Left my home in St. Louis at about 2:00pm heading east on Highway 270 hoping to get in on some of the action already underway in central Illinois. Unfortunately, even though I thought it would be active today, I didn't think it would occur so early. I came in from cleaning the car out and gathering my equipment for the chase to find that there were tornado warnings and sightings already in central Illinois. I knew those storms were out of my reach, but figured there would be further development west. As I entered Illinois, I noticed there would be a choice to be made. Looking north I was seeing some well developed supercells, but to the south I was seeing some new development that was growing slow, but steadily. These are the northern storms I was seeing. Mature supercells. Anvils, Overshooting tops, severe warnings, several to choose, all isolated.
Or.....chasing the new development taking place to the south. Had potential, but lacked the supercell characteristics at this point.
I drove a few miles back and forth as I tried to figure out what I wanted to do. All said and done I chose to follow the storms to the south and hope that the storms would explode.
I went south on Highway 127 out of Greenville. As I approached Carlyle, Ill., the first storm of the storms to the south of me went severe southwest of Okawville, only 15 miles to my south west. These storms were moving due east and at about 30 mph. My current path was going to make intercepting a close call, so I went east on Highway 50 a few miles and then south on Highway 51. This put me out in front of the storm. I reached Highway 15 which is where the storm(s) were tracking and met the severe storm. From here I just played tag for the next 30 minutes or so. Road options south of this point were almost non-existent. I played the southern front edge of the storm and would move when the edge of the core caught up with me fearing the large hail the storm may have. As I moved to a location near Woodlawn, Ill, I thought I'd watch the storm pass me from here and check out the wind and hail in this storm under cover of a gas station canopy. At the last second, I made the decision to continue one more time and watch the storm from Mt. Vernon. As I drove toward Mt. Vernon, Surprise! Tornado Warning comes out for this storm. I had seen only minor rotation, but maybe because of my poor position I missed something. I hustled quickly through Mt. Vernon and hit Highway 57 south. Finally, I thought, a road south. Well, this road had zero visibility west so I could not judge where things were setting up. I plotted when the warning came out it would cross the highway 10 miles south of where I got on it. I came to the Ina, Ill. exit and because it was almost 10 miles and because the overpass had an opening to see, I chose to get off. What a sight I was about to see. This made the entire trip worthwhile.
A spaceship supercell looking just like out on the plains. As the storm approached again I headed east on the road through Ina. On the east side of town I encountered hail trying to get ahead again. First only a few, then lots. The biggest was probably 1.25 to 1.50 inches. I did not get out to measure at this point. It hailed for about 10 minutes before I could get out in front again. Stressful times for sure. The next 30 minutes seemed to take hours as I winded my way around the country roads of Jefferson Co. Only with the help of the DeLorme Map I got back on track through the partially paved, rock and rock/dirt roads and over to McLeansboro. No further warnings came out on the storm so I headed back toward Mt. Vernon where there was severe storms on what ended up being the cold front, squall line.
As I listened to NOAA Weather radio, I was not hearing anything spectacular happening in any of the storms I was to pass on the way back home. Trees down and golf ball size hail were about it. I was losing day light so I stayed on Highway 64 heading back to St. Louis. I went through a cell on the squall line and had extreme lightning, but nothing severe. Then tranquillity the rest of the way home.
All in all, a good chase. No tornado, but it did have its moments. Never was in the optimal position because of roads and visibility. I had to rely on my own visuals of the storm with no outside data source other than the scanner today and that always makes for a challenge because of my lack of experience and weather training. 7 Hours. 310 Miles.
56 Digital Camera Pictures. 4 Hours Mostly Vehicle Mounted Video.
(Towers as I headed from McLeansboro to Mt. Vernon)