Friday April 25th I was returning to Minneapolis from Chicago O’Hare aboard Northwest flight 137 departing 4:37pm. Sitting in the terminal using my cell phone I was mostly watching the cold front sweeping in from IA along with all the cells popping up in front of it along the cold front and that the Severe Thunderstorm watch for IA/IL had been upgraded to tornado watch(ww234). Storm cells were topping out at 42.5k feet. A tornado watch had been issued previously for the Southern half of Wisconsin(ww232) ahead of the low pressure system. Looking at radar data I was a bit curious just what route the aircraft would take though all the cells popping up everywhere. We were on a DC-9 flying at 24k feet with many of the cells topping out at 42.5k feet in lines. I assumed they would fly the normal route through WI avoiding large storm cells. I had toyed with ditching the ticket and paying for a one way rental to Minneapolis but, I did’nt have my gear with, difficult terrain not worth the expense, and I had a perfectly good airline ticket in my pocket. I also toyed with volunteering to get bumped so I could stick around until the cold front moved through, the flight was full, several were bumped.
The low was also wrapping in cold arctic air into NE MN on the backside that was pooling just over the border. Fergus Falls (two hours NW of Minneapolis) received 15″ of snow. Earlier in the day the sky’s were clear in downtown Chicago, as we made our way to the airport around 2:30/3 noticeable Cumulus was forming. The aircraft was late, I don’t believe we made it off the ground until 5:20 or a little later. Noticeable updrafts were forming en’masse ahead of the cold front in the warm sector. By the time we made it to our 24k cruising altitude just over the border the sky blanketed with cumulus, with supercells off in the distance towering to 45k feet.
Beverage service began and ended just after servicing business class, given what we were coming up I was a bit surprised they began it in the first place. I was flying on a $211 non-refundable ticket, initially I had no seat after 5 or so seat switches at nwa.com I wound up in 12-A a window seat facing West. I was snapping off photos and video through the window much the the amusement of the people around me pretending to be reading their books. The captain ordered the flight crew to buckle up, tray tables up, etc. He flew though the edge of what appeared to be an updraft just prior to this. Eventually we had to fly between two fairly large sized cells, the anvils were above the aircraft. I was unable to get a good shot of the base updraft areas of the cells we were approaching given the suns location right next to it.
North of Madison, East of Baraboo, a tornado touched down in the city of Wyocena, WI touching down at 5:21 and lifting at 5:26 rated F1 damage with a 4.5 mile 50-75 yards wide. Tim Purington was in the area on the ground, more details here. Details from the NWS can be found here. This cell would have been to the East of the aircraft and would have been by far the most photogenic topside.
I have been in worse turbulence before but, here’s a short clip while we were going thru two large storm cells.
Also available is a 4 hour Level II loop from 20z-00z from KMKX. This is a large file (36 megs).
The loon is the Minnesota state bird yet this time of year it’s mostly just visiting on it’s way up to Canada. While Minnesota does have a loon population it’s somewhat limited. I hit a local city park before and after work where 20 or so loons were hanging out. They never got very close. It was a busy park I saw what appeared to be either an egret or in-mature little blue heron (second photo) in the midst of this park standing out in the open, I did’nt take note of it and going thru the photos I can’t tell if someone was messing with me or if it was actually real. Then I took my daughter to Blackdog Lake followed by Ft. Snelling State Park (on the Blackdog side of the River), the highlights were 4 more Pelicans.
I went to Grey Cloud Island just West of Coon Rapids on the Mississippi. A large number of pelicans are feeding on the dead shad frozen in the ice during their migration stopover. Quite a variety of birds in the area, a few eagles, tons of gulls, ducks, a few Eagles, a dozen Great Blue Heron, and Double crested Cormorant. Never saw the sun, in fact it was snowing about half the time but, great to get out nevertheless.
Click on a thumbnails for a larger version.