August 23, 2014


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Redfield, SD
10 miles NNE of Draper, SD 8:26 AM 8/22/2014
Springfield, IL 12:02 AM 8/25/2014
Faulkton, SD
0 mph
Brief Tornado, Mesocyclone Updraft, Wall Cloud


Warm front setup across central SD. Targeted Redfield for late afternoon tornadic supercells. Awaited initiation in Redfield with other chasers before heading west toward Faulkton for intercept of north moving linear segment. Storm organized into supercell as it approached warm front north of Faulkton. Noted wrapping RFD and wind roar, then cylindirical mesocyclone updraft with tornadic motion underneath. Stuck in mud trying to pursue storm on unpaved roads, but got out with assistance. Intercepted small storm south of Aberdeen with robust updraft before spending night in Aberdeen.

Crew and Equipment

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




This was fourth day on an extended camping trip in South Dakota. August 23 looked like the big chase day of the trip with a warm front draped across central South Dakota and moderate to strong instability. I awoke outside of Bowdle and headed into Mobridge for data and breakfast under drizzly, cool grey skies north of the warm front. Redfield looked like the spot to be with the best shear and instability. I meandered southwest, stopping at the Subway in Redfield before meeting up with Bill Doms and a couple other chasers as we awaited initiation.

Developing Supercell
11 miles N of Faulkton, SD
4:37 PM
Several small, elongated and linear line segments started to pop south of the warm front, heading north. I figured they'd rapidly organize as they crossed the warm front before going elevated north of the front in the stable air. There was a narrow window for tornadoes during that time, so I picked the cell that looked the most robust and headed west for the intercept. Southeast of Faulkton, SD the base came into view. It appeared as a linear looking gust front at first, but it quickly beefed up and started to develop a wall cloud with pronounced tail cloud on the north end of the base as I watched it.
I started stair stepping on the road grid to keep up with the storm. The udpraft base bowed out into a big horseshoe as a rear flank downdraft clear slot appeared. Things were looking really promising as the supercell started to take shape. I got downstream of the storm and let the base pass overhead, the top end of the horeshoe passing just to my west. RFD rain bands were wrapping rapidly around this region. A rushing wind noise got my attention as the feature passed close by. I scrambled to get my cameras read as I suspected we had a developing tornado. Figuring I'd have the best visibility with this approach, I immediately got into a hook slicing position and drove west of the wrapping rain bands and mesocyclone and then headed north. I was hoping the clear air to the east would give me the best backlighting and contrast, even though I was precariously positioned between the core and Bear's Cage region. I headed north for several miles. My plan backfired and I got caught in the precipitation core. A ground scraping mesocyclone was taking shape immediately in front of me to the north. The winds howled in an intense jet toward the feature driving the rain sideways. I trailed just behind the feature trying to keep my visual bearings within the core. My road went to gravel and the winds were approaching severe levels. I didn't like my position anymore and worried about the conditions of the road up ahead or even if the lines or trees would come. I stopped to get my bearings and decided to turn around and head to east paved road I just passed.

That's when I saw something taking shape immediately downstream of me. It was like the mesocyclone had reorganized behind me and I was now sitting square in the path. A low base with howling inflow was rapidly approaching. I hurried south toward the feature and the paved east road before taking my escape route east to get out of its path.

Brief Tornado
6 miles WNW of Cresbard, SD
5:40 PM
I headed east a couple miles looking for a road to go north. There was a paved option coming up in about 5 miles. I was getting overly aggressive and overzealous in my positioning and decided that was too far. I decided to go north on the unpaved grid. I saw another chaser turning around on an unpaved road, my first warning cue, and turned left onto it heading north. The road was dirt with some stones but it seemed firm enough. Heading north I had a visual on the developing feature I escaped from. It was a big cylindrical mesocyclone updraft. It looked like a giant soda can. The winds were wrapping around underneath at tremendous speeds and I suspected we likely had a tornado in progress. My roof top camera captured this brief, dark form underneath the soda can updraft. NWS Aberdeen would later survey an EF0 tornado here. It was brief, weak, and difficult to confirm at the time, but it was my first August tornado.
I followed the feature north but the road started to deteriorate. The van was slipping from side to side. I tried to keep it going hoping to take the next east road back to pavement. I was losing traction though and the van started slowing down. I came to a stop on the mud, the tires slowly spinning. Crap, I was stuck! I had been foolish to try that road and too aggressive in my positioning on the storm. Thankfully I was out of the path of the storm, but not the rain, and the conditions on the road would only worsen. I tried several times to manuever out of the mud, forward, and back, but I was just making ruts and sliding further off the side of the road. I started putting in some calls for a tow, hoping there was something in Faulkton, as Aberdeen was almost an hour away. I spoke to a woman at the Super 8 who recommended somebody over at the service station across the street. After interrupting his dinner, he agreed to come up and yank me out of the mud.
A pickup showed up coming down the road, a guy and his son. He jumped out looked at the van, and then jumped into the driver seat and started driving forward and back to get it going. I had already tried that, but apparently the trick was turning off the skid control. The tires spun but he got it moving slowly on the mud, and turned it around on a farm field pull in. "Jump in! I don't want to stop!" he shouted at me. I jogged along side the van and jumped into the moving vehicle on the passenger side. He waved to his son up ahead who must have been no more than 12, who then jumped in the driver seat of the truck and drove back up to the road in front of us. I thanked and paid them and then I was back on the road.

New Storm
2 miles SW of Stratford, SD
8:36 PM
The tornado producing supercell had long since moved off to the north and got absored in the line. Some new cells were popping up to my southeast and were discrete, however. I went in for the intercept and caught a neat looking updraft base with little points underneath. Darkness fell and the storm gradually fell apart. I caught up with my chase partner from years ago, Chad Cowan. We watched the storm die and then headed into Aberdeen to trade war stories and catch up over drinks before splitting a room. I spent the next day driving home.


My first August tornado was pretty lack luster but it was an exciting chase, and fortunately my mishap in the mud wasn't too bad, setting me back about an hour or so and not missing any tornado action. The best catch was on the storm I was on. Bill Doms and crew got a little trunk shaped tornado while I was attempting to hook slice. The low base and rain wrapping made it difficult to see from various angles.

Lessons Learned

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