The first storm chase of the year and the likelihood of it being a nighttime chase was less than ideal. Ryan and I decided that we would try it anyway and just stay at a safe distance from any dangerous storm. With Ryan working until 2:00pm, we would have plenty time to determine where our intercept point would be with any storm that developed. All of the weather models were saying there would be storms around St. Louis and would initiate sometime between 5:00pm to 8:00pm. Image to my surprise when a storm breaks out in south central Missouri just after 1:00pm and tracks toward the Mississippi River. I sent a text to Ryan and told him not to waste any time after work as we had a storm that had already developed. By 2:30pm we were on the road.
After weighing the options, we chose to play the storm on the Illinois side of the river. We wrapped around the east side of St. Louis and grabbed highway 3 south. We chose to play a road in the river valley called Bluff Road as we were familiar with that road and would have a great view of the storm coming at us from the Missouri side of the river over the big river valley. We eventually ended up at Prairie Du Rocher as our viewing point.
We eventually decided to backtrack to Route 3 again and we played the back and forth game, north, then south, then back north. We'd watch the storms and we'd start to see a bit of rotation and move toward the storm and then the rotation would go away. By now, daylight had vanished and we were now moving around in darkness. We saw a storm up by Ruma, IL that seemed to be a bit stronger than the others, so we moved up to the edge of that storm to watch it go by. Oops, a bit too close as we heard BANG. Then more bangs. Went from nothing to hailing golfballs in a couple seconds. A quick exit back south as we got pelted with golfballs. Counted about 12 dents in the car today.
After checking our data again, we decided the path of the storm may be too close at the Perryville exit, so we moved south to the next exit and positioned ourselves facing north. After a few minutes, we decided we were a bit too far south, so we worked our way back northward. As we approached the Perryville exit again, we began seeing many power flashes just to the left of the highway north of the Perryville exit. We attempted a few pictures and then back in the car. We exited the Highway at the Perryville exit again and made the choice to follow the storm north on Highway 51. We knew the path of the storm would cross this Highway, so we remained cautious as we moved up to the tornado as we monitored the power flashes. The tornado crossed the Highway in front of us knocking down power lines and destroying a house blowing the debris across the road ending any forward progress.