January 3, 2004 – Chase to Southeast Missouri

No this isn’t a typo, I really did chase in January! After looking at the models for days regarding this day, I really wanted to chase. Some ingredients were in place, but like the last chase of 2003 we were missing the beloved CAPE. (must be those darn budget cuts!) Anyway, dew points looked to push into the 60s and temps were pushing mid-upper 60s. (mmm, moisture return!) Luckily this is the weekend I wasn’t scheduled to work, so I was free to chase. The SPC was also watching this area, but wouldn’t go as far as issuing a slight risk. However, they did put a small area of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas in a 2% tornado threat. It doesn’t sound like much, but when SDS is in full bloom you’ll take any positive news you can get! After mulling over the weather data, I decided to initially target the little town of Sikeston in southeast Missouri. I was anxious to see what exactly Missouri would ‘show-me’. 😉

Normally I would never consider a chase like this mainly due to my vehicle issues. However, thanks to the off-season acquisition of a brand new vehicle (courtesy of my chase pal/car salesman Darin Kaiser!), I was able to easily consider chasing today. I got up around 6:00 AM to check data and things still looked promising. (however the SPC still didn’t give me my slight risk!) I loaded up the chase gear and headed out around 7:30 AM. I headed south on I-57 for quite awhile until I hit the rest area south of Salem, IL. After a quick break, I decided to try out my cell phone data connection. I checked radar and satellite and I was still seeing clearing skies in southern Missouri, so that was very good news. I left the rest area and continued my journey on I-57, noting the constant overcast skies with a hint of clearing to my south. I arrived in Sikeston, MO a little after 12:00 PM and decided to stay there for a bit. I grabbed a bite to eat at McD’s (not to be confused with the non-existent mesoscale discussion!) and then utilized my unlimited weekend minutes via my data connection to assess the situation.

The latest satellite map was showing some clearing and what appeared to be destabilization in the southern half of Missouri. However, radar maps from both Springfield and St. Louis weren’t showing anything as of yet. I checked surface conditions throughout Missouri and you could definitely tell where the front was. In Sikeston it was a balmy 67 degrees with a 62 degree dew point at 1:00 PM, while just up the road in Columbia it was 41 degrees with a dew point of 31. After reviewing all the data, I decided that I may be a bit too far south and east. I headed north on US 61 and as soon as I left Sikeston the sun came out. (yipeeee!) As I was putting along, I noticed I was getting kinda low on gas. I entered the small town of Kelso and found their gas station. After filling up at a $1.56/gal, I continued north on 61 and then hopped on I-55 for a bit.

My new target area was Marble Hill, MO which was proving to be harder to get to by the minute. Route 74 turned into Route 25 which turned into ‘don’t drive on this road if you get car sick’ Route 51. I headed north of Marble Hill and found a spot to pull off on the side of the road. I checked the latest Day 1 outlook and it still had no slight risk. It also mentioned that the atmosphere was capped (in January?!) which wasn’t much of a positive to me. As I was sitting there for awhile getting data, this older guy in a big pickup pulls up and asks me if I’m looking for him. I tell him no and he proceeds to pull his truck onto the passenger side of my car and gets out of his truck. It really wasn’t much of a conversation, I just listened to him ramble on and on about pointless things. He finally told me that he owned all this land, but didn’t seem to care if I was sitting there or not. I guess he wanted to make sure I wasn’t having car problems or anything like that. He finally went on his merry way and soon after that, I decided I’d find a different spot to visit. 😉

I proceed north on Route 51 and quickly remember why I’m not fond of chasing in this part of Missouri. Trees, hills, curves, it never seemed to end. As soon as I thought I saw daylight at the end of the tunnel, there were more surprises waiting for me. I decided at this point to call the chase off and make my way back to Illinois. I finally made it to I-55 where I headed north to St. Louis. I got to St. Louis around 8:00 PM and was amazed at all the lights of the city. I wanted to snap some pictures, but never found a spot to shoot from so I abandoned that idea. I headed east on I-64 towards Mt. Vernon in hopes of hooking up with some friends of mine, but I was unable to get ahold of them. Once I got to Mt. Vernon, I hopped on I-57 and made the journey back home. Once again I was getting low on fuel, so I decided to stop in Edgewood, IL. Unfortunately they only had the cheap gas and there was no pay at the pump option (yes I’m lazy!), so I continued north on I-57. As I exited the interstate at Effingham, my low fuel light came on. I found a BP Amoco and filled her up with premium. (mmm, 93 octane!)

As I got closer to home, I encountered some copious amounts of rain. At one point I had to slow down because water was starting to really pond on the highway. It was interesting because it was the most excitement I’d had all day! 🙂 I finally arrived home at 10:30 PM and boy was I tired. (and cold, BRRR!)

Final thoughts:
Well despite the lack of storms, it was great to get out there and chase so early in the year. I can’t wait for the heart of storm season so I can really get out there and intercept some good ones. The car gets a lot better gas mileage than my old minivan used to get, so that will help on those longer chase trips. Bring on spring! 🙂

Total Chase Time: 15 hours
Total Chase Miles: 678 miles

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