February 28, 2017   
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.

The storm looked good structurally, and at one point had a decent wall cloud, but it never did really take off.  The surface winds as we sat were less than 5mph.  We watched it go by and watched a couple of smaller cells go by that were behind the first cell, all with little or no velocity.

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 a phone conversation with Brian Stertz, we decided to target a storm that was coming toward Perryville, MO.  We had plenty of time, so we contemplated either staying on the Illinois Side of the River and watching the storm from the River Valley, or crossing the River back into Missouri and watching the storm come into Perryville, MO.  After a lot of discussion on the way, the positives of the Missouri side won out and we worked our way back to I-55.  We stopped again in Perryville to check the approaching storm out and parked next to Chris Higgins in the McDonalds Parking Lot and said "Hi".

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.

There were several other vehicles that were caught right behind the tornado crossing.  We were told the occupant of the house was OK.  We saw our friend Tyler Schlitt pull up and provide some assistance during the first few minutes before police arrived.  Meanwhile, Ryan jumped out of the car and climbed the hill next to the road to get a view of the departing tornado.  I joined him and we watched the now wedge tornado continue on its way over the river into Illinois with each lightning stroke.  Unfortunately,  with our dash camcorder, handheld camcorder, and our camera, we were never able to grab a clear photo of the tornado in the darkness even with the occasional lightning.

 As the emergency personnel began arriving, we decided to leave the area before we were trapped by the vehicles.  As we retreated and worked our way back to I-55 for the ride back home, we branched off to access the roads north off of Highway 51.  Every one of the roads ended up being blocked off due to emergency vehicles due to the damage and we were forced to turn around.  We got back on I-55 north and found ourselves in another road block as the Highway was blocked due to debris and overturned cars and trucks.  Eventually, they got the road clear enough to let the cars clear as they emptied the highway on the now closed highway so the massive clean up could begin.  This is the location of the one death from this tornado. 

9 Hours      *      Total Miles  - 324 

Click on the link below to see video of some of these storms.

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