Storm Chase Details

Chase Date: April 9, 2011
Miles Logged: 1440
States Chased: NE, IA
Tornadoes Witnessed: 8
Highest Wind Encountered: 60MPH
Severe Risks: SPC Outlooks

Chase Recap:

The Mapleton Iowa Tornado would be my first of a busy 2011. I was watching the system with high interest for the better part of the week leading up to it. Saturday seemed like it would be the main day, but the SPC was not convinced. There were concerns with moisture and timing, like you would normally see in the earlier part of the season.


My target area was Sioux City Iowa, which I realized was a 8-9 hour drive. That meant I’d need to probably get a room tonight. Instead of chasing, I had spent most of the day at the datacenter. I booked a room in Salina and headed north on 35. Since I was working the outage earlier, I didn’t get on the road until around 10pm. I had a quick detour to Ponca City for a storm before heading all the way to Salina.

Lunch in Lincoln Nebraska

I got some rest and woke up Saturday morning around 10 am and got showered and on the road to Lincoln. I met up with Scott and we had Raising Canes for lunch. Scott and I went over the data and decided Sioux City would be too far north. He was familiar with the river crossings, which were only at Blair, Onawa and Sioux City. Blair seemed too far south to me, so I decided on Onawa, IA. We headed to Onawa, Iowa and camped out at the Phillips 66 gas station waiting on storms.

Storms Firing in Nebraska

Storms fired in Eastern Nebraska before intensifying. They were moving east-northeast towards the river. I was strategically positioned just east of the river due to lack of crossings in that area. As storms approached, it appeared we were too far south, so we went north an exit on 29. Unfortunately the exit was closed, so we ended up a little too far north in Sloan.

We zig-zagged back to the southeast, eventually positioning near Castana. We were able to get a decent view overlooking the Maple River there, and waited for the storm to mature and come to us. As the storm approached, I headed east on E34 towards Ute. As I got to highway 141 north of Ute, the storm started producing a tornado.

Mapleton Iowa Tornado

I headed north on highway 141 as I filmed the tornado. Highway 141 continues to the northwest and Mapleton, however, I bailed off and kept going north. I then turned to the east on 130th street and followed the storm to US59. It was at that point I was going to edit video as the remaining light was quickly waning.

Arthur Iowa Tornado

I measured 63.7MPH RFD winds parked on US59 a couple miles south of state highway 175. As I was editing video, I looked up to see a beautiful stovepipe in the lightning flash. It was maybe a mile or two to my east.

I observed one more cone tornado after the stovepipe dissipated. I went through Arthur, and kept east on 175. Between lightning flashes I observed an elephant trunk shaped tornado, followed by a wedge.

The rest of the evening was spent trying to keep up with the storm. The roads are nicely gridded for the most part, and I was able to stair-step to the northeast. I witnessed more tornadoes near Early and Fonda before finishing up the night near Pocahontas. I ran into Jesse and others near there.

Steak Dinner

All of us decided to get steaks in Fort Dodge to celebrate our Iowa win. We had witnessed multiple tornadoes after dark and one tornado in the light. It was what I would call a successful start to 2011 tornado season. I got a room in Des Moines that night, planning to perhaps chase the next day in Illinois/Wisconsin. I ended up choosing to head home Sunday instead.