Clark and Hamlin Counties South Dakota
This looked to be the real deal as far as chase days go up here. My target was somewhere on highway 212 west of
Watertown, SD near Redfield or south towards Pierre depending on where the warm front ended up. The models had
hinted at the possibility of an early event with storms firing off the higher terrain of western South Dakota in the early
morning then intensifying as they came east. Sure enough, the models were right so had to scramble out the door at 9am
for the 4 hour drive west. The storms maintained their severe levels as they came east in the warm sector but as I cleared
Watertown, two supercells formed along the warm front ahead of the severe MCS. Game on.
West of Watertown on 212 another storm began to form on what was becoming an arc of cells lifting to the north /
northeast. A tornado watch was issued and shortly after the supercell to the west had a reported tornado on it. Still
heading west. My experience has told me the cell to the east on the bend of an arcing line will produce the better
tornadoes. See my chase account from June 20 2011 for another example of this scenario where the arc of storms form.
I dropped south off 212 down to SD 28 about 20 miles west of Watertown to get a look at the lead supercell. It had a hell
of a shelf along the gust front but the notch was really hard to get into. It was as black as night under the meso with
horrible contrast. Getting this thing to show a tornado was going to be tough. Check out the inflow with the grass!
Looking northwest towards where the inflow notch would be toward the right side of the screen.
Heading north to get on the tip of the meso and be able to see into the notch. An HP beast for sure.
GoPro frame. I had a feeling I may do a lot of running this day as opposed to chasing so I mounted a rear-facing camera
on the trunk. Me waiting to see if the rain would clear long enough to see under the base.
|Have quite a few like this one. Run boy, run!
|Frame off the Midland XTC 300 dash cam showing the awesome tail clouds feeding into the wall cloud. Note the well
defined clear slot cutting in from the left. If you look closely, you can just make out what is likely the tornado in the wet
RFD wrapping around the from the west / northwest. Heading north just east of Carpenter, SD.
|This is where things get interesting. I unknowingly passed by Chris Allington on this same road about a mile north of 28.
At this point I was pretty set on getting a peek into the notch of this storm then bailing east and south to 28 to make my
escape. The marker on the map designates where the next couple of images were taken from. Not my smartest decision
ever. I am done messing with HP supercells for good. Structure, yes. Getting the tornado...not a priority anymore.
|Severely cropped and contrast adjusted in Photoshop.
One more before I ran east and south. The meso and hook surged east / southeast at this time as the RFD wrapped rain and
hail around the tornado obscuring my vision completely.
Images provided by John Wetter. 19:58 showing my approximate location at the time the images were taken.
Had there been a good east route, I would had gone towards Naples and stayed in the notch but the road
network was pretty shakey. So, I headed for Willow Lake to wait it out. See that bright red in the upper left
image ahead of the hook? That is what I ended up driving south in. I made it to within 1/2 mile of 28 when I
got caught. Scared the crap out of me as I knew the tornado was back in the precip somewhere and praying
it didn't turn southeast. One nasty wind shift then it was all out of the west. Waited it out in Willow Lake
where there was major tree damage with most of the streets blocked. I took refuge behind a gas station on
the west side of town until things calmed down. The other issue was wake low winds developed and
continued to sustain around 50 mph making driving really difficult.
Once I started heading east on 28 again, I had no intentions of trying to get back ahead of the storm. I was
chatting with Eric Whitehill on the phone and he was telling me of the significant damage being reported in
Bryant and Lake Norden. I was able to make my way around downed trees and tree limbs to highway 81.
This structure was pretty consistent with the damage I saw. Well constructed buildings had light to moderate
damage. Sheds and barns didn't fare so well.
I'd seen enough tree damage, insulation and sheet metal wrapped around stuff at this point. I talked to Nick
Elms and Amanda Hill on the phone as they were to my south and things sounded a lot calmer that dirrection
so headed south towards Brookings and highway 14 for home.
As I neared New Ulm, MN for the turn back north, a new cell with a multi-tiered shelf cloud went up.
Flanking the cell.
|I think I took more photos blindly out the window this day than ever before.
|New Ulm has the worst placed fast food places on earth. All on them are on the east end of town. Had to go through
town then take the bypass back to 15. See the red SUV? Just about got run off the road by this moron. Not a chaser but
some local trying to beat the storm home. Other drivers...the most dangerous part of chasing. John called me from MPX
shortly after this and wanted a report. Outflow dominant and udercut so on the way home finally! Another crazy day.
A 2x4 impaled in the ground.