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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!

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

June 9th major bust...but a weak aurora helped ease the pain

I was bullish on the set up for June 9th as a surface low lift out of South Dakota, across south east North Dakota and eventually into northwest Minnesota. I liked the fact the surface low was progged to deepen throughout the day but was very skeptical about the cap. It was one of those days if you rolled the dice and the cap did break on the triple point, you looked like a genius. If not, you came home with a sunburn and nothing else to show for your efforts.

I ran into the office for a bit the morning of the 9th with a target of somewhere in the triangle from East Grand Forks, over to Crookston, up to Thief River Falls and back to East Grand as my hot zone to start out. As I headed up I94 to Fargo, ND and up I29 to Grand Forks, I was shocked to see how fast the temps were soaring in the warm sector and how strong the surface winds were. As I was about 30 miles out of Fargo, I saw the writing on the wall and should have called the chase off. The surface dew points in the warm sector started to drop in the area east of the cold front and south of the warm front. Yup, the hot air and strong surface wind was mixing out the low level moisture. Across eastern Minnesota the dews were a little better and a narrow ribbon of better moisture was trying to wrap back in to the 996mb surface low to my west so I continued on. As I headed north up I29, the warm front settled just south of Grand Forks. The air temp had risen to 93° in Fargo with south/southeast winds and Grand Forks sat at 72° with northeast winds. Shooting fish in a barrel...if the cap broke. Stopped in Grand Forks at my favorite sandwich/taco place, The Red Pepper, and mulled over data and decided to head over to Crookston to wait out the cap. The low had now deepened to 992mb so there was still hope but the huge temp/dewpoint spread was trouble. The surface dew had now fallen to 58°. Game over for tornadoes but I was at least hoping for an elevated hailer. A slight wind shift put me directly in the path of the stench of the ethanol plant so I decided to move a little east and get into some cleaner air. As I rounded a corner, I was a little surprised to see the TVN crew sitting and waiting also. Small world. Reed was busy in front of the camera so I slipped over to exchange greeting with my pal Dick McGowan. Not often we get time to chat for a few minutes so this worked out well. I get a kick out of people who still look at these guys as being on a pedestal just because of the show and the Domninator (D2 now). Anyhow, shot the bull with Dick and watched a camera toting tour group snap pics from a distance of Reed, C Dub, and D2 while curious locals drove past. About the time Dick and I both agreed the day was done, Reed gave the command to head out. One last handshake and the day was done.

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A shot of the TVN crew as we headed back down 75 on the Minnesota side of the Red River towards Moorhead, MN and Fargo, ND.

Another thing about today which really annoyed me was the upper low which was dragging well behind the surface low but at 500mb had set off some storms in a weak instability environment in south central ND. Well out of striking range and as they moved east into the warmer and mixed out air, they would surely die. So as the TVN guys headed to Fargo, I headed east towards home with the intention of stopping at mom's in Fergus Falls for dinner. About this time, Doug Kiesling called to let me know about a solar flare that had occurred earlier and the possibility of an aurora that night. While eating dinner and watching the space weather conditions, the cells in North Dakota were heading east with one having a tornado warning on it. Mom and I headed out to a high spot west of Rothsay, MN to take a look at the cell from a distance of about 90 miles.

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The cells was not impressive at all but looked kind of cool with the red tinted sky due to the smoke from the Arizona wildfire which had worked it's way all the way up here.

At sundown I dropped mom back off at her place and headed down I94 stopping at Osakis, MN to take some test shots. Yup, the aurora was there. Ir was weak and there was quite a bit of moonlight but what the heck. The following shots were all from near Osakis and over to Round Prairie, MN. About the time with moon set at 12:30am the show was over. Not impressive but still eased the sting a little from the chase bust.

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