PHOTOS: Storm Chase Across Iowa

DSC01358 I left Cedar Rapids around noon today with plans to head west.  Many storm chasers planned to gather in the Omaha area.  Those who went west of Iowa appear to have made a wise decision.  Those that traveled too far south of Omaha were left pretty high and dry.

I wasn’t able to make it that far because of the distance I had to travel.  I stayed on Highway 30, monitoring storm development to my north and south.  A storm with a history of producing tornadoes was making its way across northern Iowa and there were signs the storm would soon spawn new supercells.

As I reached Carroll, IA I paused for a moment and monitored a growing storm breaking away from a line in eastern Nebraska.  I pulled the trigger and stayed on Highway 30.  The hope was I could get south of the storm before it crossed into Iowa.  But that didn’t happen.  The tornado producing storm crossed and continued to grow in size.  The amount of lightning it produced was incredible.  With the hilly terrain near the Missouri River, I was unable to find a good vantage point or access road to the storm.

DSC01367 Because I was by myself I had to play it safe.  I found an east road and high tailed it out of there.  But by this point, other storms were closing in on me from the North.  I raced south, trying to stay ahead of the advancing supercell.  Fortunately it wasn’t moving very fast and I managed to make it to Interstate 80.  As I made my way east, out of the storm’s inflow, it began to move faster.  This was the first sign it was shifting from a tornado producing storm to a wind generator.

As I continued east I had time to pull over and get a view of the intense lightning.  I grabbed my camera and rolled some video on it (hope to have that up Wednesday Afternoon).  Continuing east, I eventually made it out to the leading edge of the storm system, where the energy had shifted to.  I found a large shelf cloud near the town of Adair, IA.  That’s where I snapped a number of photos, including this panoramic shot.  You can click on the image below for the full resolution version.

DSC01418 Stitch

today.gif Beyond that, a lot of heavy rain and strong winds ahead and on the leading edge of the storm.  At last report there were a total of 6 tornadoes with some damage reported.  It appears the bulk of the damage was done by strong, damaging winds up to 75mph in portions of central Iowa.  Hail was reported in many places, but little in the way of exceptionally large stones.

DSC01413 All in all a pretty impressive system.  To me it seemed a little more summer like than the middle of spring.  But it was an enjoyable one to chase that certainly had me on my toes for several hours.  I want to stress how much I recommend AGAINST ever chasing alone like I did today. I adjusted my strategy and took fewer risks because I was in more danger driving and analyzing by myself.  It cost me better quality video, but that’s certainly not something to risk my life for.

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