May 10th, 2011 St. Michael, MN

Posted on May 13th, 2011 by Chris White.
Categories: Chase Reports.

This was actually my third chase this year not having been very actively recording the events over the last couple years.  I also hit the nocturnal IA tornado’s on April 9th with Kathren and Ben, and the WI jetpack’s on April 10th with Kathren (Storm movement NNE@60).  At some point I will try and add them.

I warned of a possible vacation day the following week on May 5th, confirming the afternoon of the 10th sometime during the weekend prior.  On the morning of the 10th I reviewed things wondering just what was going to happen with some sound boundaries in place, mega instability building from S MN Northward and it’s capping counterpart, winds, eh not so good.  The models were showing a breakdown in the late afternoon even RUC that morning wondering if I would have to head up I-94 towards Sioux Center.  With the mega instability and mesoanalysis as the day progressed I just decided to stay put.  In my office in fact well into my half day vacation day.  It spent my spare time analyzing surface charts and satellite imagery.  I had my laptop setup and had split screen GR3 with tops and CR, on one scan (MPX 2:25:40) I noticed a blob with tops of 37.5k feet nothing on CR.  Anyhow at 2:30 or so I was wondering why the heck I was still at the office on vacation (usually it’s the other way around, doing work on vacation) so I took a quick 12 minute drive home, packed the go bag, fired up my laptop and fell asleep.   I woke up at 4:45pm all ‘heck’ was breaking loose.  I tossed the bag into the car and decided to attack the cells to the West, I was able to just hit Hwy 7 on 494 just before stop and go traffic.  Heading west I noted someone had replaced all the stoplights with roundabouts, thinking this is kind of weird, strange, but, worked out great.  I had my choice of cells nice crisp updrafts shooting straight up firing along a dryline with mid 40′s dewpoints to the West and just 70 to the East, I don’t see that often in Minnesota if ever(48 New Ulm, 69 in Glencoe for instance).

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The bad was the cells had no forward tilt the updrafts were almost perfectly vertical, the good, they were moving at 15-20 MPH NNE.

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Anyhow I glanced over briefly at my chase partner and asked which one we should go after the one to the North, or the next one.

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I did not get much of a response they were all going postal and cycling.  We went North, Netbook and myself.  I did not record a GPS log or have mapping software running (I always sync all my cameras and keep a GPS log, except this time, no clue what route I took just followed the coolest looking storm at the time realizing they were cycling.  I ended up on the only cell that produced.  I was at times directly on it, at other times I pulled over debating if I should hit another cell, the one that was about to blaze through the cities for instance almost had me but, the cell I was on cycled again and started getting it’s act together.

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The Metro area cell distracted me again getting warned over and over, I decided to stop and use the restrooms, grab some iced tea, and a couple beef sticks, kill 10 minutes and then make a decision.  At this point velocity data was showing some nice rotation on this storm that was now a few miles to the north.  It had some really nice motion and began to form a really nice funnel.  I was driving trying to get away from the dang powerlines that obstructed every single shot.  The funnel just got bigger and bigger.  I misjudged the distance greatly figuring I was only a mile away, I was several miles to the SE looking NW (typo in report was 1 MI NE vs NW), the thing must have been huge.  Anyhow I finally pulled over ignoring the powerlines.  Just having purchased a new used car that gets decent gas mileage I have not yet had time to install a radio to report it over the net, I had a small HT that could have hit the 147 repeater at it’s maximum 1.5 watts (tiny does everything with 3 buttons I did’nt have time to re-learn the thing), so I submitted the report via SN.  (a funnel report, had a low base but, never figured it would reach the ground with the condensation funnel never reaching more than 1/3 down, towards the end it became skinny and snaking around like a tornado roping out it was actually a bit further down at that point but, any ground interaction would have been hidden by the trees and the funnel never reached close to the trees in the distance).

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Then it was gone.  I was reaching I-94 debating if I should move on to Elk River, I was standing under some nice movement above my head twisting and turning, as I also enjoyed the fantastic orange lit mamatus display from the Metro cell as the sun was going below horizon.  I decided just to hang out for a while and enjoy.

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Nick Elms with his chase partner showed up, we talked under the swirling sky’s for a while.  I decided to head directly home at that point.  I saw the St. Michael tornado report thinking ‘not a chance’.  The NWS preliminary damage report cites a 3.5 mile fragmented damage path EF-1 with some minor damage, nothing compared to some of the hail claims insurance companies are going to be working on for the next couple of months.

1 comment.

Nick Elms
Comment on May 20th, 2011.

Nice to you out there that first chase day in MN 2011!

Nick Elms hookecho33@yahoo.com

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