May 22nd 2010 Bowdle, SD Wedge with cyclic Supercell
May 22nd 2010 Bowdle, SD Wedge Tornado with Cyclic Supercell

This day had potential written all over it from well out on the GFS (5+ days). When it came in range of the NAM it continued to look like a potentially huge day, that’s if storms broke. The models went back and forth on the precip even up till the day of the event.

I had busted the day before in Eastern CO, but we had made it up North Platte, NE to eat and have a drink at Ruby Tuesdays. We took our time the next morning and were not leaving North Platte till around 10am. I was driving my Saturn and Curtis and Matt were in there Tahoe as we made our way north bound. We used walkie-talkies to decide on a target as we made up some time in the Sand Hills of NE. I still had my doubts about the day even that morning, but as the day wore on that would quickly change. The models were having a hard time breaking precip. If I remember right only one models was breaking precip up till the noon model runs. CAPE forcasted was great (along with EHI and every other parameter), but so was the cap. The models began to look really good though (finally broke precip) after we made it to South Dakota along I-90. We jumped up to Pierre, SD and continued north from there as a cu field had begun in central SD along the Missouri River. We stopped NW of Gettysburg, SD and watch the towers blast through the sky. It was at this point me and Matt agreed that the day was about to turn EPIC.


I sat there watching the towers build and rotate from one location with Brett Roberts, Curtis McDonald, Matt Chatelain, Colt Ray Forney and his dad. Once the storm started to form a wall cloud we all kind of moved northeast together but had separated to our individual chase goals at this point. 2 of the vehicles in this group would later get stuck in a mud field with a tornado bearing down. Another vehicle would get hit by a deer after the chase was over (though he was right behind me when it happened). Mine would escape the day, though I missed a deer myself by only inches around dusk. Needless to say it was a bittersweet day for all of us who started this chase together.

As for the actual chase, I lagged behind a bit more than I should have and got mixed in with the tour groups vans as I headed east. I stayed a little close to the meso before the first tornado and didnt get north of the path before my paved option would get cut off. I made it to the major north bound paved road as the first tornado came down. I blasted north as fast as I could but as I neared the meso I could see a big cone tornado to my NW. At this time I experienced the strongest RFD I have ever come across. I was waiting for my Saturn Ion to just roll off the road.

          I pushed north quickly behind the tornado only to find the TIV blocking the road with some down power lines. I quickly backtracked before the crowds of chasers would find the road blocked and found the first east option (dirt/mud road). Most of this road was ok except for about 100 yards in which I did some nice slide, which had trees on both sides. The RFD cut on this storm was amazing at this point and resulted in some of my best photos. I took the first north option and expect potential damage from the tornado. I was moving about 50 mph up this solid dirt/gravel road when I noticed power lines (cables) strewn back and forth across the highways for about 200 yards. I was able to drive over most except one I had to get out and take antenna off to be able to go under it. This is during the 50+mph rfd is still blasting the area. I got on to the east-west highway that would take me to Bowdle, SD.


I had a feeling a big tornado was on the ground but had no idea what waited for me as I punched the wrapping precip in the RFD. As I came through the rain the wedge that was moving to the NW of Bowdle came in to full view. It was breathe taking to watch as the speed of the clouds even way above this tornado. It was incredible. I keep driving during this whole time so I could get east and in position for the next cycle.


I found the next paved option north after Bowdle and drove north into the path just in time to see the next tornado dance across the plains towards me. Being able to see the incredible structure and the cone was just as great as the wedge tornado that came before it. After this tornado lifted I had to race north and then east to get away from the hail core and approaching meso/tornadoes. This caused me to miss the last few tornadoes, but after what I had seen I was not heart-broken. I saw some good structure on the southern storm after this but my chase was over at this point.


Two things did happen after this point. When I was trying to get back south and out of the storm’s path I came across a Chase Tour van parked sideways on the highway I was using. I flashed my lights as I approached for them to move. They did, but decided to drive down the highway in front of me 10 under the speed limit. Before I made it to the town I blasted around them and they sped up and then tailed me into town. After all the other crap the tours they have done this year, you would think they would not be trying to create more drama. The tour had Colorado plates, so you can figure out whom it was if you want. I ran into Brett Roberts as I was getting some dinner at a town down near I-90. We decided to go get a hotel in Murdo, so we could head south the next day. While we were driving south a deer ran into the side of his civic leaving a few nice dents and taking his mirror off. I had missed a deer an hour earlier just after breaking off the chase. The first deer crossed in front of me. I slammed on the breaks and swerved at the last second to miss the second deer. After all that happened this day I was very thankful that it was not as eventful for me as it was for many of my friends.


Here is where I drove on this day.

Here is the video from May 22, 2010.