July 26th 2011 Hoven, South Dakota Tornado

Feb 26, 2012


Decided to bite last minute on a setup in South Dakota and was rewarded with some decent supercell structure and a weak tornado while working with art students filming a documentary on storm chasers.
Tornadoes: 1
Hail: .00″
Wind: est 65mph RFD winds
Miles: 1765
New Milestone: First July tornado!
Number of Casinos in Aberdeen: 13
Detailed Account:
It is always hard to get me out in the summer. The setups are often too far away and too marginal for me to use what little is left of my chase funds. I awoke Monday to a bunch of texts from Jonathan Williamson who had just chased the weekends busts and was eager to get out again. I had also been working recently with a couple of film students doing a documentary on storm chasers. They wanted to meet up the same day for another interview. So I thought why not bite on the setup and rather than have their film be me sitting and talking about it to have them actually come with and see what storm chasing was all about. Arrangements and plans were made, I got Danny Neal to come with and once 10pm a jam packed Ford Expedition set off from Chicago headed for the Dakotas.
I drove us through the night and into the morning. The Minnesota sunrise was quite colorful.
SPC put out a moderate risk calling for potentially strong tornadoes along the SD/ND border region, so for a summer setup in July we were pretty excited by this. If we were ever going to gamble on a summer setup this appeared to be a good one. We set a preliminary target of Aberdeen, SD arriving around 11am. Getting breakfast at Perkins and watching the live weather conditions I was convinced we didn’t have to move too far, perhaps a slight jog west. So we proceeded to Ipswich to relive some memories from the infamous field incident we had there last year.
We learned that the main highway there [highway 12] was closed west of Ipswich near the town of Roscoe so we moved south and made sure we knew where our alternate routes would be should we need them. We found a secluded road where decided to play our waiting game. The film students, Mike and Sam had been gathering shots for their movie, and setup a makeshift interview studio on the road to talk to Jon, Danny and I. Danny being interviewed.
I really enjoyed doing the interview out there, I think it helped capture the element. Sam asked some really good questions and Mike had some pretty cool film equipment. Hours passed and I was starting to get that pessimistic feeling that the setup would go to waste in true summer fashion. Junk storms and high level clouds were slowing down the destabilization process and it appeared we would be waiting around longer than we had hoped. Around 530 or 6 storms finally began to develop and the chase was on. They started off as isolated cells we hoped would go tornadic but instead they quickly congealed into a mushy line. We found ourselves a view and watched them regardless. When we first arrived we could see a distant wall cloud trying to develop.
The storms began to merge, we were hoping for a supercell merger but instead it was nothing more than a weak squall line. Jon explaining to Sam and Mike some of the things that were going on as we all watch the unimpressive storms begin to merge.
These were the only storms in the area so we decided to move to stay ahead of them hoping for at least a dramatic shelf cloud but off on the horizon we noticed a new storm rapidly developing. Unlike our storms this storm in the distance had a very nice inflow tail. I stopped for a couple moments to regain internet and radar confirmed a new cell was rapidly going up, so we ditched our storms and quickly plotted course for this new storm. It was isolate and looked like our best chance for a tornado. We got stuck behind a pilot car en route which slowed us down, but as we made our approach we were greeted with dramatic, classic supercellular structure. A nice big wall cloud came into view as we approached, finally!
One of the more interesting things was this funky cloud mass directly infront of me. It looked like a spinning top, was very low, and was being inhaled into the storm.
The storm seemed to cycle wall clouds quickly, and the one pictured above quickly became detached. The storm’s RFD gust front area was beautiful though. In crystal clear air we had an awesome view.
We were awe-struck by the structure so we pulled over a little earlier than I normally would to get some pictures and video. While we watched I began to notice a bunch of shear funnels, they would quickly form, spin for a minute and then dissipate. They stood very little chance of touching down, but at least gave Sam and Mike something cool to shoot.
Probably my favorite pic of the RFD gust front structure.
The area of tornado interest began to get obscured in rain and was moving away so I made the call to move and get in there. Heading north on highway 20 we noted several more impressive shear funnels, then Danny noticed dust in the nearby town of Hoven. Above it was a swirling mass of clouds. We had a weak tornado infront of us. I got us as close as I could while we had a view. We got right up to the funnel as the brief and weak tornado dissipated, but not before doing damage in town by tearing off the roof of a business and downing a few trees. The dust column is hard to see in the video, but a contrast enhanced shot from Jon shows it clearly.
Here is the video. The rotation in the funnel was pretty dramatic, especially near the end when it appeared to make a fist at us before dissipating completely.
I wanted to blast east to stay close but Jon and Danny were a bit hesitant so I held back for a bit before finally gunning it into the wicked RFD. The storm was moving ENE and I was not worried one bit. The RFD was pretty strong, and once we got out of the rain displayed some very dramatic structure from behind including this weird vein-like feature [center of photo] that seemed to connect the updraft to the clouds that were cascading down as the RFD slammed to earth.
The whole mass was rolling over backwards on itself like a giant wave. I should have shot tripoded video of that. It was one of the most impressive visualizations of the RFD I had ever seen.
Danny, Sam and Mike enjoying the RFD action.
We kept up behind the storm for a bit until we deemed it to be done. Some other storms in the distance provided a few more photo ops and as we entered back into Aberdeen the mammatus display began to glow.
We stopped and had our celebratory dinner in Aberdeen. We discussed our next options. Danny and I had been awake for over 30 hours now and were completely wiped out and running on fumes, we found a nearby hotel which was unbearably hot inside but luckily the rooms AC still worked. We bought a case of beer, had a few drinks and were out as soon as we hit the pillow.
A good chase, we were expecting [or should I say hoping] for a greater tornado catch, but at least we were able to get what little there was. The supercell structure was also dramatic and made for an overall good intercept. I enjoyed working with Sam and Mike to hopefully help make their film that much better! I think they are hooked, because they said they want to come back out. That makes the day a success in my books. We couldn’t have played the day any better and hopefully summer will give us another chance.
Map, arrow shows our location where we filmed the tornado in Hoven.
SPC Storm reports:

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