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.