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Anything outdoors!  Tornadoes, eagles, blizzards, or auroras.  If it is in the sky, running through the woods or swimming in the water, I'm there!


Monday, May 26, 2008

5 25 08 Central MN supercell

That was crazy. Melinda and I were up at her dads near Grand Rapids, MN. Hauled butt home as it looked like supercells with tornadoes were going to be likely with the Twin Cities metro being ground zero. Drufke called as we were coming through Aitkin and said the SPC was going to go with a red box within the next hour or so. About 20 minutes from home, he called again and let us know it was a PDS. Wheeled into the driveway and ran inside to fire up a couple of the pc's. Vis sat and surface obs confirmed my hunch. I residual outflow boundary from earlier storms was sitting over southern Wright county extending into western Hennepin. A couple of scans showed the boundary was trying to lift north with some really extreme backing of the surface winds. About the same time a cell fired near Litchfield on what looked to be almost a pseudo dryline/wind shift with a sharp drop in the dewpoints. Dave and Kristen came wheeling up with my gear (which Dave had taken to KS since I was going to be out of town) and out the door we went.

My original plan was to head south to highway 12 towards Litchfield as I fully expected southward development of a line of supercells. However, with each scan, the cell pretty much directly west of me continued to organize and went severe. I still wasn't expecting much but my gut told me not to blow it off and split the distance between the storm and where I thought the new cells would form. Doug Kiesling called and said he was in Glencoe. Let him know about the boundary lifting north now into central Wright county but still was not convinced it was to be the main player. Cullen, Dave, Kristen and I headed up to Annandale just off CR 38 on the top of a hill. BIG pulse in the cell as the storm rooted itself on the boundary. Surface inflow cranked up and within a few minutes we had a huge meso. Not much for a wall cloud but a enormous inflow stinger developed feeding into the base. This thing was hauling ass to the east so we had to move quickly. After a few seconds of video and a few stills, headed south down CR5 where the storm made a few attempts at a funnel with whispy fingers dancing around one area of persistent rotation. About the time I picked up the mic to report the rotation to West Metro Skywarn, MPX put the torn warning on the cell. Dave and Kristen pulled up behind Cullen and I as we let the rotation pass to our south while we took some mushy nickle to quarter sized stones. Once the rotation passed, the chase was on for real. Blasted south then east stopping near Maple Lake where it looked like it was going to tornado.

Very strong rotation with good inflow and tremendous cascading RFD on the back side. At this time I told Cullen to keep filming the rotation (which was at about a 70 degree altitude to the north of our position) as I started scanning the ground for signs of debris. The storm was moving east/northeast along the boundary at nearly 50mph which was tough to keep up with. This area is fairly heavily wooded with roads which wind around lakes and wetlands. Got back on highway 55 and called Melinda to let her know to take shelter as the storm was going to pass nearly directly over home. At the same time, Cailyn called to tell me the sirens were going off at home but they had already taken shelter and were watching the storm on radar.
Melinda's view of the wall cloud approaching Buffalo MN.

Melinda's view after the wall cloud had passed pretty much right over her house.

Dave and I continued trying to keep up with the storm as we headed into St. Michael. I made the decision to drop it as the road options were going to get worse and with it heading in the metro, it was going to be bad. Dave decided to stay with it as it was taking him towards home. Cullen and I checked out the second supercell which was nothing more than a hailer, but when Dave called and said he was seeing damage which he was certain was tornadic from the first cell. About that same time, reports of a law enforcement tornado in Coon Rapids started...the rest was not good.

As of writing this, my heart sinks as a 2 year old was a fatality. The 4 year old sibling has critical injuries and the parents are also hospitalized with injuries sustained in the tornado. Initial pics and video I saw last night look like solid EF2 with some getting well into the high end EF3 category.

Once everything wound down, Melinda and I headed up to Monticello to shoot some hail damage video. Holes in the siding of homes was very common. A consignment auto lot at the junction of highway 25 and CR37 sustained extreme damage. Every vehicle with west facing glass was shattered. The portrait studio across 25 had every west facing surface destroyed. We headed over to Nick Elms' house (who is the director for West Metro Skywarn) to trade stories of the day. Nick told me about 2 Monticello firemen who were out near where we had seen the worst of the hail damage and had the glass on the firetruck blown out by the wind and hail causing them to use their fire coats as shields to prevent being hit by flying glass.

Pretty crazy way to kick off the severe weather season up here. My condolences to the families who suffered the loss of their child and to all who were devastated by this storm. My family will keep you in our prayers....


drewsroo said...

Here it is after you let it go and it entered the Anoka/Ramsey area:


I should have stuck with it longer, because the wall cloud/meso was jsut coming into view, but I bailed when it started spitting hail at me. Should have been a little further south too, but this was my first time.

Love your work and your photos!

eyestothesky said...

What an amazing story Bill, I felt like I was there with you. So much life loss this year, sad. Almost makes me wonder why I love the storms so much.

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