Chase Date: October 18, 2007
Abe Kimball, Joe Caswell
Miles Logged: 457
States Chased: IN, MI
First storm chase
Severe Risks: SPC Outlooks
October 18, 2007 was a day that I will remember for quite awhile. The Storm Prediction Center had been forecasting a large Severe weather outbreak for 3 days, and Thursday the 18th is when it all came together. I took off down I-69 right after getting out of work at 1500 EDT. I was in Indiana by about 1630 (1530 local time) and got on I-80 and headed West towards South Bend. From there I got off at US-31 and headed south down to Rochestor, IN. By that time a hook was already starting to show on the radar and a Severe Thunderstorm warning was out for the storm.
I raced south on IN-25, almost being struck by lightning. The strike was very close to the truck, and very loud! I kept south on IN-25 through Fulton and Metea, IN. I was obviously going to the east of the storm towards the rear of the storm which was producing the TVS and hook echo signature on Radar. I made it south of Metea, and pulled off on one of the side roads and had a funnel cloud about 300 yards across the field from where I was. I snapped some pictures then chased it back north up IN-25 which I just came off of and snapped a couple other pictures while driving. I stopped to show some Skywarn guys the pictures.
I made it through Rochestor which had a bit of small branches down and some flooding, and headed east on 14 as the storm was heading east north east. I never was able to catch back up to it, and eventually had to stop in Akron, IN to fill my truck up. We headed back home and stopped in Fort Wayne, IN. I was bummed out, but still pretty excited by the chase which had just happened
Once making it back into Michigan, I learned of a lot of Tornado warnings off to my west. They were heading my way and weren’t far away from where I was stationed at the time. I got out of their way as fast as possible and got up I-69 in a hurry. Once I got into range of the 145.390 repeater in Okemos I was hearing that there was a large cone shaped Tornado on the ground in Williamston and that the town of Williamston had been devestated by a large tornado. I shot up 69, got off at Lansing Rd, shot over to I-96 and then flew out to Williamston
Just before getting to the Williamston exit, there was a couple emergency vehicles (and more coming behind me) for a semi which had been overturned in the ditch. There was trees down all over the freeway. Before I even got out of my truck I knew a Tornado had to of hit. I got past the wreckage of the semi and got off at the Williamston exit. I went North on Williamston rd into the town of Williamston to find trees down, wires down, everyone out in the streets and a gas leak. The fire dept had closed off the road already by this point, but a quick show of credentials got me past the road block and into town. I parked my truck and started walking around, surveying the damage. I met up with Carl, K8YHH and we looked down some of the main streets in town, and I met up with some other HAM Radio operators and we started to assess the damage.
Another Tornado warning for Ingham County came out, and the tornado siren went off in town which was pretty spectacular since the Tornado siren had been hit by the tornado but was still standing. The storms were still about 20 minutes out, so we still surveyed damage. Once they started getting closer we took cover in downtown under an awning. Just then I got a call from my storm chaser friend Kory letting me know that we had a very strong TVS indicated by radar headed straight for us at 65mph about 5 minutes out. We took shelter in a bar, and got a laptop going with our own radar data. The hook and TVS was very well pronounced. I was looking out the front door and saw a funnel cloud pass to our south and east and eventually off to the Northeast of Williamston. I guess the tornado never did actually touch down, but there was quite a bit of a cone shape and heavy rotation with it.
Once that was pushed through the area, we continued surveying damage as that was the end of the storms. We stayed doing damage assessment until 3 am when we decided to call it a night as all of our batteries were dead and so was my inner battery. The next day we met at the Ingham County Sheriff’s Department at 8am to continue damage assessments.