canon 60D with EF-S 10-22, Samsung S9.




Chase Start
2 miles ENE of Britton, SD
11:07 AM
I awoke in the car outside of Hitchcock, SD. The howling winds had died down and the air was cool and misty with scattered showers moving through. I drove up to Aberdeen to pick up a memory card at the Target as I forgot to bring my cables and external drives and would soon run out of recording space. Aberdeen was right on the warm front with temperatures quickly dropping into low 50s and upper 40s along with a blanket of fog.
I repositioned northeast toward Britton, SD where Convection Allowing Models indicated storms would be maturing in a maximized pocket of low level instability by early afternoon. The roads were foggy and lined with flooded fields making for a rather surreal drive.
An arc of cells was starting to develop in far northeastern South Dakota on the edge of clearing to the south. This looked like the start of the main show, and what I anticipated to be an early show. I moved to head off what looked to be the dominant cell, tracking right up the SD/MN border. I found a little parking area with river access on the waterway just outside of Browns Valley, MN. Fishermen looked on and boats started to return to the launch ramp as the rain free base of a developing severe thunderstorm tracked northward just to the west.

Developing Severe Thunderstorm
3 miles NNW of Browns Valley, MN
1:37 PM
I followed the cell along the river for a short ways until the road and storm path diverged.
The chase soon turned into a scramble, as I had to make for a river crossing and a miles long detour to the west to get back on I-29 to pursue the fast north moving cell.
I had probably jumped the gun and mistimed my intercept, letting the cell get away from me as it hit what I thought would be the early afternoon sweet spot on the SD/ND border. The cell picked up a tornado warning and I was out of position to the south with barely a view. The fast speed limit on I-29 allowed me to catch back up, and fortunately I didn’t really miss anything.
Instead of nice, discrete minisupercells, a large, southeast to northwest outflowy line quickly developed. I tried to stay on the eastern edge of it, which appeared to still have a workable rain free base, but the storm displayed a whale’s mouth not favorable for a tornado catch.

Car Trouble in Fargo
2 miles SW of Fargo, ND
3:37 PM
Approaching Fargo, the Subaru’s dash lit up with warning lights. I exited to let the car cool down, and it lurched with a clunk as I put it into park, signaling problems with the transmission. I watched the base recede to the north with some pointy scud, and after twenty minutes or so the car appeared to be willing to continue, so I warily proceeded.
A couple of cells far to the west had spun up tornadoes as they crossed the warm front. My plan now was to catch anything semi discrete as it crossed the boundary and hope the pattern continued even as cells appeared to be shrinking and moving into a cooler, lower instability environment.

Crossing the Warm Front
7 miles ESE of Hillsboro, ND
4:27 PM
I watched the tail end of the line that moved through Fargo cross the warm front to the north, quickly becoming elevated, before I retargeted discrete cells firing just across the border in western Minnesota.
A tornado look-a-like, non-rotating scud, on a cell that had already crossed the warm front:

Promising Development
4 miles SW of Lockhart, MN
5:09 PM
The new cells had a beautiful pendent, V shape and I was really hopeful for an evening warm front show.
Looking south at a promising base:
Bands of inflow on the right converged into the cell’s outflow on the left looking north now as the cell passed:
Near Beltrami, the base wrapped up with a rotating bowl lowering. This was it, the warm front tornado show! I was in great position with great lighting.
The cell dragged up a big block of condensation, probably a wall cloud attempt, and I was still optimistic it was going to produce.
New pointy lowerings to the northwest looked really intriguing, but probably instead hinted that the cell had already crossed the warm front and was in the process of kicking up a bunch of outflow driven scud. The bright sky reduced contrast and made discerning motion at the time difficult, and a review of the video showed that any rotation was not very pronounced.
The base became smooth and laminar. It looked gorgeous catching some direct sunlight, but the fuzzy edges and smoothness suggested it was going elevated in the cool air north of the warm front.
I followed the cell into Crookston. The base looked like it was rounded into a beautiful meso, but it was just an elongated gust front viewed on edge. I topped off the fuel in town while there was an active tornado warning I believe and lots of scud motion to the north, but I didn’t think it was a serious tornado threat at this point.
I made a vain effort to chase cells well to the east across northern Minnesota until I started to get into the trees, and they all eventually weakened as they lifted north of the instability. Large patches of snow still blanketed the ground up there. I called the chase and pointed the car toward home, watching lightning arc across the sky in the twilight as I navigated through the trees and lakes of central Minnesota on foggy roads. I cleared Minneapolis around midnight and car camped on a gravel road outside of Medford.


This was a border-line bust even though there was some brief, photogenic mini-supercell structure in the evening near Beltrami, MN. I was hoping for a closer attempt at a tornado on this two day run to the Northern Plains, but still had an enjoyable chase. The issues with the Subaru were troubling, however, and would continue to plague me through the rest of the season.

Lessons Learned

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