Remembering the May 25, 2008 Iowa Storm

Thursday, May 24, 2018


Ten years ago a powerful storm tragically blew through the northern part of Iowa, leaving in its wake serious destruction and anguish in the towns of Parkersburg and New Hartford. The .7-mile wide EF5 tornado that impacted the communities was responsible for 7 fatalities in Parkersburg and 2 in New Hartford. The radar image above shows Parkersburg (circled) about five minutes after the tornado entered town (5:00 pm CDT, Sunday, May 25, 2008).


By chance, I was on my way back home to Cedar Rapids with friends following a fishing trip in northeast Minnesota when we happened upon the storm. Our route back home took us across its track, though about an hour and a half following the Parkersburg event. Above, the camera looks southeast while eastbound on US Highway 18, about one mile west of Floyd, Iowa at 6:24 pm. A still-potent looking supercell dominates the background.


A minute later, entering the town of Floyd. The most intense area of the storm at this time was about 53 miles distant.


This image was not previously posted and I pulled it from some of my leftover images. Camera looks due south at 6:28 pm along US Highway 218, just south of 185th Street, and about 1.75-mile northwest of Charles City. The storm clouds here were a trailing line from the main system and about 15 miles distant. Parkersburg was actually located another 20 miles behind it.


Radar screen capture corresponding to the image above it. The target icon at left indicates our vehicle's mobile position, with black arrows pointing to Parkersburg, the closer line of clouds, and the most intense area of the storm system. The white arrows show the storm's track.


6:45 pm. Stopped for gas at the Casey's General Store in Nashua, Iowa. Note the wall of clouds in the eastern sky from the retreating storm. Around 5:20 pm, we were told, patrons and employees alike at this convenience store were forced to seek shelter as the sirens sounded. Later we noted sporadic areas of damage along US Highway 20 near Cedar Falls as we continued home. Kodak Z812 Digital camera.

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Low-light Highlights From May 17

Sunday, May 20, 2018



With ample time to prepare for the crescent moon/Venus conjunction after sunset in Marion, Iowa on the evening of Thursday, May 17, 2018, there were other sky capture opportunities as well. The setting sun creating a blazing vista was one. Above, the sun sets at the tree line near East Robins Road at 8:14 pm CDT, captured as a Aperture Priority setting from a new section of Hampshire Drive in Marion. Official sunset on this day was 8:22 pm.


A zoomed-in 210mm focal length Aperture Priority capture of the same scene a minute later.


Getting into the act in the northwest sky at 8:24 pm was this eastbound jet aircraft and its trailing contrail plume.


8:27 pm. Materializing from the growing darkness but behind a thin veil of clouds was the waxing crescent moon and its conjunction companion, the -3.95 magnitude planet Venus (right).


By 8:48 pm the cloud cover had diminished considerably, allowing the pair to hang majestically over a lighted city landscape with the last fading remnants of the sun's influence still in evidence. Image is a 1/10-second exposure at f/8, 400 ISO and 31mm focal length. Nikon D7200 DSLR camera.

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Video Screen Captures of May 2 Hills Iowa Tornadic Storm

Monday, May 14, 2018


This image and all the images below are all video screen captures from 7:47-7:52 pm CDT, Wednesday, May 2, 2018, taken from the Casey's General Store in Hills, Iowa and looking northwest. They show the approaching tornadic storm which prompted sirens to sound in the town of Hills. The lower resolution screen captures and growing darkness forced these grainy images, but their dramatic appearance overshadows the noise. Nikon D7200 DSLR camera.








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Close Encounter of the Jovian Kind

Saturday, May 12, 2018


Okay, 409 million miles is not exactly "close," but it was for the gas giant planet Jupiter in relation to Earth for all of the year 2018 on Thursday, May 10. Jupiter previously reached opposition--being directly opposite of the sun--on May 8. Above, I positioned myself in the Bowman Meadows housing development near Boyson Road and Alburnett Road in Marion, Iowa at 12:22 am on May 10.
The captured image looks southeast, with Jupiter positioned in the center. The planet shone at magnitude -2.51. Light pollution from the city of Marion can be clearly seen at right, enhanced by the five second exposure. Other Nikon 7200 DSLR camera settings for the picture were: f/3.5, 720 ISO, 12mm focal length. A retreating bank of clouds, which delayed the shooting of this image for about 20 minutes, can be seen at background left. Air temperature was 55 degrees F.


A zoomed-in, 300mm focal length capture of the Jovian system (upper right) at 12:05 am, May 10. Image is a 1/10-second exposure at f/5.6, 640 ISO. The moon alignment around Jupiter this night was: Callisto (just left and below), and from right of the planet: Ganymede, Io and Europa.

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Additional May 2 Hills Iowa Severe Weather Pics

Sunday, May 6, 2018


More of my images captured from the severe weather event in southern Johnson County Iowa during the evening of Wednesday, May 2, 2018. In the image above, I'm southbound on Interstate 380 in south Cedar Rapids, just north of the US Highway 30 exit at 7:09 pm CDT. I'm hoping that I can get south of the approaching storm cell--already tornado warned and approaching fast from eastern Iowa County--without having to cross its path in the process!



7:11 pm. Still southbound near the Eastern Iowa Airport exit (Exit 13) on I-380. Clouds in the distance in front of me are exhibiting a very turbulent and ominous appearance.


7:50 pm. Now at my stop-off spotting position, which was at the Casey's General convenience Store in the town of Hills, located in southern Johnson County. A wall cloud has formed in the west sky. Note the greenish color of the sky at right, denoting the presence of hail.


Same time and again looking west. Wider panoramic image of the view.


Again 7:50 pm. A view of the tornadic lowering in the NW sky. Hail-laden green sky at right background.


7:51 pm. Very pronounced lowering in the west sky. The illuminated area at right is the result off CC lightning. The sirens in Hills would sound in just a couple of minutes. Nikon D7200 DSLR camera.

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Headed For (the) Hills

Saturday, May 5, 2018


First storm spotting opportunity of 2018. In the morning hours of Wednesday, May 2, 2018, the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) issued its Day One Convective Outlook that that included a severe weather Moderate Risk for the extreme SW part of the state of Iowa and a Slight Risk for most of the eastern (above left). At 3:55 pm CDT, Severe Thunderstorm Watch 63 was issued for the southeastern part of Iowa and all of the northern part of neighboring Illinois (above right). At this point, I began monitoring radar from my home in Cedar Rapids for a possible spotting move.


At around 5:35 pm, a small storm cell began popping up just south of New Sharon, Iowa, in Mahaska County, moving ENE. Twenty minutes later its radar signature was that of the lower left portion of the radar screen capture shown above. At 6:35 pm these line of storms went severe-warned and at 6:50 pm tornado-warned. It was time to head south. But would I get there in time? The nearest intense cell was less than 20 miles west of US Highway 218 in southern Johnson County.



Arrive ahead of it I did. I chose the Hills, Iowa exit and then the parking area of the town's Casey's General Store, with a open view of the west--in perfect position. This image looks west at 7:46 pm and the approaching storm cell already had a tornadic appearance and motion.



7:50 pm. Looking southwest at the southern part of the storm, showing its shelf cloud appearance in that area. From the camera's perspective, the storm was moving from the background to the right of the image. Its forward speed was 20 mph. Temperature was 70 degrees F, dew point 66 degrees, humidity 88%.



Panorama looking west at 7:51 pm. The forming lowering that would pass in front of me in mere minutes is more pronounced now. This is the last sequence of shots I would take outside my vehicle, as CG lightning was becoming more frequent and I no longer had the desire to tempt fate!


7:53 pm. Now a wall cloud in the northwest sky. Taken from my open driver's side window. The adrenaline was beginning to kick in now!


7:53 pm. At this point I was alternating still shots with video from my Nikon D7200 DSLR camera. This image is a video frame capture. Sirens were now wailing in Hills. The ever-tightening tornadic lowering was now about two miles to my northwest, with a hail core about a half-mile farther.


7:55 pm. Video frame capture. Looking very threatening and approaching Oakcrest Hill Road SE (foreground). The lowering passed about two miles to my north. Inflow winds now picked up as did the rain and hail. I estimate at least 60 mph winds buffeted my vehicle, with pea-to-dime size hail falling. Vehicle headlights seen in the distant background are from US Highway 218.


As the lowering passed to my north, driving rain rendered visibility to near zero. Moving at this time would have been foolhardy. Rain and hail were pelting the vehicle so loudly I was barely able to make myself understood to the NWS Davenport severe weather report dispatcher. Above, the interior of my vehicle seen at 8:02 pm, as I waited out the deluge. iPhone 6 Plus image.



Radarscope image capture from 7:46 pm CDT, showing the severe and tornado-warned boxes, and my position in relation to both (blue target symbol) at Hills, Iowa.




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Jupiter Not Lost In The Wash This Night

Monday, April 30, 2018


Despite mighty planet Jupiter being 411 million miles from Earth on this night, it more than held its own in the light wash from our full moon on the night of Sunday, April 29, 2018. Above, -2.49 magnitude Jupiter (just above trees at bottom) shines gainly in the glow of our satellite--only 241,000 miles distant and -12.69 magnitude. This image looks SE from Bowman Woods Park in Cedar Rapids, Iowa at 9:29 pm CDT and is a 1/5-second exposure at f/5.6, 2000 ISO and 55mm focal length. Air temperature for photography was a mild 54 degrees F. Nikon D7200 DSLR camera.

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