April 30, 2019   

As we were leading up to this chase day, it had been our intention to join Brian Stertz for a chase somewhere down around the Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri Borders.  There were several obstacles to be worked out including Brian needing to work a half day before chasing and Ryan needing to be back to work the next morning.  That would mean a late start to the target area with storms already on-going and then afterward, an all night drive back to drop Brian off and then home to get Ryan to work by 6:00am without much wiggle room

Brian was dead set on a target area near Joplin in southwest Missouri, but Ryan and I were a bit skeptical that tornadoes would even happen that far north, plus whether the storms would hold off long enough for us to get there in time.  We were also seeing that there was an increasing possibility for tornadoes in our 'backyard' in Illinois.  After debating for a long time, we decided to stay at home and play the Illinois storms.  (Seems like I was definitely wrong whether there would be tornadoes that far north in Southwest Missouri - as usual, Brian right again).

So with our decision not to go out for the western tornado opportunity, we had plenty of time to plan and prepare for our the Missouri/Illinois event.  The entire morning, the HRRR consistently tracked a cell right through North St. Louis County and popped a few isolated storms out ahead of the line southeast of St. Louis, Missouri.  My thoughts were to play those isolated cells in front of the approaching front whenever possible.  Around 12:00, storms began appearing on radar to the southwest of St. Louis.  Ryan made a line for my home to meet up and we were on the road by 12:45 or so.

We targeted this first cell coming at us from the southwest as it approached St. Louis.  We worked our way down I-55 to take a look.  As the cells approached, they were now more of a line with some embedded kinks that had some minimum rotation.  Nothing seemed to be taking off on the Missouri side of the river, so we broke east on I-255 with the plan to loop around the city on the Illinois side of the river keeping an eye on the line to the west.  We also were now watching some isolated cells that had bubbled up to our east, so we deviated from the plan of following the St. Louis storms and drove east on I-64 to investigate these isolated cells.  We got to the east of those cells, but no sooner do we get in position to watch the back end, they begin weakening.

At the Damiansville, Illinois exit, we got off to catch up with the storm going through St. Louis that we had left.  It had now crossed the Mississippi River and we eventually once again got within range.

There was one area that continually showed a stronger rotation at a kink in the line.  We worked our way north to get in position to see that area of interest.  We crossed over I-70 as we moved north and positioned ourselves right in that notch.  There was a very visible rotation going on as we sat and watched it from practically right underneath it. 

We continued to follow this area of rotation stopping several times to just watch.

We ended up grabbing IL-140 east to get to IL-127 north.  As we approached Donnellson, Illinois, we stopped to watch once again.   Rotation again was very visible even from our vantage point which was now a bit further away and looking at it to the north.  It had crossed IL-127, so we stopped and watched the rotating area make attempts at spinning something up.  Then we started seeing some needle funnels protruding down.  Several times there were multiple needles at the same time.

There was a short time with no visible funnels.  Then from in back of a tree line comes more of a stove pipe type funnel.  This funnel was half way to three quarters of the way to the ground and remained consistent.  It began to rain and hail hard on us ruining our opportunity to get better pictures and video. 

It eventually disappeared in the rain and haze and we backtracked to a road east.  We followed this storm as we tried to work through the back roads, but we never saw any more funnels.  It wasn't until later when we saw Dan Robinson's picture of what appears to be a debris swirl on the ground that we knew this was indeed a tornado.

We eventually gave up on that storm and we 'played' with several other storms that showed a bit of velocity as we worked southward on our way back home, but eventually, all of the storm warnings were gone and the chances of seeing another tornado were near zero.    We were back home before nightfall.

April 30, 2019 Donnellson, Illinois Tornado

7 Hours  -  312 Miles

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

Return to the Index