June 6 2007 South Dakota Badlands Tornado and Shelf Cloud Structure

Mar 05, 2012

What a chase!!

We left Chicago around 11pm, as usual we were running late but it wouldn’t matter. We knew our target zone was about 10-12hrs away, and that storms wouldn’t fire for at least 4 more hours after that. This was also the firsst time this year we had a “tourist” with us. Mike. We’re pretty sure he enjoyed it.


The drive down was more of the same, long dark roads, talking to truckers on the CB, messing with the new GPS I had purchased, even watching movies on the laptop. Nebraska wasn’t a friendly state for us at all, their system for handling road construction is the worst I’ve ever seen and my sympathy goes out to anyone who took route 275. Regardless we made it to our destination of Valentine, Nebraska around 1130am. There were a few other chasers in this area as well including people from the college of New York. There we just ate, tossed the frisbee around and checked weather updates. This was a tricky setup as to where we would want to position ourselves. We knew we had to be very close to where initiation was to take place or we would miss the show.


After much analysis and debate we decided to head north into South Dakota and maybe head west. After about an hours drive north we decided to stop in a town called Murdo for gas and to try and get a cell signal so we can get new data. Turns out we weren’t the only ones who thought this, as there was a massive chaser convergence at this stop, including a few celebrity chasers.


My van next to the TIV!! [Tornado Intercept Vehicle.]

Yea it looks like a tank, there is a DVD from the Discovery Channel about them, their goal is to anchor themselves in a tornadoes path and film it with an I-max camera. Their presence here told us we made the right decision to come north.

D.O.W. [Doppler On Wheels] a mobile radar truck. Again their presence here was a sign we made a good decision. Confidence in the day is going up now!

We spent about an hour here chatting with other chasers, sharing data and theories about where we think storms are going to fire, telling stories and comparing this season to past years. As I found out, every single person I talked to was also in Kansas on may 5th, which was my last chase, telling me that these are the die hard chasers! Also I was one of few people who had a data connection, so quite a few people came to my van to get some data, which the film crew for the TIV had the cameras rolling for. Although I don’t expect to see it on their next DVD. It was still cool though. It was awesome to meet and chat with many passionate people, swapped numbers and contact info with a few of them, always a good thing!
Well as we were all sitting around, the 1st storm of the day fired near a town called Alliance. As anticipated it quickly grew super-cellular, thus just about everyone jumped into their vehicles and the chase was on.

We start to see the storm as we shoot down I-90.

Then it happened, a wall cloud, a funnel, a tornado. It was only 311pm [yes the tornado touched down at 311!] Our 3rd of the season, and mikes 1st ever!



As we tried to get closer we found ourselves in the badlands, very scenic but blocked our view of the tornado for a majority of the chase, by the time we found a good vantage point the tornado was about finished. It lasted 20 minutes and we were on it the whole time. Already the trip was a success.

Wall cloud still present after tornado dissipated. Storm could still drop another one at this point.

Based off radar this was the only decent storm in the area so we decided to stick with it. What we were about to witness was an amazing transition into the most beautiful storm I have seen to date. We stayed with this single storm for pretty much the rest of the day.

Amazing development.

Shelf cloud.

New, very distinct wall cloud.

Shelf becoming more defined, green hue behind it indicates hail, and lots of it!

Its now chasing us, we’re staying ahead of it so as not to get baseball size hailed on.

Storm is now over the badlands!

Aerostorm by the storm.

Love the color contrast, and yes this is how it appeared to the naked eye!

The gust front of this storm was producing winds over 70mph pretty much the whole time. Blowing tumbleweed and other debris infront of us most of the chase. Resulting in this:

Here are a couple more videos. The first is of the Shelf cloud, there is also a very nice CG strike caught on camera.

Shelf cloud

This video is of what i believe is a gustnado, though I’m not sure, it has tornado-like characteristics meaning there is circulation at the cloud and at the ground level, but I’m not convinced yet and I never jump to conclusions. Also here you can see Matt’s battle with the strong winds as I just sit there and laugh cold hearted-ly.

Matt Vs RFD

I do have another very good video of this storms gust front at various stops, showing blowing tumbleweeds, dust clouds swallowing people, and more scenic views which can be seen on my youtube channel.
There really were no more tornadic storms in the area, there were a couple in southern Nebraska…too far. So we definitely made all the right decisions about where to go and were in the right place for the best show mother nature offered. We stayed with it, we pushed east, the storm turned north, and we called it a day.

Here is a radar shot of the main storm in South Dakota that produced the tornado and shelf cloud, as well as baseball sized hail and 70+ mph winds. We saw 1 truck get pushed off the highway but I couldn’t get my camera on in time. The tan dot with the circle around it is our position according to the GPS. The car icons are other chasers. The red SN boxes are reports from the spotter network, including mine about the tornado at 315pm.

A funny side note, as we gassed up before leaving chicago I made a joke about people who try to stop the gas at an even amount and end up going .01 over, in doing so I jinxed myself and did this not once, not twice, not thrice, not 4…but FIVE TIMES!!!

Yes chasing is a dirty job!

That ends chase #5 of this season, my best to date! I’m glad we were able to get Mike some good storms and his first tornado, always makes me feel better when someone comes along and we can get some awesome action.

Total Miles Driven: 1,945

States covered: IL, IA, NE, SD, WI.

Number of times I stopped the gas pump .01 over: 5

Number of hotels we tried getting a room at before finally finding one available: 3

Thanks for checking it out, until next time! Hope its soon!

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