2010-05-22: The Bowdle, SD EF4

May 1, 2004
3,384
476
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Springfield, IL
www.skip.cc
After watching tonight's episode of Storm Chasers, I thought this might be a good time and place for people to share some stories from that amazing event. Here's a few shots I got of the tornado as well as some radar/GPS grabs:

The tornado condenses briefly just as it crosses US 12 in its early stages:


We raced east on US 12 trying to beat that circulation as it crossed the road behind us. The lights in the above shot are Samaras and crew getting out of the way after they deployed their probe. Here's the radar and our GPS position at the time:


I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see sights like this as they are almost stereotypical, but driving through Bowdle here are some seemingly oblivious residents while a huge tornado looms behind them:


Radar and GPS coming north out of Bowdle:


I love this next shot, and its something I've never seen anything of the like while chasing. It appears the RFD has wrapped completely around the tornado and has carved the updraft tower out of the storm. You can look right up into the heart of the storm through this green tinted slice:



When the tornado was at its closest you could hear the thunderous roar and our ears were popping, something I hadn't experienced before while chasing:


It was right about this time that Kevin Crawmer's car started smoking, and not wanting to get destroyed by the RFD, we bailed south here to get Kevin and his car out of the path of the storm before we continued our chase. Radar and GPS as we bail:


I did a quick write up with some more pictures and notes here:
http://convectiveaddiction.com/2010/11/17/the-bowdle-sd-ef4/

Here's a radar animation of the entire chase:


It was an amazing day for many chasers, and I'm sure there are plenty out there with tales to tell, so share some pictures and stories.
 
Apr 16, 2010
274
1
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Omaha, NE
Thanks for posting those radar images it answers some questions I had. I was just south of Bowdle on 326th Ave. I wish I was at least 1/2mile closer but as timing would have it that's the best I could do if I wanted to keep the tornado in view. I also think it was a game changer once I realized with all of the tornado/police sirens going off that a populated area was just up the road. You just couldn't tell whether from where I was if the town was getting destroyed or not. Bowdle definitely dodged a bullet that day.
Some screen captures:


 
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I had just started our two-week forecast class and this was day two, with the trip essentially ending with Campo. The Bowdle EF-4 was the first tornado most of my students had ever witnessed.

On that day, we used the short-fuse composite and watching the explosive convection break through the cap was amazing. After the tornado crossed the highway, power lines forced us to turnaround and we ended up stuck on the SW side of with no visibility of the wedge. However, the circulation back there was the most impressive of any storm I have ever seen.

Our location:


Getting ready to cross the road:


On the back side:
 

cdcollura

EF5
Jun 12, 2004
1,394
149
11
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Sunrise, Florida
www.sky-chaser.com
Good day all,

The Bowdle, SD was a chase day on May 22 that was a chase that you probably will NOT forget. Congrats to all that were there and intercepted that storm.



Chase log for May 22, 2010: Observation and indirect penetration of an extremely severe and violent tornadic thunderstorm in Edmunds County, South Dakota from near Lowry and through Bowdle and to just west of Aberdeen along Highway 12 and points north. This storm was a violent cyclic supercell, starting out as a classic supercell, then evolving to HP during its later stages. At LEAST six tornadoes were produced and observed with this storm, all of them significant. One possibly violent tornado was observed near Bowdle, causing significant damage (if not - total devastation) of some farmsteads north of the town. Transmission powerlines and a radio tower were also destroyed. This tornado was a mile-wide wedge tornado, and was observed from close proximity, with inflow / RFD winds approaching 100 MPH (or more). The storm also acquired the "stacked plates" structure during its early HP stages, with the appearance of an "upside-down wedding cake" at times, with a tornado still on the ground. The backside of the storms core was observed, with winds well over 75-MPH, baseball sized hail, lightning, and torrential rains were encountered (I had to seek shelter behind a farmer's shed). The other tornadoes produced by this storm were cones and stove-pipe type tornadoes. The storm was caused by the interaction of a warm front / boundary, dryline / confluence axis, surface heating, low-pressure area, and an upper trough. Documentation was HD video and digital stills. A 2009 Kia Optima was used to chase the storms. A tornado watch was also valid for the area until 1 AM CDT (the following day).



Above: Edited video of the full chase on May 22.



Above: Damage survey (with TWISTEX) of the area north of Bowdle on May 23.

I have a full chase account for this day at the link below...

http://www.sky-chaser.com/mwcl10b.htm#MAY22
 
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Bill Hark

EF5
Jan 13, 2004
1,258
175
11
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Richmond Virginia
www.harkphoto.com



Bowdle was an amazing day. I followed the storm from the towering cu stage through multiple tornadoes. I almost was munched on 12 as the developing tornado approached from the south and eventually watched it cross the road north of Bowdle. Below is a link to my chase report. I also have included a lot of archived weather data and model outputs from May 22 that may be useful for those studying the conditions prior to development.

http://www.harkphoto.com/05222010.html


Bill Hark
 
Jul 2, 2004
1,775
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11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
What a colossal experience! If I were to rate chases not only by the beauty, visual drama, and sheer violence of the storms, but also by the memories created and the stories I'll be telling years later, May 22 will be hard to top.

We were there at storm initiation, watching the tower bust through the cap, and anyone who was there knows what followed. One of the things that made the chase a red-letter event for me was the fact that I finally--finally--got some good tornado photos. The year I bought my Rebel XTi, 2008, I blew some great opportunities because I didn't know how to use the camera. Last year...well, 2009 was largely a write-off. But this year, the curse got broken in South Dakota. Here's one of my favorite shots.




 
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Doyle McIntosh

Surely a day that I will never forget. That being said it was also day 1 on my first chasecation in the plains. Left central Indiana at midnight the prior day, bound for central SD. We were able to position ourselves to watch the supercell develop from just some towering cu, to producing its first tornado while only having to move a few miles. I'd never witnessed from such close range a tornado that violent, large and powerful. Had a terrible feeling in my stomach as we watched the tornado widen into a wedge and approach Bowdle.... luckily passed north.



 
Sep 26, 2007
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My stories from May 22 are pretty sad. If I were to construct a personal highlight reel from that day, it would include, among little else:

1) Sitting for many hours on a horribly inadequate, hard folding chair in front of a computer screen several states away, and, 2) desperate, last-resort attempts to relay GPS coordinates and confusing street names to people via text message (since more texts than calls were going through). I'm fairly certain that happened to be the day when I first began swearing, too, but if that is actually the case it would be a complete coincidence. :)

In any case, the real reason I am posting is because I just received an email message from the guy who shot this video, and I thought I'd share his rather unique perspective: http://www.flickr.com/photos/31182650@N08/4636512327/
 
Aug 16, 2009
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Amarillo, TX
Went back and looked at some of the High Res NEXRAD Level II data of this day. With the help of Skip, this is about when the wedge was nearing its peak.



 
My stories from May 22 are pretty sad. If I were to construct a personal highlight reel from that day, it would include, among little else:

1) Sitting for many hours on a horribly inadequate, hard folding chair in front of a computer screen several states away, and, 2) desperate, last-resort attempts to relay GPS coordinates and confusing street names to people via text message (since more texts than calls were going through). I'm fairly certain that happened to be the day when I first began swearing, too, but if that is actually the case it would be a complete coincidence. :)

In any case, the real reason I am posting is because I just received an email message from the guy who shot this video, and I thought I'd share his rather unique perspective: http://www.flickr.com/photos/31182650@N08/4636512327/
It's simply incredible! Perfect structure.
 
Apr 16, 2004
1,613
12
11
Austin, Tx
www.TornadoXtreme.com
Nice intercepts all of you! Heck of a storm, and looks like the event continued for some time. I sat this event out, but this is certainly a reminder of why it is sometimes worth the road trip to SD. Thanks for sharing pics, video, and radar. That 3D imagery of tornado vortex, and BWER is seriously cool stuff. I may want to get GR Analyst to play with.