Sunday, June 11, 2006

Marathon drive back home


Today was the beginning of our marathon drive back home. Not something that all of us were looking forward to. We have a good foot to travel on the Streets & Trips map! “Oh dear” were Scott’s words. All of us woke up at 5 am MST. Ron and Scott grabbed some coffee from the hotel lobby. Apparently it was awful tasting. Ron tossed his out in the parking lot. Maybe it wasn’t even coffee?

We headed south to get to I90. There was a ton of ground level fog in the fields off to the east, which made for a nice picture.

On our way eastward on I90 in South Dakota, we decided to check out Mount Rushmore. We saw some TCU starting to build. It looked like another day of convection! Ron joked “If we’re lucky, we’ll get a lightning bolt hitting Mount Rushmore.” Then, 2 minutes later, once we entered the national monument, what happened? A lightning bolt hit one of the mountains ahead of us. Okay this is getting retarded, LOL. Ron was starting to scare himself from his precise forecasting. There just had to be a thunderstorm when we arrived. Just because. We took some pictures of Mount Rushmore then continued our trek eastward.

Later on in South Dakota, a vehicle ahead of us got hit by a large bird. Their windshield was smashed from side to side. I am glad that it was not us. We ate at Al’s Oasis in Chamberlain and continued to head east. We saw a developing supercell north of Sioux City near I29. Ron wanted to take I29 down towards Omaha, NE to see what the supercell was doing. We had strong surface winds coming from the north. So strong that it was rattling the van and dust was blowing in the field. A severe thunderstorm watch had been issued for the area.

Around 7:30 pm CST, the storm was beginning to fall apart. It was trying to organized but as soon as it started to cross I29, it started losing its punch. We could see the flanking line of the storm.

We continued on our journey. Later at night, we started to follow an MCS into the Great Lakes region. At 5 am June 10th, we saw a shelf cloud from the MCS west of the Chicago area. A rather large MCS the size of South Dakota was slowly traveling southeast, drenching the Chicago area. Parts of I80 had some pooling water from the rain. It just rained and rained. We exited out of the big blob of rain in Michigan and became homebound.

In these last two weeks, I have had the time of my life. Would I do it again? YES!


Dates: May 27 to June 10 2006

Crew: Ron Gravelle (forecaster), Scott Keddie (driver), Laura Duchesne (sky reader)

Total trip distance: ~16,000 km

States chased: IL, SD, NE, KS, OK, IA, CO, NM, MT

Tornadoes: 5

Funnel clouds: 3

Wall clouds: 8

Largest hail: 2 inches


Many many huge thanks to Ron Gravelle for giving me this opportunity. And many many thanks to Scott Keddie for being the driver and also to his better half for letting us use the family van for 2 weeks. It was truly much appreciated. I just can’t thank them enough.

I’ve learned a lot about forecasting and reading the skies in tornado alley. Ron is truly an excellent friend and forecaster. He always got us into the target area on time to witness some of mother nature’s spectacles. His number one priority was for us to see good storms but to stay safe so we could get back home all in one piece. If we were not chasing, we were doing some sight seeing and eating. And yes, there was plenty of humor on this trip (Want some more chocolate cake, Ron?). I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.

If you are unable to go to tornado alley on your own and you want to do some real storm chasing, visit Ron’s website . He’s an honest guy and is not in it to make profit, especially if the weather pattern does not look promising. He will teach you some of his forecasting techniques, and he will try his best to make sure you see real storms. He will guarantee you will have a great time.

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