August 20, 2014


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Murdo, SD
Springfield, IL 9:00 PM 8/19/2014
Draper, SD 10:33 PM 8/20/2014
Timber Lake, SD
60 mph
Wall Cloud, Gust Front


Later summer supercell chase in South Dakota. Target I-90 corridor for late afternoon, but retargeted to north central SD noting enhanced are lift. Caught developing supercell near Timber Lake, SD at sunset with wall cloud and gust front under sunset colors. Caught in borderline severe wind in Mobridge after dark, watching lightning and striated supercell tower afterwards to the east.

Crew and Equipment

Solo chase. Equipment: Canon 60D, Canon t2i, Canon EFS 10-22, Canon EF 50mm, Sony HDR-xr500v..




I was itching to go on a trip, was missing the Northern Plains, and saw a string of modest setups coming together up there. I packed the van for an extended camping trip and hit the road, leaving the night before the first chase. There was a shot at supercells and a modest chance for tornadoes across much of South Dakota. I initially targeted near the Murdo area, but headed north after it visible satellite indicated an area of enhanced lift and agitated cumulus.

Gust Front
2 miles W of Timber Lake, SD
8:39 PM
I got on the storm right at sunset. The sun was dropping below the base, lighting it up in brilliant orange and a big gust front was starting to form with a scuddy little wall cloud to the right tinged in green. The show looked like it was going to be exquisite so I pulled off the highway and setup for time lapse.

2 miles W of Timber Lake, SD
8:42 PM
The wall cloud took on this gnarly scuddy shape, with a glowing green rim on the top. The gust front was fanning out in shades of pink and orange. I was conflicted on which to shoot and tried to fit both in my frame, but even with the wide angle lens I could only fit half of each in the shot.

Color Explosion
Timber Lake, SD
8:44 PM
A surge in the outflow caused the fragments of scud from the gust front to go screaming overhead with a blast of wind and light rain. The motion was extremely rapid and low to the ground. The setting sun was illuminating everything in brilliant shades of red and pink. The colors exploded all around me, changing shapes and shades right before my eyes in an awe inspiring dance of clouds. It was one of the most beautiful storm scenes I've seen, even if the storm was a scuddy little outflow dominant cell. The show had practically made my whole trip out there.

Mobridge Severe
4 miles ENE of Trail City, SD
9:08 PM
I tracked with the storm into the dark. It caught me as I went over the bridge into Mobridge. A blast of wind approaching severe limits hauled through the town just I caught up with Reed Timmer's Dominator. I continued through the town and stopped to shoot the storms updraft and gust front. Lightning lit up the precipitation core and base. A few miles east of there I stopped to shoot the storm again, noting a striated base and scuddy lowering. The lightning wasn't good enough to get properly illuminated shots though.
I spent the night south of Mobridge, camping on a dirt road next a field filled with sunflowers, storms rumbling all around me. Life as a South Dakota storm nomad is paradise.


In terms of supercell structure and tornadoes this chase was pretty lackluster. However, the amazing sunset show along the gust front made this chase magical to me. The explosion of colors and cloud motions was better than any fireworks display I've seen, and it wasily made the chase for me. I came to South Dakota for the Northern Plains scenery and some pretty storms, and that's exactly what I got.

Lessons Learned

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