- Andrew Pritchard
The Bowdle Approach
I first published on my old blog back in 2011 when doing an "image a day" recap of overlooked photos. The original photo was taken on May 22nd 2010 near Bowdle, South Dakota.
This photo may not have the 'wow factor', but it really symbolizes one of the moments in the spring and summer that I am at my happiest. I took this photo on the approach heading west out of Aberdeen, South Dakota on Highway 12 approaching the exploding updraft of what would be the Bowdle, SD EF4 tornado producing supercell. You get up at 4 AM, make your forecast, hit the road, and spend hours staring at the pavement getting periodic weather updates that only further fuel your adrenaline and it all culminates at that magic moment when the first storm comes into view. I shared this chase with (my then, now ex-gf) Tia which ended up being her longest distance chase thus far, and first time to the high plains!. We decided on driving halfway and crashing at my family's lake house cabin in central Wisconsin the night before. What better way to cut a long drive in half than spending the evening cooking out and swimming in a spring fed lake? It was early to bed however, as I was setting my alarm for 4 am. Initially what I saw scared me. A strong cap was in place, and while things looked to be off the charts during the evening the thought of driving another 6-8 hours and seeing blue skies when I now had the option to spend the entire afternoon swimming in the lake and cooking on the grill wasn't going over real well. However, I did a little more analysis and decided something big was in the works for South Dakota, and I was going to be there. Tia is not a morning person by any stretch, but she was surprisingly chipper this morning! On days when she is accompanying me, I always feel like a huge ass when I finally finish my morning analysis and decide it is time to hit the road, and her slumber must end. This morning though, she was out of bed and quickly in the car by 5 am, and we were off. I expected her to immediately pass out, but she ended up staying awake for our sunrise journey through the western Wisconsin hills and into the southern Minnesota flat lands. A lunch in Sioux Falls, SD did her in though, and I was on my own in the car as we fled north to keep up with the advancing warm front. We ended up meeting up with Dick McGowan and Reed Timmer along with the rest of the TVN crew at a Shell Station in Aberdeen where we shot the breeze while Timmer and McGowan chilled their nerves with a couple cigarettes. Things looked insane, and we were all giddy. The TVN and Discovery Crew made a grand exit and plowed west on Hwy 12 while Tia and I lagged behind emptying our bladders and stocking up on cold Red Bull for the approach. A cu field had just begun bubbling to our west, so it was time to get our move on as well. It wasn't long at all down Highway 12 that radar returns began to explode near Hoven, SD - just up the road. The tower immediately became visible and began it's upward explosion. Very soon we had an anvil canopy expanding over the highway and a tornado warning was slapped onto the storm - the show was on, and this photo was snapped. What was going to happen in the next two hours - who knows? That's the beauty of it... you never know if this chase will just be another in the ordinary category, or if the next two hours will be the pinnacle of your storm chasing career - all you know is that at this moment, the trip was definitely worth it: