|A cold front with a strong upper low overhead throws a
90kt jet streak setting the stage for a powerful
damaging bow echo to form over eastern South Dakota.
This was a screwed up day from the start. I knew storms would go early and the window for a tornado was very narrow. I couln't leave work until 11am and with a
target of Ellenale, ND, I knew I would be cutting it close before everything lined out and raced off to the east. So I get of of work with the idea of a quick run up I94
to Elbow Lake heading west to ND highway 11. I figured I would not be there for initiation but would be close. No biggie, the initial supercells would need to mature
anyhow. Wellllll...a construction slowdown, then not one but TWO accidents which fully blocked I94 less than 10 miles apart was a sign of things to come. After
getting an hour behind right off the bat, I detoured around the accidents and finally got on my way. Just as I crossed into North Dakota near Fairmont it became
evident my target was off by about 45nm. Not a huge deal had I been on time to Ellendale but the accidents on I94 were taking their toll. As I scambled southwest
towards Aberdeen and Ipswitch, another delay. Construction with alternating traffic on 281. Two supercells had formed with the westerly cell being tornado warned
and the one to the southeast being severe warned. It was painful watching Nick Elms' and Amanda Hill's live stream as I sat waitng my turn in the contruction while
the inflow bands in front of me screamed west. I finally made it out of the construction through Aberdeen and down 281 hoping for a miracle. The miracle didn't
happen for me but things got interesting. REAL interesting.
I didn't take many stills on this chase. It wasn't because of a lack of structure to shoot, it was simply because this thing
was moving too freakin' fast to the east/southeast. Probably about 60+ mph. This is one of two I kept. Shot south of
Aberdeen, SD on 281. This is the easterly supercell starting to gust out and merge with the developing squall line. The
area on the right side about over the farm still had some curl left to it but that gust front to the left was already starting to
Video frame off the dash cam. I didn't have a good paved east road so I decided to make a run for it to the south in hopes
of getting to 212 at Redfield. At this point I had no idea how fast this was surging forward.
|No time to ding around. Had to get moving ASAP.
All hell started to break loose just south of 20 (which I should have taken in hindsight). Lesson here. If you get trapped
in high winds., either point your vehicle directly into the wind or quarter it into the wind. Both of these guys pointed the
ass end into the wind just asking for their rear window to get shattered out by hail or rocks in the 70+ mph winds. The
guy on the right even fiuther complicates his situation by parking within range of falling power poles and power lines. I
have no idea how they faired as I still wanted to make Redfield.
It's hard to put the intensity of the bow into words as I was north of Redfield by about 10 miles. The area along and just
north of 212 was going to get hammered by winds in excess of 80 mph and possibly reaching 100 mph based on some of
the damage reports. This video contains the highlights for the day but pay close attention to 1:47 to 2:29. I was very
concerned about having the passenger side glass blown out by the wind or horizontal hail. Thankfully the crazy forward
speed of the bowing segment within the squall line got it out of my area within a couple of minutes.
Once I finally did make it to Redfield I gave up on trying to get ahead of it on 212 as I had no desire to drive into what I
had just escaped. Besides, it was already half way to Watertown so I opted to keep going south as the line curved back
to the southwest which would give me a chance to get ahead of it. Winds were still sustained at 70 mph just behind the
shelf. I made it to Huron and headed east on 14 trying in vain to get ahead of the shelf. I stopped briefly (like maybe a
minute) to snap this photo. Within seconds the precip started in again forcing me to race east.
Long story short is this was my view for the next 3 hours. I could see out to the east under the shelf, but at 65 mph there
was no way I was going to make it. The edge of the shelf was well removed from the precip but that space in between
was getting rocked by north to northwest winds still gusting to 70 mph.
Not sure of this was De Smet or Lake Preston. I think a lot people heading west were caught off guard by how fast this
sucker was moving. If the storm was moving 60 mph east and you were on a bike going 65 mph west, do the math.
Probably by the time you figured out it looked scary, you were already in it. I saw a lot of bikers hunkered down along
side of the 14 trying to ride it out.
Video frame and noisy as heck but it was DARK! This is the what the rest of my chase looked like all the way over to
New Ulm, MN on 14 where I was turning north to head home. Thankfully the line weakened some and the torrential rain
didn't last long so as I headed up 15 towards home. I got to enjoy the lightshow as the storms booked off to the east.
Video frame. The lightning was rather dissapointing as I headed east on 12 near Dassel, MN. There was also steady
moderate rain falling so I had no chance to stop and shoot stills.
But when it was good, it was crazy good! This was the last flash I saw over the road plus I was almost home. What a
crazy end to a crazy chase day.