6/22/2015 Part 2 – Birch Run/Millington, MI EF2 Tornado Summary

After Portland, there was quite a bit of uncertainty as to whether another round of storms would occur. I simply headed back towards Saginaw, keeping an eye on satellite and what was going on when I could visually see cumulus towers shooting incredibly high up, before crashing down and firing a new one in a different location. It became apparent at this point that once the cap eroded just a tiny bit more, violent storms would be possible. As I got to Breckenridge, I took awhile to shoot a time lapse with the gopro, which would actually become the initiation of the line of cells that would soon come.

Central Gratiot County as storms began to organize.

Central Gratiot County as storms began to organize.

The line of cells began very modestly, then intensified rapidly around 8-8:30PM. A cell in Gratiot Co. became dominant and had some supercellular characteristics, which combined with my knowledge of the road network in the area, became the clear favorite for which storm I would chase. I moved from NE of Breckenridge southward to the east central area of Gratiot Co. Stopped to shoot video and a few pictures, then proceeded east on Washington/Ithaca Rd.

Lightning screen shot while capturing video along Washington Rd. in east-central Gratiot County

Lightning screen shot while capturing video along Washington Rd. in east-central Gratiot County

Thunderstorm closing in on St. Charles, MI

Thunderstorm closing in on St. Charles, MI

10 miles to the east was the home I grew up in as a teenager outside of Brant, which provided a great photo op for structure of the entire storm; which you could now see rotating broadly. While driving through St. Charles and continuing east, the cell began to cycle numerous times pulling moisture around the updraft then briefly clearing out – each time pulling a larger wall cloud out of the rain as the storm cut its way through central Saginaw County. Once I crossed M-13 and was headed towards Birch Run, an extremely low wall cloud was now skimming just over treetops to my north. No warning as of yet (though I had called 911 after the wall cloud began rotating), so I called local meteorologist and friend Ahmad Bajjey. After a quick conversation, the skies of darkness closed in while the sun set, and a dangerous situation was unfolding directly in front of me.

Driving into the village limits of Birch Run and trying to frantically call my best friend who lives on the other side of town to tell him and his family to shelter, visibility became horrible. As I drove past the fire station, the outdoor sirens kicked on in my ear, sending a quick chill down my spine as I was directly paralleling the bears cage as it targetted the closest village east of my hometown.

At this point, I pretty much let instinct and what I could see take over. Driving onto the Birch Run Road overpass for I-75 and watching the wind flow around my car in combination with where it was headed on radar – I stopped to try and gain a visual on the rotation to my northeast. Just on the other side of a hotel and heading directly for a Meijer grocery store, was a violent rotation maybe 400 feet off the ground. You could see rain curtains whipping around the circulation at amazing speeds through parking lot and building lights – but no power flashes and no power loss yet. Using that as my confirmation that I was not driving DIRECTLY into a tornado, I began to inch forward – carefully using the direction the rain was headed to compare my position to the bears cage.

Funnel cloud east of Birch Run, MI just prior to tornado birth.

Funnel cloud east of Birch Run, MI just prior to tornado birth.

2 miles ahead, I noticed the wind shifted as I was driving to a point where I was in the inflow. I stopped and waited to gain a visual on whether I could continue or not, when I could just BARELY see a large funnel through flashes of lightning about 1/8th of a mile to my north. This was about 20 seconds before the tornado path began. From here east, most of the area to the north is wooded areas so there was nothing to really see – but I continued east, inching along watching the wind and rain and using it as my compass to where hell was consuming the earth alongside and in front of my vehicle. I made it another 6 miles, before watching about 15 trees get taken down by the tornado about a football field in front of me. Chase over.

At this point I went house to house where I could on the west hand side of the damage. After ensuring those who I could actually get to were OK, I awaited emergency personnel to arrive before assisting in another search of a house further back in the woods. Despite everything around the house being destroyed, it did fairly well in the tornado and by the time me and a firefighter made our way back through the insane tree and power line carnage – we found out the owner was on vacation and was down in Florida – nothing else to worry about.

After this, I finally got ahold of my friend Kyle and made sure him and his family were ok, before heading there for a trip to say hi. Before leaving his house, I went to the RV park just north of his house for an interview and another inspection of some damage. This is where the only two injuries from the storm happened, and fortunately no deaths occurred with this tornado or any other tornado on this day.

Once things calmed down from doing interviews, etc. I looked back at the damage survey and path and concluded the furthest distance I was from the tornado at any given point (prior to it crossing the road and blocking travel) was 2000 feet along a 6 mile portion of the damage path.

Damage along Birch Run Rd. west of Millington, MI

Damage along Birch Run Rd. west of Millington, MI

Damage along Birch Run Rd. west of Millington, MI

Damage along Birch Run Rd. west of Millington, MI

Tornado path vs. my path while paralleling it to the southwest.

Tornado path vs. my path while paralleling it to the southwest. Original image courtesy of NWS Detroit

Radar imagery of tornado courtesy of NWS Detroit

Radar imagery of tornado courtesy of NWS Detroit

6/22/2015 Part 1 – Portland, MI EF1 Tornado Summary

June 22nd 2015 was a day I had been waiting for as far as a Michigan tornadic day – A large shear event with plenty of instability was hinted as many as ten days out on models such as the GFS, and it did not disappoint.

Having the day off for my monthly 5 day break from work, I woke up around 9am and was watching an ongoing MCS across Lake Michigan. There was quite a debate that morning between a lot of people and models as to whether the system would make it across the lake and strengthen or die, and whether or not it would have an impact on conditions later in the day when the ample amounts of shear and forcing for tornadoes would be available across the area.

As it headed out over water, I decided to move south to see what would happen with the first round. I got to Charlotte, MI; where I stopped for a quick bite to eat while assessing the situation. A few severe thunderstorm warnings came out, and I realized I was in a decent position relative to the best environmental conditions ahead of the line. I soon realized there was a tiny bit of rotation where the meso-low was with the line of storms, so I began to move north and positioned myself directly in front of the area.

While driving and keeping an eye on radar, you could see there was broad rotation in the area NW of Portland, MI, which after a few scans tightened up enough to have a very small couplet visible on radar – A circulation that was not tornado warned and relatively weak – was dropping a tornado within the small town. It carved its way through Portland and moved toward Grand Ledge, where I encountered a brief rope out which was extremely hard to see in the rain.

I then moved east and south, travelling under the circulation through Lansing – watching a wall cloud in my rear view mirror. It moved to the east as I continued south, staying in front of the main line of wind for a while before taking a quick beating and giving up on the system. By now news was just getting out about the unwarned tornado with confirmed damage, so I went back north and shot pictures and videos of the damage, while also stopping for a brief chat with WLNS meteorologist Jim Geyer.

Portland, MI Damage

6/22/2015 Portland, MI EF1 Tornado Damage

Portland, MI Damage

6/22/2015 Portland, MI EF1 Tornado Damage

Portland, MI Damage

6/22/2015 Portland, MI EF1 Tornado Damage

Portland, MI Damage

6/22/2015 Portland, MI EF1 Tornado Damage

April 9th, 2014 – Rochelle/Fairdale, IL EF4 Tornado Chase Summary

Leading up to April 9th, the models were in good agreement with a severe weather outbreak occurring across Northern IL and Southern WI. The plan became apparent a few days out – Finish out my work week on the midnight shift, then blast southwest at 7am on no sleep and see what happens. I HIGHLY suggest no one does this. I really don’t know how I was operable at the end of all of this, but luckily I made all the right decisions that day and I now know I can push myself much futher past my breaking point.

SPC Day 1 Outlook 2000z

SPC Day 1 Outlook 2000z

Anyway, as I left work in Midland, I had to run home to get my gear then hit the road. I stopped in Greenville, MI and picked up Charles Russell, who would ride along in the Nitro with me for the day. It was the first time we met, although we had been around eachother numerous times here in Michigan.

We preceeded south in Lower MI through Grand Rapids down US-131, jumping to I-94 then I-80/90 in Indiana. After some discussion, we decided to skip the whole mess that is the Chicagoland area, moving slightly south on I-65 then jumping off to some country roads, jogging our way into central IL. We encountered numerous cool small farm towns, and eventually made our way westward. One of the eery things about this is the fact we drove through Coal City, an area which would later get hit with a tornado on June 22nd.

A few showers began popping up on radar, and eventually a cell fired north of Peoria that would get tornado warned. We began heading towards this cell, only for it to die off just as we were beginning to gain a visual – In fact, we could see where the inflow got cut off, and the remnants of what was a nice storm became a small thin layer of low level clouds that we simply drove under.

After this, the waiting game began. All of the triggers were still off in Iowa, so we wandered around small towns, monitoring the weather and watching the initiation and death of about 5 or 6 small cells. Things struggled much of the day, but we soldiered on.

As things began to move farther east, we wanted to wait and see if storms popped in front of everything coming out of Iowa, while still leaving another play open on the later storms. Not much was happening, so we ultimately made the decision to move northwest towards a tornadic cell near the Davenport, IA area. Once we committed to that – The atmosphere got VERY angry.

We approached Dixon, IL – Hometown of Ronald Reagan! This was a bit ironic as we were talking about presidents and mentioned him earlier…so..maybe that was a clue? As we moved out of Dixon, we were treated to a beautiful cell that was evolving to the north – A low topped supercell that had some phenomenal structure. The problem was the road network leading to it was not that great, and it wa simply too far ahead of us to keep up with. We stopped for a few moments and enjoyed the view.

Rockford/Cherry Valley, IL Low Topped Supercell

Rockford/Cherry Valley, IL Low Topped Supercell

Rockford/Cherry Valley, IL Low Topped Supercell

Rockford/Cherry Valley, IL Low Topped Supercell

While underneath that storm, we were also monitoring the cells firing to our south, which became severe warned very quickly for hail. Driving south and moving east now, we were cored for a brief second with strong rain, some light hail and a very scuddy and rapidly rising updraft base, but no signs of tornadic activity – yet….

As we let it move to position again, we began to head towards Oregon, IL. As we got halfway between Oregon and Dixon, we were now watching two storms….The one to the west, which was tornado warned earlier and reorganzing, and the cell that just went over us merging together with another cell to the south..We stopped to access the situation, and a had a strange funnel like cone to our left, when we noticed a well defined stovepipe funnel to the southeast! What was a simple cell merger had quick become a violently rotating updraft, all the while we have another rotating storm to our west.

At this time, we sat, getting pictures from both sides of what was going on. As the cell to the west appeared to gust out, our decision became to move east to reposition for the cell to our east – which we had now lost visual on. As I pulled forward, the Extreme Tornado Tours van passed us, which ended up being great as I didn’t have great service at this point and was struggling to get GPS.

Funnel cloud as viewed from south of Oregon, IL looking south.

Funnel cloud as viewed from south of Oregon, IL looking south.

Following ETT through Oregon helped a ton, and both cars moved eastward. We come out of Oregon, which was a somewhat wooded town, to a break in the treeline and a field over a hill…finally coming out of the tree line and….there it was. A large wedge. Our jaws pretty much immediately dropped to the floor. I don’t know whether it was because it was so large, or because it went from a little needle/cone funnel to THAT, but we were amazed. At some point ETT accelerated far ahead of us, as we were filming and shooting pictures. I left a police officer in front of me, as I had that bad feeling knowing what was in front of us, and continued east behind the police car. This led us to another area with a little mini hill.

Rochelle, IL Tornado 4/9/2015

Rochelle, IL Tornado 4/9/2015

Radar Loop of Rochelle/Fairdale Tornado. Taken from Dennis Merserau - http://thevane.gawker.com/

Radar Loop of Rochelle/Fairdale Tornado. Taken from Dennis Merserau – http://thevane.gawker.com/

Coming up over this hill – An intersection. Damage EVERYWHERE. Trees, telephone poles, wires, a house that missed the brunt of the damage but had major barn damage, and then another building which had appeared to be a large polebarn was severely damaged on the northeast corner of the road – Absolute HELL on earth. As I came to a stop on some power lines, my main concern was getting off those, so we crept forward. I was 100% sure the chase was over at this point, so I just moved and wasnt sure what to do. I turned right, only to have the axle from a semi-truck laying in the middle of the road, so while pulling a U-turn; Charles noted the road was clear to the north – We looked right and saw the police car stopped at the building on the northeast corner, and began to move north.

Rochelle, IL Tornado 4/9/2015

Rochelle, IL Tornado 4/9/2015

We later learned that restaurant was Grubbsteakers, where some people were trapped inside. I didn’t know the area very well and it didn’t look like a business at all at that point, just a pole barn with an eighteen wheeler thrown on top of it. I felt kind of bad learning this later, but police WERE on the scene, and no one was seriously hurt.

As we moved northward, we were still in amazement. The tornado was so well defined, had violent motion and was just BIG. At some point we turned back east, then north, then east again…only to get cut off by tree damage down a side road. At this point we stopped and watched it move off into the distance near a house, getting some amazing shots of the entire storm structure as it moved off. The residents of the house were okay, and the only thing on the property damaged was the tree that fell in the road…otherwise the tornado just BARELY missed them to the east. This ended our chase somewhere (2-3 miles) south of the village of Fairdale, which was almost completely destroyed by this tornado. Unfortunately two lives were lost in Fairdale. Thankfully many more lives weren’t taken as this was a very bad situation.

Rochelle, IL Tornado 4/9/2015

Rochelle, IL Tornado 4/9/2015

As the thunderstorm complex continued to move north and east, we stopped in Genoa, IL to take a breather. Nearing the downtown area, we were stopped – By a neverending parade of firetrucks and ambulances heading west towards Fairdale. It was a kick in the gut. All day you prepare yourself for the possibilty of the worst happening and having to see horrible things, and then the tornado happens and you have the mixed emotions of “this is incredible” and “oh no, people are probably dying” – A struggle I think almost everyone who does this as a hobby has at numerous points – But you are just equipped to handle it. The positive in all of this is how well this event was in retrospect to forecasting, local TV/media coverage, and all the spotters around watching the situation evolve. It could have been MUCH, MUCH worse, but it wasn’t. So a major kudos to EVERYONE on this day.

This will always ultimately go down as what was probably the best first chase of a major tornado. I learned a lot and the images will forever be burned in my brain.

St. Charles, MI EF1 Tornado and Low Topped Supercell – 6/11/2014

Top Left - Reflectivity Top Right - Velocity Bottom Left - Correlation Coeffecient Bottom Right - Echo Top Height

Top Left – Reflectivity Top Right – Velocity
Bottom Left – Correlation Coeffecient
Bottom Right – Echo Top Height

While living in Michigan, we always have those random storms that surprise you. This was no exception.

The Storm Prediction Center left Michigan COMPLETELY out of any categorical risks for this day – 0% hail/wind/tornado risk. But looking closely at synoptic scale features which produced tornadoes in Indiana the day before, and mesoscale features the day of, it was clear if a thunderstorm could fire in the area – It had a chance.

A warm front stretched from Grand Rapids to the ENE towards the thumb, with wind coming from the NE and a cold front to the west. It was your classic cold core setup with a potential for low topped supercells – Not only a Michigan specialty, but my forecasting specialty considering I’ve had to deal with them for backyard chases for years. A cell fired near Grand Rapids, and became Severe Thunderstorm Warned in Ionia Co. It began to form a nice hook echo, so I left Saginaw Twp. and began heading SW to Ashley, MI. While driving, weaker cells fired to the east of the main cell, causing the cell to basically collide into showers and weaken. It was a punch in the gut – I’m limited to my terrain this year after leaving my job (which has made me a much happier person overall, but is HORRIBLE if you live for severe weather), so I was feeling the 2014 blues like many others have felt even out in the plains.

As I began to head back home, I was driving along M-57 when I noticed something as I came out of the rain – The updraft lived. ..And it was growing again – At an alarming rate. A few miles down the road I opened up Radarscope to find rotation building within the cell, and knowing the area better than probably any other person who lives in the state – I knew exactly where I needed to head – Just south of my hometown.

While heading east and getting into Saginaw County, I could see the storm gaining strength as I drove parallel to it along M-57 – Watched the base get lower, the downdraft/rain strengthen, and the velocities climb higher on radar. Originally I was planning on heading for a spot I’ve sat before for  many cells, Fordney and Brant Rd. – Open country to the west with a clear view. I turned north on Hemlock Rd. and got a few miles down the road before one look at the base velocity scan of what was in front of me made me realize I needed to get just a bit more east..So I turned down Gary Road…Potentially a move that either saved my life, or prevented me from getting some INCREDIBLE footage. Can’t look back now.

Wall Cloud Formation along M-57

Wall Cloud Formation along M-57

As I began east, the wall cloud was right beside me, rotating very nicely and tried coming down maybe 3/4 of a mile north of me. As I got into trees, I lost my visual on the beginning stages of the  tornado touching down at Raucholz and Marion Roads.  While I lost my visual, the cell turned more to the NE, likely aiding the inflow and also wrapping quite a bit more rain around. I moved to east all the way to Gasper Road knowing the roadhole ahead of me that would be the Shiawassee Wildlife Refuge – I’d later regret this move, as I should of just went north on M-52 to Fergus, but it’s over now. I turned down Gasper and moved north to Fergus, and watched the cell unleash it’s murky rainwrapped ugliness on my hometown of less than 3,000 people.

Perspective SE of the cell

Perspective SE of the cell

At this point I called the NWS Detroit office, knowing I was probably the only one who had a visual on the rotating wall cloud and what was happening, so I made a report – Not seeing the tornado that was invisible, but clearly seeing rain curtains rotating around the southern flank of the storm. From there, I moved east more, jogging north on Bishop Rd to Fry, and later to M-13 to watch the rotation weaken. So much moisture at the low levels made this an extremely hard to see storm, which is extremely common in Michigan. The velocity couplet had weakened significantly at this point, so I began to head north back into Saginaw.

Editted picture to show main circulation after tornado lifted. Along Fergus Rd.

Clarified/contrasted shot showing main circulation after tornado lifted. Along Fergus Rd.

After my called with the NWS, I was on the phone with Ahmad Bajjey who is a friend and meteorologist with NBC25, and also the other mets at the station. They confirmed there may be some damage in St. Charles, so I made the trek back to town knowing any damage was going to be tornadic. I maneuvered my way around the path, stopping on Ring Road on both sides of the damage before helping assist with debris removal of the road so the fire department could get through both ways and continue their house-to-house check on everyone.

The National Weather Service came out on Thursday to do a storm survey, finding EF1 damage just south of the intersection of – You guessed it, Fordney and Brant Roads…where a garage was removed from a house. That house actually belonged to a girl I went to school with, who I also worked with at the Meijer store in Shields a year or so later. Shannon and her son were inside the house and made it through OK thankfully. The tornado had a path length of 5 miles long by 300 yards wide, initially touching down near Raucholz Rd. just south of Marion Rd., and heading NE just south of the village and lifting somewhere near Sharon Rd. Luckily, there was only one non-serious injury involved with the tornado.

Southern side of Ring Rd. showing damage path to SW

Southern side of Ring Rd. showing damage path to SW

Ring Rd. damage looking E towards Oakley Rd.

Ring Rd. damage looking E towards Oakley Rd.

Ring Rd. damage looking W from Oakley Rd.

Ring Rd. damage looking W from Oakley Rd.

May 20th 2014 Supercell over Chicagoland

Heading into this week with a ton of distractions in my real life, this day was a much needed escape. I’d been seeing the event come in the models from days out, knowing it would be a relatively large event throughout the Great Lakes region. Due to weak winds and shear, there was not much of a tornado threat in the region; but numerous supercells popped up from western Iowa to Michigan and eastern Ohio.

I picked up a local friend around 1pm here in Saginaw, and we began traveling across the state to the southwest corner, eventually stopping in Schoolcraft for a while to see if any cells would fire off the lake as some models hinted at. While towers did go up, nothing came of them, so we continued the trip. It was roughly 6 when we left the area to continue heading SW, getting into the southeastern side of Chicago with plenty of time to wait for the right cells to move into town. We continued west on I-80 until we reached I-294, following that to the north until we hit US-12 to intercept the first cell, which had fired when we were halfway through the jog through Indiana across I-94.

Initial storm heading into Oak Lawn, IL (cell phone picture as camera was dead)

Initial storm heading into Oak Lawn, IL (cell phone picture as camera was dead)

While the cell closed in on us, I grabbed my camera only to realize i had left it on and completely drained the battery…Luckily the charger was in my bag, so I popped into my power outlet in the Nitro and began charging. The cell had 1″ size hail just across the road, yet we missed out nearly all of it. The cloud had an elevated base that we were watching, but as it crept closer it began to shrink. A quick peak at radar showed another monster just behind it producing straight line wind damage near Aurora, and quickly swallowing our cell. I made the decision to head south and move into position on that cell at this point, so after figuring out the roads a little bit we headed a few miles to our southwest.

My location circled in black.. Radar grab stolen from Adam Lucio while he was on I-80 - aerostorms.com - facebook.com/tornadochasing

My location circled in black.. Radar grab stolen from Adam Lucio while he was on I-80 – Find his awesome work @ aerostorms.com – facebook.com/tornadochasing

As the cell got closer to the KLOT (NWS Chicago) radar site, it began to transform from more of a blob into a rotating supercell, and was nearly directly over the radar site. The radar images were actually hiding most of the supercell, as obviously the beam that goes outward cannot measure directly overhead. At this point we could see a VERY well defined lowered base with structure to our WNW, from our vantage point near Tinley Park just north of I-80. The lightning with this cell was PHENOMENAL! At this point it was completely dark and roughly 9:30 central time, so as the mesocyclone got almost overhead, we jumped on I-80 to head east.

Rotating wall cloud near Tinley Park, IL

Rotating wall cloud near Tinley Park, IL

At this point, I realized my data on my phone had COMPLETELY died; leaving me without radar or navigation, so the chase was basically over, but the fun had just begun. Now the hailcore had arrived for me. Heading out of Chicagoland with 2″ hail blasting your vehicle and a great lightning show is the PERFECT way to end a great chase day. We were in the core of 4 lined up supercells for about 120 miles until we got to the MI/IN border. Continuing into Michigan proved fun to, maneuvering around and missing most of the cells while still flying completely blind without radar.

Hoping to straighten things out in life and head back out soon! The fun is just beginning for the Great Lakes region, so stay tuned.

April 29th 2014 Structure Day

This day had a lot of potential in the thumb… Unfortunately the sun came out and sucked all the moisture out of the air, leaving one cell to the north. The storm had some high winds and hail, but was quite a disappointment for what could of been a promising day.

I got out of work and began to head south into the better environment, watching radar to the SW hoping some of the cells that were firing could get going – Towers would go up, drop some moderate rain, and die out. After realizing what was happening, I drove north quickly to the one cell that was doing anything to the northwest. Visibility was not the greatest ahead of the storm, leading to almost no chances to see anything decent. I drove out to the Bay/Midland county lines, only to get pounded by rain, while peaking at radar to see a tiny bit of rotation hidden behind everything.

Approaching the cell near Kawkawlin, MI 4/29/2014

Approaching the cell near Kawkawlin, MI 4/29/2014

I met up with a coworker who followed me in the core near Linwood, where it appeared a lake breeze off the Saginaw Bay ramped up rotation as the cell got closer to the water and began to form a wall cloud. I stopped to get a few shots before watching the storm jump out over the water.

Forming wall cloud near Linwood, MI 4/29/2014

Forming wall cloud near Linwood, MI 4/29/2014

After that, it was another trip down the road to make sure it didn’t drop a waterspout, which didn’t happen. From there, it was time to simply take in the structure, and think about the wasted environment to the SE and what the cell would of done had it actually been where I’d of liked it to….But that’s not up to me.

Structure as the storm heads out over the Saginaw Bay, 4/29/2014

Structure as the storm heads out over the Saginaw Bay, 4/29/2014

Structure as the storm heads out over the Saginaw Bay, 4/29/2014

Structure as the storm heads out over the Saginaw Bay, 4/29/2014

Structure as the storm heads out over the Saginaw Bay, 4/29/2014

Structure as the storm heads out over the Saginaw Bay, 4/29/2014

April 12th 2014 Bow Echoes across So./Mid Michigan

April 12th was a day that should of never produced the storms it did, but with the strength of the warm front draped across Lower Michigan, along with the large temperate gradient and tiny amount of instability, it did. Two severe storms fired on the west side of the state producing small bow echo cells. One traveled from north of Grand Rapids to roughly Ithaca before fizzling out, followed by a much more dominant cell that produced numerous reports of damage across much of lower Michigan.

The ingredients for severe weather were quite lacking if you simply looked at some of the basic ingredients. With a step outside or quick glance at the thermometer with temps in the upper 40’s, it looked pretty dismal north of M-21. The warm front resided somewhere between M-21 and M-46, with a large temperature gradient from the upper 30’s near Houghton Lake and Mio, to mid 40’s in the Tri-Cities, to almost 60 south of Lansing. A band of rain with some unorganized cells began to move from Wisconsin across Lake Michigan, and despite the ice still cover much of the lakes, storms became more organized and moved near Muskegon.

At this point I was still full of doubt on whether it would even be worth moving south to see if things picked up. As the first cell moved closer, it went severe warned so I began the trip west. I ended up between Alma and Ithaca to the west for the first cell, which was very elevated but a welcomed sight after the long, hard winter!

Elevated cell W of Ithaca, MI

Elevated cell W of Ithaca, MI

While watching the initial cell fizzle out and drop some pea size hail on me, I was watching radar back to the west and watching the dominant cell get larger and larger. I jumped out of the rain and headed south into Clinton County, just to take the brunt of was coming. I wasn’t expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised with what was coming for me. I positioned just south of St. Johns in a shopping district watching the cell gain strength before finally heading west out in to farmland. Little did I know this would be one of the best boring events I’ve had chasing.

Shelf Cloud W of St. Johns, MI

Shelf Cloud W of St. Johns, MI

 

Damage occurred over much of central and south eastern Michigan. In addition to the damage shown in the video, high tension power lines were knocked down covering I-75 near Grand Blanc, closing the interstate down for almost two full days. Extensive tree and structure damage also hit many areas from Lake Orion and to the southeast.

Some footage in the above video was used on NBC Nightly News on April 13th, 2014.