So the SPC put in a slight risk area down around the Ozarks. I woke up in eastern Ohio. “Challenge accepted”, I thought to myself as I rose out of bed at 6 AM. I finally hit the road at 7:30 and drove and drove and drove and drove.
Columbus? No problem! Indianapolis? Been there. St. Louis? Done it.
The setup looked questionable all day. The day started muggy, but dried out as the temperature rose into the upper 80’s. There was some ongoing convection from the night before, but it dried up as the sun rose higher. By 4 PM I had made it through St. Louis without incident, but the sky still resembled a calm spring day. I had no real target for the afternoon, since it was essentially a race to get as far as possible into the area of good air.
Four o’clock rolled around and the radar scope started lighting up with a dozen little cells. I could see them going up off the distance, amidst the haze. I continued trucking southwest on I-44.
Right before Lebanon, a road sign flashed: “ACCIDENT AHEAD. 45 MINUTE DELAY.” No way. This can’t be happening, not now. I pulled off and attempted to detour around the accident by venturing onto the local backroads, aiming for Springfield, MO, so I could rejoin the interstate there. It was soon that I realized the comedy of errors playing itself out:
MISTAKE #1: I had forgotten to fill up the gas tank. I barely had enough gas left to limp into Springfield.
MISTAKE #2: Those roads are windy. And tree-y. You can’t see anything back there.
MISTAKE #3: Good luck getting cell phone reception, much less a reliable data connection.
So there I was, chasing half-blind with some old radar data and windy, barely-paved roads. I caught myself laughing at the absurdity of it all.
Well, it turns out some of those backwoods towns are more substantial than I thought, and I was able to fill the gas tank. I glanced at the radar and saw a small cell about 20 miles to the west that had uncharacteristically split into two storms, with the right-hand taking a hard right-turn and strengthening. This “right-split” storm is commonly seen in highly-sheared environments, but not in a marginal day like today. This gave me a good feeling, and its motion was slow and in the right direction. Seeing no better options, I continued west, directly towards it.
Bam! Not two minutes later, the storm received a tornado warning! Elation. It might have been small, but it looked good on radar, and had a little bit of a weak velocity couplet, indicating a rotation mesocyclone. Things were looking up! Haze was obscuring the storm, so I hoped I could get there in time.
The structure made itself apparent as I meandered through some small towns and into more open country where I could see the dang thing. Overall, it had a nice look to it.
There was some wild motion underneath it. I was still rather far away, but I saw some dust or condensation rising into the base, originating from the ground. It was in a narrow spot, and I thought at first it could have been the start of a rotating funnel, but nothing else ever became of it. It was likely just some dirt being kicked up by a localized downburst.
I had gotten to the cell as it was dying. I let the storm pass directly to my north and felt the cool downdraft as it passed me by. I jogged in front of it once more, but there was no more cool structure to see, so I set my sights on Springfield.
Today, I accomplished 100% of what I had planned, and I was on one of only two tornado-warned cells in Missouri. After a 700 mile drive to get there, consdiering everything that might have gone wrong in between, I’d say this day was a complete success.
Did I get a little lucky? Of course. But when you’re chasing, sometimes that’s all you’ve got to rely on.
Some barbeque and a Boulevard later, I’m ready to dream of gumdrops and supercells. Good night!blog comments powered by Disqus