July 20, 2018   
Written By: Ryan Thies

For the last couple of days, the setup for today had been looking good in terms of a big severe weather episode, including the possibility of tornadoes.  Brian Stertz was available to now-cast for me along with my dad, Richard Thies, for part of the afternoon.  Brian gave me his early morning target, the Missouri Bootheel.  I was about to head out solo, which is something I do not normally do, but my normal chase partner, my dad, had obligations that had to be attended to back at home during the afternoon.  My  girlfriend, Jennifer Crutchfield, informed me that her client at her work cancelled her appointment and now she had the day free, so she was now my chase partner for the day.

We hit the local Golden Corral for breakfast and headed south about mid morning.  We made a pit stop at the Walmart in Cape Girardeau, Missouri for some Rain X and other supplies.  Meanwhile, Brian told me I better set up somewhere east of the Mississippi River.  I took a quick look at the map and decided on my route.  I did have one thing to do before heading across the river though.  There was a pond with a type of duck not common to the area just on the south side of Cape Girardeau.  I wanted to see them first.  We got there and saw about 10 or 11 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.  I quickly got a couple pictures of some of the ducks and headed back up to Cape Girardeau to the bridge that spans over the Mississippi River.

We got on the Illinois side, drove down highway 3, and crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky at Cairo, Illinois.  Once in Kentucky, it became obvious getting data was going to be a problem.  I wanted to stay near the river crossing in case I needed to get back west, but I had no data.  My dad had been sending me weather info all afternoon showing that storms may pop northwest of Paducah, Kentucky and move into that area.  We made the decision to go to Paducah where data would be readily available.  Jennifer and I camped out at a Culvers for a couple hours in West Paducah.  The cap seemed to get stronger and stronger and all indication of it breaking faded as the clouds completely dried up.  After waiting what seemed like forever, Brian texted me and said to get back to Missouri and shoot down Highway 55 south of Sikeston, Missouri to intercept a couple of severe warned supercells that had fired.  The cap was clearly not going to break here, so we started getting west.  Due to rush hour traffic, we decided to take the Illinois route back to Highway 57 and then cross the river back into Missouri.  It was a good decision as we got to the cells as they were crossing highway 55.  The supercells would pulse, become severe and then weaken.  The lead supercell weakened as we intercepted it on interstate 55 around Howardsville, Missouri.

We sampled the core and found it had lots of rain and pea size hail, but it was clear it was struggling with the cap.  We let it go by in favor of the back supercell which was showing signs of strengthening.  It was following a similar, but slightly more southern path as the first storm.  We set up in the town of Marston, Missouri and waited for the storm.  Brian again texted me to let me know it was showing rotation.  We headed west out of town a few miles to get a look.  It looked interesting as the base came into view behind the rain.  It had a nice inflow tail being ingested into a ragged wall cloud and the lightning was really ramping up.  Rotation was difficult to discern in the wall cloud as it was far away with poor contrast.

However, after a few minutes, the base became elevated and non-threatening and the precipitation core had obviously weakened.  It was moving east of the Mississippi River and I was in no man's land with no way to cross the river to follow it.  Plus, it looked like the cap was going to win out on this day anyway.  We decided to call it a day.  The sun was going to set within the hour and it would be dark soon so we headed back north on 55 towards home.  We did pass through the core of the storm on our way north and were treated to a minute or so of pea-sized hail. 

The chase was a bust, but we did get a very nice consolation prize.  We were passing a wooded area north of Cape Girardeau so we decided to drive some roads to see if we could cruise up any snakes.  We only saw one snake, but it was a dandy.  We got a beautiful timber rattlesnake as it was crossing the road!  They are a rare treat in this part of the state. 

We were defeated by the atmosphere, but our spirits remained high as we headed for home.

15 Hours    *    Total Miles  - 551

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

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