I’m going to try and make this semi-educational [keyword SEMI.] I hope to educate some of you who might not know what I’m talking about and why certain things that seem like they don’t matter, actually do matter.
We left Matt’s house around 1015am, 15 minutes late of course but hey, I think 15 minutes late is the most on-time we’ve ever left, so hooray for that! It was a good setup, upper trough had a warm front ejecting NE with trailing cold front, strong SW winds bringing in a high MR [moisture return] from the south, and near record daytime heating to start the destabilization process. Plenty of wind shear present [wind shear = key ingredient for tornadoes.]
We stopped at the Dekalb oasis just before 11am. Mistake #1 of storm chasing…eating a McDonalds breakfast, or in Matt’s case, Taco Bell the night before. Already a very warm and sunny day!
Our destination was LaCrosse, WI. Our 2nd stop wasTomah, WI. Just after 215pm. We gassed up again, picked up some munchies and a shot glass souvenir. I noticed the birth of the CU starting to take place, thus ending the cloud-less sky. Destabilization has begun.
After some quick weather updates we decided to toss our LaCrosse plan and head further north to Eau Claire, we thought the odds were better up there. On the way we notice our CU are growing up and getting ready to take over the world.
If you cant read the bonus points they say “1st splattered bug of 2007 season” and “Gregs company slowing us down”
Third stop was at our destination of Eau Claire, WI. It was approx 415pm, we were going to attempt a rendezvous with 2 other chasers from the College of Dupage but that never happened, we would however be in close contact with them throughout the remainder of the chase. Matt’s Taco Bell dinner was still kicking him in the rear so while I waited I, of course, checked the weather. Storms are beginning to fire to our west.
I post my bulletin at this time and off we go! We choose to go to Menomonie as our possible point of interception. Good road network being the main reason behind this. Good road network is VERY IMPORTANT.
On the way to Menomonie, the building storms on the radar behind the CU.
We stop just north of Menomonie, find ourselves a hill with a good vantage point to watch the storms, 3/4 of Wisconsin is NOT a friendly chase state at all, nothing but hills and trees.
At this point the first tornado warning is issued, were in the direct path, but the warning was radar indicated and nothing would come of it. Storms are taking a mean NNE track, so further west we go, on the way there we spot what could be two very important storm features. Wall cloud [circled] and a clear slot [arrow]
Although we’re too far to know for sure, and definitely too far to see any type of rotation, these are things to keep an eye on. Now most people see this and think nothing of it, why are they important? To put it simple a wall cloud is to a tornado what a womb is to an unborn baby. A clear slot indicates the air is rotating back around, cutting away at the clouds, this can show up as the classic “hook echo” on radar. So any chaser pays very close attention to anything that could possibly be one of these features.
I pull over to get an update and plan our next route, heavy rain and sub-severe winds kick in.
Update complete, we’re gonna shoot back east to catch some new and bigger cells popping up, what we were about to discover is a nice little bow echo is forming pretty much right over us. We decide to stay ahead of it.
Well, not for long, we decide to pull over and let it pass and see what it does, bow echos usually come with a nice shelf cloud, excellent photo opportunity right there.
What our evolving echo looks like on radar, it doesn’t have a classic echo shape to it yet…but its coming.
Well we let it pass, rain and winds I think peaked about 35mph. Nothing too special, back east we go, and during that time is when this thing really pumped up. It began racing off at 50mph and thus began chasing us.
Until it finally grew stronger and overtook us. If it doesn’t play click the link that says bow echo and that should work.
As usual the video doesnt do it justice, very rarely do I actually drive with two hands on the steering wheel, but that was one of those times. It was very intense. After that there was no traffic because it all came to a stop, I was the only crazy fool who kept going. That right there made the trip worth it. Winds estimated around 65mp, possibly stronger [a good 10mph above severe levels] and the most pea/dime size hail I’ve ever seen, at that size hail isn’t considered to be severe, but coming down as thick and heavy as it was made up for that.
After that we decided to dip south, since this thing just whooped us I wanted some good pictures of it that didn’t involve me hanging my arm out the window while I try and drive.
Finally found a good setting on my camera that really emphasizes the colors. This is pretty close to how it appeared to the naked eye.
On radar…taking on more of a classic “bow” shape:
After that it was time to say goodbye to Mr Echo [if you’re a fan of LOST you’ll find that funny] and try to get one of 3 supercells in central Wisconsin, but alas, Wisconsin’s chaser un-friendliness had something in store for us. Really nasty muddy back roads, and the most confusing signs ever, its pretty hard to navigate when the signs keep changing from COUNTY Z to county G to county ZG to NM, LD, O, OQ, Q, LG so we got lost for a bit, but found our way….by then though, daylight was coming to an end.
Afterall, its still March and the days aren’t all that long yet. So it was time to head home, mother nature gave us a spectacular light show on the way back, we had lightning in-front, behind, to the left, and over us. I took video but I haven’t uploaded that yet.
All in all it was my most exciting, longest and challenging chase yet. As usual more was learned. I enjoyed every second of it and would like to thank those who called or texted me to make sure I wasn’t dead and to see how it was going.
Here are some random facts from the day.
Total miles driven: 910
Number of WI state troopers that had sum1 pulled over: 15-20
Casualty of the chase: one of 3 cups on my anemometer, possibly from hail or flying debris.
Map of the main roads taken, crazy Wisconsin back roads not included, dark green is going home, pink arrows are the stopping points I mentioned.
If anyone knows of any cool software where I can do this better, let me know, for now ill just ghetto rig one from Google using MS paint.
SPC releases an MD [mesoscale discussion] about our bow echo
Here is what it said:
THE SEVERE WEATHER THREAT FOR TORNADO WATCH 75 CONTINUES. AN
ENHANCED THREAT FOR DAMAGING WINDS MAY BE DEVELOPING AS BOW ECHO
EVOLVES FROM DUNN/PEPIN COUNTIES.
BROKEN LINE OF SUPERCELLS HAS BEGUN TO TRANSITION INTO A BOW ECHO
TYPE STRUCTURE AROUND 20 W EAU. LATEST SURFACE ANALYSES INDICATE A
DRY PUNCH HAS SWUNG NEWD AHEAD OF THIS LINE FROM CNTRL IA INTO EAU.
DEW POINT DEPRESSIONS AROUND 30 DEGREES /INDICATIVE OF STEEP
LOW-LEVEL LAPSE RATES/ WILL SUPPORT ENHANCED DOWNDRAFT POTENTIAL
AMIDST 40 KT SWLY FLOW AT 1 KM PER SLATER IA AND BLUE RIVER WI
PROFILERS. THIS SHOULD LEAD TO A GREATER THREAT FROM DAMAGING WINDS
IN W-CNTRL WI OVER THE NEXT FEW HOURS.
Storm reports for that day, far less than anticipated, but the blue dots represent wind damage
from MR echo:
A great chase day! one of many more to come this year I’m sure! Thanks for checking it out.