Carpio, North Dakota Tornado - 5/22/2012 Chase

Today I chased with my friend Jonathan Williamson.  My usual chase partner, Skip Talbot, was doing some (amazing!) aerial chasing this week.

The setup ended up granting us a bit of hope with a 5% tornado risk in extreme North Dakota.  We found ourselves in Minot by early afternoon, and we had met up with Nick Nolte who had been crazy enough to make an overnight drive from Michigan for the chase.

Nick alerted me to the sun halo overhead while we were fueling up.  How cool.

This little spot reminded Jon and I of a certain scene in Twister... "We've got drunkards!"

We got up to our first little spot where we sat for quite some time waiting for initiation.

Checking the winds out:

Locals Portrait #15.  "Bomber."  He stopped to ask us if we needed help with anything.
What a nice kid.  :)

Some cumulus starting to go up in a line west of us, what we were worried would just turn into linear junk.

Soon enough, we got ourselves a tornado watch (red box.)  Woo-hoo! 

And, we were off.  And the storm was gorgeous when we found a decent spot to pull off and watch it for a while.  What an amazing view we had.   Right as we gained visual of the base of the storm on our approach to it, we noticed a defined base and lowering right away.  "Is that a wall cloud?"  We couldn't believe the storm had developed so quickly.

Soon, it was severe warned...



Shortly we were joined by our friend Brad Goddard, from Convective Addiction.

The storm was really tightening up and started to redevelop a nice wall cloud again.

By now it had gone tornado warned:

Then as we were admiring this lovely wall cloud and noticing it had an obvious side to side motion... what on earth?  Is that pointy thing really what we think it is?

Holy crap, a funnel.  We were giddy with excitement and the light was phenomenal.  And, of course, a bird shot.

We kept repeating "Oh man, I can't believe it!"

We didn't realize it at the time, but we actually were witnessing a tornado.  You can see the small bit of debris at the ground in the shot above.  Here is a tighter crop of the tornado:

Unfortunately the beauty just didn't want to fully condense.  What a sight that would have been!

The storm was starting to move away from us, so we decided to re-position.  Suddenly, Brad noticed this funnel off in the distance.  We scurried into our cars and blasted off, luckily I was able to capture this with my long lens, as it didn't last for very long.

We took a few more stops along the way but the structure was never quite as good for us as it was at the very beginning.

Once the light broke through, it lit up the back of the storm.  Gorgeous.

On our last road following the storm, Williamson and I noticed some brown streaks or haze in the air ahead of us.  I was certain it was dirt and dust, and sure enough we got a little gustnado out of the guy.

At the end of the chase, just hanging around and deciding when to call it.

And my favorite sunset photo to date.  Not a bad way to end the chase, at all!

I also noticed that the Northern Lights were active later that night.  It was at kp=4.33, and in North Dakota, that's show-time!   Unfortunately we had too much cloud cover where we were driving, and this was all I got.  But I had to give it a shot!