May 17, 2020   

A leisurely Sunday and not even seriously looking at the weather today.  Well, there was a slight risk of storms in Eastern Illinois, but reading the SPC outlook, their was a 5% tornado risk, but any Tornadoes would be weak and short lived.  Kind of like being in the right place at the right time, needle in a haystack sort of day and that is if a storm even got that far along to produce the needed ingredients to form a Tornado.  So making a 2 hour trip for that?  Forget that.  Right? 

You would have thought not worthy of a Tornado Chase, but a couple hours later, my son Ryan and I were on Interstate 64 headed to our Target of Southeast Illinois.  Could we just possibly get a Tornadic Supercell out in front of the line of storms?  We drove just to the east of Mount Vernon, Illinois.  We watched as a broken line of storms out to the west made progress toward us.  As the line worked its way eastward, the broken line of storms filled in more and more to create more of a solid line, thus eliminating even more the possibility of a Tornadic Storm.  We did notice however there was this one small storm out ahead of line to our southwest.  It wasn't gaining any strength and looked pretty sad on radar.  As the line got closer, we began noticing there were some weak velocity in the line just to our north by 20 miles or so.  Decision time.  Go north and intercept the spot in the line producing the velocity marker or wait and see if the pathetic looking storm to the south of us out in front of the line might start showing some increase in intensity.   

We decided to hold and be patient with the southern storm.  We moved our position to the east on I-64 to the Mills Shoals exit.  With the storm still to the southwest, we waited.  Heard about the Tornado Warning up in Central Illinois and continued to watch the broad velocity couplets in the line to our north and again wondered if we were making the right decision.  The south storm was showing zero velocity on radar.  Again, Patience won out. 

As the southern storm got within range, we made the decision to intercept it.  We moved south on Highway 45 through Mills Shoals and Springerton, Illinois. 
We drove through the rain and flipped the car around just to the north of Enfield, Illinois and what do we see?  Right in front of us just west of the road was a rotating wall cloud on this storm.  What?  Wait!  There's no velocity signature showing on radar!  Camcorders and cameras were immediately put into action.  Wasn't long before Ryan yells out "Tornado on the ground" as multiple condensation fingers were brushing the ground.   Due to the rain soaked fields, no dust swirls or debris was seen lofted, but it was pretty obvious to us there was firm contact with the ground.

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Digitally Enhanced to show Condensation Fingers - Click to Enlarge

Oddly enough, as the storm crossed the road to our north, a Severe Thunderstorm Warning came out on the storm as it had ramped up its intensity just to the northeast of Enfield.

We moved back north on the Highway keeping an eye on the storm now to the east of the Highway. 

As we neared I-64 again, we lost sight of the wall cloud in the rain.  We got on I-64 and moved to the east.  With the storm crossing over the Interstate, we now had a view of the business end of the storm again to our north. 

We discovered there are no roads that exit to the north off of I-64 until we got all the way to the Indiana border.  We took that Grayville, Illinois exit.  This put us far to the east of the storm and the storm was moving away from us to the northeast.  We worked north on Highway 1 and then 130.  Had a few good views of the back side of the storm as we worked our way back toward it. 

The storm eventually headed over the river into Indiana where we let the storm go and began our trek back toward home.  We were treated to a bright rainbow on the backside of the storm line on the way home.

After our encounter near Enfield, Illinois, the wall cloud never did wrap up tight again as it had done in our encounter.   Finding this rotating storm was really quite the surprise on a day where we were not anticipating finding a Tornadic Storm.  I have sent the Paducah National Weather Service the video and some pictures of the event for them to add to the storm log.  Not sure there is enough video and photo evidence to classify it officially as a Tornado, but Ryan and I seeing it visually know that there was certainly circulation on the ground.

8.5 Hours - 355 Miles

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

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