Tornado Photos - Mapleton, IA Chase 4/9/2011

For those of you who don't know, I am a bit of a storm junkie. Or, perhaps, a TOTAL storm junkie. I do some storm chasing when I get the opportunity to, and it's becoming a priority for me this season. Any open days I have when the weather turns severe, I'm going to be trying to get out there.

So! This past weekend, I had the opportunity today to chase with Skip Talbot and Mike Boik. We got an amazing storm with a ton of great structure, and it spit out tornado after tornado. :)

Here are some of my favorite photos from the day! (Also, you can view the video Mike took here.)

*Edit: This blog post was put up the evening we got back, and at that point we were unaware of the damage caused to Mapleton. We were barely on the North side of town when we drove through it, and saw nothing more than tree damage, so we thought the town had been spared. It wasn’t until much later that we heard of the severe damage on the south side of the town. Of course, my heart and thoughts go out to all of the victims of this tornado.

The radar.  The big cell is Severe Warned right now (the red box looking thing over it.)  We are the white dot with a little white circle around it.  Getting ready to be in great position!

Skip, our driver & navigator extraordinaire!  He has quite the knack for getting us where we need to be, and I feel totally safe with him at the wheel/ making the calls.

We pulled over to take a look at the storm structure as it started to really get organized.  Of course, it's a nice quiet (momentary) photo op.  At this point we could really start to notice the outflow of the storm (wind) and things started to get pretty exciting soon after.

As we were driving down one of the roads, over the radio we heard, "Tornado!"  We frantically were looking out the windows trying to figure out where this tornado had touched down.  I started snapping some images out the left side of the car to see if I could capture anything.  The image below could be the start of something, if there was a funnel visible from another angle.  For us, we just thought it had to be some little gustnado (one of about fifteen or twenty we saw that day.)

Below is the field we stopped at, with multiple gustnados and we were unsure if any of them were becoming actually tornadic, or if we were just watching some sputtering around from the storm.  It was very intense, and I just kept wanting the storm to get it together and just tornado.  It was a gorgeous sight.

This sky was just moving and swirling and going crazy.  It's a little scary, but totally amazing.
We ended up traveling down a crazy gravel road that had us behind hills, swerving around and really messed with our visibility.  As we finally pulled up over one of the hills after making it back onto a paved road, sure enough, "What's that!?"  The tornado had gotten itself together.  Some of the most incredible moments followed.  When we pulled over, I got out of the side door of the van to take a few photographs.  There's just nothing quite like the sound of a tornado.  It was in that field next to us, and it was some of the most peaceful and amazing minutes I've ever experienced.

This shot is a little more purple and brighter because somehow I got a shot right when there was a power flash.  Love it.
Mike had quite a dramatic experience being so close to such a large tornado (eventually it would be rated an EF3.)  This is a shot of him in the van after the experience.  Poor fella, all tuckered out. ;)

We capped off the evening photographing some lightening and the several night tornadoes that dropped down in the distance.  After reviewing the images captured, I count a solid five tornadoes for the day.  Other chasers report as many as ten for their counts.  It was truly an epic chase, and what a crazy way to start the season.  In April.  In Iowa, for goodness sakes.  Crazy!

storm chasing photos