I can't stand "wait and see" days. The potential for this day was so cold then rapidly red hot was
ridiculous. A low in eastern South Dakota / southwestern Minnesota draped a warm front over the
central part of Minnesota. Clouds to the south of the front and ongoing showers/storms to the
north looked to be a deal killer. About 3pm everything began to change. Rapidly.
Sat around home getting some work done while keeping an eye on conditions and watching the warm front try
to lift into southern MN while fighting a residual outflow boundary to the north from earlier convection.
The kink in the warm front just to my west/southwest was
interesting as the orientation would allow a cell to latch on
pretty easily and ride the boundary to the north/notheast
directly in front of the surface low.
By go time, the warm front was really sharp. I liked Cedar
Mills, MN in far southern Meeker county. Shot John Wetter a
text to see if he was going to head out. His pick was Olivia MN
I think so it seemed we were on the same page. Out the door!
Went back into the SPC's event archive to find some data on the day. The sig
tor index was about as high as we see it up here and ended up being spot on.
|Like shooting fish in a barrel this day once everything came together.
This is the actual skew-t from the 19z special launch NWS MPX did. One thing I look for on tornado days on either model generated
soundings or better yet, real time data, is the tell tale kink in the hodograph. You can have a long, sweeping hodo, but if you look back
at many of the significant tornado days, that kink is present.
About 4 pm it was evident the threat was very real and a cell was sputtering to develop on that kink in the warm front about 10 miles west of
Cedar Mills, MN so out the door we went. Cailyn and I stopped in Litchfield, MN at the Holiday station for gas and something to drink. On our
way out, the clerk said "Hope you stay out of the rain!". The statement made Cailyn giggle and little did the clerk know that in about 20 minutes
the town would take a glancing blow from an EF2 tornado. After chatting with Devyn Drufke on the phone on the way out of town and
commenting about how quickly the wind fields were organizing in the storm despite it's lack of an impressive precip radar signature, we set up
about 7 miles southwest of Litchfield on the east side of the storm.
|5:03 pm. The red dot indicates our position on Meeker highway 1. The precip wasn't as bad the radar makes it appear.
|5:08 pm. Here comes the hook! The red dot still indicates our position. I knew highway 1 would give us a good north option.
|5:13 pm. And here comes the warning. This thing looked impressive and the cloud base rotation was extremely strong.
One quick shot of the wall cloud rapidly tightening up and the rear flank downdraft coming in around the left side. From this point on, it was run
and gun all the way to Saint Cloud as the tornadoes started to drop.
5:26 pm still on Meeker 1. Just behind the wall cloud about 3 miles south/southwest of Litchfield MN. Note the prominent vertical cut almost
right overhead. 11mm shot. This will produce the EF2 tornado in less than 5 minutes.
|5:19 pm about 5 miles south of Litchfield MN. LARGE rapidly rotating wall cloud just to our west/northwest.
Now things were getting crazy. I made the decision to bypass Litchfield on the east side as I wasn't sure where in town the tornado was and
what my roads options would be to continue north if there was debris. All video frames from here on out.
|5:32 pm Tornado in progress in the northwest side of the city.
|5:35 pm Lots of local residents out watching it. Good news is no one was blocking the roads or driving in a dangerous manner.
|5:36 pm 650th Ave and US 12 looking west northwest as the tornado is just clearing Litchfield.
After zig-zagging our way north and seeing only intermittent obvious touchdowns, the tornado planted hard again. Video looking northwest from
about 3 miles south of Watkins, MN. 5:55 pm.
|5:57 pm. Tornado just heading into Watkins, MN. Looking northwest from CR17 just east of town.
|5:53 pm heading north about 4 miles south of Watkins, MN. Hard to say if down or not. Here comes the hills and trees of central Minnesota.
|Pretty sickening feeling. 5:58 pm. About a 1/2 mile east of Watkins, MN.
|Tornado exiting Watkins MN. Shot six tenths of a mile north of MN 55 on Balsam Ave looking northwest.
|6:03 pm. Still had brief vorticies fully condensing to the ground under the fully occluded wall cloud.
6:05 pm a couple of miles northeast of Watkins looking west/northwest from 123rd Ave. Ground contact was really broad and weak now.
6:11 pm about 4 miles south of Rockville MN looking due west. Originally I had though this to be the tornado reported south/southest of
Pleasant Lake but the time stamp of the photo vs the LSR doesnt match up quite right Stayed on the storm through St Cloud but had obviously
moved off the warm front as it looked cold and scuddy. Dropped back south to two other tornado warned cells but never saw anything of
interest. Amazing how quickly people stepped up to help clean up. I called the Watkins city hall on the morning of Wednesday the 13th and the
lady said she thought they were good and would have everything totally cleaned up by the end out the week. Good neighbors helping each