I started out the day with a forecasted target that varied depending on the
hour basically north of the metro from Hinckley to Cambridge to Monticello
to Pine City, MN area. It was a good forecast, unfortunately I didn't center
myself properly and trust it.|
Rory and I had a good chase today. I'll summarize the chase from my perspective as Rory and I met up at the cell and were driving separately.
At 4:30 I headed west to Monticello and made it there by around 5:30 or so. I stopped for data at a Conoco only to find nothing exciting. However there were a few cells starting to pop to the E of St. Cloud which Rory called and brought to my attention. Rory said he was going to try to intercept by heading to Cambridge and I thought it's the best shot I have so I did the same.
I headed north on 5 through Big Lake and up to 4 where I headed east towards Zimmerman. Here I stopped to get Gas and Rory told me to head straight north. He had radar and could see the cell was just to my north, and he was on his way. After getting gas I did just that. I headed north on 169 to Princeton. Here I could clearly see the well defined wall cloud. It looked very Northfield-ish in structure for those of you who were on that chase.
Heading east on 95 out of Princeton I could see the wall cloud with some lowerings and good inflow just to my north out my left side. Rory and I were going to meet just up the road on 47. When I got to 47 the wall cloud looked more and more ominous. I stopped there for about 5-8 minutes for Rory. As I did the storm headed further to the east. This was the one mistake of the day. It got ahead of me. Unfortunately I didn't take Rory's advice to go ahead. Then again maybe he saved my life. ;-)
After we met up we drove north on 47 to Dalbo and headed East. About this time (~7:30) a tornado touchdown was reported just to our NE by about 6-8 miles. The storm was beating us! We hit 65 and went north into Braham, took 107 and then east on 4 and then south on 1 into Rush Lake. We had a little doubt at this point as to what we should do next since we took a couple less than optimal turns, but we decided to go for it anyway. We headed north on 35 to 70 east into Wisconsin.
We got into the Grantsburg area around 8:10 or so, and just on the east side of town we started noticing debris on the road and damage. It became more and more obvious that it was tornado damage the further we went as the damage got worse.
As we came up and down the rolling hills and over the thick forest of trees we could see what looked like an updraft area of the wall cloud, perhaps even a tornado or funnel, but it wasn't something we could confirm due to the terrain. At one point I noticed very rapid movement in that area with condensing clouds rising rapidly and then curling out to the left side. Without having proof of it, I think it's safe to say that this was the tornado ahead of us by maybe 5 miles or so.
See Rory Groves' stills of the Wedge. Just to the west of Siren we hit some low powerlines.... literally. One of the power polls on the north side of the road had colapsed and the lines were hanging very low over the road. I didn't clear them. It ripped my antenna off my truck. Rory was gracious enough to run back for it. Never even saw the powerlines coming. That could have been worse than a bent antenna. Thank God it wasn't.
We got into Siren around 8:30 - 8:40 I suppose... and found probably the most damage I've seen in person from a tornado. The town was leveled. It wasn't complete distruction, but widespread severe damage I guess would be the best classification. It would be very hard to find a structure untouched. That's the best way to give you a visual. We saw homes with every window blown out, buildings missing a wall and still having a computer on a stand on the edge of falling out of the building. Huge holes in the walls of buildings created by debris turned into missiles. Roads were closed, ambulances and rescue vehicles everywhere. People wandering the streets like it was judgement day. It was a horrifying sight.
3 people died, and the tornado was rated an F3. I didn't see a part of the town that was untouched. Also the length of the tornado path seemed to have been very long as we noted the first debris just east of Grantsburg and extended into Siren and likely beyond.