May 10th-12th chase - Minnesota & Nebraska

This week was a wild and crazy ride up to Minnesota and down all the way to western Oklahoma, back to Milwaukee again.  So much happened on the trip this week, there's no way I'm going to be able to write it all down or remember it all, but I'll do my best to share the basics with you.

Tuesday, May 10th

We started the week heading up to Minnesota to chase a system up there.

Skip Talbot, my chasing guru and I were chiling out, enjoying the gorgeous weather and waiting for storms to initiate.  Of course, that meant starting super early to drive, and that included an amazing breakfast...

We pulled off into a park & ride parking lot to check out the storms as they were firing up.  The light was so beautiful!  Here's a shot of Skip in the van:

Aaaand, the gorgeous light.  The first of many scenes like this for the week.

We could. not. stop. taking. photos.

But, soon enough we had to get back on the road, so of course that means Skip goes to the radar and does some assessment of where we need to be.

We did a little driving and got in front of the storm as it developed.  And from there we got some really gorgeous structure shots!

Yep, a little mammatus.  

Things were going just peachy, until we hit a flooded gravel & dirt road.  The van sank in and we were fully stuck.  STUCK, stuck, stuck.  With a gorgeous shelf cloud storm coming our way.  So, there was nothing to do but take a few photos and call a tow truck.

Before it hit:

During the hail core pounding the van... a really yummy orange color:

Just after the hail core passed us over, you can see out a little bit better and it was more red.  So cool.

I didn't want to get out of the van into the mud to get the hail that was larger, so all you get is the hail I grabbed by leaning out the door. :)

After the storm passed us, it was tornado warned and we didn't get to chase it.  The tow came and we were out of there in about 40 minutes, so it was - really in the scheme of things... a very fast rescue.  But, it basically killed the chase for the day.  

Wednesday, May 11th

We started out with a long haul very early to try to get down to Kansas, where the big storm day was expected to fire off.  We got to Nebraska and things were starting to go further north than we had initially anticipated.  The good thing was that we wouldn't have to try to haul ass down south.  We drove through some mild / moderate hail and came through the other side of a cell to see what kind of view we might have.  Before turning around to see the cell (that had no structure,) I thought these little bits of ground level scud were pretty sweet.

We got back on the freeway to try to hit up a different target, when we heard a really loud, bad sound.  Athugathugathugathuga....

Skip pulled off the freeway onto the next exit in Kearney, NE.  We found and called a local mechanic's shop, and they agreed to do a quick diagnosis for us.  We pulled out to try to make it there, and... WHAM.  The wheel flew off of the car.  It thudded to the ground and Skip managed to gracefully coast (scrape) the car off to the side of the road.

The wheel actually bounced off and rolled cartoon style across the road, and landed on the median.  We were laughing so hard - it was all we could do.

The police were super nice, called us a tow truck and even went and got the tire for us.  Here's a shot Skip got of me with the cops, and the sad van / tire / nub.

SO.  Needless to say, the chase that had just begun, was cut very short.  We didn't get to attempt chasing whatsoever the rest of the day.  Instead, we did things like getting a nice dinner.  Then, we decided to drink some Fat Tire, and watch the Pizza Hut pizza guy across the street dance.  Here was a sweet moment. :)

Locals Portraits #3 - One of the mechanics who worked on the van.  Extremely nice man, and our hero.

Thursday, May 12th

We got the van back, but not until about 5pm.  While we waited, we did some walking around Kearney and visited their really cool downtown area.  Very boutique feeling, super cute.

After we got the van back, we were able to actually chase a little bit.  Some storms were popping up WAY further north than I thought they were supposed to.  So, we got to play on a bit of a cold core setup.  And that meant, gorgeous, gorgeous sights.

We pulled off to the side of one of the country roads to get the dome set up and figure out what we wanted to do:

Locals portrait #4 - a man who stopped to briefly chat with us on the road:

One of my favorite shots from the day.  Blue in the top left, gold on the bottom right... LOVE it.

Hail in the storm.  Love black and white.  I need to do more B&W shots.  New goal.

And if it all wasn't scenic enough?  Rainbow.  BOOYAH.

Overall, we didn't catch any tornadoes, but it was a really fun trip.  The way I feel about it is perfectly reflected in that last photo.  Free, beautiful, peaceful, amazing.

thunderstorm photos