April 9, 2011 Mapleton Iowa Storm and Night Tornadoes

Not fully sure why I'm bothering with this account. I guess to have some storm account to put on here so no one asks if I quit. The only bright side on this chase is getting the tornado monkey out of the way. It's always nice to at least get the tornado a year thing. I screwed that goal early in chasing, not seeing a single tornado in 2002. Every other year is safe, as is 2011 now, so that is good, but that's about it. Well ok the storm environment was really insane wind-wise and that was interesting(downright crazy inflow....had to match highest I've ever experienced ahead of a storm....maybe anyway, July beast in 2009 was ridiculous).

Target became really obvious early, so that was nice. Fast storm motions and lots of chasers meant stay ahead of it best you can. One thing seemed sure, it would be a supercell for a long time in this setup, so it'd be wise to keep blasting way ahead until it was really rooted and ready to go. So that is what I did. First met Steve Peterson west of Decatur early on. Sat there for a good hour or so waiting on storm to fire then storm to get going. Soon began the head it off game and stay ahead of things. Roads in there can screw you too, with many sw-ne or nw-se roads.

We head up to Mapleton with the plan to probably end up going east finally there. We were way ahead of it, but could see it well enough to know it wasn't going crazy yet. The first shot on here above is like 1 mile east of Mapleton where we sat for what must have pushed an hour. That is right, picked right freaking there to finally let it approach. Just outside of the town of Mapleton, which would soon have a strong tornado in it tearing it up. In a way it is really odd to consider you just drove through the town, were just sitting just east of town.....and never saw the tornado. We wouldn't even know that happened till a good bit later.

Same spot just outside of Mapleton, storm getting closer. It had intense inflow bands, but the storm was really high based and sorta cold looking. What became pretty ridiculous was just how bad the visibility was looking west and southwest....an angle that usually gives you the best contrast. The storm was clipping right along and looked largely like high based crap yet. Bands began to move over and no signs of tornado genesis, beyond some rather typical tornadoless rfd cuts. Rfd cuts that weren't exactly torquing around very far yet. At least until we freaking move from what would have been a perfect spot. The storm just didn't look exactly ready yet and had no tornado. With the thought that it will tornado for a while anyway, it made sense to leap east again and find somewhere to hedge north a hop again.

As we go east the inflow winds were almost too much to drive into. Nothing but crap in the air, branches, corn stalks, etc plastering the car racing wnw into the storm. Hail also hitting from time to time. What is remarkable is it had a maxed out VIL on radar that was shaped like a hook. It was a whole lot like the morning HRRR model run showed and in the same area. Course that model started going to hell and not initiating crap after that.

Now at our repositioned east spot. These are 10mm ultrawide angle so it's not as far as it seems. It has to be starting to produce the tornado in Mapleton now, completely unknown to us(for another hour). Rest of these day shots are in a short period right here due east of Mapleton.

About now we at least were wondering what was in that cut. But it just always looked like rain. The tornado is probably right there in this shot...pretty annoying.

I imagine that carrot shaped cone just right of dead center of the rain is it.

Same location and just now did this storm start to get that real nice curl and rfd cut, and it was lowering at least some. The flow west into it here was sick. What a horrible horrible view though. Full of freaking rain from this angle. But you see shots from other angles and it looks like a completely different storm. We should have had a scanner on, something I never run. Of course even then we'd probably have figured any report to be dust devils then. Now one really wouldn't figure that looking at the storm. Even this view it seems you'd be seeing the end of the curl with nothing on it.

Hell if I know if it is in there. It's probably shed behind things now.

Now north of Schleswig shooting north. We raced west at it here just before this. It was silly what the wind was doing to the treeline we pulled over by. Bent over and roaring west at the storm, now in the dark. We both basically said screw it at this point, now behind it for the first time and it being night anyway. So we drop back to Schleswig and chat for a second, just then learning about Mapleton and wondering what the hell. Then Steve sees something about a stovepipe with the storm now. Doh and SIGH. And especially so because the night views from the sw were 1000x better than the day view from the east was. We gave it a shot even though the storm was way way ne now, having left it to drop back south to that town before heading home. This is the bad thing about chasing east of home. This storm be out west and one would be more inclined to let it chase them home, not chase it away from home in the dark. Never was overly into the next day chase idea either.

I then talk to Tyler as we head north and then east and he had a great day. This at the point we'd not even seen a tornado yet. Then while talking to him I see lightning illuminate a large tornado. My video camera wouldn't pick up crap unless I put it in auto mode, where it will then only autofocus...don't work at night. I was like, crap I'm pulling over and at least getting a still of damn tornado to show that monkey is off the back for the year lol. I get north and another bigger hill. Arrrgghh. By the time I got high enough on the gravel road it was gone. I set up and fire away and see a multivortex deal. That turns into a big cone. It then may have wedged a bit after that, I can't tell because I wasn't getting any good backlit flashes. That and the hill one can't be sure. The orientation to what I could see seemed it was a wedge. It was then gone for a bit and put down another big cone.

Pretty damn annoying, forehead smacking day. If we'd have just waited at Mapleton another minute or so we'd have seen it coming/about to happen. Storm looked like such ass still though up to that point. Then leave it after dark only for it to go on a wedge and tornado spree. Would have been right on all that. Oh well. Get the bad chases out of the way early. We were going to go back to Mapleton at first there when we learned of it, but talked to another chaser saying how they had it all closed down now.