August 17, 2017, Thumb-Area Storm Chase

A wall cloud tightens up southeast of Chesaning, Michigan.

I have been chasing storms for twenty-one years. That's a side of me I rarely talk about in this blog. I have another blog, Stormhorn, devoted to that subject and jazz saxophone, but it developed problems with the image gallery that have seemed insurmountable, given the time it would take to fix the mess. Maybe one day, when wealth overtakes me and I don't have to work for a living, I'll repair my Stormhorn blog, as it really is a worthwhile site.

Low-top supercell displaying classic structure.

Right now, though, Fox's World is a fine place to post about my chase last Thursday, August 17, in the Saginaw, Michigan, area. Specifically, I intercepted a low-top supercell in Chesaning and tracked with it to SR 24 just north of Millington Road, south of Mayville--a distance of fifty miles and roughly two and a quarter hours of chasing, not including all the driving it took to first intercept the storm.

Weather weenies, particularly those who live in Michigan, will appreciate that an isolated, photogenic supercell that displays such classic structure, as opposed to a rain-wrapped mess, is rare in this state. Echo tops maxed out around thirty thousand feet--hardly a towering supercell but obviously one with enough of the right stuff to make for

Watching the storm south of Mayville with fellow Michigan-based chaser Chuck Russell.

an interesting chase. Moisture, bulk shear, low-level helicity, and instability came together sufficiently to create an organized storm with impressively rotating wall clouds, funnels, and eventually, a weak tornado in Kingston.

Oddly (well, I thought it was quite odd), this storm didn't produce a solitary lightning strike during its long career from its inception by Alto to the point where I dropped the chase south of Mayville. Just twelve miles from there as the crow flies, the storm went tornadic. At the time, though, as I watched with fellow chaser Chuck Russell by the side of SR 24, the supercell began to look anemic visually (though inflow still was decent) and all but dead on radar. It had been cycling all along its 110-mile course, powering up and then down, up and down, but this time

Nice, steamy-looking wall cloud with clear slot wrapping in.

I figured it was just a matter of time before it tanked completely, and I had a long drive back home to Hastings ahead of me. So I decided to can the chase.

"Of course, now it'll tighten up and drop a tube," I told Chuck as I left. Ha, ha, ha.

That's exactly what happened.

But I'm not complaining. Catching a tornado in Michigan is largely a matter of serendipity--not to detract from the skill and persistence it took for one chaser to get footage of the Kingston tornado, but then, so did a housewife who got the best video clip I've seen by simply stepping out of her back door and capturing the thing on her smart phone.

If you want to see the actual motion of the storm--and I recommend that you do--see my YouTube video at the very bottom of this post. It features chase highlights including a funnel cloud, structure shots, and close-up of a dramatically rotating wall cloud.

Evening sky after the storm.

Storm chasing is therapeutic for me. It both energizes and relaxes me; few things make me feel so alive as chasing storms, and this slow-moving supercell--moving in the neighborhood of 20 mph--was easy and fun to track with. Short of seeing a tornado, I couldn't have asked for more.

The sky on my journey home was a canvas of sunset colors, of vanilla custard cumuli transfigured by the sunset, sailing like tall ships in the blue-ocean troposphere. Behind me, a magnificent double rainbow arched over the east. I leave you with its image as a closing salute.

A rainbow arching across the eastern sky in in Michigan's thumb provides a beautiful conclusion to an enjoyable storm chase.