Storm Chase Report
June 29, 1998
Paul Vincent Craven, AA0PE
The SPC had a medium risk zone out for central and southern Iowa today (6/29/98), and they were certainly right on in their assessment.
I left work in West Des Moines at 12:40 pm and detoured around a lot on construction to go from I35 North to 141 North (Actually an east/west road, but was going north here.) I switched from 141 to Hwy 17 north, and crossed the Des Moines River bridge. Soon afterwards I spotted a rotating wall cloud to my west.
Very quickly I saw two funnels moving on the far side of the wall cloud. By the time I got the video rolling, there was only one small one left. The storm was moving SE at about 40 mph (?) and I was in a bad spot. I try to keep on the south side of a storm, but with the storm headed SE, that was a bad place to be.
Here are two mpeg video clips of the meso as it was approaching me. Video1 (3 meg) and Video2 (4.4 meg). You can see short squat funnels on the far side of the meso just near the precipitation. Unfortunately I did not move fast enough to catch on video the two funnels rotating around each other. It was a pretty cool site!
Out of habit, I kept to the southern side of the meso. Here is a video as it passes over the road where I took the first two videos. There is a nice lighting strike from the middle of the meso. Also note the cars that drive right into it. The storm was moving south east, so I should have been north of the storm instead.
I continued to get pushed far enough south that I had to drive into the core. This is the first time I've been pushed into a core, and in retrospect I wish I had ignored filming the funnels and gotten on the north side of that wall cloud. Here is a video of what it looked like inside the core.
Headed into the core was a very surreal event. I was on the Des Moines river bridge at the time, and saw what looked like a beaded curtain in front of me. I had the camera going, although it wasn't pointed out the car. You can hear the rain slam into the car.
In the core I waited out 60+ mph winds, and turned my car into the wind so it would not rock so bad.
Once the core passed, I tried several directions that were blocked by downed power lines and trees. Finally I headed east which put me just south of Jester Park Golf Course. This is where the wall cloud had passed just minutes earlier.
Many power lines were down, and poles snapped. I found the fold-over feature on my huge 2M antenna useful for passing under low hanging wires.
South of Jester Golf Course were several houses that sustained significant damage. Walls bowed in or blown off. A new garage collapsed. Lots of missing siding and sections of roofs. Near Granger, TV8 showed a duplex with a slab basement that was flattened.
During the big event, I heard the National Weather Service had Omaha go as "full backup". They were even using amateur radio to communicate, as their long-distance phones were down or something.
I took my video by TV8. They ran the rotating wall cloud video and my shot of the precipitation core. I was disappointed they didn't get any of the damage video on air.
Then I was prodded into appearing on-camera to be interviewed about the storm. I didn't particularly want to relate how I'd managed to blunder into the precipitation core! Not to mention my rained on and wind-blown hair didn't look so hot either.
I thought I wasn't that good. I didn't know what camera to look at. But they must have liked it because they wanted me to appear on the 5 pm newscast. Unfortunately I car-pooled that day. I didn't think my wife who's 10 weeks from having a kid would appreciate me stranding her.
So I headed west on I235. I caught a glimpse of a wall-cloud to the west! By the time I got to a good viewpoint it was rain-wrapped, and I could see the white color of heavy hail. This was confirmed by amateur radio reports. I did NOT want to get caught in this storm! I skirted just the edge as I switched from 235 west to I35 south. I took the Norwalk exit to view the storm in safety as it passed.
The picture above was taken from I-35 before I passed into the Norwalk area. Below is a picture I took after I exited I-35 towards Norwalk.
At this exit there was a red Jeep Cherokee with Kansas plates and a dark haired lady taking pictures. Anyone know who this is? I'd love to know what she saw.
I was wise not getting caught in that cell. My wife works where it passed over, and she and her coworkers had an excellent view of a funnel. It was difficult to get back to her office. There was a lot of flooded roads. Below is a picture of me driving through some flooded roads.
East Des Moines got hammered hard. The State Fair grounds received significant damage. Possibly loosing a majority of its trees (bad for hot fairs in August) and part of the grandstand roof. My last picture here is driving home from the office. There is usually just a dry creek that runs through the field. As you can see, it isn't so dry when I took the picture.