May 13th, 2014 Chase

The day started out like any other weekday … work.

After checking the latest NAM run before going to bed the night before, I decided it would be a good idea to set my alarm a few hours earlier than normal so that I could get my work done in the morning and chase in the afternoon. Couldn’t have worked out better.

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The SPC Outlook and 13Z HRRR run was looking quite good. The HRRR showed a nice line of storms extending from Sarnia to north of Walkerton between 5 and 6PM, so I decided that I would head to the Milverton area, re-assess the situation and adjust accordingly. I loaded up the truck and hit the road at about 12:30, taking the 401 out to Highway 12 just outside Woodstock. I chose to take a more southerly route in case I needed to adjust further west.. I had plenty of time to spare anyway.

Just after getting off the 401, something in the back of my head told me to stop and take a look at the latest HRRR and radar data, so I pulled into the TA Truck Stop and had a look. A nice line of storms was forming over Eastern Michigan and tracking NE out into Lake Huron. I was a bit concerned about the cold lake weakening or killing them altogether, as that has been the norm lately, but they were holding together quite nicely. It was also clear that I needed to adjust my target further north.

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It was now about 2:40PM and after having a quick bite to eat I headed north towards Listowel, where I would once again re-assess the situation and adjust. After getting stuck behind a bunch of slow traffic, I arrived in Listowel a little over an hour later. I stopped in a Canadian Tire parking lot and noticed that fellow chaser David Chapman was nearby. I didn’t have his number stored in my phone, so I tried sending a text to the number he had set in his SpotterNetwork profile to see what he was up to. In the meantime, I re-checked the radar and HRRR and it was immediately apparent that I needed to head NW along Highway 86. I figured I could get a nice shot of the shelf coming onshore somewhere between Wingham and Lucknow, so without waiting to hear back from David, I hit the road yet again. About a half hour later, I get a message from him saying that I sent the text to his house number (LOL, Sorry buddy!).

It was about 4:30PM as I began to roll through Wingham and the skies to the west were quickly becoming dark. A quick check of the radar showed the squall line was just about to come onshore from Lake Huron. I made a dash south onto a sideroad, turned on my live stream and sat and waited for the shelf to appear… what a beauty it was!

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Mesmerized by the sight of this ground-scraping shelf, It took me a little bit to come back to reality and realize that I really had to get moving if I was to have any chance of staying out of the core. I headed east along dirt concession roads in an attempt to stay ahead of the core. That only worked for so long, however. I managed to stay ahead for a while, but the deteriorating conditions on the dirt roads were slowing me down and ultimately hampered my progress. I did happen to find myself behind Dave Patrick a couple of times, but I don’t think he even noticed I was there, nor did he have his CB on.. haha.
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About 15 minutes later, once I was back on a paved road and able to make better progress, I managed to get out of the heavy precip. I received a call shortly thereafter from friend and fellow chaser, Tom Stefanac. He was “armchair chasing” and let me know about some rotation showing up on the leading edge of the line a few kilometers to my north. I believe that the rotation he was seeing is what turned into the confirmed EF-1 tornado that hit near Mildmay.


Video courtesy of The Weather Network

Based on some reccomendations from Tom, I decided that I would head towards Elmira, then north towards Orangeville to hopefully get some pictures of damage from straight line winds. Ultimately, nothing really materialized and once I headed north from Elmira towards Orangeville, I called it a day and began to head towards home.

All in all, a decent first chase for the season and another 500km on the odometer.
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Also, kudos to Dave Patrick for catching the landspout near Listowel!

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