April 17, 2004 – Chase to Northwest Iowa

April…Warmer temperatures, green grass, birds chirping, and of course the beloved severe thunderstorms. Since there hasn’t been many chasing opportunities this year, I was very anxious to get out there on a so-called ‘real’ chase. I can honestly say there has not been a chase yet that I’ve looked at so many forecast models and weather data as this one. From the Day 10 GFS to the morning ETA/RUC models, I think I scoured everything I could dig up on this trying to find some answers. The best area to me looked to be somewhere in northwest-west central Iowa. The models were throwing up some crazy values that were almost too good to be true. CAPE values over 2500, LI’s -8 to -10, dew points in the mid 60s, and wind shear wasn’t too shabby either. All the talk around the chasing community was regarding the overstatement of the moisture return from the gulf by the models. The other issue was the beloved cap was expected to rear its ugly head over the target area. Blah!

Being a weekend chase opportunity, I decided to disregard these ‘minor’ details and give it a go and see what happened. If I expected to go that far, I figured I’d better get my transportation in optimal operating condition. On Friday, I took my car in for its very first oil change. (yummy synthetic too!) I figured it would help maintain the engine as well as yield better gas mileage. Anywho, after taking care of that I took one more glance at the models late Friday night. I decided to pick the Des Moines area to initially stop and get data, then go from there. I conveyed my thoughts to my EMT chaser pal Mike Cox who said he would meet me and go from there. So after fueling/bathing my car and grabbing a quick bite to eat, I departed Champaign around 8:30 AM on Saturday morning. I headed west on I-74 and made my journey across Illinois, anxiously awaiting my first chase to the state of Iowa. Around Davenport, I hopped on I-80 to make my trek to the west.