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June 4, 2015-Simla, Colorado-Tornado and Updraft/Mesocyclone

By Ryan Sandberg, Metro Skywarn Spotter

The beginning of my 2015 storm chasing season had been a slow, and frustrating start.  I was working with a storm chasing tour company as a forecaster/guide, and after being on the road for nearly 3 weeks already, I had still not seen any tornadoes.  Disagreements on forecasts, and chase decisions, as well as some vehicle trouble, had resulted in a few missed tornadoes.  Upper level winds had been lacking most of time I had been out, which resulted in a lack of photogenic supercells thus far.  I finally saw my first decently structured storms on May 22nd near Limon, Colorado, and on the 24th near Lamar, Colorado. 

Read more: June 4, 2015-Simla, Colorado-Tornado and Updraft/Mesocyclone

My Chase Adventure

Since I was a kid, I've always been interested in Storm Chasing. I even tried to chase them on my bicycle! Unlike other Storm Chasers I'm more interested in "experiencing" the weather rather than just take pictures or video of it. The following is one of the best Storm Chase experiences I ever had during a Road Trip across the state of Minnesota. All individuals in this story are referred to by their C.B. Handles, as I was not a Ham Radio Operator at the time.

Every year when I was in my 20s, and early 30's, my buddy "California Fox" and I would go on a road trip. We'd usually go during the third week in July because that seems to be the highest chance of encountering a severe thunderstorm here in Minnesota. We also liked to check out the teen/hot rod cruising life in other towns and cities around the five state area. The summer of 1991 was the most exciting experience though.

Read more: My Chase Adventure

SKYWARN, Amateur Radio and the Tuscaloosa Tornado

Dee Chandler, WX4DC, a spotter for Alabama SKYWARN, saw the F4 tornado that ravaged parts of Tuscaloosa on December 16, 2000. He has graciously agreed to share the story of his experiences that day. Metro SKYWARN believes this is a great example of how dedicated and well-trained volunteers can make a difference during a severe weather emergency. This is his story: 

By Dee Chandler, WX4DC 

That Saturday in mid-December started like any other, except on this particular day it was unusually warm. Actually, it was almost eerie outside. Something was definitely "in the air." As a result, all spotters had been contacted by email and were put on alert by local emergency management officials. 

Before leaving home, I checked my vehicle to make sure I had everything needed for spotting. I had my 2-meter mobile, 2-meter HT (charged) and 10-meter mobile, all in working order along with my poncho. Actually, an 80-meter mobile would be excellent here in Alabama because the state-wide disaster net is on 3.965 MHz, but you use what you have. As my assistant and I arrived for work that morning, we looked at each other and confirmed what we both were feeling and said, "something is definitely up."

Read more: SKYWARN, Amateur Radio and the Tuscaloosa Tornado

The Untold Story of The 1984 Minneapolis Tornado.

Before I can tell this story, I need to supply a little bit of technical background or you won't understand it. During my teenage years and before, the Twin Cities Metro area had a telephone "dating service" similar to Internet Chat Lines of today. We called it the Jam Line, and I have since discovered that some cities in other parts of the country had them too, but called them by a different term: "Beep Line." Anyway, the cause of the Jam Line was the telephone company's building of the new Electronic Switching (ESS) that we use today. In order for ESS to work correctly, it had to be built in parallel to the old mechanical switching used in the 1950's - 1970's. This created a Loop in the telephone lines allowing people to talk to each other when getting a Busy Signal. Us teens would dial the local radio station's request line, which was always busy, and get the Jam Line; where one would shout out their telephone number between the beeps of the busy signal and the guys/girls would call each other back. Now that you've got the background here's the story:

It was about 8:30 pm on April 26, 1984. A teenage girl was standing in a phone booth in the parking lot of the SuperAmerica gas station on 37th Ave. NE, in Minneapolis, MN talking on the Jam Line, when suddenly the telephone line went dead, then was followed by some clicking sounds, went dead again, and just as suddenly the Jam Line was back on. Moments later the power went out all around her, then an F-3 tornado hit the Apache Plaza Shopping Mall about a 1/2 mile away. The resulting damage would trigger the eventual bankruptcy and demolition of the mid-sized indoor mall built in 1961.

Read more: The Untold Story of The 1984 Minneapolis Tornado.

Tornado near Blaine - © 2011 David F Ventura, KE0NA

© 2011 David F Ventura, KE0NA

A weak tornado I spotted June 21, 2011, near Blaine in Anoka county. This story starts at the 2011 Skywarn Workshop at St. Thomas University where I won a copy of Gibson Ridge GRLevel3 Weather radar software. I had setup in my car all the equipment needed to monitor the radar products and had attached a GPS to my laptop so that my location would also be displayed in relation to the radar return.

I knew that there was a possibility of severe weather that day from the storm prediction center Day One convective outlook. So I had all the equipment in my car. I drove up to Lino Lakes YMCA that morning for a work out then went to my favorite coffee shop to setup and monitor the storm development using GRLevel3 as I enjoyed my coffee and a slice of banana bread. I remember the motion of the cells that day was unusual, they were moving from south to north. So planning an intercept would be challenging, because the quadrant of the cell that was normally most likely to produce a wall cloud, funnel or tornado would not be the south west, but the southeast one. I saw a promising storm cell moving north towards my location in Lino Lakes, so I left the coffee shop and setup my laptop and GPS equipment on the passenger seat of my car.

Read more: Tornado near Blaine - © 2011 David F Ventura, KE0NA

Wall cloud - © 1995-2012 DavidEarlJohnson.com

Wall cloud - © 1995-2012 DavidEarlJohnson.com

Tornado Outbreak on July 21, 1995

by Dave Johnson, N0KBD 

July 21, 1995 was a most memorable day for Metro area spotters for several years. Fourteen tornadoes were confirmed across MN that day. The storms were very slow moving, most moved east at 10 MPH. Its not unusual for severe storms to move as fast as 45 MPH or more! The cells that developed were mostly classic super cells. The storm that dropped two tornadoes in Cambridge and North Branch appeared to be a high precipitation super cell. Just before the funnel developed, the "rain free base" completely wrapped in rain totally obscuring the tornado. One unofficial estimate said ten inches of rain fell in Cambridge from this one cell.

Read more: Wall cloud - © 1995-2012 DavidEarlJohnson.com

When the wind screamed: Looking back at the 1998 St. Peter tornado

MinnPost’s Minnesota History (full story here) articles are produced in partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society and its
MNopedia project, which is made possible by the Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.Share on print

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