April 9 Volatile Day

Saturday, April 18, 2015


Conditions in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa metropolitan area at noon on Thursday, April 9, 2015 were of an eerie sun/light fog mix. Temperature and dew point were both at 55 degrees and humidity was 100%. The photo above, captured at Progress Drive at Martha's Way in Hiawatha, Iowa attests to this. Google Nexus 4 camera.


Further south and three and a half hours later, things were really ramping up. The image above looks west from the SE flank of an approaching tornado-warned cell as seen from Yucca Avenue at Highway 92, about two miles east of Ainsworth, Iowa in Washington County.


This image is a video frame capture and looks southeast from 175th Street, .1-mile east of US Highway 218 in Washington County. Heavy rain and penny size hail with wind from the arrived tornado-warned cell is shown at 4:14 PM CDT.


Looking northeast at the retreating severe weather, this image was captured on 150th Street at Underwood Avenue, .25-mile east of US Highway 218 at 4:40 PM. An especially intense part of the system can be seen at far left. Nikon D5000 DSLR.



This map portion of Washington County plots my spotting positions in the second, third and fourth images above, corresponding to location numbers 1, 2 and 3.

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April 9 Tornado-Warned Cell Panorama

Thursday, April 16, 2015


The above photo is a two-image stitched panorama of a tornado-warned cell as it approached my spotter location on 175th Street, .2-mile east of US Highway 218 in NE Washington County Iowa.
Time and date: 4:05 PM CDT, Thursday, April 9, 2015. The panorama was created in Adobe Bridge. The right portion of the image, which looks NW, contained an intense hail core. The left portion of the cell visible in the image passed over my position, dropping penny size hail with a deluge of rain. Nikon D5000 DSLR.


The radar image shown above corresponds to the photo at top. The white dot indicates my spotter position.

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Still Formidable Up North

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


After the tornado-warned cell had moved past me in east-central Washington County, Iowa on the afternoon of Thursday, April 9, 2015, severe activity was still going on up north. The image above looks northeast at a blackened sky as seen from 150th Street at Underwood Avenue, a quarter-mile east of US Highway 218 and about 3.3 miles southeast of Riverside, Iowa. Time was 4:39 PM CDT.

Also looking ominous was this view at 4:48 PM, seen northbound on US Highway 218, a little over a mile south of the Hills, Iowa exit. The structure in the background is a severe cell located in northern Johnson County and southern Linn County. Nikon D5000 DSLR.

The set of radar images above show the birth of the severe system that moved through southeast Iowa that afternoon. Each box is a one-hour increment of time. The arrow indicates the severe cell I would encounter as it reached Washington County.

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Two-Direction Sky

Monday, April 13, 2015



This was the view looking WSW at 3:40 PM CDT about 2 miles east of Ainsworth, Iowa as a tornado-warned cell invaded the area. I set up my camera in this part of Washington County with only minutes to spare as the sirens sounded almost simultaneously with my arrival. Location here was on Yucca Avenue at Highway 92, a little over a mile east of US Highway 218. Meanwhile, a much more serene vista graced the opposite side of the sky at the same moment (below). Nikon D5000 DSLR.

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Rain, Rain

Saturday, April 11, 2015



An intense cell in the image above, part of an overall tornado-warned system approaches my position at 4:13 pm CDT, Thursday, April 9, 2015. Moments later, a heavy downpour occurred here, including penny size hail. The image looks southwest from 175th Street, about a tenth-mile east of US Highway 218 in Washington County, Iowa. The cell passed directly over me, and was a trailing segment of a much larger and intense cell several miles to the northwest. That cell produced half-dollar size hail.


This image looks directly west from the same position as the top photograph and shows the area at 4:30 PM, less than ten minutes after hail fell here. The intersection with US Highway 218 can be seen in the distance. The location is about 5.6 miles southeast of Riverside, Iowa.

The radar image above corresponds to the timing of the very top image. My spotter's position is indicated by a white dot. The circled area is the approaching storm cell. The arrow shows the system's movement. The lavender area to my north clearly shows the more intense hail core. Nikon D5000 DSLR.

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First Significant Eastern Iowa Severe Weather Event Of 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015




Tornado Watch 39 was issued for Eastern Iowa by the SPC just after noon on Thursday, April 9, 2015. Storms near Lamoni, Iowa began to fire up after 1:00 PM CDT and it became obvious if I was to intercept a large cell forming on a ENE track in southern Iowa I would have to leave work early. I left work at 2:15 PM, gathered my gear and headed south from Cedar Rapids on I-380/US Highway 218. I had just about ten minutes to spare as I passed south of the approaching storm in Washington County. The top image above shows my first spotting position, looking west on Yucca Avenue at Highway 92, about one mile east of US Highway 218 and about two miles east of the town of Ainsworth. Tornado sirens were sounding as I captured the photo (3:47 PM). Each photo is accompanied by a corresponding radar screen capture showing the storm's movement and my spotting position (white dot).



The top photo above was captured at 4:05 PM. It looks west at the approaching storm cell from 175th Street, about .2-mile east of US Highway 218 in eastern Washington County. The area was at this time tornado-warned, with a hail core located about 5 miles to the northwest (right in the photo). I rode out the fringe of this hail core and endured only penny size hail (some reports from nearby Washington, Iowa experienced half-dollar size).



The structure in the top image above has the appearance of a wall cloud, and indeed the radar image would seem to confirm that. The photo was captured at 4:28 PM, and looks east from the same location as the middle group of images. Nikon D5000 DSLR.

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Star Captures

Monday, March 30, 2015




The top image is a stacked composite of 86 separate images taken from 8:44-9:30 pm CDT, Saturday, March 28, 2015. Each image is a 30-second exposure at f/5, 200 ISO and 18mm focal length. The camera was allowed to shoot continuously by locking the remote cord to "on." The images looks north along Jordans Grove Road NE of Marion, Iowa. A half-moon and light pollution from the foreground made achieving a dark sky very difficult. The star Polaris can be seen at top center. The middle image is one of the 86 images shot from above. Across the bottom image from left can be seen: the constellations Orion and Taurus, the star cluster Pleiades and the -4.01 magnitude planet Venus. This image was captured at 9:34 pm and is a nine-second exposure at f/5, 800 ISO and 18mm focal length. The horizon glow is from the city of Marion. Air temperature during this time was 32 degrees F with a brisk 25-degree wind chill.

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