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May 10th, 2011 St. Michael, MN | The Suck Zone

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).

Fullscreen capture 5132011 121233 AM

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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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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