May 8, 2002 – Northeast Missouri chase

Judging from the interesting outbreak of weather in the plains on Tuesday night, I was rather excited about our chances here in Illinois on Wednesday. The Day 2 outlook still had the entire state of Illinois in a slight risk of severe weather for Wednesday, so that was somewhat promising. After looking at all the data I could gather, I decided to make my target area in Macomb, IL. After talking with my chase partner Darin Kaiser, we both agreed that it was a good starting point.

The 13z Day 1 outlook on Wednesday still had Illinois in a slight risk, with a moderate risk further to the west into KS/OK. A quick check of data still lead me to keep my target area of Macomb. Darin showed up around 10:30am and we loaded up my gear into his truck. After making a quick stop at Best Buy to pick up some extra video tapes, we were on our way. We decided to go north towards Rantoul/Fisher and then jump on Rt.136 which would take us west to our destination. It was rather overcast and dreary as we left the area, but the further west we went, the more sun we started to see.

Around 2:00pm, we arrived in Macomb and began looking for a library. We finally found one and we were quite impressed with the computer setup. They only had a couple computers with Internet access, but they had nice LCD screens and very fast Internet connections. Anyways, we loaded up some data and not much was going on. There were some very nice cells out in Kansas, but definitely too far for us to go. There was also some stuff just north of St. Louis, but it didn’t look too promising. We made the decision to just sit tight for awhile and let things develop. We left the library and decided to drive around the area for a bit, eventually ending up a few miles to the west in Colchester. After Darin scarfed down a very messy ice cream cone, we decided to head back to Macomb to check more data.

When we got back, the new Day 1 outlook was out and it had extended the moderate risk up to NE MO. Radar showed that a few cells were firing up in central Missouri and looked to be heading to our south. Not wanting to miss out, we made the decision to move to Quincy, IL and go from there. We got to Quincy right around 5:00pm and was briefly delayed due to a train. We tried to find a library in Quincy, but decided to just keep going west and see what we could get into. At 5:45pm, we stopped in Palmyra, MO to attempt to gather some data. Darin went into the Conoco station which just happened to have TWC on the TV. While he did that, I hooked up my portable TV and attempted to find some local TV station that might have radar. Of the two stations I found, one of them had a little tornado in the bottom left corner of the screen with the word ‘watch’ above it. As we were sitting there, we noticed some nice mammatus clouds directly above us. Something was a brewin’….

After waiting through the first 15 minutes of the local newscast, they finally got around to talking about the weather. The tornado watch was west of us into central MO and the TV met didn’t seem to think severe weather would occur in the eastern part of Missouri. (very bad assumption on his part) Anyways, radar showed some storms to our west and to our east, so we weren’t sure of what to do. Our attempts to contact nowcasters went in vain, so we were on our own. We started heading back north on HWY 24 and all of a sudden my weather radio went off for a tornado warning in the county to our southwest. (bout darn time!) We made a quick u-turn and headed south towards Hannibal, MO. Once we hit Hannibal, we headed SW on HWY 24/36 towards Monroe City. As we got closer, it was obviously getting much darker to our west and lightning was starting to become visible.

At 7:13pm, we pulled off the highway about a mile east of Monroe City to observe the storm. There seemed to be a very distinct lowering, but there was a lot of rain which was obscuring our view. As the storm approached our location, the lightning really started picking up, so we decided to bail back to the east. As we were heading east, we noticed the cars heading to the west slamming on their brakes. Then the rain took over and we lost site of the cars just where we had been a few moments ago. A few miles up the road, we stopped and let the storm pass right over us. We had winds around 50-60mph, very heavy rainfall, and some very small hail. Once the storm passed, we followed it back towards Hannibal. Since it was getting late and we had a long drive ahead of us, we decided to get back into Illinois and call it a chase. As we headed through Quincy towards I-172, the flood gates opened up. (which was somewhat humorous with the weather radio talking about not driving through flooded roadways) 🙂

Anywho, we finally found the interstate and eventually got onto I-72 where we headed back east towards home. On our way back, the SPC issued a severe thunderstorm watch for parts of central Illinois, woo hoo. I was getting rather hungry as I had not eaten anything all day, so we stopped in Springfield and picked up some McD’s. (that would be McDonalds, not a mesoscale discussion) 😉 As we headed east on I-72, numerous severe thunderstorm warnings were following us back. I picked up WAND-TV out of Decatur and they were showing a nice squall line with embedded bow echos to our west. We finally made it back to my place in Champaign around midnight. I waited for the squall line to pass through the area before getting some sleep. A few severe thunderstorm warnings were issued in my neck of the woods, but nothing worth going out to look at. (though the lightning was nice) After the line passed through Champaign, I decided to shut the weather radio off to eliminate getting woken up by a flash flood warning. (which was a good idea as several were issued!)

Final thoughts:
Well, the chase wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped, but it definitely wasn’t a bust. The intercept of the tornadic cell in Missouri was very rewarding and worth the effort. It definitely beats sitting at home anyday!

Special Thanks:
Thanks again to Darin for the company and transportation, definitely makes chasing more exciting. Also would like to thank Macomb for having a nice chaser-friendly library. 🙂

Total Chase Time: 13 hours
Total Chase Miles: 550 miles

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