May 12, 2011 Operation Hail Core, Whiting Iowa

Well I thought I'd chase Sunday through Wednesday, but the whole thing sorta slowly took a dive. Up to this point in the year, Sunday, I had 2 chases about a half a tank each. One thing I don't care to do is spend money chasing tree and hill areas. Sure I'd consider it if someone else was footing the bill, but even then I don't need to chase them all. I have the ability to chase any day I want the entire year. If I can't get my fill out of the plains over a whole year, then something is wrong. At this rate that is going to be this year!

I used to look at extended models and say to myself, well it looks like crap for a while so I'd better chase these crap setups now. I thankfully have gotten past doing that and if it sucks, it sucks. I'll sit it out and wait. But there's usually not a clear answer in a setup sucking or not. Stuff can happen, even on days you don't care for. Days that look solid can turn to poo. You have to do your best guess. So far I feel really damn good on how many plains setups I've sat out. I half assed Sunday to Albion and only spent another 3/4 tank of gas. I then sat out Monday and then Tuesday's morning moderate risk in KS. Even if I'm getting better at having restraint and not chasing out of fear something could happen on a setup I don't care for, it's still not real easy to stay home on some. But it does feel nice when it ends up being a good decision. I will learn more and more patience and more and more ability to be ok with not chasing and having that come back to bite me here or there. I've done the whole, chase them all, in other bad years(2006) and it makes a sad year that much worse. Can't force good crap to happen out of setups that don't want to.

I didn't care for this setup, Wednesday the 12th. I was ready to sit it out. But by afternoon seeing the comahead curl get cu on it, got annoying. Tried to sit it out, even if it was in the backyard. I soon realized I was being indecisive for too long and now needing to be 2 hours away from home right then. I hate drives to targets or storms late and wondering if they'll stay good the entire time.

I drove west towards Fremont, storms barely getting going yet, down by York. I kept thinking, I drive the whole way there and mess ensues. I also had this almost stationary boundary to the north. I felt with weak mid-levels from the south, perhaps storms wouldn't have to lift north of it into the colder air. Seemed possible anyway. Everything else this day was weak too, except there was a nice 60+ knot upper level jet, also out of the south. But yeah low level flow sucked, but was at least backed west of the river.

I get to Fremont and driving around the loop I still don't know if I'm going to go sw or n. I could see the north towers too which wasn't helping get me to go sw. Not being thrilled for the day and seeing hints of more convection around the stuff to the sw, and that distance yet, I said screw it and went north. I'd be the only person up there too, which was a plus.

Right away up there though you could see the returns were just north of that boundary. So I figured, ok, well it's just go for hail cores day.

Just west of West Point I saw a funnel actually off a base on the boundary. Hell it could have been down the rest of the way before I got there and could see it. It was a fair surprise. I then went through town and into the core nw of town near Beemer. While playing in that hail core, a nice one, I kept watching the one north of Decatur on radar. It was the lead one then, which if you didn't figure on stuff lifting north of the boundary, you'd be all over right away. Soon as I could tell it was halting that drift north, like the others weren't doing, I bailed for it. Drove north through hail out of Beemer and then east towards Decatur quickly. I could have been over there a long time ago, which was annoying. As I drive east the thing gets a nice hook and tornado warning. VIL starts to max out as well. Arrrgghh.

About this point I'm probably between it and that storm west of it. I was really wishing I was on it already. It was crawling east with that hook coming up and around. It was just barely north of that boundary, which you can make out just south of it and trailing southwest south of those other storms.

Big maxed out VIL.

I zoomed through Onawa and then went north into it. I could tell on radar and looking at it, that it was probably not as good now. So I went right back into "operation hail core" mode. The VIL was maxed out and huge still. So I raced north into it and completed the mission of the day. Found some nice hail. This was south of Rodney Iowa. I don't slow down for hail, but 3 semis did and were just sitting on the highway there. Soon a crack appears in front of the driver's side. Then this one shows up on the passenger side. That in the upper right has been there since 2005 but it got some new extensions lol. Plastic by the wipers cracked too. I'd say the stones bouncing around were around baseballs, just not overly a ton of those. There was a really really skinny gap this was happening in. You get to the east side of them and within a couple minutes you were back in little hail and rain. I was just amazed at when I'd go east again, how short that window of larger stones seemed.

Driver's side crack. I have a huge problem with ever searching out big stones after the fact. For one, I'm almost always ahead of the storm. And secondly, if I get in big hail I'm usually racing out of it to stay with the game. Getting big hail stones after the fact is tricky stuff. Unless you don't mind getting behind the storm for a while(and not seeing what is happening). Or unless the storm is obviously in wind down mode, which usually ain't going to be the case if big stones are falling. This would have been the perfect situation for me to wait out the hail, then go looking for them. Was obvious the storm would wind down more north of the boundary now. But no, I go east anyway.

Anyway, as I go east my pavement ends, argghhh. Doesn't feel wise to take non-paved roads through the loess hills. This road was ok as it had gotten no rain yet. But the thing was, it was still pulling my car all over the place. Like it had rocks but it was a softer road. I sure as hell wanted off of it before rain. So you race east trying to go fast enough to get to pavement soon, but not too fast the road wrecks you or too slow you end up in rain again.

I never even realized where I came out was right at Mapleton. I even talked to a cop right there, where my gravel ended and told him there were baseballs in it. He was like, I hope it ends soon as we don't need anymore. Not till later did I realize while looking at a map that that was RIGHT at Mapleton and probably a Mapleton cop. The town hit by a tornado April 9th. The one I missed after sitting 1 mile east of town for 20 minutes.

So the storm wasn't as good now and I was wishing I'd stayed back there and looked for the biggest stones. Something I've done ONCE before is all(a morning close to home chase deal). Something I'd really love to do but the way it works chasing, it just doesn't work out that well. I did get to get cored by it again near Smithland. There were 4 different reports of baseball hail in the stretch from Onawa through there. One was Smithland, but must have been before I got there. The road was slick near there.

I was in major, get back where I was and look for hail mode now. Even if it was a long time later now. So back south of Rodney I went.

These hail stone pics are a solid 40 minutes after the fact and back where my windshield was cracked. The strong winds surely not helping them in the whole don't melt much department.

The first place I could see much of any of them happened to be in a muddy farm field, hence the mud. The farm field tried to eat my one flip flop. Nothing like pulling your foot up without the flip flop, as it stick under the mud. And hell the puddles were all gone by now too, so no where to get the feet clean or anything clean.

Biggest one I could find. Again this fell 40 minutes ago. I didn't have a cooler or even a ruler with me. If I measure long way on my hand now though, that is a solid 3 inches.

Wasn't long and I was more and more intrigued by their make up. Made me realize just why Eric Nguyen had such a love for the things. Fascinating stuff, just look at his hail imagery.

That one has an odd hole in the middle of it.

Try and imagine the growth process on this.

For sure a baseball 40 minutes ago lol. Had a lovely moment during that with my window down, one getting me in the lap. And no more window down after that. You can try and see if they are angling down at all, then open the window best for that.

Southeast of Smithland. This looked really cool but at the time I was losing the falling hail rapidly. Wished I was there a hair sooner. This was before I went back and picked up those stones and when I was in a hurry to get back there before they all melted. I was sorta surprised they remained as big as they did for 40 minutes.

While taking pics of the windshield the following day, I stumbled onto this idea. It's trees reflecting off the top of my car. The roof was already fairly bad before this chase and hail, but yeah added a few new ones.

I flipped this one 180 so it was upright. This with the wide angle.

There are actually a lot of ways to do this, but my roof is scratched to hell and some scuff marks, so had to shallow depth of field things and focus in various ways.

This would be kind of fun on a new car with a shiny top. It took some effort to place the bigger scratches and scruff marks in the bright areas and other wise get them out of focus.