Chase Log: April 17-18 A Perfect Chase

I am going back to my previous sites and recovering chase logs and posting them here.  Also, my callsign is no longer KD7EVS, it’s W7ATC

NOTE: Here is the storm reports from April 17, 2002. The line that says: Boone County – Reported by ham radio operator… that’s us.  You’ll see that the storm had already dropped a tornado or two. the reports on the map from nebraska over into Iowa are all from this one cell. Here is the storm event archive from April 17.
The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has said there was a slight chance of severe weather across Iowa. I check the radar every half hour or so. Not really knowing what to expect. The day didn’t look near as volatile as the day before, however there was some chance.

After checking repeatedly, in the late afternoon there was a single cell that popped up near Omaha, Nebraska. it was tracking NE and didn’t appear to be a threat. nothing else was forming. today might be a bust.

Sometime around 9pm CDT the single cell sent clouds up to 60,000 feet and large hail it also took a turn to the east. I checked into the CARC weekly net and advised the net of the situation. Then checked out and went to go fuel my truck. I talked to N0YM and he said he might be interested in riding along with me spotting.

In the time that followed N0YM, W0LBG and myself were in active conversation on the radio about the storm. Several times we saw stuff on radar as it was as warnings were being issued by the National Weather Service (NWS)

KB0MGQ and his fiancé, KC0IEN, got on the radio and we all began to plot our plans. I was the most talkative and so I was kinda acting as a net control between about 8 people. We came up with two groups, Myself (KD7EVS) and Jonathan (W0LBG) were going to take my truck and head west. KB0MGQ, KC0IEN and N0YM were gonna hang around Ames for a little longer.

I picked up W0LBG at Friley (dorm) and we headed west getting on HWY 30 as we reported into the SKYWARN net. Repeater access for the net was sketchy so we switched over to the CARC repeater and talked with K0DMX (the Control Station at the National Weather Service Station in Des Moines). With increasing radio traffic the general consensus was to set up a net for the local area on 147.375. KB0MGQ our club president took the reigns of the local net.

(just a general side note… I just saw myself on TV)

I was just watching the weather channel. it’s about 4am, and W0LBG and I were on TV. while we were out we passed channel 8 news just after reporting that tornado. channel 8 sent video to the weather channel. the weather channel was showing it, on it was a short picture of the tornado we reported as well as a clip of us driving buy a few minutes later. But they said “Ham radio spotters reported a tornado and this news team took this video shortly after.

So, where was I? ah, yes.


So we decide that 30 west was to close to where the storm was going to hit. This storm was a classic Supercell and we knew we wanted to stay just ahead of and to the south of this storm for best spotting views as well as and primarily for safety. We turn south on the first paved road and ended up toward Kelly, IA. ? We decide to move closer to the storm along E57. we soon realize that might not be the best idea. we encountered a ton of lightning however we had plenty of time to get to Luther and turn south. So that’s what we did. we made it to Luther and had high inflow winds and tons of lightning. My co-spotter and I decided to head south along 17 to Madrid. We stopped a half mile north of Madrid and set up shop.

11:45PM – We had been there for about 3 minutes when Jonathan and I both looked at the same spot of the storm at the same time. At this time lightning lit up the base of the storm. We both saw it. A tornado. I picked up the radio and started a report.

‘Net control, we have a tornado in sight, repeat tornado in sight. Approx miles west of Madrid.’

Matt replied and asked K0DMX to take my report. I repeated the report. We had a few sightings of the tornado. we repositioned just slightly (to avoid making the local Police upset as I realized I was parked in front of him)

After the reposition we looked to the same area and saw a shadow like shape, the tornado got rain wrapped (or at least rain between us and it) as we saw a developing rain shaft as the tornado went out of sight. A minute later a Tornado warning was issued for Boone County based on our report.

We decided to head west a bit to see the back side of the storm so we traveled along 210 toward Woodward. After passing two law enforcement vehicles we stopped along the road to get a good view. N0YM still riding along with KB0MGQ called K0DMX and reported striations and that the cloud was a Mesocyclone. About that time we started to get a little clearing and could see a definite bell shaped cloud with a vault region below the anvil. This was one of two times we were far enough outside the storm to see the entire cloud, but were still in good position to see under the cell.

Fearing the storm would get in front of us so far we couldn’t get back in the zone, we took off to the east back to Madrid
I’d like to take this time to mention one of the most annoying things in the world. A red light, middle of no-where, no cars coming, and a reason to be in a hurry. W0LBG will verify I sat at a red light for over a minute, until it turned green.

We turned north on 17 and.. well lets just say we made really good time back to Luther.

At Luther I had doubts about being close enough to the zone, so my shotgun, didn’t stop me at E57 east. I was surprised when I got to HWY 30 but he quickly mentioned that he knew that was what I wanted to do. ? Arriving at HWY 30 we went through a spotter gathering. We went east on 30 as W0LBG plotted where I wanted to go. I wanted to go north and east. So he suggested 69 north. I liked the idea but decided I didn’t want to drive through town and take that time. So I pulled over at a small school just outside Ames.

After some discussion and talking to K0DMX (and a few other people who decided to give us their opinion of what we should do) We decided to break a rule of chasing and hit I-35 north and then be in position to head east. (interstates aren’t good. You are only guaranteed one direction, and you can’t get off just anywhere)

K0DMX gave us adequate feeling that we could make it far enough north on 35 to get to an exit without having to core punch. (core punches aren’t good, personally I like my truck, I also enjoy life. core punches you get right in the middle of the storm with the largest hail, the strongest chance of tornado and the least visibility)

We make real good time along HWY 30 and finally get to I-35 N. I’ll admit I was going fast… we were on dry road but I went a little fast on the exit/entrance ramp onto I-35 for just a split second I hit a wet spot and my tires slipped just a little. Jonathan was quick to grab onto the passenger handle, Then I asked a stupid question.

“oh, I’m sorry if you don’t like my driving, I forgot to ask if you trust me.”

Jonathan replied:

“Hey, I’m letting you drive me into a Mesocyclone, I trust you, if I can trust you to drive me into the path of a storm… I can handle your driving.”

So we headed north along 35 and got off at exit 123 (road E18) we stayed on the exit for a few minutes, and for the second time had a chance to see the entire storm. It was amazing. the whole thing was a bell shape several miles round. It was headed just to our north. K0DMX told us that the center of the storm was 3 miles to our north. We were the only chasers left on the radio other than one guy but he was just sitting around. K0DMX requested us to continue east and north. We were getting out of repeater range and requested the Story County repeater be linked to the SKYWARN net. (thanks to the guys that maintain the links and that linked it for us) so we got extended range on our radios and continued as requested by the NWS. We went through Garden City and moved on up to Hubbard as the storm passed.

At around 1:20am or so K0DMX advised us that with limited radio coverage and the fact that the storm was diminishing, we could/should break off chase when we were confident that the cell was out of our view. There was one point there where there was a lowering of some type. possibly a wall cloud/some downdraft zone. But nothing major.

We concluded our chase and spoke with K0DMX about what all had gone on, and what was expected on the next day.

It was a classic chase. I didn’t even get a drop of rain on my truck much less hail. Jonathan was a great chase partner, always doing exactly what I needed him to do, whether watching the clouds, calling on the radio, or tending the maps.

K0DMX (Jim Snap) was also an irreplaceable help. as always he does a great job down there at the NWS Ham station.

A great Chase.

This entry was posted in Old Blog.