Grey Whales, Blue Earth and Green Giants

03 June 2016

The culmination of 2 days driving 1100 miles to position saw us return to the site where we first saw a tornado, meet a green giant and surf our way out of the whale’s mouth.

1100 miles to position for a storm setup isn’t unheard of in our chase careers but it is an unusually big effort. The risk area had shifted from Southern Texas for our previous chase to Minnesota where a low pressure would dig in from over the Canadian border and hopefully stir up a decent amount of stormy weather as it did so. We had time enough, though, so took 2 days over the journey and made our way to the town of Owatonna in south central Minnesota. Nice place and the day started with a run through a woodland park…very tranquil and if you were to stop for more than 10 seconds you’d get eaten alive, so good to keep you moving.

Unfortunately the setup for the day hadn’t organised itself particularly well and it seemed nature wasn’t immediately willing to reward us for our mammoth efforts to get here. But we had got here and were determined to get on whatever storms did happen. When we developed a reasonable idea of where we thought that would be we set of to the border with South Dakota.

Something like 6 years and a week ago we saw our first tornado from near a town called Blue Earth and this has awarded it a special place in our hearts, and indeed ended up being our business’ name (Blue Earth IT). As we passed through the town we decided to stop in, prompted by a sign that invited us to visit its Green Giant. It was raining, but we stopped to get a couple of shots with said Giant. It seems this is the home of the famous 80s sweetcorn marketing symbol and they are milking it with a 60ft version.

Img 1566

Img 1562

From here we went to a petrol station that make their own fudge, about 100 types. Just a normal Shell petrol station otherwise. Bizarre, but tasty. So equipped with giant photos and chocolate nut fudge we were set for storms.

After escaping a waft of failing convection we found ourselves in relative sunshine where the diurnal heating was starting to energise the atmosphere for some new storms. We saw some firing up on radar and as they were heading for a place called Badger it seemed destined to be ours. It took about 40 minutes to intercept the storms as they were, usefully, heading our way, not quite reaching Badger, but close. 

First storm

We found ourselves being hit by some decent strong outflow and seeing a number of Gustnados on the outer periphery of the storm. Gustnados are caused by sheer in a storm’s outflow and can sometimes look like anything from a dust devil to a landspout-type tornado. We saw one particularly strong one which we dived down a country road to look at. It was unusually high – reaching pretty much into the base of the cloud. It was impressive and, somewhat understandably, reported by a local sheriff as a landspout. To be honest you have to give it to the Sheriff that they even knew what a landspout was.

Shortly after this as the storm got more definitively onto us the winds and rain picked up and we headed east to keep ahead of it. The storm was maintaining around 40mph east which meant that we were only slowly moving out of it. This kept us under its shelf cloud for a long time – staying on the inside of it giving us lots of awesome views of the Whale’s mouth therein.

Whale's Mouth

Whale's Mouth Boom

This made for an entertaining journey and some good photo opportunities, before gradually the storm blew and rained itself out of existence.

A long way for a short lived storm, but you have to try. Next time it’ll be a cracker, but for now it looks like a few quiet days ahead, so, until the next storm…


SPC Day 1 Weather Outlook as at 06:00UTC (01:00 Central Time the night before)

SPC 01:00UTC day 1 forecast for Fri June 2016

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Fri June 2016

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