April 9th | Western Illinois Tornado-less Supercells

April 9, 2015

This was supposed to be a big day - and technically, it was. A giant EF-4 tornado ripped through northern Illinois, demolishing the town of Fairdale, and damaging areas near Rochelle. The day overall was a struggle, but this particular storm erupted and interacted with a boundary and did its thing.

 

If a warm front was running for President, I would be its biggest campaign donor. And yet, somehow, I seem to completely ignore them at times. With an obvious warm front and several boundaries to pick from in northern Illinois - I shot west. Why? Because I just did.

 

SPC Day 1 Tornado Probabilities highlighted the northern half of Illinois at 11:30 AM.

 

 

SPC Day 1 Outlook issued at 11:30 AM with a large enhanced risk region.

 

 

After doing the morning routine, I had my dad swing by my place and we left Urbana shortly before the lunch hour and headed west on Interstate 72. After lunch in Springfield, I parked us in Jacksonville where I'd hoped to wait for supercells to erupt out ahead of the cold front approaching from Missouri. I tolerated about 2 hours of watching towers erupt and then fail in subsidence ridden air and decided to needed to be further west. Supercell storms were already approaching from the west along the cold front in Missouri and the environment in western Illinois was at least conducive for supercell structures to continue. I just wasn't sold on the tornado potential in this area. We continued west on I-72 before diverting onto the backroads as we targeted a supercell that would cross the border near Quincy, IL.

 

The quickest thing I noticed was the amazing visibility. At 30 miles out - I was able to see the base of our approaching storm, and a wall cloud that it was carrying with it. At this point the wall cloud was quite large and low to the ground and my excitement quickly shot up, thinking we may be seeing a tornado very soon. Radar representation of the supercell was also quite good.

 

Phone screen shot of the radar showing my location in western Illinois as storms erupted along the cold front in Missouri. Small returns can be shown near my location as convection struggled to organize in the worked over warm sector:

 

 

4:23 PM - 30 miles ahead of an intense supercell and I can already see the base/wall cloud:

 

 

I quickly spotted one negative, however. The updraft on this storm often appeared fuzzy, and just not overly impressive. Lapse rates in this region seemed to be fairly low after morning storms worked over the environment, and it showed.

 

As it approached us, the supercell did cycle several times producing what would initially be quite impressive wall clouds before the updraft would again struggle to sustain itself and begin to wain, taking the impressive wall cloud along with it. As the storm moved to our north, and eventually northeast I opted to abandon the storm rather than following it through questionable terrain near the Illinois River and to an environment that I was pretty positive wouldn't be allowing the storm to change its theme any time soon.

 

We dove south for another impressive pair of supercells approaching from the St. Louis area. The storms eventually merged into one very intense supercell that I plotted an intercept path that would put us in front of it very near the Springfield area. Unfortunately, rain/hail on the forward flank downdraft combined with traffic congestion in Springfield really impeded our progress - and we weren't able to get completely in front of the storm before dark. A tornado was apparently spotted just to our south - but fading daylight and plenty of rain got in the way of us seeing anything.

 

7:07 PM - trying oh so hard to get ahead of this beast near Springfield:

 

 

As darkness fell, we hopped back onto Interstate 72 and raced the complex of storms east back home to Champaign-Urbana where I was force fed incredible imagery from the Rochelle/Fairdale tornado in northern Illinois that had occured that evening.

 

Initial view of the supercell near Quincy - distant large wall cloud has my hopes up:

 

 Getting closer now, and just look at the overall mushy appearance of the storm:

 Still mushy, but a new wall cloud slowly organizing:

 And losing it. I may be in a 3 year tornado drought, but I have seen enough tornado producing storms to know that this thing isn't getting the job done:

 The man who helped start the obsession, my first ever chase partner, my dad taking in our failing storm complete with a new wall cloud:

 

 

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