As this forecast unfolded for several days before this event, it seemed to get easier to make the decision to chase the closer it got. The weather models held pretty solid and with Brian Stertz, our chase partner's input, we put our faith in the HRRR model to guide our way today. That model showed the strongest storm of the day would form in Missouri and head in the direction of Springfield, IL. All indications were that all of the better tornado parameters pointed to this southern end storm. We would find that the model varified fairly well for both location and times.
As my son Ryan and I left the house around 12:00 noon, I originally had in mind a target of Pittsfield, IL. In traveling there, I chose to take Highway 61 north on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. That would allow a westward alteration in the event that things initiated further west than anticipated. I figured we had a river crossing a Louisiana, MO if we needed it.
As we got to the highway at Bowling Green to cut over the river to Illinois, I decided to hold on the Missouri side. Being we left plenty of time early today, we figured we'd get some lunch, look at data again, then decide what course of action to take. I kept going north on 61. Little did I know that finding a place for lunch was non-existant between there and Hannibal, MO. Ended up going all the way to Hannibal, MO and had lunch at the Taco Bell.
After looking things over again, the decision was made to stick to our original plan with a potential southern storm becoming the most dominant after things unfolded around 4:00pm-5:00pm as per the model, so we worked our way back to Roodhouse, IL for our holding place.
As we traveled, we bagan to see the very start of the cumulus clouds beginning to bubble back in Missouri. Our friend Nick Pavlovits was back on the Missouri side of the river giving us the update on those clouds. About this time is when the early storms took off in the far northeastern corner of Missouri started becoming severe. Then we got a call from our friend Jeff Piotrowski letting us know that the clouds just coming over the river to our southwest were just starting to get their act together. Our radar indicated they were growing, albeit a bit slow.
We navigated to a location a bit to the east to get in proper alignment with the angle of the storms that were now coming right at us. As we got in position, we could see the storms we thought were growing were now vaporizing and a call from Piotrowski again confirmed that fact. His advice, get north to those storms heading for Macomb, IL. So now we were faced with a little over an hour of light left and having storms already tornado warned to the northwest 60 miles from us or seeing virtually nothing and calling it a day. Ryan wanted to go north to get to the storms at dusk and I was more of the mind set to minimize loses and call it a day with the loss of daylight. Ryan won that quick conversation and we headed north toward the storms.
As we headed for the northern storms going through Jacksonville, IL, a very small updraft area began developing just to the southwest again. Certainly looked promising for a second look. We ended up stopping and watching it closely and noticed it was growing quickly both visually and on the radar.
The race to the northern storms was now over as we decided that this storm would either make it or break it for our us. As the storm grew and moved toward us, we decided to work our way back to Interstate 72 and work our way east ahead of the storm. We moved east a couple of times and stopped to take a few pictures, then would move east again with the storm and stop for a few more pictures. Finally with the last of the light, we decided to stop and let the storm roll toward us. We were looking back west at the storm as it now began to produce a couple of funnel clouds.
We were so focused on the lowerings that we did not see the hail core creep up on us. After a few "bangs" on the car, we quickly made a quick exit from our vantage point and got east pronto. Drove several miles looking for a shelter to duck under from the big, damaging hail knowing it could get bigger.
Luckily, with ping-pong size hail falling, with a few golfball size hail stones mixed in for good measure, we did not lose a window in the car. We finally took cover in a bank overhang in New Berlin, IL and let the hail core pass us. We also had a perfect view of the wall cloud and lowerings come by right in front of us as we looked straight ahead out of the overhang.
As the hail now came to an end, we exited the bank overhang and now had the back end of the storm right in front of us although now it was near total darkness. Since we were no longer in danger of large hail and needed to head east to get to the Highway in Springfield, IL to head back home anyway eventually, it was just a matter of following the spinning wall cloud as we moved toward the east anyway. A bit further down the road as we got closer to Springfield, IL, we stopped for a few more pictures/video.
We noticed things were starting to change and looked like it could drop a tornado. As we moved once again, right in front of us, a tornado roped down out of the cloud. It never fully condensed out all of the way to the ground, but a couple of power flashes indicated the tornado was firmly on the ground. Damage was later confirmed by Piotrowski has he did a survey later in the night.
Now it was a matter of working our way around Springfield. We hit Highway 4 around the west side of Springfield, then Highway 29 around the north side. Got back on Highway 54 with the storm once again in front of us, but by this time, the tornado warning had been dropped followed by the severe warning. At this point, we called it a day.
Special shout out to Jeff Piotrowski, Brian Stertz, Nick Pavlovits, and Tyler Schlitt for the updates throughout the day's chase. Drove a lot of miles today considering the tornado ended up less than a 100 miles away from home.