May 1 2012
Pope, Stearns and Sherburne Counties
Minnesota
A warm front was lying across central Minnesota with a surface low moving out of the Dakotas.  My
original target area was  a triangle between Alexandria, MN, Morris, MN and Elbow Lake, MN for
initiation.  After grabbing some lunch in Alexandria, it was pretty evident the warm front was not
going to lift so I drifted west.  Temps were in the mid to upper 70's with surface dewpoints in the mid
to upper 50's.  This spread did cause an issue with the height of the cloud bases at first.
Initiation between Morris, MN and Starbuck, MN.  There were three
updrafts.  Waiting to see which one will be dominant always drives me nuts.
A sucker storm of sorts went up to my south.  I felt that cell was too far off the warm front and
didn't have the shear to work with so I held my ground.  This base would eventually become the
long-lived supercell which pretty much transversed central Minnesota from west to east over several
hours.
Getting better organized now southwest of Terrace, MN.  Still high-based and sheared over something terrible.  Still didn't
have much hope for the cell but it was in the best environment compared to the cells struggling to the south near Litchfield,
MN.
Same location as above but about 15 minutes later.  The base hadn't lowered much but notice the well defined curl on the
edge.  This thing was starting to latch on to the warm front and that small area of rotation was  really cranking.
A tighter view of the same area.  I called Eric Whitehill who was northeast of me and David Druke who was to the east.  Eric
said he was on the phone with MPX already.  It was severe warned but the real show was about to start.
A 180 degree view looking north before I head east to stay in the inflow notch.
BAAAAAM!!!!  Just as I came up to highway 55 about a mile or so northwest of Brooten,
MN, that area of rotation decided it wanted to give it a try!  Looking north/northeast.
Video frame.  I let the cam run as I was getting the tripod out.  Nice contrast for the funnel.  Bad contrast for the debris.  
Chasers to my north and east could see the funnel and the debris.  Eric and Dave also saw the debris from thier
locations  to my northwest and northeast.  Eric reported it immediately to the NWS.  If you look real close to above the
trees between the funnel and the antenna, you can make out the debris (dust) cloud.
11mm wide angle.  Wimpy in terms of a tornado but at least it was a pretty scene.
After the "tornado", the meso was cranking like crazy.  Lots of these spin ups underneath.  Reminded me of the June 6
2002 event in Minnesota with a nearly stationary supercell nailing the ground with downbursts on the back edge kicking
up the dirt which would spin back up towards the base in the updraft area.  Some RFD  / outflow plumes also.  I doubt
anything else was truly the result of a tornadic circulation despite what the meso was doing at the cloud base.
This one was more impressive nealy reaching up to the cloud base.  These were south of my location so must have been
right along county road 27 between Brooten and Elrosa.
Got meso?
Hail falling to my northeast as I take a close look at the back side of the wallcloud.
Heading east to make my way back up into the bears cage.  I noticed a lot of chasers and spotters got freaked out
by the crazy motion along the RFD gust front.  Gotta turn that corner and get into that inflow to see the tornado.
About 4 miles southwest of Avon, MN off county road 9.  The storm was cycling at the time so not much going on.  The
view to the south along the gust front was more interesting at this time.   Periodically there was small tree debris falling on
me but I never saw anything in the notch right behind me.  Maybe from earlier?
Yaaaaaaawn...  This cycle did give me just enough time to reposition to the St Joseph exit on
I94 and plot my plan to navigate through the  St Cloud, MN metro area.  The combined
population is just under 200,000 people and the hook was going to pass over the north side of
the city.  The Mississippi River also passes through town just to complicate things a little more.
Being a semi-local paid off getting through town.  With limited options and thankfully most people took cover as the
sirens blared, I was able to breeze through the south part of the city via St Cloud State University emerging on highway
10 near the road to the airport.  This view of the rapidly rotating wall cloud was shot  on 15th Ave SE at the East
Village Shopping Center.  Good motion but it never looked like it was going to drop a tube at this time.
Between St. Cloud and Santiago looking west as the cell approaches.   By now this thing was a HP mess and heading
towards the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge.  It's flat for the most part but at about 31,000 acres and not a lot of
roads, it's a real obstacle.
A mile north of Santiago, MN looking west.  This was the last cycle where it tried to wrap up.  Nice wall cloud with a
tail and a whole lot of dangly action going on off to the left but nothing where it was persistent to the point I thought a
tornado was imminent.
The last "cool" look to the cell shot with the GoPro.  It only took a few minutes for the cell to go totally linear.  As I
moved east to county road 5 to head south, I could see a nice shelf cloud taking over as the cell headed east / southeast.
As a lot of my blog readers know, I spend a lot of time in the Sherburne NWR year around.  I thought of the parking
area on the east side of the St. Franics River for some final shots and a little time lapse to end the night.  It didn't
dissapoint.  Had a few locals stop to ask what the threats were and if it was safe for them to go this direction or that
direction.  A nice guy with his son stopped to chat for a bit.  Got to pitch a Skywarn class and the TVN website.  His
son was really interested in what the storm was doing and at this point I was happy to oblige the barrage of questions.  
Hopefully they follow through on the Skywarn class.  Anyhow, called it  dead and headed to Monticello to meet
Melinda along with my good friends Nick Elms and Amanda Hill who were also chasing this day .  A few wings and a
couple of beers with some of my favorite people to top off a very fun chase!
A compilation of video clips from throughout the day.  Most shot with the Sony
and a couple of timelapses shot with a GoPro Hero2.
Click on the image above for a loop of the
L2 velocity scans from the cell.  Big thanks
to
John Wetter for getting these images to
me!
L3 BR .5 tilt showing my position just to the
southwest of Albany up in the hook.  I'm the white circle.