We woke up Monday morning to what looks like could be a significant Tornado outbreak over western, SD.  SPC initially foretasted a 10% Risk of Tornadoes over the area.  We decided to leave North Platte and head north with no particular target in mind, but definitely in South Dakota.
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As we approached South Dakota, the Tornado risk was upgraded to a 15%. Now with a risk of strong tornadoes as well and even included North Platte, the town we left just a few hours earlier!   Driving as quickly as we could, we arrived in Murdo, SD early in the afternoon.  Storm initiation was fast and furious at this point.  Storm motion was again south to north as with the day before, and even faster that before.  A few healthy storms began to form just to our North, we made the call to head north to Pierre and then west.  The road networks in western South Dakota are a bit tricky, often requiring doubling back.  The storms to our North had picked up in intensity and were now Tornado warned over Faith, SD. However at the same time, they had picked up significant speed as well. We were way out of position to reach the line of supercells to our North. However, there were supercells to our South as well. all of which were moving north and within our reach.  We arrived in Hayes, SD. Once again to a beautiful blue sky! theme of the week we suppose.  After watching the storms to our South approach we decided to double back and head toward Miller to intercept a supercell that looked poised to arrive at the same we would.

We were already hearing about a wonderful Tornado in the Faith, SD area from the very storm that was out of reach. As we approached Miller, the storm we were targeting began to look less and less tornadic, but maintained severe characteristics. We decided to watch the storm go by from the side of the road near Miller.

The storm we picked had interesting structure but again little rotation.  Significant winds came out of the storm along with intense lightning. The storm continued away from us passing to the north. We decided we were too tired and too out of position to try anything else. We followed the storms path back to Rapid City, SD.  Only a few miles away from our position in Miller, we came across an 18-wheeler that had flipped due to the high winds on the storm we were watching!
We arrived in Rapid City, SD and watched all of the storms to our west merge into a massive and destructive Derecho.   Late in the evening it arrived in Rapid City and we watched and filmed the Derecho pass over us with 50+ mph winds.
 
 
Still on a high from the Bowdle, SD storm, We woke up to find that our target area of far eastern, SD was virtually missing.  SPC's forecast the night earlier placed Sioux Falls, and Watertown, SD within a 30% severe risk. This morning there was only a 'See Text' area that didn't look even THAT promising. SPC is having a bad week we think.  The new area of interest appears to be southern Nebraska.
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That's a long way to go. But with an ever-increasing risk of Tornadoes. As we approached Valentine, NE the 5% risk area was expanded. This could be a really good day for tornadoes again, we think to ourselves.  Early in the afternoon and, we think, dead center in the action, we Arrive in North Platte. No storms. Clear blue sky again. Nothing around us yet.  It's still early though.  We spent a few hours checking out the massive Union Pacific railway hub and the downtown park featuring a couple of historic locomotive oddballs.  Still no storms. It was getting late in the afternoon. SPC's forecast continues to suggest storm initiation is imminent..  At the same time, the risk areas keep extending south into Kansas and Oklahoma....areas that earlier in the day had no risk at all. 

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Storm Approaches from the South
Finally a few storms appear in Central and Southern Kansas all the way back to New Mexico. Storms that in fact went Tornado warned in an area that wasn't even under a 'See Text' at that time.  We're starting to really doubt SPC's intuition at this point. We are sitting dead-center in a 5% Tornado/15% Severe risk under a clear blue sky, while New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas all have Tornado warnings. and a 2% risk  The NWS even seemed reluctant to issue watch areas for them but finally did.  The storms to our South were moving nearly due north however. Racing up toward us, gaining speed.

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Mammatus
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sunset as the storm approached
Since nothing was happening where we were, and storms were racing in our direction, we decided to meet them halfway. They weren't exactly Tornadic, though a few of them did have Tornado warnings on them.   We soon found ourselves in McCook realizing that these storms had gained an incredible amount of forward speed, but sunset is also coming upon as well.

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Mammatus on the eastern edge
Taking advantage of the good roads we decided to wait for a large supercell to our south to arrive. It didn't take long at all. We drove to the Western edge of the storm along Highway 83 with the intent of getting some great sunset illuminated Anvils. we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the storm.


We found a spot just outside of the rain and began taking photos and video. It was well worth the trip to North Platte. After exhausting available daylight we headed back to find a Hotel in North Platte with more storms on our heals. And these ones were mean.  Merely minutes after checking in, The sirens blared. Lucky us, out Hotel room was only about 30 yards away from the siren.  That. was. loud.

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Beautiful light-show ensues
The next 2 hours consisted of storm after storm with vigorous rotation training in over top us in North Platte. Each one going tornado warned. The entire time we, and more than a hundred others, were kept in the hotel conference room for safety.  We momentarily became celebrities. Everybody wanted to hear the opinions from the chasers with the laptops.

 
 
As our first chasing experience of 2010, We had few expectations for a great storm to unfold.  We aren't experts. Certainly inexperienced. Quite hopeful though!   We had been planning this week long chasing adventure for several months.  We paid close attention to each event in April and May leading up to our week. 

Friday night, May 21st we made the desicion, based on SPC forecasts, to target northeastern Nebraska. This was, according to SPC, going to be a battelground for supercells late in the afternoon on the 22nd.  We made the decision leave at 4 am Saturday morning so that we could arrive in the target area long before storm initiation.  Sheer profiles looked good, CAPE looked good. Everything was ready, we just needed to get there.

By late morning, we had reached Davenport, IA. Doubt began to set in. SPC released it's updated morning forecast. But this time, the target area was starting to look better in the Souix Falls, SD area.  As the drive down I-80 went on, we made a last-second decision to head north up to I-90 and continue west into eastern South Dakota.  By mid afternoon we had arrived in Mitchel. To a cloudless sky, temps in the upper 80s, and high humidity. What storms? The weather was beautiful.  The radar was blank. The sattelite imagery showed little if anything. 

Watching some justin.tv feeds we noticed that some chasers had positioned themselves in the same general area, while others were positioned further north, in the Aberdeen, SD area.  How odd. What were they doing up there? SPC had mentioned storms in that area of SD, but later in the evening.  We decided to get some RainX and a new air filter for the car while we waited for something to happen. However it was well after 3 PM and initiation didn't look imminent at all.

Finally a tornado watch was issued. Both for our location, as well as a large area to our north and to our south
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Just then. Something began to erupt. We just weren't watching

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After performing a quick tune up, and just 20 minutes later, I looked again to the radar screen and noticed that a fairly vigorous, lonely thunderstorm had appeared far to our North near Gettysburg, SD.  I looked north through the trees, I couldn't see anything. Not thunderheads, not even a single whispy cloud. Then I saw that everyone on Justin.tv was now headed in the direction of this new storm. Few of them were in good position, but they were clocking very high speeds on SD's generous, long flat roads. 

There was no way we were going to get there in time. It's WAY up there. easily a 2.5+ hour drive.  We decided to begin trekking north. Hoping that something would initiate further south that we could catch up with. We were well ahead of the front but perhaps we were still too far south. 

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Quickly the storm moved into the Bowdle area and exploded into a textbook supercell. and was soon tornado warned. The storm was joined by a few weak neighbors to it's south, neither of them as interesting as this storm.  We picked up our pace. Unfortunately the storm had a bit of a northerly component that kept it well ahead of us. If anything we'd have to meet up with it in NORTH Dakota.  Then we began to realize this storm was becoming a right-mover... heading more east than north.  It looked more and more like we could catch the storm in Ipswich within about and hour-and-a-half.  If it held together that is!

Then news began to pour in on this storm. "A Large, Dangerous, Violent, Wedge, Epic, Win, Long-lived, storm-of-the-year, Comegetme" Tornado was on the ground. We were hauling as fast as we could. Soon we were under the canopy of the Anvil of the storm. Tornado reports continued to pour in for towns east of Bowdle.  We decided on a rendezvous point just west of the town of Ipswich.  Unbelievably the storm slowed down, continued moving west, only. And continued to be alone without competition of other storms.  What seemed impossible over an hour ago now looked within reach!

Positioned east of Ipswich we waited for the wall cloud to pass over us. No funnel was in sight.  As the wall cloud continued overhead we chased it further east several miles as night settled in on us. Just before dark though, a well defined funnel appeared, but never quite reached the ground. Just as we began to get ahead of it, we ran into a road-closed sign, darkness completely fell, and the chase was over.  We didn't come away completely empty handed. Not only that, but we found ourselves in Chaser's dream storm. Everyone was there, including the more famous personalities featured in Discovery's Storm Chasers show.  We soon learned that Reed Timmer and the Dominator, Tim Samaras, the TIV where all on the same storm and had collected a huge trove of data. And here we were, minutes away from catching up to the same Tornado. 

Our whole day was reviewed in our heads...if only we had skipped the stop in Mitchell, if only we had headed North on I-35 instead of west on I-90. So many things we could have done or should have done. In the end we were just happy, and felt lucky, that we had picked the right week, the right day, the right state...and almost the right place at the right time.  Check out our video showing the drive up through Redfield and Aberdeen to THE storm of 2010, and what remained of the Bowdle EF4 Tornado.