2011-04-09 Reports: NE/IA

Apr 16, 2010
Omaha, NE
I intercepted the storm that crossed the NE/IA border near Whiting, IA. Initially I thought it was going to move NE but the right split I believe started moving due east. Due to slower storm speeds I was able to intercept it. This was a very powerful storm with solid structure. One interesting thing was I don't think I had a break from the hail during the whole chase. I did get to witness the Mapleton tornado, all the while the hail kept getting larger. I had to call off the chase due to a lost windshield. Here's a couple of images:
Near Whiting -

Mapleton tornado -

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Mod Note: Not sure what states other than IA/NE received severe weather, included KS/OK due to this morning potential for storm's there. Please delete if nothing happened!

Chased with Brandon Sullivan, Brett Wright, and Donovan Gruner today. We nailed the supercell of the day from initiation, watching it go up from cumulus near Schuyler, NE. It took a while to get organized, splitting as it approached the warm front, but soon after crossing into IA the storm went nuts. We saw multiple possible spinups, but I don't add tornadoes to my count unless I'm sure of it. Inflow was so strong to the storm at one point that it broke the drivers side door, and it wouldn't shut. This was right as the storm was beginning to cycle up and look fantastic, so we frantically tried to come up with a solution. In the end, Donovan tied the door shut with his shoelaces and we continued on our way! Shortly after this, we saw a large stovepipe develop and gain strength before becoming more rain-wrapped. We saw possible tornadoes in the rain as the storm moved off, but we decided to head into Mapleton. There was widespread significant damage, in town, so we ended our chase there to help those who needed it while documenting the damage. Below is a clip of the tornado shortly after it developed.

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Inflow was the theme of my chase day. My hair and back are gritty with dirt from being sandlbasted by among the most impressive inflow I've ever experienced.

Also chased the storm of the day, pretty much from birth. Started in Council Bluffs, then drove through Fremont as the storm initiated to the west. Cut east across the river on 51, then sat near the I-29 and 175 intersection for several minutes watching the first major cycle of the supercell. I was surprised to see it put out a nice RFD cut and some apparent gustnadoes in the area. If the dust plumes I saw were gustnados, then there were at least 4 or 5 in the area. Cut up through the Loess Hills, eventually getting on 175 again at Castana and went through Mapelton. Sirens were going off in Mapelton as we went through, and we got generally nickel to quarter sized hail as we went through. I think we beat the tornado by about 15 minutes. Never saw it as we fled east on county road E16, getting intermittent nickel hail the whole time. I was in my friend's car which was fairly new, and he was not comfortable with getting into the hail, so we kept busting east, getting several miles ahead of the meso before we stopped just northeast of Ricketts after we started hearing about reports of the tornado in Mapelton. Where we sat we we got some of the most impressive inflow I have ever experienced. I grabbed my handheld sonic anemometer and measured sustained inflow winds of well over 40 kts for several minutes, with several gusts in the low 50s. The peak gust I measured (that I saw) was 53 kts! Someone reported a tornado right where we sat. I can say with certainty that any power line damage in the area was from inflow, not a tornado.

As daylight faded we thought the day was over. Decided to make a last ditch attempt at a daylight tornado along country road D54 just north of Kiron. That's where we saw the first of two tornadoes southwest of Odebolt that occurred from the continuously cycling supercell. Ended up pursuing the storm north and east through Sac City, witnessing at least one or two more tornadoes in the process, but due to the darkness, I can't confirm much of these two. Lastly, as we headed north from Lytton to Fonda, I believe we saw a brief multiple vortex tornado touch down, probably near Fonda. Power was out in town when we arrived, but no damage was evident. Finally sat on country road C56 watching the main supercell and then the second one to the west move by, but neither appeared to produce anything that we could see. Called it a night there.

Some pictures:
Initial RFD cut at I-29 and 175:
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One of many possible gustnadoes; this one south of Onawa:
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Not sure what's in here, but this is taken west/north of Schleswig. Pretty solid RFD cut. Not sure what that faint cone shaped feature is:
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Two tornadoes south of Odebolt, each apparently associated with its own parent mesocyclone:
Copy of 040911_054.JPG

Copy of 040911_068.JPG

Beautiful structure well lit by lightning:
Copy of 040911_078.JPG

ADD: Finally got a chase account up: http://www.meteor.iastate.edu/~jdduda/chasing/2011/040911.html
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Caught this tornado about 10 mins after i drove through Mapleton, IA. I had no idea it got hit until later in the evening. I got 2 more tornadoes at night a nice stove pipe and a multi- vortex wedge. Ill add pics later, but for now here is a breif clip from my handheld. Im excited to see what my dome cam came up with.

Watch video >
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Wow, what an evening. I chased with a friend of mine, who had never been chasing before. We left Des Moines around 2:30 PM and headed west to Avoca, IA. Stopped for some data at the Pilot truck stop. Nothing was happening yet so we killed some time and drove around a state park a little ways to the north. Then we went to Harlan, IA and found another WIFI hotspot and got more data. By this time the storm of the day had initiated in Nebraska. I waited around for just a little while to see if anything looked like it would develop farther south, but finally made the decision to intercept. We went north to Denison, IA, but could not find any WIFI quickly, but heard the thunderstorm warning and then the first tornado warning for Monona county to our northwest and headed northwest to Charter Oak, IA. By this time the beautiful mesocyclone became obviously apparent. We took some county roads north and parked on top of a hill somewhere west of of Ricketts, IA.

As the storm approached we began to realize that there was a tornado tucked back in there, and I was able to capture a few pictures from a distance of the Mapleton tornado. We could see the lowering and the dusty appearance it had underneath. The inflow was insane!

We followed the storm northeast to near Odebolt. It was dark by this time, but lightning was amazing and gave us pretty good views of several wall clouds. We saw the finger-like tornado that Jeff Duda has pictured above, from about the same distance and angle. I was able to get a picture of this one as well. (I'm still learning how to use my camera, not sure how well they turned out yet.) I'm not sure exactly where or when, but we also witnessed another touchdown sometime around this one.

We kept on northeast and made it to Highway 20. We stopped on some county roads which were apparently south of Fonda to take some more pictures of the mesocyclone which was a bit more distant now. We could see the wind farm lights flashing to the north and northeast. While watching the base, we witnessed another finger-like tornado touch down. I have a picture of this one as well. We decided to call it a night shortly after this and headed back to Des Moines.

Lessons learned: I love chasing in areas with a great road network, with the usual mile x mile section county roads. It makes chasing possible without too many fancy gadgets. We never used radar after we got on the storm - ALTHOUGH it would have been nice and have allowed us to get closer and better views. I try not to get too close. I really need to work on learning how to use my camera, LOL. And I really need to get a tripod, although with the crazy inflow this storm had, it might not have helped a whole lot. It's time to invest in a video camera as well. It would have made trying to get night shots of the tornadoes a lot easier.

I will try to get my pics up as soon as I can.

Great day! 4 tornadoes (confirmed).

**Edit - Account with pictures on my chase blog - http://centraliowastormchaser.blogspot.com/
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Started off in Monmouth, IL and completely ditched my forecast for the far better looking NW IA area. We set off for Atlantic, IA and eventually settled on Avoca and had an amazing view to our western horizon. Matt Piechota, Sam Augustyn, and Jim Rood joined us for a while before we parted ways. TCu started bubbling in NE Nebraska and we decided to take off for I 29. As we hit I 29 the storm blew up and we positioned ourselves under the updraft region. Low level rotation picked up and what appeared to be a gustnado spun up in the field to the west. This gustnado grew into a rather large circulation and I looked up to see that this was NOT a gustnado but a bona fide tornado.


Adam Lucio, Matt Cumberland, and I all chased and Matt snapped this photo of a clear tornado in progress. (I will upload mine when I get home). We followed this tornado until it dissipated and about 25 other GUSTNADOES developed under the flanking line of this supercell. A rather strong gustnado developed and hit us and grew in size as it moved to the NE. I thought it was just a gustnado, but it turned out that this may have been the Mapleton tornado developing. I videoed dual gustnadoes spiraling around each other before we decided to drop south and try to get ahead of the storm. This proved to be a little more difficult than we expected and we fell pretty far behind the storm. When we caught back up with it north of Ricketts, a mean looking supercell was in progress. As we inched closer to the area of interest the storm revealed a low wall cloud with big cone funnel protruding 1/2 way to the ground. Others have confirmed this to being a tornado so I will count it by the rule of halves. By then it was getting dark and I figured the chase was over so we shot the breeze with Connor McCrorey, Brandon Sullivan, etc for 10 minutes. After that Scott Bennett joined us and we decided to go grab a bite to eat in Ft. Dodge. On the way I was glancing out the window to the N and thought I saw a low wall cloud. I told Adam to turn north and get a closer view. 5 minutes later we were watching a very large wedge tornado to our NE by about 5 miles. We documented this for 5-10 minutes before we decided to keep pace with the storm. A couple minutes later I was horrified to find that I had no cell phone and I dropped it on the side of the road. We turned around and searched for 15 minutes and I finally found it. Persistence pays off as we could have given up and went to a hotel. We stuck with the supercell and saw another large wedge tornado to our N. This tornado also had a satellite tornado to its' right. This tornado was mean. We were 5 miles south of it and could see the dark edges even without the lightning. This is the tornado that hit Early, IA, Nemaha, etc. The tornado lifted and we continued on. As we got north of Sac City, another wedge tornado was viewed to our NE with a low ragged wall cloud from the Storm Lake storm to our NW. We thought we may have two tornadoes from two supercells in progress at the same time before we came up on destruction. There was sheet metal all over the road, signs bent, power lines down, and to the right was a home that sustained heavy damage and a barn that was destroyed. I ran over to the house and found an elderly couple standing there holding each other crying. I asked if they were okay and if they needed medical attention, but thankfully they were shaken but okay. Their house was leaking natural gas so we got them away from there and I phoned police and fire to the location. After the area was secured we hoped back on the chase and had the most spectacular view of a night time sculpted supercell I have ever seen. Constant CG sparking out of the updraft illuminated the supercell and revealed a stacked plates appearance. Another low hanging wall cloud was visible but didn't amount to anything. Overall this was a great chase from a chasing stand point but it really sucks to see the devastation. Hope everyone makes it out okay.

I haven't had time to upload my video or pictures, I will do so Sunday night or Monday.



Another couple Matt Cumberland shots.
Saw the same beast that hit Mapleton.. what an amazing tornado. Afterwards, we stayed in the town and tried to help in any way we could. This was my first time across a town that's been hit, and it's just something that shakes you to the core. This is all I have for now, as I need to get some sleep and get ready for round 2 tomorrow.



The number of gustnadoes the Mapleton storm put down before the tornado was impressive, and had us initially guessing that it was also a gustnado. We could just barely make out an RFD cut above us, but we were so close it was hard to be positive of what we were seeing. The moment of truth for us was when a brief, intense gust kicked up blinding dust across the road going from east to west. The "Why are the winds going that way?" feeling in the car quickly made sense, as the developing tornado was starting to take gulps of air.

Unfortunately, I found the GoPro has some low light issues and my video turned out rather dark.
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We managed to get on the Mapleton tornado as well and stopped in town to help help for just a bit and then got back on the road to intercept the cell where we witnessed over 6 more touchdowns through the night.Amazing how this cell would just keep dishing it out for several hours after sunset.
Was on the storm of the day from initiation to death and also intercepted two other tornadic cells riding the outflow from the main sup. Documented around 7 tornadoes, but missed the Mapleton due to road selection. Will post photos later.

Saw Mapleton from County Road L32 on the south side, from the beginning. I just checked a Google road and satellite map for that area --and my first stop was 6 miles south. I then drove north, while taping through the car window, to about 2 1/2 miles south. In the twilight, I couldn't clearly see the right side of the vortex, so misjudged the width and how close it was. I did capture all of it, not just the left side. My Canon VIXIA HV30 performed well, its light pickup was better than my old eyes, and it brought out more detail than I could see.

Then with gathering darkness, I broke and turned back south for the long 5 hour drive east to Dubuque for Sunday's show. -- Dave Hoadley
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Watch video >

Also saw the Mapleton, IA tornado yesterday and shot video from County Road L32 and got as close as about 1-1.5 miles from the town to the south. I chased the storm almost from the beginning as it developed about 20 miles NW of Fremont (where I sat for about 2 hours waiting for initiation). Encountered nickel sized hail about 10 miles north of Lyons before headed back south and then east to Onawa. Saw a few gustnadoes as I got up to Whiting and then back to Onawa for a preferred E-W road option (IA-175) and also saw a fire to the NW of town (not sure what this was). Headed east from Castana and then north on L32 to video the developing tornado as it formed to the west of Mapleton. Sticking with my no chasing at night, I cut off the chase after this tornado.