August 8, 2009: Plymouth, MN (Minneapolis Metro)

Joel Lampe, Kevin K, and myself targeted south central Minnesota on what was looking like one of the better days for tornadoes that MN has had this year. A big supercell formed in the morning in SD and trekked along I-90, and fearing it was going to mess up the day and be the only show, we started to head for it at 2 PM from Minneapolis. We met in the SW metro and left my car in Eden Prairie and took Joel's car on the chase. I'm telling you this for a reason.

As we got near the storm by Redwood Falls, it dramatically died out into nothing in what seemed like less than a hours. Little shower-like storms we going up to the north and northweat back towards Minneapolis, so we followed them thinking the day may already be shot. Each storm that tried to go out struggled due to the cap (warm mid level temperatures). By 5 PM we were back in the SW metro parked on the second story of a park and ride lot in order to make sure nothing else happened. By 6 PM, we were ready to throw in the towel and head home. After Joel started his car, something in his power steering system went pop. We called for a tow truck and sat watching various storms try to go up overhead. Byran Howell was working the non-event at the nearby NWS office, and graciously came to pick me up and take me to my car which was only about 5 miles away at this point. The tow truck took Joel's car to the predetermined dealership at I-394 and I-494 in Minnetonka, very far from where Joel lives and not ideal.

We filled out some paperwork at the service department and browsed the cash for clunkers. The struggling storm just to the west looked like it was starting to becoming possibly impressive. So what the hey, it's only a few miles away, and we have my (Tony's) car now to go in. Well, once we pulled out of the dealership, down the street we saw a huge wall cloud on the storm! And we had been sitting there putzing around! The time was roughly 8:30 PM. We took off after the storm down 394 / Hwy 12, and had to turn away from it and come back. At 8:43 we saw a tornado about 2 miles north of the dealership! Without the breakdown and getting towed to that dealership, we wouldn't have seen it. Either because we would have gone home, been at a service garage far away, or because we would have been stuck with the chasers still out taking the expected roadways and getting stopped by a road closed detour. We got plain lucky that the storm came to us.

Following is video of tornado around 8:43 PM in Plymouth, MN. The video started with driving east on Hwy 12/ I-394 after doing a U-Turn as the storm quickly approached. The next segment is of the tornado at I-494 and Country Rd 6 interchange next to the Home Depot:

Video grabs:

Joel's car getting towed while the storm goes up in the background:

The tornado less than an hour later:

Our location in the metro and the angle of the tornado. Note we were only about 5 miles from my home after driving more than 150 miles this day!

It was almost dark at this point, and we chased it up 94 and down 694 but couldn't see anything due to the darkness, and called it off. We stopped at KSTP and dropped off our video, and Joel did some on camera ionterviews for about 45 minutes. Due to this, we missed an amazing lightning show. But never fear, here are some great pictures of it:

Animation of lightning by Bill Doms

Return to the chases of 2009
- Tony Perkins