July 26th 2011 Hoven, South Dakota Tornado
SPC Outlook: MDT
States Driven: MI, IL, WI, MN, ND, SD
Departure City: Monticello, MN
Target City: Leola, SD
Ending City: Willmar, MN
Outcome: Tornado, Heavy Rain
Chase Pics: Unavailable
I had been watching this setup closely for about a week based off the Euro (ECMWF) model, as it showed a decent trough ejecting into the northern plains with a decent surface low for late July. I had been longing for a chase ever since 6/20, but the synoptic pattern has really hampered things down. With a large high pressure system dominating the central U.S. and temps surging into the 100's, the only play for decent storms was farther north into the Dakota's where the jet stream was at. Any disturbance or shortwave through that area (along with a few other ingredients) would surely kick off storms - this was what I was waiting for.
With this chase probably being the last long-range chase of the season for me before I head back to school, I wanted to make sure to get the most out of it. I checked the models the day before, and everything was in place except a rather strong cap, which was questionable if it was going to break or not. I waited for the next set of models which showed a little more promise, so we headed up that way on Monday afternoon. I awoke in Monticello, MN to a MDT risk, and a 10% hatched tornado threat. Excited, I got around, and we left to head west towards the Dakota's. Since I was kind of looking at an extreme SE North Dakota area for an initial start, we headed up I-94, and crossed into North Dakota. This was my first time in North Dakota, so I had to get a picture of the state line sign. We continued west towards Ellendale, ND and stopped at a local drive-in for a tasty pulled pork sandwich.
Looking over the parameters some more, I decided a good target looked like Leola, SD. After getting to Leola, I decided to head just a tad southwest to Bowdle, which got spared by an EF4 last year during the epic 5/22/2010 tornadopalooza. By that time, initiation had occurred south southwest of Bowdle, so we continued south on a road that we watched a tornado cross back on May 22, 2010. We arrived at the first cell that had exploded, but it quickly merged with other storms to the south and formed a linear mess. Noticing a northern storm that was semi-discrete, we headed back north towards it. Driving north on a road just to the east of Hoven, SD, I looked to the west, and saw dust being kicked up and a small, almost horizontal funnel stretching down from the base. I managed to get a few shots, and some video before it quickly dissipated. At this point, the storm became outflow dominant, and the whole cluster of convection was completely unorganized. The chase was over, so we headed back east on Highway 12 stopping a few times to get some shots of eerie looking red clouds illuminated by the setting sun, or even of a double rainbow. The next day, the NWS confirmed the tornado, and gave it a rating of EF0.