Weather Flashback

February 2023 - Taking Cover in a Barn (June 21, 2014)


Not wanting to be pummeled by even larger hail, Bon and I took shelter in a large pole barn just north of Beltrami, Minnesota, in this scene. This scene was logged in my June 21, 2014 storm spotting entry, for reference. And in case you are wondering, yes, some occupants in a house nearby gave us a brief thumbs up [literally] to sheltering in the barn. This was after they came outside and observed the size of the hail falling around them. Fortunately, for us, we were able to comfortably fit our F-150 (a.k.a. "blizzard mobile") into the barn with plenty of room to spare. This barn was used to house large farm equipment and seemed quite sturdy. So, we went with it...

The trip on this date was as much about taking time to (casually) explore some area lakes as it was about spotting. So while we were not unaware of the prospects for severe thunderstorm activity, positioning ourselves in the core of a supercell thunderstorm was not too high on our list. Actually being in the core of any storm seldom is for safety, even though it is tempting at times being a scientist who closely studies that sort of thing! Nevertheless, both on our way over to and from the western margins of Minnesota's "lake country," we found ourselves in several precarious situations; instances where thunderstorm activity posed a serious threat to our safety, including this one.

With that said. a few minutes after it stopped hailing, we decided to step outside the barn to examine the situation. The air was hot and still. We could also hear a nearly continuous thunder/thunder-like sound that seemed to be coming from high aloft in the cloud; unsure about whether this was from lightning and/or hail...despite there being no lightning flashes visible at around that time. No sooner did I position my camera toward the storm's base did I notice its tornado, however: look carefully at the upper left portion of the scene. Unfortunately, the tornado was partially hidden by some large pine trees on the edge of the farmstead.

Feeling less "explorative" and much more concerned about our safety, we decided to run back into the barn for shelter. This was because the tornado was only within a mile or so of us. Within only seconds of repositioning to the center of the barn did we hear the sounds of barn roof rattling high wind gusts. We reasoned that these wind gusts were probably within the storm's rear flank downdraft, some of which spread through the interior of the barn. In the process, blowing all sorts of loose items around inside. Fortunately, the barn managed to hold up against the fierce wind gusts. After the gusty winds had ceased, a light rain began to fall, which obscured our view of the tornado as we took another peak outside. After about 10 minutes of collecting our thoughts near the barn's door we called it good. Instead of trying to chase the tornado, we drove off to the north out of the rain (content) to enjoy the storm's highly back-sheared anvil at around sunset.  

Plate 1. Taking Cover in a Barn. Captured on June 21, 2014 at 8:26pm CDT. Looking northeast from 47.551°, -96.532°.