A slight risk day was issued for southwest Michigan.  A rather small amount of warmth and moisture ahead of a well-timed shortwave were forecasted for this day. Shear and Helicity were perfect for an outbreak of supercells. Without much instability to work with, a full-on Tornado outbreak was not expected. A few tornadoes however were possible give the setup. 

We found ourselves on one of the best storms of the day. We watched it approach from west of Paw Paw, MI until about Lake Doster.  Unfortunately these storms were moving well over 45 knots. Keeping up with them was a challenge.  This storm did result in a tornado warning due to rotation on radar, however no tornado had been spawned or confirmed. But it looked very close to producing! around the same time that day, a tornado did form briefly in the Mt. Pleasant area.
 
 
Here's a short video I put together of the dozens of timelapses I've produced over the last couple years.  Set to the music of Flyleaf's acoustic "All around me"  Enjoy.
 
 
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After being skunked a couple times by forecasts for local storms that didn't pan out, Today we have a bit of a surprise.  Shear was not especially great south of the warm front. However the best cape and weakest capping were occurring to the south, mostly south of Grand Rapids. Several vigorous updrafts formed early in the afternoon immediately along Lake Michigan. A small window existed where these new storms would stay discrete enough that they perhaps could generate an environment where tornadoes were more likely.  A mature storm formed over Ottawa county, and another, newer, much closer storm over Allegan county. We chose the Allegan county target.  Chased with my wife this time (really her first time on any serious storm hunt.) 

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We followed the storm to the Dumont lake area where we witnessed a nice clean rain-free base evolve to produce a boiling wall cloud. Rotation was weak but visible.  Later we followed the base a bit further north where the RFD began to really take hold of this storm, as well as precip from a storm to it's south that would eventually merge into our target storm.

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At the end of the day a QLCS emerged that was moving very slowly to the west. Giving us a chance to watch a shelf cloud ungulate in a nearly stationary position.  The downdraft was a deep green, while the updraft was smooth and fast--much faster than any perceived storm motion. This gave us time to make a great video of the shelf cloud and and a very-wide high-res panorama!
 
 
On a local spotter mission I managed to take some pretty impressive video of a wall cloud and updraft complete with striations, in Michigan of all places! What luck.  A NWS Skywarn trainer plans to add this footage for the GRR area Skywarn spotter training slides.  His mission was to make all of the images and video represent Michigan storms, and this was specifically what he was looking for. Glad to help out! 

Another storm that moved over this same area just 45 minutes earlier produced a brief EF-0 tornado touchdown just to the north and west of here in New Salem Twp, MI. Damage occurred to the DeBoer turkey farm there.  The storm in my video however produced over 1" hail in northern Allegan county and even right at the GRR NWS office.  I also shot video of the same wall cloud, looking rather anemic at that point, passing right over the radar tower there. 
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Later I was able to snap a few shot of some great updrafts!  Here's a weak, rather low topped LP supercell (yet again a rare in Michigan) complete with mammatus forming.

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And another much larger storm going on at the same time over in the Lansing area. This one was tornado warned much of the day but did not produce.

 
 
Just a brief description and a video.  We staged in Dubuque, IA wating for storms to fire to our west. Especially challenging chase day. Up against 60 mph storm movement and a linear tendency after initiation.  As storms fired we made a late desicion to move North toward La Salle, WI. Unfortunately the target storm, now tornado warned was out of reach. The road network allowed for about a 50 mph average speed and didn't offer a lot of NE options, so it was really worse than that relative to storm motion.  Nonetheless we managed to get on more than one tornado-warned cell.  Eventually one cell lead us right to the storm damage path from the Initial cell we intended to intercept. A half-mile wide damage path was observed in Arkdale, WI just 30 minutes after it had occurred. Several homes were damaged and entire conifer forests were lopped off at the 15 foot level.  Fortunately emergency responders were just arriving.  Due to some fat-fingering mistakes the footage of the damage as we drove by was missing from my camera.
 
 
Here's another timelapse featuring the blizzard of 2011.  This was made using a wide angle lens so watching in HD is a must.  You can follow the youtube link here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YTcY5QY7BM
Taken overnight February 1st and morning of February 2nd from southwest Michigan . I left my interior garage lights on overnight which shines through the narrow windows in the door and onto the ground. You can see the shadows of these lights morph as the drifts out front twist, roll, and move. by morning the roads are cleared and so is the driveway, and of course with all that snow, it's playtime. In full screen you can also see the drifts forming and moving over the roads. All told we had peak gusts around 40 mph, approx 10-14 inches of snow, drifts up to 3 feet in some areas, and visibility was less than 1/8th of a mile at times. Taken overnight February 1st and morning of February 2nd from southwest Michigan . I left my interior garage lights on overnight which shines through the narrow windows in the door and onto the ground. You can see the shadows of these lights morph as the drifts out front twist, roll, and move. by morning the roads are cleared and so is the driveway, and of course with all that snow, it's playtime. In full screen you can also see the drifts forming and moving over the roads. All told we had peak gusts around 40 mph, approx 10-14 inches of snow, drifts up to 3 feet in some areas, and visibility was less than 1/8th of a mile at times.
 
 
Unique timelapse from my backyard.  Storms build in mid-afternoon just to our south. After a few hours, powerful severe storms have trained along southern Michigan.  As the sun sets, the Anvils from these storms light up bright Orange, revealing details like mammatus. As the sky continues to darken, the exposure from the camera becomes long enough to see lightning.  Due to the large focal length of the lens, Everything seems pretty far away, yet the view you see here extends from the horizon to nearly overhead.  Watch the full screen version of the movie in HD over at youtube for full effect. 
 
 
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Radar as storm approached featuring 60k winds
Just a quick post for the Northern Indiana Derecho and Tornadoes of June 23rd.   This quick video took place North of Mishawaka, IN just miles and minutes away from a brief Tornado touchdown in Goshen, IN.  A shelf cloud approached within and interesting 'hook' feature near where two opposing gust fronts had collided.  THe sky was a shade of dark turquoise and green. Tornado sirens blared warning residents that these storms may spawn tornadoes or gustnadoes.  Missing from this video is footage of the 60+ mph winds that quickly followed. (hit the record button to cancel a recording instead of starting a new one)  Also not far from here, a 75+ mph gust was reported.


 
 
A powerful Mesoscale Convective System that originated in Des Moines IA, and followed I-80 well into Ohio. (note that I haven't heard this name repeated anywhere, it's the name I coined for it) Most notably it blew windows out of Chicago's tallest building, the Willis Tower and produced 90 mph winds over southwest Michigan.  Having seen it coming long before it made it to Chicago, I decided to set up a timelapse of the event.  I'm recording for the extreme northern end of the Derecho where wind speeds were about 20% weaker than near the center of the Derecho. This is a good thing, down the road from me a weekend outdoor concert was taking place with more than 10,000 spectators with little or no cover available.

For a good portion of the video, you'll see the overshooting tops of the anvil approach and darken. As the storm finally gets closer, a shelf cloud appears with it's eerie rolling motion and quickly moves in. At this point I grab the camera and switch to realtime video to witness the 40-50 mph wind gusts that accompany the back side of the shelf cloud.   Scroll down for more.
Unbelievably, another Derecho hit hours later over some of the same locations in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.  This time it missed most of Michigan, but nevertheless we had a great view of it. Nearly constant lightning was occurring over the Chicago area, but the frequency died down as it approached the South Bend, IN area.  Here's another timelapse of the second event.
 
 
Saturday morning looked like a good day for severe weather just to our south and west.  Well within a couple hours drive.

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A moderate risk was issued for a narrow corridor across hoosier alley.  SPC handed the area a 10% risk of tornadoes as well.   We decided that our target area for that afternoon would be somewhere in the neighborhood of Dwight, IL.  This turned out to be a eerily accurate decision. 

Having been burned by using SPC alone to determine a target area several times in May, we decided it was time to look directly at the models, and learn to use them to find the characteristics we needed for a good intercept.

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Example of a forecast model for
determining sheer profiles
We made our way to Chicago, then south into Kankakee, IL.  Storm initiation had not yet begun, there were however a few small convective rain showers appearing south and west of Davenport, IA.   We made our way through small Illinois towns on route 17 and continued to I-39.  We arrived at I-39 in Wenona and took another look at the radar. Sunset was less than a couple hours away and only a few modest thundershowers had approached from out of Iowa and were now over the Kenowee, IL area.

At this point is was beginning to look like a bust.  We ventured North on I-39 with the intent of closely following a northern tundershower along I-80 and head back home. Just after we had gotten ourselves onto I-80, two of the thundershowers had quickly exploded into some modest severe thunderstorms. Within minutes, rotation appeared in both of them. A 3rd storm near Galesburg had become Tornado warned.  We began to slow the car down watching for an exit to pull of and make a decision. Before we could do this, all three storms were now tornado warned, with the southernmost storm already having a tornado report to the NWS.
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Base Reflectivity and Radial Velocity west of McNabb, IL
We rushed back to I-39 as fast as we could. The northern storm was approaching the interchange, however this northern storm was not as healthy as the storm to it's south with clear air near it's hook.  Of the three storms to choose from, we decided on the one in that was in the middle with the clear air.  That meant punching it's core to make it Lostant before the storm did. By now a very healthy rotation was visible on radar, a tornado looked imminent.  The storm was moving ESE, we anticipated the southern component to the storm so we overshot it to the south a tad, believing it might be a little close for comfort, and with darkness beginning to settle in, that would not have been a good thing.
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Wall Cloud. The NWS says an EF0 tornado was on the ground East of Magnolia, IL while this image was taken.
We arrived in Lostant and looked for a good spot to watch the wall cloud form. We began recording video. A lowering was visible to our North and West and it appeared to be rotating. We followed the rotation with the cameras as it crossed I-39. No distinct tornado or funnel was visible. We crossed I-39 and chose a lonely east-west road a mile south of route-17. The idea being that there would be less interruption from oncoming or following traffic than on 17. We also though the storm was continuing to nudge south. That was not the case. We had a LEFT mover on our hands! That can mean only one thing, There must be a tornado on the ground right now. 

We pulled over breifly at 179 and 8th road. By this point it was very dark. However each stroke of lightning revealed a classic mothership supercell was now in progress.  Suddenly power flashes were visible. Time to move! We continued east, still expecting the storm to cross ahead of us drifting south.  We paced the meso continuing down 8th road, continuing to film. Suddenly it became apparent that there was definitely a tornado in progress, and it was hitting structures.  Power flashes were frequent. the power in fact went out around us in unison with a larger power flash, indicating a main feed wire must have been cut to the area.  Since it was dark, our only indication of what was happening was numerous lightning strikes illuminating the funnel the Meso and power flashes at the ground.
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EF2 Tornado damaging Streator (debris)
See below for a map of the Steator, IL EF2 tornado path and damage.

View Streator, IL tornado in a larger map
We continued to follow the Storm east. However now it appeared the there was no longer a tornado.  Radar images continued to show a healthy storm with plenty of Rotation. But now it was headed right for the town of Dwight, IL.  Moments later, more power flashes appeared. This time it seemed much closer to us. We couldn't see anything, but the camera was still taking video. Whatever was happening was getting recorded, we could only hope there was something to see in the footage later on.
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EF3 tornado in Livingston County, IL
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Damage Path near Blackstone, IL. Click for SPC's full damage survey
We approached the town of Dwight, only now it appeared that the Tornado and Meso must be ahead of us. The power was out in town and there was significant damage.  Scary enough, it appeared that the tornado had gone through the very town we stopped at for some subway just a few hours earlier!  Needless to say now, our forecasting had gotten much better this time around.   We discovered that, by using maps from models such as the RUC and NAM, we were now able to put ourselves more accurately in the zone than just using spc's forecasts. 
The supercell we were following turned very High Precip and was becoming incorporated into a newly formed Derecho from behind.  After encountering extensive flooding in the Kankakee area, we headed north.  June 5th turned out to be a major tornado outbreak. Overnight fatalities were reported in Ohio due to the same storm system.  Tornadoes were also confirmed overnight just a county away from our homes. The supercell we abandoned in Kankakee went on to spawn an EF3 tornado in St. Anne, IL as well.