October 18 2007 Nappannee Indiana EF-3 Tornado

Mar 05, 2012

WHAT A CHASE!!! This was a
very dynamic chase, we made all the wrong decisions, and all the right
ones too, it went from frustrating to very awesome to a very bad
ending.

I left my house to pick up Chad Cowan, a
storm chaser who lives on the north side of Chicago who messaged me on
storm-track, which is the storm chasers forum I belong to. I picked him
up and then left to get Matt.

Our original target
was the Champaign area, however we decided to stop in a town called
Gilman instead to play our waiting game there. This wasn’t my first time
here either, we also stopped here on March 1st of this
year.

The day started off slow, keeping tabs on
weather updates and watching tower after tower go up and get sheared
apart by a very impressive 90-100kt Mid level jet!!! Sustained winds at
the ground were 25mph gusting to 40 which altered this gas stations
prices.

To
be funny I went in and asked them if i could have gas for .79 cents but I was denied.

Notice the way this tower leans, this
is a storm trying to develop but getting sheared off, this is why it is
falling over. A sign that mid/upper level winds are really
strong [over 100mph!], It is going to take a very powerful
updraft to maintain a storm, making severe weather a bigger possibility.

Well
a tornado watch went up for Indiana, so we decided to leave IL and head
there. We shot down US-24 till it met up with I-65. We figured this was a
good spot to stop and wait since we had good road options. After about
another hour we noticed storms starting to fire to the south so off we
went down I-65 where we intercepted them about 10 miles north of
Lafayette.

Very solid updraft off to our
east, a developing storm!

We
pulled off I-65 about 10 miles north of Lafayette and decided to let the first wave of storms pass by. Chad and Matt keeping an eye on the storms
as they move in.

The
very last storm in the bunch went severe warned and as it came closer it
“ate” the sun. Although it was severe warned we only measured a wind gust
to 47.5mph [it takes 58mph to be considered severe.]

As
it passed we were treated to a nice double-bow

Amazing
view of the storms anvil from directly underneath.

We
decided to follow the southern-most storm of the bunch, since often the
southern storm has the best chance of becoming tornadic. After
following it for about 30 minutes I looked up and out my window and
noticed some rotation.

Confidence
is going up, we decided to slow down a bit since we didn’t want to be UNDER
the area where a tornado could drop. We had an excellent view of the base and
rain shaft off to the right.

A small
funnel trying to form. It didn’t do much.

A sloppy wall
cloud. The storm is trying and trying to get organized!

At this point we realize tornado warnings are going up
in Champaign which was our original chase target. DOH! We ditch the
cell we are on and ponder our next move about ready to shoot back
into IL when suddenly my NOAA radio goes off. The cell we were just on
went tornado warned. DOH x2! We let our patience get the
better of us and missed not 1 but 2 potential opportunities. Since
we were way closer to the Indiana storm we tried to play catch up. Unfortunately
this storm was moving over 60mph and we could do nothing but watch it
from behind and take some pics of the structure.
For
supercells these are very low-topped, but we were dealing with an amazingly strong fall storm system that woul’dnt require huge updraft towers.

The setting
sun adds cool color mixes.

Traditional
shot of my van…

So we
decided to play cat and mouse with this storm for about 3 hours, trying
our best to catch up to it. During which we see several funnel clouds,
and possibly a tornado but the visibility became
horrible with trees, hills and slow traffic in our way. When a
storm is moving 60mph its damn near impossible to catch so we
couldn’t confirm if we were looking at a tornado or a funnel cloud. Reports of
tornadoes were coming in from the storm so I think it was a
tornado but don’t add it to my tornado tally unless I am 100 percent
sure.

So finally the storm weakens and we decide to
call it a day. The time is about 830pm now. We are on our way home and decide to
stop at Arbys just outside of Nappanee, Indiana for some food. Theres
a really intense squall line about 45 minutes away so we figure we’ll let
it come to us while we eat and measure the winds and
hail.

Well we finish eating when something catches
my eye on radar. Part of this line is breaking up, turning right and
becoming isolated. I make the call to go
back east and see what this new cell does. All I was hoping for was a
core-punch hail video. It turns out we got allot
more.

The signatures on radar were becoming more and
more tornadic and dramatically so. It looked like a classic Kansas
storm in May. We slowed our pace down a bit since we didn’t want to get caught up in
it which turned out to be a great call. Suddenly were getting pounded by horizontal rain
and very heavy winds that almost took me off the road. The wind was incredibly strong and shifted directions rapidly.
Only about a minute later everything around
us is suddenly chaotic…damage is everywhere and I’m dodging trees in
the road, running over twisted pieces of sheet metal and roofing. We
hit a major intersection where buildings are when it became
evident this city just got pummeled by a major tornado. The damage
was incredible and the smell of natural gas [which is horrible] was
everywhere, trailers were completely flattened and power poles were
snapped in half. Emergency crews were just arriving as we did. I have
never seen destruction like this up close. We were literally RIGHT BEHIND
this tornado. Had we not slowed down we may
have even been in it. Just a reminder as the added danger to getting too close at night.

I tried to take a few pics of the damage but
it was night and this is the only one that came out.

Our
attention quickly turned to chasing the tornado and coming back later
to document the damage. We chased the tornado for about 20 minutes and at
one point we do believe we saw it in a field just next to a line of
trees. Normally lightning flashes aid you in seeing things but there was
almost no lightning with this storm! What lightning there was
didn’t help us much as it was not CG lightning [cloud to
ground.]

Someone from CNN in Atlanta noticed my
position on the spotter network and called me and asked me to give him
a report of the damage we witnessed! They
asked if I had any video which unfortunately I did not. The camera was
on but on standby. It happened so fast we didn’t have time to setup
video.

For those who don’t know. Spotter Network
is a network of spotters and chasers who have special software that
displays their live position on radar via GPS. Anyone in the country
can see it and it lists phone numbers so people of authority or media
can contact you if they notice your on a particular
storm.

So the storm finally weakens and we decide to
head back to Nappanee to help out and document the storm. Thats
when things took an ugly turn. To put it simply…MY DAMN TIRE FLEW
OFF!

How
the hell this happened is beyond me but my theory is running over
debris could have knocked something loose and the constant driving at
70mph or higher was just too much.

This was such a
bad feeling. We were a mile from the town and could see the emergency
lights and hear the sirens. Ambulance after ambulance and emergency
vehicle flew past us as we could do nothing but sit there and wait for
help ourselves. What kills me the most is this was a big chance for
me to document a storm and the damage. We were the only chasers on this storm and it would have been a great chance for us to get something unique. Oh well, there WILL be other
chances.

These are pictures of the damage from news
media the following morning. I DID NOT TAKE THESE. I DONT KNOW WHO DID.

Arbys anyone?!

To
witness that destruction just moments after it happened was
incredible. I had never seen anything like it. All I’ve seen up until
now was trees downed an cars and the occasional house with roof
damage.

Time to be educated. These are the
incredible radar scans from this storm. Ive mapped out key features so
some of you can see just what we chasers look for in
storms and how we know where to go.

A signature called a “hook echo” is
often found on radar when a tornado is present. A hook doesn’t always
mean a tornado is there…but it does indicate the storm has some serious rotation. The more defined
the hook, the stronger the rotation or tornado could be. Below is a very well
defined hook! the red SN box is our location and where we submitted the
report.

This
is the Base Velocity scan. Basically what it means
is this: The red represents winds blowing AWAY from the
radar. The green is wind moving TOWARDS the radar. The brighter the
colors the stronger the wind so when we see a bright green next to a birght red it
means rotation. This is what prompts tornado warnings based off radar. Ive
outlined these features and if you compare the two images you’ll notice
they line up perfectly.

Again
very impressive, this tornado was rated EF-3 with winds about 165mph at
its peak intensity. A very violent and destructive storm for this area
in October. They can happen anywhere at any time!! Fortunately no
lives were lost and there were only reports of minor
injuries.

So while I was out on the road I received
several calls from people about hail back home. It is much appreciated and I apologize
that I couldn’t stay on the phone but as you can clearly see I was
busy following things far worse. It would have been cool to see a
local hail event though.
SPC storm reports for the day.
INSANE!!!

All
in all it was a very exciting experience, and an excellent way to close
off the year. There may be one last chance in November but this will
probably be the last big outbreak of the year. More was learned as
always, the biggest being sometimes we need patience in this game and
to not give up on things so easily.

I experienced my
1st significant tornado, something I will never forget, though there are no
pictures or video to show for it. The memories will remain forever
etched in my mind.

Thanks for checking it
out

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