Mother’s Day Case Debrief

Iowa Storm Chasing Network Chase Team

After finally catching up on some sleep and work that had been put off the past couple days, I now have time to write up this chase debrief. Lets back up 72 hours. On Friday, our team already had plans on chasing mother’s day, however we weren’t ready to play up the storm system yet. We had seen the models producing some very great dynamics for strong tornadoes but we did not want to get too excited yet. Friday night, we had seen the National Weather Service start using strong wording and that is when we decided to inform everyone of the potential. On Saturday the SPC had upgraded the slight risk to a moderate risk, and that is when we started using the strong wording. We knew that Sunday could be a big day, and we needed to form safety plans. Safety is our number one goal, so this was very important to establish before our chase.


Sunday morning the SPC had issued a 10% hatched area for long track, strong tornadoes. Team Dorothy and Ben McMillan were both going to be out in the field. Ben and his chase partners headed west on I-80 and staged south on I-29, south of Council Bluffs. Team Dorothy left later as they had to wait for me to get done with work (work=storm chasing). We then left west on I-80. While driving west on I-80, I was forecasting in the front seat and trying to help Dan Auel set up the go pros on the dash. He then told me the camera had an error message on it and to read it to him. Little did I know that he was pranking me and took the photo above. I couldn’t believe that I was that gullible. After that, I decided I would never help Dan again, and got back to forecasting. We then decided to drop south from I-80 and heads towards Red Oak. Upon arriving to Red Oak, we noticed the warm front was further to the north and there were concerns that nothing would trigger the storms off in Iowa. We then traveled west toward I-29 to heads to Omaha. We then arrived on the west side of Omaha and watched  a storm approach us from the southwest.

Iowa Storm Chasing Network Storm Chase

The image above is of the storm to our southwest. We then decided to head closer to the storm instead of waiting for it to approach Omaha. We then arrived in a town called Waverly Nebraska. The storm was directly to our west at this point traveling to the northeast. The storm had a lot of precipitation to it so we knew it would be a challenge to see the tornado. There were multiple reports of tornadoes so we kept looking for it. We went through the photos today and found that once you got them on the computer and changed the contrast a bit, you can see the tornado. Once the storm was to our north, we then traveled on a road that paralleled the storm to the northeast. We then followed the storm to Omaha. Once we got to Omaha, the storms then began to merge and line out. This was leading to very strong winds near 80mph  by radar indication. Because of this, we did not want to be near this line so we stayed out in front of it all the way back to central Iowa. We did see rotation showing up on radar, but since it is more dangerous to chase at night, we did not chase after them. Overall it was a great chase. We left Des Moines at 1:30pm and returned in Des Moines at 11:30pm. Until next time!

Zach Sharpe

My name is Zach Sharpe. I am the president and forecaster for the Iowa Storm Chasing Network. You can find me on Twitter @Stormchaserzach and on Facebook at:

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