Storm Chase Details

Chase Date: June 17, 2010
Miles Logged: 1247
States Chased: MN, WI
Largest Hail Encountered: 1.25"
Second worst bust of career

Severe Risks: SPC Outlooks

Chase Recap:

June 17, 2010 is, and will hopefully remain my worst bust since I began chasing. A lot of things went wrong, which contributed to a very miserable day in the land of 10,000 lakes.

I left Lansing after work to head down to Battle Creek where I’d pick up L.B. LaForce and his dad Bill LaForce to head out to what was looking like a very good setup. A 992mb low was ejecting into South Dakota with a trailing cold front and dryline. Moisture was surging northward, putting dewpoints to near 70 in Minnesota on the afternoon of the 17th. There were some capping concerns as usual, but it looked to be a pretty good setup for a large tornado outbreak.

As we left Battle Creek around 8 pm, we began our journey to Minnesota. We eventually made it to Tomah, WI which is where I-94 and I-90 split. The southern Minnesota target looked like it had potential, but had more capping concerns. The other target we had been looking at was east of Fargo. Tomah, WI seemed like a decent place to stop for the night, and make a North/South decision in the morning.

Unfortunately, we went to a couple hotels before finding out everything in town was sold out. Eventually we decided to head up I-94 as the northern target seemed like the more sure thing. We stopped for the night in Black River Falls, WI, a decision that would haunt me 24 hours later.

We woke up in the morning, and the southern target was looking much better. Not wanting to miss out on what could be an epic tornadofest in southern Minnesota, we decided to make the 30-45 minute long trek back to I-90 then west. We were making great time, getting out to Albert Lea by mid afternoon and then west.

The windshift line was making its way east, and we decided to play a little further north towards Tracy, Minnesota. We stopped for lunch and gas in record time in Jackson, Minnesota then headed north on US71.

As we were heading north, a storm started firing near Clear Lake, SD and it seemed like that could be our storm of the day. I thought we’d have enough time to intercept it as it became a tornado producing monster near I-94. Long story short, I was wrong.

We raced north, going through Willmar, continuing on towards I-94. Reports were coming in of that storm producing a tornado around I-94 as we were about 30 miles out. I started driving faster, but a police officer driving the opposite direction flashed his overhead lights at me as I drove by, so I became a bit skiddish of getting a ticket, and slowed back down to a couple miles over the speed limit. In retrospect, I wish I had punched it, but that is how things go.

We arrived on the storm, which was an HP beast just a couple minutes too late. The wedge was going through Wadena as we got on it, and we drove into Wadena only minutes after the wedge hit the town. Trees were scattered all over the road. They had obviously been doing road construction, as there was a lot of road construction signs scattered all over town. We didn’t realize damage was so intense, and continued on.

We stayed with that storm all the way into the Duluth County Warning Area. At some point in my video you can hear me saying ‘Holy crap, we’re in the Duluth CWA!’.

PROTIP: Don’t chase in the Duluth CWA.

We ended up in Pine River, Minnesota before we gave up on that storm. It had been reduced to mostly a rain shower at that point, but was still Tornado warned.

We dropped south towards Brainard, and got suckered into some more tornado warned storms (Radar coverage sucks up there – Between Grand Forks, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Duluth Radars) but saw nothing.

Eventually we said screw it, and went to Old Chicago in St. Cloud where I kept reading about everyones great fortune on my phone. Pictures and video were streaming out of the Wadena storm and the Albert Lea storms. We were empty handed.

We ended up driving to Menomonie, WI where we stayed the night in the Motel 6. I had The Weather Channel on both that night and the next morning, and was treated to tons of video from Minnesota the previous day.

We later found out June 17, 2010 was the new record day for tornadoes in Minnesota and all we managed to witnessed quarter size hail. A major let down.

The mood still hadn’t changed much the next day as we ate breakfast at the Taco Johns before hitting the road to chase Northern Illinois.