Friday, December 17, 2010

It's been a while

It's only been 7 months since my last update...Busy chase season and crazy busy semester at school haven't given me much time to have a life over the last 7 months. But with finals now done I figured I would resurrect the blog before I completely forget about it. Anyways, a recap for my storm season: 23 chases, 19,000 miles, 5 tornadoes, 7 states, and my fair share of busts. Lots of cool pics as well. I'll try to get some of them uploaded here over the next few weeks because I'm too lazy to upload them all right now. Also, we've had a ton of snow so far this winter. Only about 1/4 of the way through our winter but we already have 3/4 of our yearly average. Anyways, next semester won't be nearly as busy so be sure to check back as I will try to update this blog more often!

Friday, May 21, 2010

5/23/2010 FCST

I will be starting my 5 day chase trip on Sunday. Not gonna go real in depth right now because I'm frickin tired and to be honest I dont have the best idea of what's going to happen on Sunday. However, there will be some sort of boundary slowly moving across Nebraska. While this same boundary may affect SD/MN/IA, the best shear looks to be farther to the southwest and a very juicy atmosphere with MLCAPE values nearing 4000 j/kg across south centra/southeast Nebraska as per the WRF. Another problem farther to the north/northeast is that surface winds will be running more parallel to the boundary. Not completely sure what kind of boundary we are talking about, looks like a slow moving warm front but who knows. Anyways, the only real problem is the cap. I think the new WRF might be a bad run in terms of CINH as it breaks it down rather weird IMO. Also, I personally think earlier models may also have been a little aggressive in breaking down the inhibition with a large swath of no CINH across NE in to KS. Another strike is the upper winds are not ideal, but with decent helicities and strong to extreme instability, I think it could be a fun day. Models are still going back and forth about where exactly the boundary will end up but that will be a chase day call anyway. Regardless, I will out Sunday across south central Nebraska or north central KS. Be sure to watch my stream at and wish me luck on my first "chasecation"! Will be out chasing Sunday thru Thursday.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

4/29/2010 Chaselog: KS

Finally have some time to write this up. Left Wednesday night to get a couple hour head start on Thursday's drive. Was thinking I would stay in Iowa for the chase but wanted to leave Kansas open and I did not want to make that drive in one day. Stopped off at a rest stop for the night Wednesday night about 40 miles north of Des Moines. Got back on the road at about 6 am Thursday morning. Surface winds were REALLY strong, made for a difficult drive. Grabbed some breakfast at Perkins in Des Moines, got back on the road towards Omaha. Got to Council Bluffs, IA (the east side of the river from Omaha) and looked over data. Sat around, trying to figure out what to do. Finally decided to get south to Nebraska City, NE. Grabbed some lunch, looked over more data, the more I thought about it the more I really didnt think Kansas was going to go. Had a Cu field starting to build over me, although they had hardly anything to them. Continued to sit in Nebraska City and watch the Cu. At about 3:00 I read on ST that towers were starting to go up west of Salina, KS (Salina was my prelim target 2-3 days before the event, but like I said I really didnt think KS would go) and get a text from Brad Nelson with a pic of the Cu they are watching. Turn my GR over to Topeka and I see echo tops starting to show up. They weren't impressive but it was obvious that the cap was eroding and storms would go soon. Now that I knew KS was gonna happen I bolted south. However, while I was sitting in Nebraska City I somehow switched off my power strip. So while I'm on my was to KS I notice that my computer battery is at 49%, and I think WTF!?!?! No, no no no no, I know I didnt pop a fuse, espcially since I had no extra ones. I go in to switch fuses (can't remember what fuse I took out to replace the cigarette lighter), and still nothing. On top of this, at the same time my computer decicided to freeze up and had to reboot everything. The switched fuse didn't do anything (keep in mind the fuses in my car are a PAIN IN THE ASS to change), I start thinking I should just head home, cut my losses. Must've been out of desperation I flip the switch on the power strip and whaddya know, it's working again. I still have no idea how I turned it off, but was just extremely happy I got everything figured out. So after this little debacle I continue south. The first storm looked good on radar for a while, even had a couplet on velocity for a couple scans. Plan was to intercept it near Marysville, KS. After I got to Marysville the storm didnt look good visually and didnt look good on radar. Even still, tracked it north for a few miles. Got a view of the base, a little wall cloud, sucked up scud but the scud didnt get pulled up very far. Chased it a couple more miles, ran in to fellow Minnesota chase Jacob Thumberger on a random back road yet again (same thing happened on April 5th in northwest Missouri). The storm puked out, saw another storm to the southwest, nothing else in the area, decided to go after it and try to intercept it near Washington, KS. That's exactly what ended up happening. A nice hill gave me a nice view of the base when I was approaching the storm, but too far away to tell exactly what was happening. Surprisingly the terrain in that area is kinda crappy. Kept going on highway 36 (I think it's 36) to a mile or two west of Washington. A nice feature was hanging on ground to the right, with another area to the left. The area to the right reminded me of a couple of Hollingshead's pics, except no tornado. Still not exactly sure what it was, it looked detached from the base, but I don't know for sure. Watched it for a while, got some video, watched it die out, started to focus my attention to the area to the left as it was came obvious this was the new inflow area. Didn't really have much to it when I was west of Washington, but not long after I started to head back east it REALLY ramped up. Once I got east of Washington, it really started spinning. A large wall cloud with probably the most incredible structure I've ever seen. No rain or hail wrapping around to cut off my view, just incredible. Quite a few trees just off the highway, so had to find an area where there were few trees and I could get a good view of the ground in the distance, which was surprisingly hard to do. Finally found a spot to pull over and got some more video and some pics. Watched it for about 6 or 7 minutes, then had to get back east. Chased it east and north a little bit, watched it puke out too. Apparently a little spinup was reported north of Washington, but I never saw it, then again I wasn't real close. Let that storm go and dove back southwest to try to catch another tornado warned. This third storm looked good on radar but didn't have a view of the base. Can't remember exactly what road it was, but the only road I had to get to the north-south highway I wanted was a northwest-southeast road. It ended up being ok because on my way to the north-south oriented road I was just east of the base of a storm that got tor-warned while I was heading to the storm to the south. This storm also had a nice base and what I think was a wall cloud but it could've been the start of the soon to be very impressive shelf cloud. Either way it was pretty cool. Eventually got to the north-south highway in time to watch the storms line out. I was definitely not dissapointed though, the shelf was simply increible. Didn't get in front of it long enough to setup the tripod, but did get to snap a pic or two of it. Ran in to the only hail of the day while trying to get south of the shelf cloud and even then it was only a little pea size hail. All in all a very good chase, and definitely glad I didnt turn around after my little equipment malfunction. I think the pics do a better job explaining the day than this writeup so I'll let them speak for me.

The first storm north of Marysville, KS:

Second storm near Washington, KS. The feature to the right is the one I was saying I don't know what it is, and sorta resembles a couple of Hollingshead's pics (not sure what day they were from):

Same storm, new action area. Still west of Washington:

Storm east of Washington:

Shelf about 10 miles northwest of Washington:

Possible tornado, although I can NOT confirm:



Sunday, May 2, 2010

About as close as you can get to producing without actually doing it. Informal chaselog 4/29/2010

I still have pics and video to go through from the Washington, KS area from Thursday so I'm not going to make a big chaselog about this day yet but I will soon. I just wanted to show some pics I took that appear to show a funnel trying to extend to the ground. A very brief, weak tornado was reported in about the same area at about the same time but Topeka's write-up about it said a condensation never reached down when the TOR was reported. The pics that I have show SOMETHING just to the left (west) of a large wall cloud under the same parent meso. Everything was spinning like crazy but unfortunately I was a bit too far away to see the little dust spinup that was reported and a nice pair of trees block the view of my video camera just as the funnel was coming down. I didn't even notice this during the chase, and even when I got home and looked through the pics I didn't notice it right away. Eventually I did notice something hanging off a feature to the right of the main wall cloud. Still hard to say what it was, could be scud for all I know but my timelapse of the area showed this feature rapidly rotating with good rising motion. Anyways, here's the pic and link to the timelapse video. Let me know what you think!


Saturday, April 17, 2010

First try at star trails and, well, I dunno.............

Headed out last night after work to get some pics of the cool crescent moon. Apparently moonset was much quicker than I was expecting so instead I headed up a couple miles north of Stacy, MN to do my first try at star trails. Pretty clear night, figured why not since I was ready to take pics and didnt want to go home empty handed. I did this forgetting that my E520 is an entry level DSLR, I forgot that I have to hold the shutter release button down when on bulb setting, unlike my Nikon N65 film SLR which I press once, come back and press it open to end the exposure, and dont have to sit there holding it the entire time. Anyway, I managed. I think my max exposure time even for bulb is 480 sec. (8 minutes). Not sure if that is the norm or not, but would've liked to get some 15 minute exposures. Not sure whether that would be good on the camera/lens or not though. A little chilly, nearly froze my hands off holding the shutter button down. Got one decent pic for my first try after a decent times post-processing.

On a different note, wanted to go back to a couple things in my last entry. Not gonna beat a dead horse...Just want to apologize to Rich and everyone at F5 for anything that has come up the last couple days. I still do not regret what I did, but yes there was a better way to do it. I just gotta remember you only get caught up in as much chaser drama as you let yourself get in to. I'd rather shut up and keep F5 around than do anything like that again and lose it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The connotations that come with TVN

Arrggg, I really don't want to write this with it being the beginning of storm season. I would rather focus my time and energy on that than sit here and get pissed off while writing this entry but I feel it is necessary to clear the air on somethings. So...
As I wrote here on my blog about a month ago I am now streaming for Right off the bat, I want to make one thing clear: TVN contacted ME, I did not beg to stream or be associated with them (don't get me wrong, I'm very happy to be with TVN). Prior to them contacting me about streaming through them this year I had no desired to stream. I was not begging them to let me become a part of their organization, and I in NO WAY joined because of Reed's involvement with them. I joined them because after hearing what they offer it sounded like a good deicision. Now that I have joined TVN it seems that people think that anything I argue about is because I have magically gained this huge ego simply because I stream for TVN. If I dont stream for TVN, no ego, but now that I stream for TVN, I have an ego. No TVN, no ego; TVN, HUGE ego. I do not get that. While I dont have any specific examples and no one has explicitly said anything like that, I can't help but get the sense that is what people are thinking. Maybe they don't think that specifically about me, but I know there are at least a few people who think that about TVN streamers in general, and that now includes me. Most of this lately has been happening at F5, which is weird because the majority of the people there know me personally or have at least seen me post enough to know that I am not that kind of a person. Have I gotten a bigger ego since I started chasing? Sure. Who doesn't. It comes with being more confident about what you're doing, and needless to say I feel that I am certainly a much better chaser now than when I started. You want to consider that a huge ego and think the only reason I am with TVN or chase now is because of Reed and money, go for it. If that's what you think you're not the person I want to associate myself with anyway.
Also, there have been a couple other issues that have come up this week that I want to clear the air about. I bit my tounge at F5, I dont want to be the person to piss all over the forum. Instead, it came out on FB. I do not regret a single word I said. The reason I said what I said is simple. A chaser (out of respect for their privacy we will call them chaser A) felt the need to hold everyone's hand and try to get them to all be nice. While this is fine, what this person said is common knowledge, but continued to overstate the obvious. On Monay Chaser A posted tips on how to communicate better and how to report better in light of some things that happened earlier on Monday. This was a long post that 99% of the people on F5 know and is stuff that is taught in Skywarn classes or posted in the "Rules" section at F5. These kinds of posts continued until yesterday with Chaser A overstating the obvious, and I felt that it was keeping the experienced chasers from posting and bringing down the quality of the forum. On top of that it was pissing me off having a new chaser trying to teach me how to chase and acting like he was saving the day. We'll just say that kind of crap pisses me off to no end. So a different chaser posts a status update yesterday. I post a couple of comments on it semi mocking chaser A. Chaser A then posts a comment with, and I quote "... I felt the reporting piece was needed so we don't have a bitchfest everytime there's a questionable report whether it's from JDH or someone else." Maybe it's just me and I apologize if it is, but to me that sounds like "You're welcome I came in and saved the day." Nah ah, nope, that crap DOES NOT fly with me. If you actually did something to help out, I would be grateful. But nothing posted by Chaser A was of any real value and certainly nothing that no everyone at F5 doesn't already know. So I comment back with, and I quote "Yes (Chaser A) you saved the day. I applaud you for your heroism." I won't go in to what others said since it's not really relevant to this entry. Instead, I want to explain that I did not say this because I am now streaming for TVN and I want to reinforce the statement that I have no bigger ego now that I did before I agreed to stream with TVN. I would feel the same about Chaser A regardless of whether I decided to stream with TVN or not. Lets not forget a couple months ago when I was battling MIDSCAR. That was an arguement, and guess what?!? I WAS NOT WITH TVN THEN!! Nobody had any problem with what I was doing, in fact people were AGREEING with me. Now I get in to an arguement AFTER I SIGN UP WITH TVN and people have a problem with me arguing with someone? I do not get that. Like I said my opinion about Chaser A would be the same whether or not I was with TVN. I'm going to stop writing, I'm getting too pissed off thinking that people actually think my personality has all of a sudden changed now that I'm with TVN. Come on people, you know me better than that.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

It's that season again! 4/5/10 Chase FCST

Finally a real setup. Models have been all over the place with the system that is expected to come through the plains tomorrow. However, I'm taking the latest run more to heart. The GFS and WRF have finally come to somewhat of an agreement for tomorrow afternoon. While neither models completely erode CINH before 00z, both show a large of significantly weakened inhibition over southeast Nebraska, southwest Iowa, and northwest Missouri. Everything looks to be in place for a decent setup IF (and I stress IF) we can get precip/clouds to clear out of the target area soon enough allowing sufficient destablization during the day. Models show at least 1500 j/kg of MLCAPE across the area mentioned above with a great amount of shear along and north of a warm front that is expected to move north in to southern/central Iowa tomorrow afternoon. Gonna want to stay close to that front as I dont know what the triggering mechanism will be further south. Since Iowa/Nebraska are closer than Missouri I'm content with just playing the warm front action. The downside if the storms fire is they will be hauling ass. Storms today were moving at 45-50 mph and I expect those same speeds tomorrow. For now the current target is Clarinda, IA.

EDIT: Didnt feel it was worth writing up a new post. Target is still Clarinda, IA. Also wanted let everyone know I will be streaming later today. Be sure to check it out at

Monday, March 15, 2010

Some big news and a new pic

It's official. I'm happy to say I will be streaming my chases live through and also have them market my video to news stations. It will be nice to get a little $$ back for my chasing. I'm not exactly sure how they have their website setup for getting to the streams, but I will figure it out and post it. Make sure to check it out as the more viewers I get on my stream and the longer they stay on it the more money I get. Really looking forward to 2010 and it can't come soon enough! Thanks to Heidi Farrar for helping me out with all the info and also to Andrew Butler for giving them my name and also the info!

Now for the pic. I went down to downtown Minneapolis after work on Friday night hoping to get some cool shots with all the fog around. The fog right at the surface wasn't cooperating but just above the surface it got very dense. Anyways, here's the one pic I was proud of:

Monday, March 8, 2010

First WTF?!? day of the season

So as most weather nerds know already there was a long track tornado in western Oklahoma today. Andy Gabrielson of Luverne, MN who I have chased with a few times caught some great footage of the tornado near Hammon, OK in the later afternoon. Bart Comstock also got some great video and both have some of their footage playing on TWC so congrats to both on bagging the tornado and getting the footage on several news outlets. This was a day that noone really expected, and the chasers that did go for it were pretty skeptical. Temps barely breaking 60, dewpoints barely breaking 50, and models showing far less than par helicities over the area that had the tornado. For some chasers and wx nerds here in Minnesota and Wisconsin this might sound somewhat familiar. August 19th, 2009 had SOMEWHAT of a same setup. Relatively cool temps and low instability. While there were many differences between 8/19/09 and today, cool core nature and low instability dynamics are obviously major factors. MLCAPE values were ~500-750 j/kg (8/19 here in MN MLCAPE were around 200-300). The forecast models were showing the helicity today being pretty low, definitely not what you would expect for a long track tornado. The forecasted helicities for 8/19 in MN were pretty big. While I can't be 100% sure about this since I am no expert but I'm guessing that for today the models were neglecting to pick up on on the localized shear just to the east/northeast of the center of the low which is where the tornado touched down. I don't know how strong this low was since I wasn't really paying attention, but regardless the shear will be maximized in the area mentioned above. Couple strong shear (eventhough no one knew it was there) with just enough instability and you get what we had today. There was someone at ST who said they drove though 1.5" hail in the core of the storm so it's possible a brief tornado would've touched down with even less instability, but nothing like what actually happened. Another amazing thing is how good the visibility was today given that it was a cold core event. Days like today are the reason we chasers go out on days that don't look good because every once in a while it will really pay off. Also just goes to prove that there doesn't need to be a tornado watch or even warning (severe t-storm warning for that matter) before you get a tornado. It is also very important to note that this storm did not look good at all on any level or any scan. There was no way to know what it was about to do because it was so far away from any radar site and at that distance you can't see the lower levels of the storm. It had no couplet on velocity, no hook, no organization all on radar, and tops only ~30k ft. Nothing about this setup looked good except the storm itself, which is ultimately the most important thing. I think it was great listening to TWC and listening to them talk about how big of a role Spotter Network played in getting the warning out. I'll definitely have to keep these kinds of days in mind for the future. Congrats again to Andy, Bart, and everyone else who got the tor today!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

I need a longer lens

Ha, I knew I'd get more than one entry here in February, albeit it 25 days apart but whatever. Headed down to Red Wing last Monday around 1:00 to see if the eagles were out. They were, but my kit 80-300mm just doesn't cut it. There was an incredible photo op as a lone eagle did two laps around the boats in the bay at Colvill park. Thing is is that it happened right after I pulled in and my camera settings were still set from low lights shots and didn't have to time adjust them and get setup before the big boy was gone. FUCK! Spent the rest of the day trying to take pics of eagles and hawks that are way too far away for my crappy kit lens. Still pretty fun though, pics dont break a trip that's main goal was just to get away for the afternoon. Good pics would've just been a bonus. After I got home and realized my pics turned out like shit I went on BH to look at new lenses and teleconverters. Unfortunately Olympus isn't like Nikon or Canon and doesn't offer a huge variety of lenses, but I think I found a decent lens for a decent price, a hell of a lot better than the one I have now. Won't be getting it until next offseason but I definitely want to get in to bird photography. The lens is an Olympus 70-300mm (equiv. 140-600mm due to the 4/3 system).
Combine that with a 2x teleconverter and we're talking some serious zoom. Probably have to pick up a monopod for it, but that will likely be my big purchase next offseason, unless another telephoto lens comes out for a decent price.
Anyways, here's the proof that I desperately need a better lens:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Moon pics. SDS is getting real bad

Jeez I've gotten some SDS real bad and didnt even realize it. It wasn't until Scott W. called me out at ST to make me realize how big of a douche I was being and how far I was taking it. Pointless bitching that ended up going nowhere. Not that I still dont feel the issue was worth discussing, but admittedly it was a bit much. Anyways, thanks to Scott for getting me to realize it. I need to find something else to fill my time during the winter. I guess the working out, hockey, school, work, and photography still somehow don't fill it up. I've become the exact thing I was mocking at the beginning of the winter. Epic fail.

Sooo... couple days ago I tried out some moon photography. Never done it before so it took me a little bit to figure it out. Some high cloud didn't help the situation, but eventually I was able to get some decent exposures. Wish I had a longer lens or I had gone out while the moon was a little closer but even still it was cool to try it out. One weird thing did happen to me. Thanks to F5 and ST (yes, ST) I think it's safe to assume what I saw was a pair of contrails move between me and the moon, effectively blocking out part of the moon while it moved from roughly SW to NE. Never seen anything like it before and probably wont see it again for a while. Either way it was cool/weird to see. Anyways, here's a few pics. Nothing great, but not bad.

The following pics are onces of the contrail just after it moved across the face of the moon (relative to my position). Unfortunately as it moved right in front I was waiting for a 25 second exposure to process on my camera. But was still able to manage these:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

1/23/09-1/25/09 Slush storm and a pic

I don't have much to say about the storm coming through this weekend except that it is going to make a huge mess. And we really wont even get much in return (i.e. snow). Freezing rain tonight, a couple tenths of a inch at most but that may make for some good pics in the morning, although with gray skies and winds gusting to 25+ mph we'll see. Either way I'm going to wake up earlier to see if I can find anything. Rain tomorrow...turning everything to crap. Hopefully the cities continue to flood the outdoor hockey rinks after this storm, it would REALLY suck to have that season over already. Rain changing to snow Sunday..."Little or no accumulation." To be honest, I didn't know about this storm or the one in Iowa a couple days ago until I saw it on the news. Warm temps=rain or ice=boring. But with the warmer temps lately the Mississippi has opened up. Hoping to get down to Red Wing next week (probably Wednesday) before it freezes over again with the next surge of arctic air. Not sure if the eagles will be out, but it's worth a shot. If not, Red Wing is a pretty photogenic city and I know the area pretty well.

Here's a pic I took a couple days ago. The bottom of the icicle is a bit out of focus. The manual focus on my camera can be a real pain in the ass to deal with some times and as much as I hate to do it, I use auto focus quite a bit for that reason. Anyways, edited the tone curve. Lots of different things you can do with that, I think this turned out pretty good.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A little fun...

LOL, only one post in December...that's pretty pathetic I'll admit. But just never felt real motivated to keep posting updates on the Christmas storm since it was pretty well covered by the media. Anyways, came across a Facebook group that pretty much makes fun of all the stupid crap that gets posted on Stormtrack. Looking at some of the pics uploaded to the group I decided to make one of my own. Hey, every once in a while I have a creative spark. ;) That's pretty much all I have to say right now...Enjoy!