Nov 17, 2013 Severe Weather Outbreak, White County, Indiana EF-2 Tornado

November severe weather. How often does that happen? Not much for full outbreaks. This is an account of my adventure into a rare High risk severe weather outlook in mid-November.

We left from Mount Pleasant at 7am Sunday, dark and early. The air was cool, but a warmer wind blew as I crossed the parking lot with 4 items under my arms and on my back. Two cameras, a tripod, backpack with instruments, and a laptop. Our destination was unknown at the time. We had a goal to reach South Bend, IN as this was a reasonable distance to travel and still be within an area of elevated severe chances. We went through all sorts of data on the trip down. It all gets overwhelming and at some point you just need to let it happen.

We took a pit stop at a BK. Kevin and Bryan take notes on current conditions before heading further south.

We took a pit stop at a BK. Kevin and Bryan take notes on current conditions before heading further south.

We reached South Bend and carried on. At this time, storms were firing in central Illinois. We stopped at a fast food restaurant and used some stronger Wifi. About this time the Peoria, IL storm was really cranking up. The storm showed strong structure and looked to remain on a fixed path towards Chicago. Things could go sour fast. This was the EF-4 tornado that affected Washington, IL, carving a large scar through a populated area. From our current spot, we had no chance in intercepting this storm as some of these were moving to the northeast as fast as 60 mph! As we went south, wooded areas became fields with only pockets of trees.

From the NWS in Chicago, IL. Note the cell that has a hook-echo signature near Peoria, IL and continues NE where it impacted Washington, IL as an EF-4.

As we traveled south, the area of storms started to fill in from single cells, to a uniform line. This was bad news if seeking tornadoes. Usually large and strong tornadoes spawn from single power-hungry supercells so they have no neighbors to compete for energy, or be bothered by outflow winds. A line of storms meant winds would be straight and not possibly rotating, thus little chance at a tornado. The line directly to our west was filling in to just be severe thunderstorm level winds and heavy rains. We had a new goal of intercepting a cell coming from Champaign, IL. The cell had exhibited rotation from central Illinois, and had been tornado warned earlier.

We continued to race south on I-65. Towards central Indiana, 65 starts slightly curving to the east so that it goes trough Lafayette, IN. This bought us some time and we found ourselves immersed in a large wind farm. We exited I-65 at  the SR-18 interchange. There we sat for about a half hour to assess storm motion. Looking at the storm, we noted the good structure had diminished and it could just form into a line of high winds instead. Storms moving through Lafayette were looking enticing, but there was no way we would make it down there in time. So this was it. We made our way back towards the interchange and sat pointed west, awaiting our prize.

Turbines lined the road in front of us. These closest ones were the last to disappear in front of our eyes.

Turbines lined the road in front of us. These closest ones were the last to disappear in front of our eyes.

Being in a large wind farm, we could see turbines disappearing in the heavy rain as the line approached. We enjoyed that as entertainment, helping heal the wound of not finding a tornado after a long travel. It traveled quickly. One turbine gone, and then the next. Then the wall of rain and wind hit us.  It immediately reminded me of hurricane videos. My ears popped from pressure change, which was really weird when you are used to that happening changing altitude. Rain was being whipped around in sheets and you could see no further then 10 feet in front of our car. Grass was mimicking the behavior as it was whipped around. This was probably enhanced by the lack of any large objects to block the wind. The wind was traveling over clean and flat farmland for acres in our W and SW direction. It quickly became frightening. Although it didn’t seem much different from a squall line in Michigan. Some other things suddenly became realized.


I looked down to my phone with the current radar displayed. We had underestimated the storm’s strength and organization due to poor storm velocity data outside of radar range. This is called range folding. Range folding is purposefully put in place on weather radar to prevent having a false signal reported, so it helps accuracy within reliable ranges. We decided to set up shop in a spot of ambiguity between two nearby radar sites. This is a big no-no as we had virtually been blind.

After a moment of panic in the car with the suddenness of wind and blinding rain, it quickly got worse. New radar scans came in and the velocity image showed a spot of rotation making its way straight for our area. The signature was not a strong tight rotation typically associated with tornadoes, but given the environment we were in, there could be a rain-wrapped tornado on track to us.Fear continued to sink in.
This is NOT how you chase/spot/report severe weather.


Our location, marked by a yellow cross, with reflectivity, velocity, spectrum width, and rotation radar overlays. CLICK for ANIMATION and larger.

Winds seemed to calm a bit, I could see further out the side window, at least the field  to the north 20 yards away. We discussed the ears popping and how much the pressure needed to change for that to happen. We had Kestrel devices with us, so we could check that later. At this point we were furiously waiting for radar scans to come in and keep us updated. The winds began to increase again. They got stronger then when the storm began. Rain caused a complete whiteout and I could no longer see anything out of the window, front or sides.


Lighting was quick, bright, and frequent. The car began rocking like a boat. Sharp clatter prompted Bryan to call to duck our heads. Debris began a migration across the road in front and behind us, maybe even over us. Lots of twisted sheet metal tumbled by like pieces of paper. Then, it was done.


A car drove through behind the wall of rain, like some sheep dog corralling a heard. Sheet metal continued to carry on a path across the road from south to north. Pieces lined a wire fence nearby. We waited for remaining lightning to stop while rear flank winds licked at our car. Once it was safe, we emerged and checked the car. No damage at all. The van that had been behind us checked on us and drove on, wiping his arm across his forehead with relief. Mammatus filled the sky as the system moved out. We could also make out a beaver tail of clouds flanking the storm.

We got very lucky. Once things calmed down, I called a report of a possible rain-wrapped tornado to the National Weather Service in Indianapolis (we were actually in Northern Indiana’s forecast area, but they forwarded the report). We found other evidence when investigating to the southwest. A few barns had been destroyed and a roof removed from a house. Photos can be found in this Flickr album.


With the Canon 6D, all of my photos were geotagged. This made it easy to document where we were relative to the damage we found, and to further report to the NWS.

Example of some photos geotagged to a map in Lightroom. Very handy to have for documentation!

Example of some photos geotagged to a map in Lightroom. Very handy to have for documentation!

The National Weather Service in Northern Indiana confirmed a EF-2 tornado with max wind speeds of 125mph near our location. You can read the full writeup including more maps and radar imagery on their event summary page, which included 15 tornadoes from EF-0 to EF-2 across their forecast area alone!


Again, we were super fortunate to drive away from this. There is so much to pour over and be thankful for. Witnessing the damage done by these storms is shocking, and I can’t imagine what places like Washington, Illinois looks like first hand. My thoughts go to those who have lost all.

Other sites with storm review:


Some track maps were released earlier Friday and the picture is a bit clearer where the exact path went, just across a field south of our position at the I-65 and 18 interchange.


May 28 Southeastern Michigan Tornadoes

A warm front passing through the region triggered some morning/early afternoon thunderstorms across lower Michigan on Tuesday. These storms quickly organized into some linear squall lines with mainly heavy rain, wind, and frequent lightning. Heading into the early evening hours, more discrete storms emerged and tracked eastward. Like flicking a light switch, as soon as these storms crossed an invisible line just east of US-127, the storms started to exhibit rotation on radar and weather spotters on the ground confirmed these cases. I’d like to look into this case further as what triggered these storms to rotate all of a sudden, as it was visible in at least 2 of these storms.

Submitted to NWS.

National Weather Service survey crews from Detroit/Pontiac had their work cut out for them early Wednesday as they investigated damage across Shiawassee and Genesee counties.

Tornado findings by NWS DTX.

More information found by the survey crews can be found here, as well as map/track overlays with EF scale rating.

Interestingly enough, no watches were issued for SE Michigan Tuesday. The only Michigan inclusive watch was a Severe Thunderstorm Watch issued in the extreme SW corner for a developing squall line with severe rated winds coming out of the Chicago area. Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center out of Norman, OK. Warnings are the most important for public safety, but dangerous weather lead time provided by watches is always good to have.

I typically update my Facebook page frequently, as well as twitter, however the best ways to keep updated about storms in your area is to check out local news stations and NOAA Weather Radio. If you are not in any immediate danger, looking up the hashtag #miwx on twitter will also prove fruitful for Michigan weather sightings and damage. This can be adjusted by state by just changing the two letter abbreviation. County police/fire scanners are also a great option, these are usually available online.

Severe Weather Tips

As daylight becomes longer and temperatures get warmer, we move into our yearly cycle of weather changes. Snowstorms become rain and thunderstorms, and there is plenty to take note of as we head into another year of severe weather.

As produced by National Weather Service offices around Michigan, April 7-13 is Severe Weather Awareness week!

Earlier in March, I was remembering the unique events that launched Spring 2012 into a craze. We had record temps into the 80s, and multiple tornadoes tear across eastern Michigan. It was a very interesting start to the year, and it kept you on your toes for forecasting and figuring out just what the heck is going on up there! While Spring 2013 is moving in like a lamb, that lion could be waiting right around the corner, and being prepared is a priority.

Greg’s Tips for Severe Weather

NOAA Weather Radio
This is the single most valuable thing you can have for warning during a stormy day! We absorb weather through many sources these days; internet, TV, radio, word of mouth. When the winds start brewing and the power goes out, many of these reliable sources are cut down. Even if you have a backup generator, chances are your media services(internet/cable TV) will not be powered in your area. Having a battery-powered weather radio can keep you up to the minute warnings and weather information. The warning signal usually beats web updates by a few minutes as well. Weather Radios are also a hero at night if the house is asleep and dangerous weather is near. Keep them charged with batteries nearby!

Know Your Surroundings
This goes along great with the weather radio. While forecasters may get as specific as calling out road names and cities where the storms are near, you should also know the County names surrounding your location. Storms typically move West to East, sometimes SW to NE, sometimes NW to SE. Bottom line, know where you are relative to where the storm is. If you think a dangerous storm is going to miss you, do not take it for granted. Supercell thunderstorms are known to waver on path, and sometimes can change direction. Be prepared for anything!

Skywarn Classes (
These are great chances to learn about weather a little more in detail, and refined to severe weather scenarios. They are free, and usually run by a few forecasters from your local NWS office. That means they are run by the folks that track and watch for storms on a daily basis and know what to look for. You will go over everything from how to report weather threats to authorities, to determining if that ominous dark cloud is a wall cloud or shelf cloud(important!). Usually there is a great Spotter’s Field Guide that is handed out for quick reference, there is an online PDF version available here. Once you have learned this material, you become a very valuable resource to forecasting as you are an eye witness to the weather in your area. As useful as that is, always make sure your safety is first! NEVER put yourself in danger to get a report.

Know Your Clouds
As mentioned previously, knowing the difference between clouds can mean loads for the weather to expect. Low flying scud could prompt you to call it a wall cloud(precursor to tornadoes), but is that cloud rotating as well? Is is attached to the base of cloud above it? How about those shelf clouds that take up the entire horizon? Much of this is detailed in the Skywarn classes, but this is something that can help you out in a fix, and impress others.

Wall Cloud SE of Mount Pleasant, MI

Example of a wall cloud just SE of CMU campus back in May 2011.

Heed Warnings
“Yea, that storm is way far from my house, I don’t need to pay attention.” Always take note of Watches/Warnings. Along those lines, know the difference between a Watch and a Warning.

Severe Thunderstorm Watches and Tornado Watches mean conditions in the atmosphere are favorable for that type of weather to develop, so be ready for storms later in the day, or within the next couple hours.

Severe Thunderstorm Warnings and Tornado Warnings mean a severe storm has been spotted/identified, and is tracking along the specified path.  Take appropriate action immediately if you are in the track of the storm.

Watches = be ready for storms soon/later in the day
Warnings = take action immediately if you are identified in the path of a storm

A disclaimer I must make about the blog; Greg’s Weather Blog is not a good source for immediate severe weather forecasting! Please do not rely on this page for up to the minute information on storms! Head to for that, and type in your Zip Code to find yourself quickly and any Watches/Warnings that are in effect.

Take care out there!

Dexter Township Emergency Sirens

About a week ago, I noticed a few new additions to the side of Dexter Township roads. Sirens. Thought nothing of it while driving pass, then I spotted another, and another. Turns out it didn’t take long for preparations to get under way after an EF-3 Tornado went through part of Dexter, MI this past spring.

Whelen WPS-2910 located at North Territorial and Lombardy Dr (#5 on map)

Went out to take a look at a Whelen WPS-2910 at North Territorial and Lombardy Dr (#5 on map)

The siren placement is pretty extensive and should offer a great coverage for the many residential communities in the area. The proclaimed 70dB level will hover just above normal conversation volume, enough to get your attention and administer action.

Dexter Township insert of siren locations.

Dexter Township insert of siren locations.


The site at has been updating on the progress of the siren installation. As of December 13th, “The warning sirens are starting to go up throughout Dexter Township and testing may begin soon.”

If you haven’t searched for tornado sirens on YouTube, you are missing out on a very interesting group of people who love tracking these noise-makers down, filming their weekly/monthly tests. I enjoy a good eerie tone of siren tests now and then, but you must have a good ear to tell them apart! I found a sample of what they should sound like: