Thursday, February 26, 2009

Duluth and North Shore trip pics and snowstorm report

Mondays are the one day a week I dont have school or work and after last week's hectic week I needed to get away and have some time to myself so I decided to take a day trip to Duluth and part of the North Shore. Headed out a little before 9:00 am and got to the Twin Ports area around 11:00. Stopped off at the Thompson Hill rest/travel info area to get some advice on getting down to Canal Park for some pics of the lift bridge. Spent about 45 minutes at Canal Park taking pics of the bridge and the lake. After the drive up and the time down along the shore I needed some lunch. I couldn't resist the urge for Grandma's, and since it was right there I figured what the heck. It was really good as expected, and the service was really good too. After lunch I started heading up 61 towards Two Harbors. I stopped at the breakwater to see if it was walkable. To the normal person it probably wasn't, but to me, with some careful walking, it was do-able. It definately took me a while to get to the end, but I did actually make it to the light house. I was suprised how far north the lake had froze, I thought it usually only froze around the Duluth bay area, and it was cool to see all the broken ice up against the breakwater. I got a couple pics and then kept goin north. I didnt have to go too far, there is this wayside stop just north of Two Harbors with a path up the lake side of a tunnel. The best pics I got from this little stop wasn't the lake or the rocky side of a cliff, it was of a bald eagle that was sitting in a tree about 100-150 yards away sitting on the top branch of a tree. Unfortunately my telephoto lens still wasn't long enough to get a full pic of him, but I was able to crop the pics and get a pretty good view of the monster. I'm not sure how big bald eagles usually are since I've never really been this close to one, but this one seemed especially big. I spent a good 30-45 minutes watching him hoping he would leave the tree and I could get a pic of his big wingspan, but that didnt happen. So, I decided I might as well try to hike down the hill and walk through the woods to get a closer look. That was a fun hike down a rocky, steep, snow-covered hill. There were plenty of deer tracks meandering through the woods. So, I finally made it down to the bottom (I'm sure anyone else would've had an awesome time watching me try not to slip, and get out of a snow drift that was up to my knee with one hand free as the other hand held my camera from rocking back and forth), I got somewhat close to the tree with the bird on it, but I dont know if it was me or if he just finally got bored but he ended up flying farth up shore, and of course caught me off guard and alas no pics of the nice wingspan on him. Finally, last stop of the day was to Goosberry Falls State Park near Castle Danger, MN. The paths to the lower parts of the waterfall were extremely icy but some how I managed not to fall (atleast all the way down). The pics from Goosberry below are from two different spots along the waterfall, the first pics are from the first waterfall that runs directly under highway 61, the other pictures are from an area that is lower than the first waterfall. So, anyways, pics are below:

This is the Duluth lift bridge taken from Canal Park:

This is the light house at the end of the breakwater in Two Harbors, MN:

The next three pics are cropped images of a bald eagle just north of Two Harbors righ along highway 61:

A quick picture of a squirrel havin a good time underneath a bird feeder at Goosberry:

Some giant icycles hanging off to the side of the waterfall. Just to give you some perspective on how big these things are, there are two people in the lower right hand corner:

Just half of the frozen waterfall:

Open ice with water quickly moving:

The next three are my first attempts at long exposure with running water: I think they were all taken with ISO of 100, and an aperture of f/22, but I think the shutter speed may have been a little different on them, but somewhere around 1/15.

Lots of cool looking ice on the lowest part of the falls:

The frozen lower falls:

One of the rare oppurtunites, a look behind the lower falls at Goosberry, albeit it was frozen but still very cool nonetheless. This picture doesnt do it just at all:

A cropped pic of a deer downstream:

And one last look at the lower falls from the other side of the river:

I took well over 300 pictures on Monday and these are only 20 of the ones I thought were the best, so I may post more later but I really wanted to get atleast some of them up. ~360 miles and 11 hours well worth it on my day off. Only way it could've been better would if it were spent watching a sup. If you have not been to the North Shore during the winter, I HIGHLY recommend it, its some of the best photo ops I've ever had. Between the landscape and wildlife, it was an awesome day, being able to walk on top of Goosberry falls and even walk behind it and look out downstream was something I will wont ever forget, and something I'm sure I will do again sometime in the coming years.

And now for the snowstorm report:
We got dry slotted up until 12:30 pm which really cut down the totals here in the north metro (we were the last ones to get filled in with snow). The snow isn't really "wet" heavy, but its more like the snow is stick to each really well and was really compacted together even before the blowing/drifting started. I've gotta say it's the worst driving I've ever had in just 4" of snow, I've done better in 8" than I did today. As of ~8:00 pm here in New Brighton we had roughly 4" of snow but we may be closer to 5 now as the snow didn't stop till about 9:30 pm so I will go out and measure it and post an update before I go to bed. Most of the MPX cwa looks to have gotten about what was expected, with the exception being the north metro which got about half of what was expected.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Quick note about the Duluth trip

Just a quick note about my trip to Duluth today. I did actually make it up there and took over 300 pictures from areas from Duluth to Goosberry Falls State Park. With that many pictures its going to take some time to get them up but I will trip to upload them on here as soon as possible. 360 miles and 11 hour trip, I couldn't have thought of a better way to spend my one day off a week today (maybe chasing a storm could beat it but it would be pretty close). Anyways, I will post a full write up with plenty of pictures later including my first eagle shot.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Snow report from 2/20/09 and other random thoughts

So the system that brought us snow yesterday produced more snow here in the cities than expected. At home here in New Brighton we picked up just over 4 inches (4.2"). The snow started around 4:00 yesterday afternoon and started to dry up around 8:00 as expected, at which point we had about an inch, but for some reason the snow filled back in in central Minnesota bringing heavy snow at times between 9:00 pm and 1:00 am dumping another 3 inches. Some areas around the metro picked up over 6", and the weird thing is no advisory or warning was ever in place. Looks like more snow for the end of the week...

Second thing is the F5chaser get together was fun. I had a great time talking to fellow Minnesota (and mostly metro) storm chasers, shootin the shit for a couple hours while havin some wings. These get togethers are something we gotta do more often, its always to great meet the people you talk to on the internet in person. Looking forward to the March 14th SKYWARN class in Blaine, usually a pretty good turn out of actual chasers.

Third thing is I'm thinkin about makin a run down to Red Wing tomorrow morning to get some shots of the bluffs with the fresh snowpack. Hopefully the sun didnt melt too much of it away but there are a couple of spots I want to check out that may have a pretty cool vantage point. Forecast is for mostly clear skies so it should be a pretty good day for outdoor photography. Only thing is I have to be back home by 4:00 for work, which means I have to leave home around 10:00, get down there around 11:30, and leave at the latest by 2:30 in order to be back on time. We'll see if I actually end up goin or not.

Fourth thing, I am also thinking about heading up to Duluth on Monday for some Lake Superior pics and maybe even some snowmelt pics? Forecast for DLH on Monday is mostly clear skies but a high of only 23. Again, not a sure thing yet, but sometime this spring I am going to get up there to Goosberry for the snowmelt, it should be a pretty good one, if I'm correct they've had quite a bit of snow this year (maybe even above normal? Tim??).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Update on the website and snow forecast for tomorrow

So, real quick, a short forecast for a small snow event here in Minnesota. Doesnt even really look like anything worth me posting about it but its the most active weather we've had here in Minnesota for over a month. FCST: Alberta clipper will move southeast across the region on Friday. Looks like the "heaviest" (using that word lightly) will stay southeast of the Twin Cities. Maybe up to 2 inches across central and south central Minnesota. For us here in the Twin Cities, GFS and WRF show light snow lingering through most of the day, eventually possibly accumulating to an inch, maybe an inch and a half if we get lucky.

WEBSITE UPDATE: I have the equipment and bio pages done. 2006-2008 chase pages are funtional, but the only dates I actually have complete are May 31st (only partially done) and June 5th. May 25th is functional but I dont have hardly any content in it. Dont pay attention to some of the pictures on the tabs for the chase dates, they are just default pictures from the hosting company and I haven't had time to change them yet. Its amazing how much time and work I have put in so far and how much I have left to do. I know there is a long way to go but take a look around and let me know what you think. More updates later.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Epic Fail

So I figured tonight would be a good night to test out my new camera at night. Wet snow + trees= good pics, right? Dead wrong, atleast tonight. The overcast skies and fog really screwed up the lighting and I could not for the life of me figure out how to compensate for it. The sky almost had a red/orange tint to it (which may have just been from the streetlights) and I didn't know how to adjust to it. Almost every single pic I took looks like shit. I picked about the worst night to try to get the kinds of photos I was trying for. The one saving grace is that I got a nice pic from the place I work at, otherwise everything else turned out like crap. Here is the one I got from the place I work at. I'm not too religious but I do think this picture is pretty striking and has a pretty strong message, whatever that may be:

Here is one I took on Old Highway 8 which is pretty much the "old main street" of New Brighton and has some old fashioned streets lights which I have wanted to photograph for a while, but I just happened to pick a horrible time to do it. This is just one of the many that didn't turn out:

Some time soon I will get back there and get some pics of the stret lights since they are pretty cool and look pretty cool at night.

The best part of the night didnt happen until after I decided to cut my losses and head home. I was heading back to my car when a truck drives by. I recognized the truck since the building across the street had people doing snow removal and this was the only truck in that parking lot the entire time I was there. As it drives away I faintly hear "NERD!". WTF? This person is so scared that they have to say something while they drive away? If they're gonna make fun of me, DO IT TO MY FACE! Don't shout something and then run away. I dont give a rat's ass about people who don't have the balls to come out and say something to my face, and I could honestly care less what they said, I found it more funny that they ran off after saying something than I was pissed that they said something.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chase videos getting mailed out and my new website

So, first off, I want to let everyone who asked for a chase vid, they WILL be mailed tomorrow. I intended to do it today but I had to get my car fixed after I got out of class at 3:30 and didnt have time to get to the post office before work at 5:00 but tomorrow my classes are optional so I dont have to be at school at any specific time (or at all for that matter) so I will head over to the post office to get the postage I need for the packages. I'm really sorry it's taken me so fricken long to get them out, procrastination is something I really need to work on...

Also, I have finally gotten a real website (no free hosting) and a real domain. Although it's not much yet, here it is:
I have crap load of work to do on it but I was messing around with it today in between classes at school and I think I have a pretty good feel for how to do what I want to do. I'm hoping to have it up and fully running by the start of the '09 season (the midwest season). However, until I get my new site close to done I will still consider my current site. But after I finish I will shut down the old site. I'll be posting updates as I get more of the site finished, and I can almost gurantee the site will look different the next time you look at it, I'm still trying to figure out how I want it to look.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New Camera and a couple pics

So I finally got a DSLR camera. I got it yesterday from my parents for a birthday and late graduation gift. It an Olympus E-520 with an Olympus Digital 14-40 mm lens and a 40-150 mm lens. I finally got to try it out today after having to wait for it to charge, and I can see it's definately going to take some getting used to but that's why I have been taking random/garbage pictures today trying to get myself used to how it works. Its really going to be a good camera once I figure everything out, but I'm nowhere near there yet. I did get a couple decent pics from just around the house. Just 4 pics, first is a bird leaving our bird feeder, the second is a red squirell, the third is another squirrel, and the last one is of my new Monfrotto tripod that I also got for my birthday and my new video camera I bought back in November.:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Update on the Oklahoma tornadoes and website news

Just a quick update on the tornadoes that hit central Oklahoma on Tuesday (Feb 10, 2009). I have seen unofficial reports that the Lone Grove, OK tornado was rated an EF4 and the Ardmore, OK tornado was an EF2. Again these are unofficial reports that I cant seem to find the source to, but I do remember seeing those stats (I could've swore I saw it at ST). The NWS-Norman hasn't posted anything on their website about finishing the damage assessments, let alone having official ratings ready for the public. I haven't seen many pics from the damage, but the few I have seen look fairly consistent with atleast an EF3 (based on pictures I have seen of other damage from EF3+ tornadoes but then again it all depends on how the buildings were built). So I dont know if those numbers are just someone guessstimating the rating or if they heard leaked info from somewhere. Anyways, my prediction is an EF3 although I could see it being an EF4. I still haven't heard an official death toll from this storm, I've heard anywhere from 8-15 deaths so I'm not exactly sure what to say about that. No matter the number, even one death would be tragic. Prayers and thoughts with the people affected, certainly caught a lot of people off guard this early in the season.

Ok, so something on the brighter side. I have plans to update and basically rebuild my website . I'm running out of space on my free account from and I also want to upgrade to a .com domain. So, current plan is to go through Dryline Hosting with the EF1 package for now, may upgrade later but this package includes (I think) 200 megs of memory which should hold me over for a while. I had checked in to switching to Dryline before but they didnt have a sitebuilder and I have no idea how to write html. But now they include a sitebuilder for free so I should be good to go. I checked out a domain for my site and as long as noone takes between now and when I actually get the domain it will be The domain for my current site is where too long (Midweststormchaser). So, I am hoping to get this up and running for the most part by the time the '09 season starts. I am really looking forward to making this new site, more of an "professional" site and I think I will be able to do more with it than my current site. I will be updating my progress and will appreciate any comments/criticism!!

Lastly, I do have my chase vid done and a couple copies burned. All I have to do is get some packaging and postage and then put them in the mail. Let me know if you want a copy:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Souther Plains severe weather discussion from 2/10/09

So just a quick recap of Tuesdays storms since my mindset is now officially in chase mode. Anyways, the SPC issued a moderate risk for severe weather for the eastern half of Oklahoma, northeast Texas, and western Arkansas (extreme southeastern KS may have also been in there, I'm not sure but it doesnt matter since nothing much happened there anyway) including a 15% hatched TOR risk. Unfortunately I was at lecture during the beginning of the event so I cant really say when things started firing or how good it looked early on. All I know is that the SPC issued an MD mentioning the potential for a categorical upgrade to a HIGH risk for the area mentioned above, but that never happened, most likely not enough confidence things would go. I got home around 3:40 and watched the event until I had to go to work at 5:00. I turn on GR and pick out the best cell to watch on radar, which turned out to be the storm that went through Payne county, OK. The first thing I notice is a huge honkin hook echo. I wait for another radar scan to see if this hook is for real, it definately was. I start polling GR in order to bring up the last few updates and this thing had a hook on it for quite a while. Below are some radar grabs from GRlevel3 from 3:26 pm CST to 3:47 pm CST:

Upper Right: Base velocity 1 Lower left: base velocity 2 bottom right: Vertically Integrated Liquid (VIL)

I watched this storm up until I went to work. After I was at work a storm slammed Lone Grove, OK (roughly 1 1/2 hours south of OKC). Unfortunately 4 fatalities have been reported along with dozens of injuries. I havent seen any pics of the damage from Lone Grove but I'm guessing that the tornado was a rather violent one (although the tornado reportedly hit a trailer park which as we all know does not need a strong tornado to devastate it). Even with only 4 tornadoes reported and 121 reports including wind and hail, I still dont consider this a bust, atleast for Oklahoma, I do consider it a bust for everywhere else in the MOD risk, the MCS is nowhere near what was expected. But for Oklahoma I think the MOD risk and the 15% TOR risk verified, but we will have to wait for damage assessments before we make a final call. Anyways, this sounds more like an armchair chase report (SDS is getting real bad...) but I thought this event was worth mentioning and I wanted to share those radar grabs. Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Severe Weather DISC. 2/09/09

Looks like there is a a pretty decent shot at some severe weather in southwestern IA and eastern NE. The SPC has a 5% TOR risk with a 15% hail/wind in their 1z outlook. I didnt read the text but I took a look at models earlier and the area highlighted by the SPC is the same area that shows an area of 500 j/kg of MLCAPE. Definately not photogenic storms with highs only getting in the upper 50's to near 60 but helicity values look insane for a pretty good part of the area so it will be interesting to see how this event plays out. The SPC has also issued a 5% hail/wind risk in to central MN and western WI. Although its not much, Im sure its pretty unheard of. Eventhough its unlikely, there is a small chance of a February chase in Minnesota! I will be keeping an eye out for any storms in a close area to the cities. Instability looks really weak for anywhere north of the SLGT risk area but helicity looks to be better farther north. Anyways, not much hope but still will be keeping an eye out since I have no work or school tomorrow.

Also, let me know if you want a copy of my chase vid. I will be making the DVD's tomorrow and mailing them this week.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Chase video is DONE

My chase video "Mother Nature Rage & Grace Vol. I" is pretty much done, just a few small finishing touches to make and then it will be officially done. The run time is only 26 minutes and includes mostly pictures (with some video) from my chases from 2006-2008 as well as offseason pics from 2006-2008. If you want a copy of it let me know via email, I prefer a trade but will send you a copy, trade or not, if you let me know. No fancy cover, no chapters, no main menu, just 26 minutes of nature's rage and grace. So, if you want a copy, my email is listed below, I will be shipping by Monday so let me know soon!!! Email:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tim V's "Storm Chasing Handbook Second Edition"

I got my copy of Tim Vasquez's new edition of the "Storm Chasing Handbook" and just thumbing through it it looks great. I'm really looking forward to sitting down and reading some of it this weekend. I was able to get a free copy of it. Back in the fall of '08 Tim posted a thread over at ST asking for some quotes from chasers about vaious things, so I figured what the heck, I'll send him an email with a couple of things, if he uses them awesome, if not, oh well. He ended up using both of them, one was just an opinion on my favorite weather graphics source (College of Dupage) and the other was just a short paragraph about me getting caught with my pants down on May 31, 2008 and getting ingulfed with hail and saying to always know what direction the storm is moving. So, Tim sent out a copy to everyone who helped out with some quotes. I also have the first edition of the book and that was a pretty cool read, and this one looks even better. I think everyone should have a copy, whether you're John Q. Public or an experienced chaser, its all good info. Anyways, just thought I would mention that as this is something I have been looking forward to getting since November.

And an update on my chase vid. I know I said it would be done last week, and it almost was, but my computer caught a virus that is making it slow and a pain in the ass to work on the video. BUT, I am going to strap my arse down tonight and finish it. Its pathetic how little work I have to do to finish and how long its taken me to do that little bit. However, I have come up with a couple new ideas for a few things in the video that I'm hoping will be pretty cool. So, I will finish it tonight or tomorrow and then try to get them mailed out this weekend or on Monday. I do have a deal (and motivation to get this done this weekend): If I dont finish it this weekend I'll let everyone who wanted a video get a free shot on me out on the plains this season. Sound fair? ;) Seriously tho, I will try my best to finish it tonight.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Extreme Lake Effect Snow

Lots of areas along the shores of Lake Superior are going to see snow, including the north and south shores. Winter Storm Warnings along the north shore, Lake Effect warnings for the south shore. I was reading one of the lake effect warnings in the UP of Michigan and the text is calling for the potential of extreme snowfall rates of 5 inches per hour. I dunno for sure, but that seems pretty unheard of. I've experienced some extreme rates up in that area of 3-5 inches per hour with thundersnow but it didnt last long. I cant imagine being in that kind of snow for an extended amount of time. Just think, 10 inches of snow in two hours. It would be impossible to keep roads/sidewalks clear. Anyways, I usually dont post about lake effect snow this far away but I thought that kind of snow was worth mentioning. Places in the UP of Michigan can expect up to 18 inches of snow by tomorrow, with areas along the north shore seeing up to 10 inches.