I feel like the protector of Searles, MN. First July 14, 2003, and then today. 4 miles from Searles. Absolutely incredible. What are the odds? Population 110. I don't know that I've ever actually seen the center of the city, if there is one.|
So my day went like this… last night I was all confident forecasting New Ulm. But when some of the RUC data was coming out showing a very warm 700 temp of 12-14c over most of SW, S, and C Mn, I had to revise my forecast and left at 200 for the eastern edge of what I thought the cap location would be. So I headed towards New Prague and Norwood. When I got to Norwood I met up with Rory Groves, which was awesome since I haven't chased with him in forever. I then decided to check the 3pm mesoanalysis and was shocked to see RUC cooled off the 700 temps by 2-3 degrees! Apparently after MPX, ABR, DVN and maybe another site like OMA did an 18z balloon launch, it was realized that the model was running too hot.
It was an instantaneous realization that it was GAME ON! I immediately revised my target, and advised Rory of the change of events, and he agreed going to New Ulm was a good decision. By this time Beau, Meredith, Froggie, Donya, Sherry, Karen, Meagan, Scott, Mike, Rich, Bill & Cullen were all in New Ulm. (did I get everyone?) Joel was in Mankato, and Rocky & Gene Rhoden were in Redwood Falls.
Somewhere north of New Ulm I am talking to Meredith and I hear Beau say 'gimme the phone', and he advised me that a cell was popping over Searles, just south of New Ulm by like 4 miles or something. This was RIGHT on the boundary and it was obvious that this was the show. I immediately made the rounds and called everyone in the list above that I could think might have not gotten the information so we could converge on that cell which was sure to go gangbusters… as we later saw it did.
Arriving at the cell, we ran into a situation where we pulled off and looked at the 30-35 tilt1 dbz core over Comfrey and what appeared to be a new updraft base just to our west by a mile or two. I learned from Stuart, NE June 9, 2003 from Bill Doms, Peggy Willenberg and Melanie Metz, that even if you have a 'severe' storm just to your east, and you have a new updraft that has GOOD rising vertical motion, that you should stick with what moves. (I just made that up, but that's a good saying… "stick with what moves".) So I mentioned that to the group and suggested we stay put and watch this thing to our west. Radar was actually hinting that this wasn't a bad idea given a pretty good VIL value and some increasing reflectivity behind the first updraft.
It wasn't long and…
Just before it got to this 'most mature' stage, it did hit something as debris was shot up to its cloud base. I doubt there was a dirt field out there, so I'm guessing it hit a small building.
While this was occurring, I think it was Mike Stanga who called the NWS to report it at its first funnel stage, just prior to hitting and throwing debris. I then called KSTP and they started doing the live interviews. I did 3 of them. Seemed like I was on the air for 1.5 hours.
I felt really good about my interaction with KSTP and the way they handled the situation. This really was unlike most chase days we get. This was serious with lots of property damage, at least one person was killed we now understand, and many injured. This not only could have been very serious, but it was. Everyone out chasing and reporting, issuing warnings and doing their on-air gigs really need to be proud of themselves for doing what they do. Maybe you do it because you love it, but it really is an important thing that people need and greatly appreciate… more than you may realize.
When I was on the air, I felt it important to note a couple things I was concerned with. Dave asked me at one point if there was anything else I wanted to mention, and that's when I took the opportunity to say that I was concerned about Kasota and St. Peter. After hearing that Kasota was heavily hit and seeing the south side of St. Peter hit, and now that someone died in Kasota, I really have taken what I'm doing more seriously. Perhaps the emotions of seeing 20 miles of constant damage and in some cases, complete destruction has gotten to me, but I'm really proud of the way I handled things.
So anyway… we travel on and see the monster tornado off to our east. My guess was that it was 5 miles, but it could have been more like 10-15. It's really hard to judge distance when things get that far off. I called back and started to hype it up more because it was obvious that we were talking about a major tornado. Never did get a picture of this beast due to poor visibility, but it looked similar to the image found here:
but from a much greater distance.
We caught brief glimpses of it...a stovepipe just before it hit Nicollet, then what was probably a multi-vortex as we were coming into Nicollet from the south. From watching this tornado bobbing through the trees in the distance over time, it's my belief that this thing was on the ground, without intermission, through the majority of the tornado reports coming in. I think that the large quantity of tornado reports will be realized primarily as one large, long track tornado, with maybe a couple on either side of it, like the one at Searles.
Saw the damage on Hwy 99 east of Nicollet, 22 south of St Peter was blocked off. Saw some nasty damage to two houses just south of Cleveland while trying to push east. We tried to follow east, but the vast sweeps of land with damage held us back, along with primarily gravel roads for options and a couple river crossings. So when we got to I-35 near Owatonna, we stopped in at Timberlodge and called it quits. Just happened that a bunch of other chasers had the same idea and Meredith, Beau, Sherry, Karen and…. Who else? Also showed up.
A man did get killed in Kasota, which was a city I mentioned I worried about in my live phone in interview on KSTP. I guess I'm glad I mentioned it, I don't feel like I'm responsible for his death or anything now. Although today really was kind of emotional seeing all that devastation. I felt like I was really doing something good with my skills with those phone in interviews on KSTP, helping to warn the public. Kudos to everyone out there reporting what they saw, and for those folks at the NWS who get little appreciation, yet do an outstanding job saving lives with every action they take.