4/12/14 – Today was a day that had looked halfway decent on the computer models in regards to chances for storms for a few days prior to the event. As the time drew nearer, I began having some higher hopes that we’d see some pretty good storms around here. The WRF-NMM was being the most bullish, showing strong thunderstorms training across lower Michigan. As it would turn out, the WRF-NMM would come to be correct. Sometimes it’s that one, lone computer model that nails a forecast, while all of the others are out to lunch. Slowly but surely, the atmospheric parameters came together to create some great severe weather potential. The SPC had issued a 5% risk for hail and wind. 0% for tornadoes despite the somewhat favorable wind shear values which were conductive to a few rotating updrafts. One of which I was on. There are 3 sets of footage, so be sure to keep scrolling after viewing the first batch of media.
Storm #1: The Supercell
The first cell of the day was riding the warm front, and was largely elevated at the beginning. Once it came on shore, a couple of cells merged with it, and it began to tap the instability at the surface as well. It went through a few transitions. Out west of me before the cell merger happened, it was mostly just a shelfy looking cloud base. But as it moved eastward, it began to rotate periodically. It kept recycling as it pressed eastward. I was able to time lapse it’s broadly rotating cloud base. Most people still thought this was a shelf cloud. But there are a few issues with this notion. The first, and most obvious giveaway, is the broad rotation that this feature had. Shelf clouds don’t rotate. Secondly, this was a single cloud base (as you will see in the video and photos below). Shelf clouds typically occur out ahead of the precipitation, and extend for miles. Shelf clouds also have a whale’s mouth feature that can be seen on the backside of the cloud itself. This cloud base did not have that, and maintained the stacked plate sort of look, and formed a solid, rain free base as it moved east. The mesocyclone was also developing a tail cloud coming into it from the direction of the precip core. So there’s no doubt, this was definitely supercellular, and wind fields at the time were more than supportive of such a feature, as winds curved with height. Radar also indicated rotation for a lengthy amount of time. Below you will see time lapse video of this storm, and also several photos. You will note some changes in color etc in the images. That is due to me using two cameras at once. I chased this storm on some of the most horrible dirt roads you could imagine between Sidney, MI and Sheridan, MI. So thankful I drive a Ford F-250! A large branch actually fell as I was driving, and hit the side of my truck, leaving big scratches, and it folded my mirror in also.
Storm #2: The Hail Producer
After the first storm had come and gone, a second storm was poised to move through the area, and it was bigger. It also had a very well defined precipitation core. Definitely an HP storm. As it moved eastward, it too showed rotation signatures on radar. There were even a couple of funnel cloud reports near Sheridan, MI. I actually saw one of the clouds that people had reported. There was a bit of rotation, and the cloud was cone shaped and hanging lower than the cloud base itself. But due to trees, I didn’t have good enough visibility to know for sure. So I kept driving east to get out ahead of this storm, so I could time lapse it as well. This storm wouldn’t be as structurally impressive as the first one, but for what it lacked in looks, it made up for in what it produced. Hail, and lots of it. I was missed by the worst of the hail, as it occurred further west of my location. However, I did get some light accumulations of pea to peanut M&M size hail. As I drove back west, I noticed the hail had accumulated (quite a bit in spots) so I pulled over in several areas to get photos and videos. Below you will see the time lapse and hail video from storm #2. Below that you will see some images from that storm also. There is also a funnel looking cloud in one of my images below.
I got a call about storm damage that had occurred back to my west with the storms earlier in the day. Trees and power lines down, also some structure damage. With about an hour before sunset, I set off to go document the damage in the Kent City, MI area. There was quite a bit of damage to be discovered, but I ran out of daylight before I could find it all and document it. Below in the video and photos, you will see damage to the Ford dealer in Kent City, fencing blown down, trees down, a power pole leaning, lines down, shingles ripped off, and an awning blown down. Winds were estimated to be around 75-80mph in that area.