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October 20, 2017

Serving the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro Area

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.

I headed south on 35 W and watched as the cell approached and increased in intensity on the radar. A quick decision was made to exit at 95th Avenue and spot from the Park 'n Ride lot. I quickly realized that it was not the best location since there was a berm on the southern end of the lot that blocked my view of the sky. So as the storm approached I decided to exit the lot and head west on 95th Avenue (which became Radisson Road. As I exited I noticed a rapidly rotating wall cloud so I pulled over on the right shoulder to observe for the required time, but almost immediately, a funnel cloud developed. I grabbed the mike on my 2-meter radio, which was tuned to the Skywarn primary repeater and was about to report when the sirens started to sound and net control announced that the police in Blaine had reported a tornado. Well I debated transmitting that it was not a tornado (yet), but decided to follow the funnel cloud as best as I could.

So I followed it on Radisson Road and noticed that it did appear to reach all the way to the ground but was moving further west. As I stopped at Radisson Road and 109th Ave to turn west, I opened my window and snapped the photo with my cellphone. This is the image that is displayed on the Metro Skywarn home page.

I continued to track the tornado by turning north on 65 but it go further away as it appeared to be moving northwest. I gave up my attempt a few miles north of town.

The official NWS report can be found at the link below:

www.crh.noaa.gov/images/mpx/StormReports/21June2011.pdf

It does backup my observation that it was not a tornado at the point that I first observed the funnel cloud dropping from the rotating wall cloud.

All-in-all, quite an exciting experience and my first tornado spotting!

Happy and safe spotting!

73 - Dave, KE0NA

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