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  • Andrew Pritchard

Landspout chasing is dumb.

May 28th featured some pulse storms going along a subtle stationary boundary draped across central Illinois. I was busy the entire day while I watched landspout tornado reports come out of some of the storms near Bloomington, IL, about an hour to my northwest.

A day later on the 29th, the same boundary had progressed a whole 30 miles south and was located more or less right over my house. During the early afternoon, towers began going up again, and this time with nothing planned during my afternoon I figured I would go sit under the developing storms and make sure nothing funny happened for a second day in a row. I had been texting my brother Wil about the stupid idea of landspout “chasing” and he seemed down, so we headed out together at 1:30.

A landspout, forms under the same process as a waterspout. It is by definition a tornado, but is often much much weaker than the traditional mesocylone born tornado that forms under a supercell thunderstorm. Landspouts instead, form from the ground up; a small swirl if you will, that is stretched by the updraft of a developing thunderstorm. They often die once the tower cumulus cloud develops into a full fledged thunderstorm, as the rainy downdraft squashes the circulation. They can be quite photogenic, but as fellow chaser Skip Talbot said, it’s basically a lephrecaun hunt. They are brief, form without warning, and almost without reason. Trying to call your shot and be in position under the right cumulus cloud before a landspout tornado develops just does not happen very often, especially in a situation such as this with a ton of tiny storms going up along a very long stationary boundary.

Either way, I had the afternoon off and wanted to hear some thunder.

The short story is, we didn’t see anything. The long story isn’t worth writing. We played around with several rounds of convection along the boundary until there was so much cloud debris from earlier thunderstorms that it wasn’t even worth staying out to photograph the precip shafts from the new storms anymore. We headed back into town around 4.

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SKYDRAMA | Meteorologist & Atmospheric Photographer Andrew Pritchard

I'm a meteorologist born and raised in the American Midwest passionate about forecasting and observing severe storms.

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