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Chase Reports | The Suck Zone

July 23rd, 2011 Somerset, WI

Posted on July 27th, 2011 by Chris White.
Categories: Chase Reports, Outdoors.

With both upcoming skepticism and excitement for what could have potentially been one of the best chase days of the year for MN with storms initially convecting on one run in one spot, the next another, etc.  I had decided to retreat to something more relaxing tubing down the apple river with 90,000 drunk teens to twenty somethings along with a few of us (Kathren and I, now don’t get me wrong I took my laptop/el etc with me and only pulled it out of the trunk once).

The swear words were the same as I remember them when I did beer bongs, nothing new, maybe the jello shots and Hershey squirts but, I have seen them recently.  It was similar to the girls gone wild advertisements on TV in the early AM but more of a ‘people gone bad’.  I heard the F-word (‘safesite’) 92,352 times, I heard people puking, you had to watch your step on the way to the restroom or you would step in it.  I saw a guy passed out, I paused and checked on him, he was still warm, had a pulse, and was still breathing, his friends assured me he would be alive for his wedding, it was his ‘bachelors party gone wild’.  I forget the sign the posted on him the lipstick drawn all over him was red.  I wondered multiple times for every extra tube they catch down river where did the body go?

I found myself trapped not in the twilight zone but, the springer zone.  It was odd. I pre-registered for the U2 pre-sale, by the time the site responded they were gone, undecided on the pricy tickets I could have done the general admission but, imagined myself stampeded by the crowd while 2″ hail was falling or something(not sure why 2″ hail came to mind at the time, I try and avoid large GA events in confined spaces).  Anyhow after checking stubhub.com last time around (before the re-schedule to the next year) and this year they must have had 200 hits from me.  I almost shelled out $500 for 2 tickets.

I found a deal for camping and tubing the Apple River, I had always regretted not going when I was in college but, looking back on it now I probably would have died, one of the nameless bodies pulled out of the River.  I pulled the trigger sounded like fun, when we arrived the booth babe asked if we wanted to be away from everyone, we said heck yeah, arriving at our site we found the river kind of cut off from us so we requested something closer (also, next to a culvert with a 5 foot storm drain…steel pipe).  Anyhow we ‘pitched a tent’ and stuff then got wet on Friday as people were flying past us on their tube’s.  The river has a serious current and decidedly determined the river flows North versus South just like the Minnesota meeting up with the Mississippi.  It was quite a strong current without a tube and movement downstream, I don’t think I could swim upstream from that spot but, could easily cross back and forth as I made my way downstream.  Another group approached us and we engaged in ‘talk’, eventually they asked for a little shove and offered me a beer bong as a favor (2 beers), I didn’t see them open the cans and pour it, having witnessed hazing at fraternity’s I declined the kind offer.  In fact we brought no beer or alcohol of any kind nor consumed any all weekend.  After the push off I almost went down river with the tubes fighting my way back to where I was still curious to how many bodies they find a year.  How does the Somerset Police cope or the St. Croix County Sheriff’s office deal with it?  Money I suppose.  I saw a full sized glacier mountain truck delivering ice to the campsite Saturday morning, I think many of the local domestic beers make a stop as well.  The owner had maybe 300 campsite’s and on Saturday they had well over 1000 people, just one of many campsite’s along the river.  These were all the people who could not get or appreciate U2 tickets.  They would crap as many tents and vehicles into the campsite as possible.

Friday night we had chicken and onion foil meal’s over the campfire.  Saturday morning I woke up to a guy puking at the site next to us for about 10 minutes around 5:45.  At 6 I made my way out, the campsites were about 16-18 feet wide but long so each one was able to accommodate about 5 tents and a pop-up.   Many of the campsites had expanded.  I fired up the fire.  I made coffee, Kathren made pancake’s.  As the fire was going out the morning MCS that had developed in NW ND/MO had found it’s way into Wisconsin.  We had everything packed up, jumped into the tent (for safety versus the car’s Faraday cage safety for lightning).  Anyhow the tent was fantastic for round 1 of the storms.  Nothing notable happened, wind, an inch of rain, lightning.  Anyhow it passed and we grabbed our tubes and were out on the Apple River.   Now you have to be really drunk or stupid not to know how much ‘junk’ is flowing into this river (besides the contributions of 5,000 people).  But, I have to admit I had a great time, absolutely relaxing.  Even though we heard foul language everyone we spoke to personally was very nice even though on more than one occasion I heard the question ‘want another beer’ followed by ‘nah, I have already drank a case I am good for now’.  We had towering CU downriver (to the North) which was really cool to watch just floating in a tube chasing it.

Arriving at the ‘end’ or at least the bus to transport us to the top of the river I was really amazed at how much liquor and beer one could bring onto a bus.  We had to wait while the bus driver refused to let 5 girls get on with a ‘glass’ bottle of liquor and insisted on seizing it after he distributed what remained between them.  Good for him, they took their 64 oz coffee mugs of liquor and proceeded to open the cooler and grab beers for our journey to the top of the river to float back to our campsite.  When we arrived he made some kinds of announcement regarding ‘tips’ are appreciated, so the girls showed him their ‘tips’ perhaps they mis-understood him.  I loaded and unloaded all the ‘tube’s’ refusing to ask or seek any ‘tips’, quickly I went through all my options fixed income, oil, commodity, index ETF’s, tech stock’s, time was up all I could come up with was ‘move to Canada’, I mean it’s not like I carried a canoe bag or anything, just my drivers license and a $20 so they could ID my body and $20 for the person who reported my body in a zip-lock bag.

We set sail at another huge campsite at the top of the river ‘Rivers Edge??’ and set sail for another 90-100 minutes downstream to reach our campsite.  We passed many campsites both on the way down and from the top back to our campsite and each time I though, what a goldmine along with the ‘liability insurance’ questions, the town’s economy, the probable dysfunctional law enforcement, and all the other ‘tips’.  Imagine what it would be like to be the one liquor store in the village of ‘Somerset’.  Anyhow, walking into the local holiday, grocery store, etc, I could see how the local economy of 1556 people fed off of the 90,000 weekly visitors during the summer.  Subway, DQ, Holiday, not so much forced to use more mainstream prices but, lots of customers in the summer.

As we cast off I now see towering CU to our South, cool round Duex.  We float down and come upon sandbar’s of ‘people gone bad’ material, groups of 300+ people going crazy walking up and doing Hershey shots(she insisted, he yelled for help, here comes a guy running out of nowhere into the water with a bottle of Hershey’s syrup.  I loved sociology and cultural anthropology in college if I was to go for the masters this is where I would do my thesis.

We get back to our campsite, the 16 foot wide campsite next to us was filled with 6 tents and a dozen people.  The cell to our South was taking on some decent structure for a while but then went kaput’s on us.  We were wiped out from the laying in tubes floating down a river or perhaps the sun took it’s toll?

When we woke up we gradually decided not another 3.5 hour round trip or the 1.75 hour trip downriver if we made it after 6pm they would return us directly to our camp.  We returned the tube and prepared dinner.  We cooked everything over the fire, no grill grate, I constructed a grate from 5-6 steel marsh-mellow/weenie roasters thingie’s.  I used hardwood charcoal for the fire it took a while to get going without a chimney starter or lighter fluid, lot’s of blowing, think blast furnace.  Hardwood charcoal makes a nice 800 degree fire hotter than regular charcoal it burns quicker and leaves almost no ash compared to regular charcoal and is relatively much easier to start.  This time a half pound of ground turkey, spices, potato, onion, carrot, and tomato soup (well I had tomato soup on mine).  We both ate like 2 pounds of food perfectly done.  In hindsight, had we placed the foil directly on top of the coals it would have limited the airflow eliminating the need the ad-hoc grill grate.  Again all the food was wonderful, I built up the fire with our remaining wood trying to burn it all in anticipation for round 3 of the storms wondering how the U2 concert was unfolding.

As for round 3 we were perfectly positioned for the storms once again.  Once again I ruin a perfect camping experience by whipping out the 4g router in the middle of nowhere getting a 3 bar 3g signal and firing up GR3 on the 3.3 lb netbook in the middle of nowhere.  Cells were spawning out of the Twin Cities metro the first cell would pass to the North of us, the second cell appeared to be aimed directly towards us with a fairly large VIL blob at a decent altitude.   We sat and watched the cell to the North approach and pass.  Then came the cell to the South which just got bigger, and bigger, closer and closer.   We put out the fire just before the rain started.

We were in the tent just as buckets of water were being tossed from the heavens.  Lightning left and right.  I told the campers next to us were probably okay in the tent’s for the hail (he asked) but, the only safe place to be was in a vehicle for the lightning.  I totally love being in a tent in a thunderstorm (so long as their are 90,000 other targets more likely to be hit than me and a hill with tall trees just SSE of us.  Anyhow it was still going when we fell asleep still wondering how the U2 concert was going.

It rained.

I did some minor searches on the Internet and I don’t see a huge number of Somerset Apple River drownings.


July 19th, 2011 St. Paul, Minnesota

Posted on July 19th, 2011 by Chris White.
Categories: Chase Reports.

One of the AC units in our office building has failed and it’s currently running about 85+ in my office.  I am hopefully going to get residence in a new office on the other side of the building tomorrow AM after hearing that the replacement part was (like a monster unit that had to be loaded onto a boat in Hong Kong onto a boat for delivery.  Anyhow, I went to grab a fan at Target (Southtown, Bloomington).   But, missed the exit driving East on 494 @ Penn and ended up in St. Paul on Sheppard Road a bit West of I-35E and found myself under a monster cell that had just passed through St. Paul, the shelf passed with very little outflow.  The precip hail core was up next, took a few quick shots then hit Target to grab my fan on the way back to the office.


20110719StPaulPano1 <- Click for Larger Version

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July 1st, 2011 Redwood Falls, MN

Posted on July 2nd, 2011 by Chris White.
Categories: Chase Reports.

This was kind of a last minute sort of thing.  I gave a heads up at work the prior day I might take a half day vacation to go chasing.  Anyhow I pulled the trigger a bit after 3pm as I had been watching first HCR’s develop in SD into MN, some convection on-going in South Dakota moving towards SE Minnesota.  Boundries were a bit odd through the day more so as the systems built and swept across Minnesota rather quickly.  I hit the road a bit after 3 running South on 169 crossing over to Minnesota River in Henderson (Cty 19 River crossing through the MN River Valley) wanting to avoid the huge 212 road resurfacing project with the ultimate intercept point at Redwood Falls via 19.  I will tell you right now as the system was moving into Redwood Falls no way was I going to cross into the River Valley via 19 and never quite made it.

Fullscreen capture 712011 92605 PM

Reports out of the skywarn repeater were basically straight line wind damage.  We waited for the system between Morton and Franklin being met with an un-impressive looking shelf followed by a gust front on the Southern end of the system.  We proceeded to Hector from Franklin encountering some straight line wind damage/obstacles along the way.


Once we made it to Franklin we encountered this, a silo crushed like a soda can with some damage to the one right next to it (looked more like something struck it).


Anyhow just up on the corner was a gas station, we decided to make a quick stop.  We spoke to some of the locals I don’t recall getting any information rather than giving it.  On the way out a couple who had packed up their 5th wheeler was parked next to us from Sleepy Eye planning on hitting Pipestone for the weekend was staring at his now empty bruised and broken pickup.  It was sheared off as the storm passed, we found it up the road a ways here;


It would be a while before he would be able to recover it.

Dean B was still sitting in his car, we exchanged some greetings, info, and strategy then off for a ‘break’ at the powerless gas station(that was interesting, I even washed my hands).  We said a few more words to Dean and headed off following the Southernmost portion of the storm.  Quite the line was forming behind us that would eventually hit my house in the Southern Suburbs of the Twin Cities metro.  We headed North 212 was looking really nice repaved but, was still closed, we passed the 5th wheeler, an overturned semi blown over by straight line winds and some random which appeared to be non linear damage (sheet metal twisted, but, no damage path as if it dropped out of the sky).


We saw tons of trees snapped off and mangled on our way to Hutchinson following the line. Not much better their.


We fell behind the line that we were chasing with the line behind us speeding up.  We figured we would head home and see if that had a nice shelf.  We went back on 7 to 41 to 5, to 494, to Normandale(Hwy 100).  We caught some glimpses of the shelf in Chanhassen but, setup in a parking structure for the shelf as it entered Bloomington.


I captured quite a few of these including some bracketed shots which will be fun to play with someday.  All in all a good close to home quick chase with minimal vacation time spent.  No major structure observed except for the shelf’s.  It was actually kind of blah-ish for the most part except for the shelfs and high winds during the first gust front (50+), Bloomingtons winds were far less.

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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.

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April 29th, 2010 First Chase/Equipment Check

Posted on April 29th, 2010 by Chris White.
Categories: Chase Reports.

I really was not expecting a line of storms to fire South the metro.  The NWS radio went off I fired up GR3 and saw a line of cells shooting up to 35k feet heading NE at 40 into Dakota County.  I grabbed some bags and jumped into the car.   I took my netbook, I thought I had loaded all the drivers and software but, I was wrong.  Had no data, no maps, no GPS(nothing worked, my regular laptop is retired to no more traveling it’s taken one too many drops/etc).  Anyhow I jumped onto I35 and took Cty 42 East to Hastings, into Prescott(I know Wisconsin) then US 10 intercepting the lead cell following into Ellsworth.  I watched the second cell pass some nice Tcu a little bit of CTC lightning and lots of rain.  I believe I saw Mr. Stanga walking out of Subway in Ellsworth.  The sirens were going off in the Prescott area although I am not sure why.   I had NWS radio and I believe the warnings expired on them around that time.

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