July 13, 2010


Initial Target: Aberdeen, SD
Departure: Westchester, IL 6:00 pm CDT July 12
Arrival: Pelican Rapids, MN 10:15 pm CDT July 13
Intercepts: Abercrombie, ND
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: Non-Severe (not measured)
Wind: Non-Severe (not measured)
Features: RFD Gust Front, RFB
Miles: 1,075


Dryline/Coldfront setup across North Dakota/South Dakota into Minnesota. Targeted Aberdeen, SD initially for area with better instability. Target failed to initiate by late afternoon so went after tornado warned supercell that had been ongoing for hours in central North Dakota. Intercepted right on ND/MN border near Abercrombie noting HP structure. Followed storm into Otter Trail county MN until nightfall, noting photogenic structure, but nothing close to a tornado.

Crew and Equipment:

Solo chase.  Equipment:  Kenwood TH-F6A Tribander, Dell Inspiron Laptop.  Kyocera data card and router, Holux 236 GPS, Robotic camera dome with Sony XR-520V.






Tuesday's setup looked like a pretty good day before the day type setup across eastern portions of North Dakota and South Dakota. The upper level energy hadn't fully arrived yet, but a nice dryline/cold front was forecast to setup across the area with enough shear for some isolated supercells. Discrete supercells can be very photogenic on the northern plains and with a big tornado event forecasted the next day in Minnesota, I decided to give this chase a go.
I targeted northeast South Dakota down the dryline, where instability was high and storms were forecasted to be more discrete. Shear looked rather light though, so I was hoping for just a discrete high plains supercell, which could be very photogenic. After spending the night at the cabin, I made it to Aberdeen, South Dakota by early afternoon. I grabbed some lunch and camped out at a hotel parking lot checking out data. A cell had fired in central North Dakota, but looked to be tracking north of the warm front, and didn't appear very organized on the radar. I dismissed it as being elevated, while most of the chasers in the area went for it. It gained a tornado warning, however, but I continued to let it go, hoping my target area would initiate.

I sat in Aberdeen for hours, watching this cell track all the way across North Dakota, tornado warned the whole time. Cumulus overhead was getting pretty thin, and I finally conceded defeat, and decided I better make a last minute, futile effort to catch that North Dakota storm, knowing I'd be way too late for anything it produced. I headed north into North Dakota, my first time in the state. To my surprise I was able to catch the storm, just as it was crossing the border into Minnesota. The storm was still tornado warned and a nice base with a lowering came into view, just as a report of a funnel came in on Spotter Network. Perhaps I wasn't late after all. I followed the storm into Minnesota and saw that the storm was in a high precipitation mode with a striated updraft tower.

The storm was fairly slow moving, however, and I was able to easily get ahead of it and right into the inflow notch. The storm had a nice donut hole shaped rear flanking downdraft, but it was filled with rain, restricting visibility. Looking west at some photogenic HP structure:
I followed the storm on some gravel roads where I thought I would be completely alone, but a half dozen other chase vehicles showed up within minutes and stopped when they saw me parked on the side of the road. I met up with Nick Nolte in the group, a chaser I had known only from online, and we chatted for a few minutes before the rear flanking core started getting close and we had to move. Looking southwest at the rear flanking core as I move to keep ahead of it:
A few more miles east I stopped and saw that there was some scud starting to feed into the base of the storm from the north. I was hoping it was a wall cloud starting to develop, but it stayed pretty disorganized and soon fell apart.
Looking north towards the forward flanking downdraft I saw a rather neat looking feature. It looked like refraction between the precipitation curtains was causing some neat looking bands of light:

I drove through Pelican Rapids, MN and caught the storm on the east side of town. It was still tornado warned, but was looking more and more disorganized and it was starting to get dark. It was also moving into the tree and lake filled terrain of central and northern Minnesota. I decided to let the storm go, and dropped a few miles south of some lakes where I'd have a view of the storm, and could camp out in the van for the night.


I thought I was going to bust after my original target failed to initiate. However, I was able to make the most of my chase after letting go of this target, and intercepting a nicely structured supercell up in North Dakota and into Minnesota. Even though I saw no tornadoes on this chase, I set out to intercept a photogenic supercell and that's what I got, so the chase was a success. It was also nice to know that I didn't wind up missing anything by sitting in Aberdeen as the storm never produced a tornado during its life, with the few reports coming in either being brief spinups or false.



Lessons Learned: 

  • Don't abandon hope when your target doesn't pan out, and make the most of your chase. You might actually be able to catch that storm you think is out of range.