Welcome to the jungle….

After about a decade of turning down chasing in the jungle I finally went on 3/2/2012. I quickly realized why I didn’t go before. It’s not fun and games as the song says. You can’t see squat through the trees. I do think I saw bigfoot, but then again it was only a brief peak through the forest.

It was a great chase don’t get me wrong, I was just not properly prepared and did not have a good strategy in place for dealing with the trees.  I chased the trees in WI but Dixie Alley offers a whole other challenge. The main one being the road network. Every town had a spider web leading out of town, but with 10 years of the grid system I had become spoiled.

Those of you that know the way I chase, know that there is not a road I will not take to get to a storm. With that said we discovered within that spider web the roads were very narrow and full of switchbacks that prevented us from attacking the storm like I am use too. But this chase afforded me an opportunity to learn new things as each chase does, but this was a little different. It wasn’t weather I was learning, it was about a completely different style of chasing. Chasing the Dixie Alley jungle is unique.

This by no means a bust chase. One thing I pride myself on is target and timing. My targets are usually spot on, and as far as timing is concerned, my ADHD prevents me from sitting for any length of time. So I focus on time of initiation to prevent that. Those that chase with me like the many times we just drive right up to tornadoes.This doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens more times than not.

Ok back to this chase. Carl Brakke was my chase partner this trip and our target was Bowling Green, KY. As it turns out it was a great target. One problem, we got there early. If you have been paying attention, this is bad. Our timing was based on storms that would be rolling through KS and MO overnight and early morning with severe potential. Our plan was to intercept these by about the time we hit St. Louis. Which we did. Had a SVR warned hailer roll through right on time. So this was no bust and gave us high hopes for the day.

We arrived in KY about 10am as planned but unfortunately gave me way too much time to make adjustments to the playbook for the day. Storms were fireing in IN and there was no way I would be sitting still with storm in my reach. So off to IN we went, traveling those switchback roads for an intercept. FAILED at the river. I was so damn frustrated it began to cloud my decision making process. I was in such a hurry to score on the trip that it didn’t matter it was only 11:30.

DSCN4196By later afternoon we were intercepting a storm near Sturgis KY, redemption was within our grasp. We cut through town with the tornado sirens blowing like mad and people wandering around not concerned one bit. I’ll save that for later.

We could see a tornado as we made our play just outside of town and the storm was booking at about 50kts (57.6 MPH). So we crushed it to get a better view but that was not happening. So in classic Marcus fashion, I punched in. We could not get close enough. Capture_rainwrapped

Once the rain went horizontal and the trees started laying over I knew well enough to get out of there. The road was only as wide as a driveway and there were cells right behind this one and picking up speed.

Got out of the core but never could catch these storms again. The roads we were on sucked and it appeared the closer we got to catching them the faster they moved.

We bugged south towards Nashville, TN as it was in the crosshairs missing the tornado by about 10 minutes but the storm continued putting down decent hail so we stayed on it.

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Never did produce another tornado but we were satisfied in a great chase. Next time the jungle will not get the best of me.

First chase of the season 1873 miles and a double overnighter. That boys and girls is my kinda chase.

 

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Personal Weather Safety is up to you and this will help

It’s been proven that we must save ourselves. In this case I’m talking about during all severe weather events and not just tornadoes.

It’s total madness that elected officials continue to put out bad information about warning systems. I will say this in bold so it can be easy to see: TORNADO SIRENS ARE OUTDOOR WARNINGS ONLY.

It’s been proven time and time again that people cannot hear sirens in their homes, offices, and while out shopping etc. And it’s been proven that those same officials that lied to your to get elected, are lying to you again when they appear on TV claiming “Storms came without warning” or in the case of the Mayor of Branson, Mo Raeanne Presley making mention of not hearing sirens. Yeah dumbass, overnight event so whos going to hear that? In perfect conditions a tornado siren can be heard up to mile and 1/2 maybe. Perfect conditions can mean different things in different areas so I will just mention a few:

  1. No obstructions-Meaning no buildings, thick trees, hilly territory, or even the heavy sound of traffic to block or drown the siren sound.
  2. You’re awake. You’ll only hear a tornado siren if you are awake. Also see #1 to multiply the danger to this.
  3.  You are even paying attention or give a damn.

Number 3 sounds a little harsh but as a chaser I see year after year people totally ignoring warnings. I’ve had others tell me “When the warning says what time it will arrive in my town I know how much time I have to go grab a few things like beer and smokes”. (not kidding)

But the biggest myth about tornado sirens is that it gurantees a tornado will hit. It does not. Instead of being pissed that the “siren blew for nothing” you should be grateful you avoided disaster because the town just a few miles away was not so lucky. I have seen tornadoes appear and disappear just as quick and some that seem to go on forever. So the sooner you act the better your chances of survival. I will not apologize for American Idol being interupted when you gripe about it. If the sirens blew, someone saw something. I can promise you it was most likely a spotter or chaser. So thank one when you see one.

Every home should have a NOAA weather radio. This is more important than cable TV or the interweb. And cost a small fraction of what people waste every month. This small device will increase your chances to survive a tornado or other deadly weather event.

There are many choices in NOAA weather radios and I understand it may be confusing as to which one to get so I will try and clear it up.

I own a Midland WR-120 that features All Hazards Alert and the S.A.M.E. Digital technology. All Hazards means the radio is the fastest, most reliable means of receiving information on life threatening weather such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, ice storms as well as civil emergencies.

S.A.M.E. stands for Specific Area Message Encoding, a coding system within the Emergency Alert System that will trigger your radio alert when the warning message is for your area only. But your favorite TV show will still be interupted.

I also own the Oregon Scientific WR108 portable public alert radio. I find both of these radios support the safety needs of myself and my family.

Weather awareness is everyones personal responsibility. Watch local news, listen to local radio, and for god sake when a watch or warning go out, TAKE ACTION!

Now onto those who misinform the public, Mayor Raeanne Presley, Diane Saywer and any others this may fit. Weather does not strike without warning. The National Weather Service puts the information out.

I get that the media gets more viewers to tune in when deaths are involved or with headlines “It struck without warning”. You get the opportunity to sensationalize the story (Diane Sawyer).

If my rant here gets one person to act, I have done my part. Unfortuntly I don’t get to reach the masses so the all media personalities like Diane Sawyer and all Mayors like Raeanne Presley have a responsibility and a duty to correctly inform.

Today is just full of sadness as the death toll from yesterdays severe weather and tornadoes continue to climb, while those the public trusts continues to lie and mislead people to believe nothing could be done. Something can be done! 

This link is a google search for weather radios. Read up and make a purchase today if you do not already have one.

http://www.google.com/#hl=en&sugexp=crnk_fspiked&gs_nf=1&cp=14&gs_id=17&xhr=t&q=Weather+radios&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&pbx=1&oq=Weather+radios&aq=0&aqi=g4&aql=f&gs_sm=&gs_upl=&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=1d4096cba42e89f5&biw=1280&bih=827

YoWindow

This is a new way to watch the weather.

YoWindow reflects the weather in a living landscape.
Simple, like your window.
But now you can scroll time to see the weather forecast.
See living weather, not just boring numbers!

http://yowindow.com

YoWindow.comForecast by yr.no

5/30/2011 chase- A Family affair

This chase was the first time my wife has gone on a real chase. Sure we’ve played around with local t-storms after dinner together but never before has she committed to hitting to road and driving until the storms end. Until now!

On this chase I also brought along my neighbors. They moved here a few years ago and seemed to be freaked by any weather so I was stoaked they wanted to come along. They did bring their own vehicle just incase in was too much.

Mike Vetter met up with us in Lake Andes, our target, and hopped in the hot seat.

DSCN1841I could tell by the look in his eye what he wanted to do, go south into Nebraska. I cringed a bit because I had told my wife we would just hug the SD/NE boarder because she had to work at 4:30 am the next morning.

I never chase in the state I tell her I’m chasing. It’s always the next state or 2 away.My excuse is always “But they touch” meaning the states. I think deep down inside she knew we weren’t staying in SD. As we approached the Welcome to Nebraska sign I kept my mouth shut, but she noticed it, and before she could say anything I shouted  “see I told you they touch”.  But so far she was enjoying herself so we continued our play.

Our group arrived in Atkinson, NE  about 30 minutes before the storm and saw the Twistex team repositioning for another intercept. DSCN1851We topped off the tanks and started heading east for an intercept. Right to the south we could see the storm approaching. And boy was it mean. We jockeyed around for a bit to avoid the monster hail core. That was a good plan because that thing was putting down monster grapefruit sized hail and was a great looking storm.

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We decided to make a very aggressive play down a dirt road and got treated to a kickass gustnado that crossed about 100 yrds in front of us! It spun up real quick and was wound pretty tight.

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The word of the night was gustado after gustnado,.

We caught this monster near O’ Neill, NE

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(my wife filming this dirty thing)

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This storm had sick rotation and as it was going linear the stronger cells would break away causing these gustnado swarms. They seemed to be everywhere.

My wife and my neighbors seemed to be excited about our next trip.

5/22/2011 Central Wisconsin

Brent Koops, myself, Forrest Lambert, and Francine Lambert chased out in central WI following storms from Albert Lea, MN and intercepted cells coming out of eastern IA in Lacrosse, WI.

These storms developed ahead a cold front and produced large, hail, damaging winds and tornadoes.

These cells stayed tornado warned for a few hours and we were all over it. Only one problem. Wisconsin is loaded with trees and it made it very difficult to see anything related to the storm. It was difficult to see any storm features much less tornadoes.

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(pretty much the view the entire time)

 

DSCN1812We chased this storm from Lacrosse, WI up through Sparta, where a tornado struck the south side of town. The small tornado first touchdown just southwest of the city, crossed highway 27 near an auto dealership where it tossed a car. The tornado continued east northeast and crossed south water street on the south side of the city. The path continued along and just south of Walrath street before it lifted on the southeast side of town.

Damage was mainly to trees, windows and power lines. There was some minor damage to roof tops and sheds as well. One of the worst hit homes also had a car moved along with windows busted out.

From Sparta we continued on to Tomah where a tornado struck about 4 miles northwest of Tomah near County Road M. The tornado crossed crossed Interstate 94 north of Tomah. DSCN1825It proceeded east northeast through mainly wooded areas and we could see the damage path right through the trees.I was a bit tortured here because of the pine smell from the freshly destroyed trees.

Brent made mention of it right away. The last time we smelled this was 4/11/2011 near Early, IA dancing dangerously close to a tornado at night.DSCN1818

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From Tomah we continued on to the town of Nekoosa where a campground took a direct hit destroying 166 campsites. Fortunately, no one was killed or suffered any life threatening injuries. 

At this point we called the chase and checked in with local law enforcement to offer assistance but was advised all local and county resources were being shifted to the area and we could call the dispatcher and if they needed our help they would call us. I declined feeling at that point our assistance was not needed and we began our return trip to Sioux Falls.

This trip stung a bit because we were on tornadoes but could not get a good view due to the trees but I consider it a good chase and the intercept was successful and we did get on tornadoes. But in fairness to the rules there was no steak dinner. However we did enjoy what I eat for half ass tornado chases.052211201525
(for when you only half score)

The chase ended on a high note. We got out and chased. Intercept strategy was dead on. In the end we logged 920 miles round trip and spent about 14hrs in the car. Many chasers would consider this a bust but I view it as an opportunity to learn from mistakes. In this case a changed strategy for dealing with trees. 

Extreme Weather Chase Team Joins KELOLAND TV To Provide Exclusive Storm Coverage

An exciting development in my world of chasing. Our team has been hard at work chasing already this season KS, IA, SD, OK, and CO. As we expect the pattern to shift north into our area it seemed a perfect time to share this news:

Extreme Weather Media, LLC is proud to announce an exclusive media partnership with KELOLAND TV. As a part of the new agreement, the EXWX Chase Team will be streaming video and providing live reports to KELOLand viewers from the field during severe weather events. By providing real-time coverage on KELO, the EXWX Team is providing valuable information to the public when it matters most.

During severe weather events, EXWX Chase Team will deploy multiple chase vehicles equipped with high definition cameras, live streaming equipment, and radar/data receiving computers. With a direct communication line with the weather team at KELO, EXWX can provide early warnings to alert the public of severe weather and tornado threats and prevent injuries.

Read the full text here http://extremeweathermedia.com/news

Check out KELOLAND TV http://keloland.com

We have worked with the Keloland weather team for the past 2 years and are really excited about this partnership as we go into our third year together.

Look for more cool things to come!

me10015.wmv.Still009cr

Gustnadoes / Tornadoes 5/11/2011

While everyone was busting in KS I was treated to a wicked storm environment in SE. South Dakota. I and the the rest of the ExWx team are part of the KELO News chase team now so the local members (Joe Miller, Brent Koops, Greg Rardin, Mike Vetter) stuck close to home in the slight risk area while Mark Ellis, Jenn Miller, Cory Watkins, and Joe Quinn covered the KS Mod Risk area.

Brent and I agonized over the morning models and wish-casting an isolated cell somewhere west Denison, IA early evening. Sent a couple of messages out for opinions but no one seemed all that interested. KS was the topic in most minds this day. I was really starting to regret no making the run to KS, but work commitments kept me close to home. So there we sat, Koops and I looking at every run of the RUC hoping for a glimmer of hope for something to chase and once we saw all that liner crap our hopes quickly faded, but what the hell, we both stayed glued to the radar looking for that cell to pop, just to verify our forecast because we didn’t go to Denison after we saw the line of storms marching north.

Around 6:20 there it was just showing up on radar ahead of the line of storms, but it was a bit farther north near Haywarden, IA.

Out the door I went, Joe Miller and Greg were on it, and Koops sat out as he was further east and thought he would’t catch it. The storm was quickly tornado warned and the first tornado report went out around 6:30 (NWS eventually ruled it a gustnado).

The cell was actually moving NW heading right for me. I got off at the Canton exit in SD and watched as the line approached. Straight line winds were about 45-50 MPH and I sat as the shelf started to pass overhead. Just to my northeast I could see a bunch of dirt being picked up so I followed.

There was a series of gustnadoes / tornadoes along the outflow boundary out in front of that line of storms that came in through just NW. of Canton. As the OFB interacted with new cells that were popping up it created just enough spin to cause the frequent spinup tornadoes on the front edge of the storms.

Gustnadoes / Tornadoes

Gustnadoes / Tornadoes

There was plenty of black dirt for the spinup tornadoes to pick up, making them visible.

Turned out to be a great day. Makes up for the bust to Sunday before.

Tornado strikes 4/9/2011

I want to preface decisions I made this night will continue to play in my mind for a very long time. This blog is not about tornado counts or bragging rights, it’s about 1 chase and 1 decision that sets off a chain of events Brent Koops, Cory Watkins and I will will never forget and has changed the three of us forever.

We starting planning this chase on Tuesday and Cory made arraignments to fly from OK, to SD and arrive Friday evening. He made it as far as MSP and had to spend the night at the airport for a flight out in the morning. Picked him up at the airport about 9:45am and the journey began. We first stopped at the pizza ranch in Rock Valley, IA and met up with the rest of the group Brent, Joe Miller, Joe’s wife Jill and Greg Rardin for lunch and make our final plan for the chase. Joe selected Onawa, IA as the perfect staging area for our chase to begin.

We arrived at a gas station just off the interstate where we met up with Ben Holcomb and Scott Bennett and shot the breeze waiting for storms to fire up. DSCN1238 Other chasers arrived and everyone was getting jazzed about what was to unfold. Models looked fantastic, SPC had a moderate risk for the area.

I’ve had the flu since our KS chase a week prior and should not have even been there but we all knew it would be big. However I for one was not expecting that what would later unfold would affect me on so many levels.  I should have known though after a large bee (the only bee) landed in my shirt and stung me in the back, mother nature was not going to be very kind to me.

DSCN1271 Towers popped up and we all took off a through the next hour we all jockeyed around for positioning and as the storm took off and went tornadic the group pretty much put their own strategies in play and we all broke apart. DSCN1329DSCN1304

I will fast forward past the positioning details and get right to the tornadoes we encountered. We were just between Ida Grove and were heading toward Arthur when everyone’s worse nightmare happed. We were struck by a tornado! This is the moment we went from chasers to chased. A moment earlier we were watching a funnel/tornado form just off to our left. It was like watching through the strobe light. 1 second it would appear touching and then next not so much. While watching this we continued on not paying attention to another merging cell. There was a pick up a couple of hundred yards or so in front of us when suddenly he stops on a culvert bridge right in front of us and debris suddenly flowed across the road like a blinding sheet as we were pushed to the right, we could barely see the truck. in_tornado

The car began to shake violently and the reflectors on the side of the bridge were twisting back and forth looking like blinkers flashing on and off. The car lifted slightly in the rear and was pushed further to the right. Just at that moment the rear window imploded and sent glass and debris flying into the car. All of this happened extremely fast and immediately after the window blew I stomped on the gas and got out of it. We drove like a bat out of hell for about 2 miles and stopped to see what had just happened and to make sure we were all ok. It was amazing not a cut or bruise on any of us. But this is what we saw from the back window. Image1

We continued to track this storm that appeared to be dropping tornado after tornado. As we continued on this storm we could see a wedge forming. To top it all off data was non existent but we could clearly see the wedge and headed toward Newell. This was bad decision number 2. At night perspective changes and distance and timing are all out of whack. We missed our east west and found ourselves staring down this wedge. That’s a slight stretch, but we were close enough to notice the air was filled with the smell of pine. You could smell the trees being ripped up. Cory called 911 and reported our location and the damaging tornado. This is when the chase stopped. We knew what this tornado was doing and we rushed to Newell and expected the worse was coming. We sat just looking south out of town and the power went out. The tornado was tearing up farm homes. We punched up through the hail core to get back around and on the damage path and helping people as we found them. We lost a few minutes in the hail but were able to get back on things.

We found an older couple where the tornado chewed through a tree grove on their property.  Large trees moved more than 10ft but luckily  the home was spared. DSCN1415DSCN1396DSCN1399DSCN1403DSCN1408DSCN1409DSCN1412

A little further down the road was another home that was badly damaged. Other chasers had arrived moments earlier and pulled the man from this badly damaged home. I was amazed that the grass a completely flat pointing towards the home. I looked as though a steam roller flattened it.

We continued check homes on the way to Virina where we encountered more damage.  We checked in with the fire dept. on the scene and we were told of a command post location and to check in there. It wasn’t there. That’s for another blog because many doubt my actions this night, but it’s on video.

At the end of this chase we are thankful to have survived and the 3 of us have bonded like brothers. I cannot even begin to describe the emotions I went through on this chase as we went from chaser to victim.

Here are a few shot of the car

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This is not something I ever want to do again. God had his finger on the car and he chose to spare us.

I know some are waiting

I know some of you are waiting on details of my being hit on Sat. And impressions of me being disrespectful. I promise I will get something up in the next day or 2, but I have had the flu almost 2 full weeks now and it is really taking it’s toll on me physically.

First Chase of 2011 Kansas

The first chase of 2011 went off without a hitch. Picked up Joe Miller and Greg Rardin, in Rock Valley, IA at 8:30 a.m. and headed out to our initial target of Emporia, KS. with a planned stop in Ottawa, KS to meet up with Brent Koops.

The trip was just humming along great, we were all chatting it up on the ride and planning a strategy on how we would chase once storms fired up. We arrived in in Topeka, KS and I was in heaven with 93 degree temps (low 40’s in SD) and kept pushing through towards Lyndon, KS and Brent called to tell us he was just about 2 miles from Lyndon so we all decided to just meet there and hang out a bit.
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We decided to continue on to Emporia and grab some dinner and top off the tank and wait. But being the impatient man that I am I made the call to move back toward Lyndon and hold up somewhere between there. Joe Miller was talking with Ben Holcomb on spotterchat and he was just a few exits ahead of us sitting at a crapping gas station so we met up with Ben and Mike Boik and waited some more. I was seriously looking like a CAP bust and just before all hope was lost BOOM, there it was.DSCN1185

The shear was intense and was cutting the tops off of the towers but this think kept building so we all took off after it. In hindsight we should have 5-10mins earlier but the chase was on. This storm was turning into a beast.

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As we pushed closer to the storm just off to my left we could see the a small gustnado form. For those of you who don’t know, a gustnado is a specific type of short-lived, low-level cyclonic cloud that can form in a severe thunderstorm. 

We didn’t see the gustnado that caused damage but the video and images I have seen lead me to believe that it indeed was a gustnado.

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After this, the storm was just moving to fast to catch back up with it so at dusk we gave up a pointed north.

I am satisfied with the chase. Logged 869 miles on the first chase of the season and getting ready for more this season.