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
Just then. Something began to erupt. We just weren't watching
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.
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.