Jan 14, 2011
St. Louis
Models had been consistent with an early morning complex of storms developing in western Missouri and plowing through the main risk area along the warm front too early in the day for good tornado production. Tennessee looked like a better play where the front and an outflow boundary would both see a good amount of sunlight before storms formed and tracked along them, but I didn't want to leave my home area in case storms here managed to overperform. I left home at noon to position at Ruma ahead of the long-lived supercell moving southwest of the St. Louis metro. As I left New Baden, mammatus from the storms were visible overhead:


This storm didn't have great structure as it approached, and new cells were continually going up on its southwestern flank. These new storms were developing into supercells. I cell-hopped down the line to Chester, stopping a few times to get a view of the storms with my drone (terrain and trees are problematic for storm observing here). This was the view of the first tornado-warned storm at Ellis Grove via drone:


Despite the tornado warning and strong couplet, the storm was visibly undercut with weak motion along the northern end of the RFD gust front. The inflow also felt very cold, a consequence of the early hour when the sun had not yet had time to heat up the low levels. I got one more drone view of the storm north of Chester when the couplet was strongest, but again didn't see any signs of a tornado or even strong inflow at the surface. I didn't think this storm was worth staying ahead of, choosing instead to wait for new storms developing farther southeast. These also went outflow dominant, so by mid-afternoon, I didn't have any storms within reach. A new cell near Carbondale produced a visible tornado about this time, but it was too far away to consider.

With no immediate storms within reach, I went into Perryville for lunch and to look at the next play. The outflow from the morning storms had pushed all the was south of Cape Girardeau, seemingly ending the tornado threat to the north. Despite this, the area behind the outflow and the morning storms was getting full sunlight and could possibly recover a little. New supercells far to the west near I-44 in central Missouri were north of this boundary, but the southernmost one could potentially reach it if the boundary could manage to lift back north a little. More storms were also developing over the St. Louis metro area, and I feared the original warm front might still exist in that area. After a few storms traversed the area where I thought that might be without organizing, I committed to waiting on the western storms.

The anvil cloud canopy from the storms to the west quickly moved overhead of the area, ending the very short period of sunlight and destabilization we had. So, I was not optimistic that the incoming storms would do much. I went north to Evansville to get ahead of what looked like a QLCS kink developing in the lead storm. This was eventually tornado-warned. I again sent the drone up to get a view of this, and despite some differential motion apparent at the location of the mesocyclone, it didn't appear close to producing a tornado.

Despite the lack of tornado potential, the structure of the storm was quite spectacular. I kept the drone in the air for as long as possible to capture the scene.


A close lightning strike hit just ahead of the line, visibly striking a tree:



100% crop of the above:


I dropped back south of Chester to view the last supercell in the line move across the Mississippi floodplain. It had some decent cloud-to-ground lightning activity, so I set up for daytime stills and high speed video, catching one bolt on both cameras:


After this, I went back north on I-55 into St. Louis to try to catch some new storms going up in the metro, but these were racing northeast and were out of reach by the time I arrived downtown. I went back home, choosing not to go south for another severe squall line to the south. I could see the positive lightning strikes in the stratiform region from along I-64, so I set up for a while outside of town. I caught this nice slow-to-fast positive CG in the stratiform region, as well as a few distant clear-air negative CGs from a new core that went up at the western edge of the complex: