5/30/04 REPORTS


Anyone else chase ;> Just getting back from a 12hr marathon through Indiana - full report tomorrow but more a lightshow than anything else (missed the Lafayette tornado by ~ 5 minutes)

- Rob
Basically a BUST day for me. Got up at 5 a.m. to analyse a target area.
Decided southern Ill around Effigham / Vandalia would be my target instead of Indiana - mid 70s dew pts, 3000 cape, good LI etc + 25% hatched tornado prob. from SPC. Headed out at 9:20 edt after getting the 1300 utc day 1 which expanded the high risk area further north into Northern Illinois. No library data available so tried to stay in the highest dew pt areas with sunny skys. Hung around the Vandalia to Pana ,Ill area in late afternoon until storms started firing up. Lots of tornado warnings out but didn't see anything - too far north should have gone futher south and east . Tons of rain and waited out a hail storm in a carwash- dime size hail. Should have stayed with my Sat. target pick of central Indiana. Home at 2 am. An enjoyable chase in spite of being non productive-not very many high risk days here in the mid west.

Jon Miller
Celina, Ohio
Just 600 miles from ending my 2100 mile marathon from CT. I first targeted Effingham then decided to head to Saint Louis area. Initiation happened very quickly. I chased a storm north along I-55, it became tornadic, never saw anything.

I went back south towards Breese, also tornadic, saw a wall cloud and a funnel, I think. Then I drove east on I-70 chasing a few storms. Bottom line, no tornados for me. My guess is any tornados that formed were not long lived. Also, the system was so HP. I bet the final tornado count will be much lower than the prelim.

Amazing lightning show though, somewhat terrifying, especially after dark. Also ran into some small hail. Nevertheless, it was an exciting day.

Sorry this report is so choppy, I'm in a rush to get home.
Yesterday can best be summed up as a marathon without too much to report. Myself and Pat Clouse left Ann Arbor at 11:15 initially targeting somewhere southwest of Fort Wayne. We were hoping to find a truck stop in that area with data to refine our selection further. We got to Ft Wayne at around 13:30, couldn't find any truck stops off 69, but did stop for food. From there we headed west along 24 targeting some cells firing in a line around Miami County north.

Never intercepted those cells as they were moving NE too fast, and I didn't want to be stuck in the NW corner of IN. My thoughts were that convection in that part of the state would stabilize things a little bit for the better show later in the afternoon (2 sups later developed there). We drove around for a little while and eventually ended up in Kokomo, which was the central area that I wanted to be in. Sat at an airport just west of town for around 1 1/2 hours (16:45 to 18:15 local) relaxing, and eventually going inside the airport (very small!) to grab some radar, which I was surprised the gentleman inside let us have access to.

Left the airport, made a quick trip into Kokomo for beverages, as the warning was going out for the Indy area. Almost headed south for this one, but a last minute warning for Pulaski County to our NW went out, and we played this one as it was closer and had been visually watching it develop for around 20 minutes. Nice structure in NW Cass County (Logansport area), lots of rotation. Didn't drop anything for us though. It never really got too organized.

From here we plotted a course for an intercept on the Lafayette cell to our south as the TOR went out for that one. We ended up in Burlington around 20:00 local. The sirens were constantly sounding there, and the place looked like a ghost town, less the 2 cars headed south on 29 that turned around at the edge of town as the winds picked up. Needless to say I wasn't too happy with the decision afterwords, as it was dark now and we couldn't see ANY defined structure within the cell.

At this point I called off the chase and we headed home. It wasn't fun being out there with no data in the dark, and really no visual clues.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the days results. No data in the truck, so we pretty much chased warnings once we were in the target area. The haze and grunge all day made it hard/impossible to get any visual clues on anything at all, but at least we were generally in the right area. Got 3 1/2 hours of combined video, mostly of nothing extremely notable, but at least a funny way to look back on the day. This was my first serious chase outside of a 75 mile radius from home.

Total Time = 15 hours
Total Miles = 610
Total Fuel Cost = $83

My original plan was to leave Lansing around 9am EDT and hit Springfield IL (which would get me there by 3pm CDT.) Woke up to the view of a TOR box for northern IL/IN associated with the warm front. Not good because we have a new guy temporarily doing weekend weather and he's only had limited experience with storm coverage. So with no time to analyze the potential for storms in MI (our DMA goes to the IN/OH line) and decide before leaving or heading off to church I decided to stay in town til after lunch and re-evaluate.

Home at 1pm ET and spent about 30 minutes going over everything... Plenty of storms just north of the warm front in northern IN/MI but I want to get past that stuff and hit central IN. Shoot down I69 and hit US24 southwest from Ft Wayne. A few storms go severe after I pass by but I'm not worried about missing them as they were all in the cold air and all that came out was some trees down - I was looking for the tail storm which resulted in some TORs for Jasper / Benton / White Co in NW IN but it died not long after.

Hit a few nice cells across US24 but outflow dominated. Finally got into the warm sector by Wabash with temps 77-85 and dews in the 70's the rest of the day (SO good to feel that again!) Looked like a lull in the pattern (3pm EST) and so as I continued along I called IWX to see if they needed any confirmation from the TOR warning (had 90kt outbounds) for White Co south of US24 and they were empty. So I perused southern White Co along IN18 south of Chalmers where the meso passed over -- and found nothing. Not even evidence of gusty winds, just rain puddled everywhere.

New cells developing over Iroquis Co IL but moving northeast and would be hard to catch thanks to Indiana roads (I-65 was not a good option because of outbound Indy500 traffic.) Decided to take a look at my old stomping grounds at Purdue and walked around campus for about an hour.

As I was walking back to the stormvan it was looking pretty ominous to my southwest so my walk turned into a jog as thunder started rolling. My choices were to head NW along I-65 into the supercells up that way but again traffic combined with lack of exits meant putting myself into more danger than I wanted. Going south towards Indy's storm meant punching through several lines of cells. Neither of those worked for me ;> I went into NW Tippecanoe Co and sat just as a SVR was issued for the cell. Off the chase report and onto a Skywarn rant...

Kudoes to Tippecanoe Skywarn for their repeater setup -- they have it linked to EAS so when the tones go out over NWR the repeater ID says "SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING" and then they link in NWS audio direct. Very cool!

Now on to the bad side of their Skywarn... First off a story - 15 years ago when I was attending Purdue I checked in with a quarter-sized hail report and it was rejected because the net control station was watching radar from Indy stations about 10 minutes earlier and it only showed green over my area. Fortunately another guy had hail too so it eventually was "accepted" as valid!

For Sunday's event -- during a High Risk day, Tornado Watch, history of tornadoes already, and now a SVR warning -- there was nobody running a net. Just a few of us calling in looking for NCS. Eventually someone "somewhat" took charge but then all of the sudden people were checking in by boatloads. Apparently sirens were now sounding in Laf but nobody knew why. Eventually I realized that the EMA has its own group of spotters and apparently one of them saw a touchdown so they sounded the sirens. Not sure why EMA and Skywarn don't communicate as that's a major error in my opinion. So now we have a tornado report and I ask for more specifics (someone has a scanner listening to the EMA) and am corrected that "this isn't a tornado yet, it's just a funnel touching the ground." Hmm.

It's 8 miles southest of LAF moving NNE. Another report comes from Dayton about 5 ESE of LAF, but county fire tones it out as moving WEST. I asked NCS for any clarification on storm movement and am told that EMA spotters don't know which way it's moving (still daylight at this time.) But it can't be moving west so I ignored. Eventually Indy issues a formal TOR warning for it.

I'm already heading down I65 shooting to go east on IN26 and then tail the storm. As I exit I65 - IN26 is closed by the sheriff. By the time I get around it there's no way of catching. A ham checks in to say "the tornado must be hitting IN26 now if my assumptions are correct" -- he was on the other side of the county and just felt like extrapolating apparently as he pulled that back when asked how he knows about the location.

A spotter from Mulberry (about 5 east of the original TOR) checks in asking why his sirens are sounding, and NCS tells him that it must be a mistake because you are all in the clear. Ooops. According to the LSR post-event, the county EMA reported a tornado touchdown in Mulberry. Lesson #1 -- NEVER say someone is in the clear unless you KNOW they are in the clear. #2 -- communicate with EMA!!!

I went EB into the next county finally as a new storm was approaching from the southwest and Indy TOR'd it. I asked NCS for info on the next county's spotter net and was told that Tippecanoe County doesn't communicate with neighboring counties as their weather is of no interest to Lafayette so they had no help. Isolation is not good in the weatherworld and it's sad that with all the capabilities Purdue has to offer in dataflow and the EMA has in spotter networks that Lafayette's Skywarn is so horrible.

Back to storms - I sat near Rossville and watched the next storm approach as a nice lightshow but nothing exciting. Another tornado (F2) did some significant damage in Peru but still not reachable by me in time. A new TOR was issued just to my east based on radar just east of James Dean's hometown but I was no longer impressed with radar TOR's in that area so left it alone, and spotters on the Ft Wayne Skywarn net eventaully reported nothing but rain and some gusty winds, so I made the horribly long trip home (always worse driving 4 hours at night when you're tired after a chase day when heavy rain CONTINUALLY beats on the car)

12 hours, 550 miles, but the visit to Purdue made it better than a complete waste.

- Rob
Saw a *very* brief touchdown near Morton then a very beautiful 15 minute tornado near Eureka/Secor. Will post a more detailed account with caps and clips later.

Well, I don't know where to begin, but I'll start by saying I never saw any tornadoes (I don't think anyway...lol). Now on to the rest.

I reviewed the 0600 outlook and upon seeing how far W the greater threat portion of the outlook had moved, all but gave up on going out. So I go to bed. I wake up around midday and see the situation has changed and soon after things started to break loose. Evidently cloud cover had broken enough (I say this because I slept all morning and honestly don't know how much the sun peeked through) to allow storms to pop over east-central Kentucky along the warm front.

Sometime in the early afternoon a storm popped over Clay County and became tornado warned. Since this was one county S of me, I decided to check it out. I could see the storm pretty clearly as I drove S, but being the terrain here is terrible and tree covered, I never could get a clear shot at the base. I think this storm eventually moved into neighboring Perry County, where locals reported a tornado (but NWS JKL only lists wind damage). The cell soon weakened.

About an hour later another storm rapidly developed over Jackson County which was the county to my W and was generally moving my way. It too went tornado warned. So I drive a couple miles N and find a good spot (a hill) in which to view the storm as it passes by me. Unforunately, this one too lost it's rotation by the time it moved past me and soon after weakened.

Later another storm developed, also over Jackson County with pretty much the same results as before. Had this one actually dropped a tornado, it would have moved right over my home, or very nearby. But it too fizzled. To make a long story short, this same type of thing happened so many times I lost track of them. Mini-supercells would fire in a line roughly from Lexington down toward London, develop rotation, prompt tornado warnings, then generally weaken/lose their rotation after slowly moving eastward across one or two counties. Then the sun would pop back out and 30 minutes to an hour later, a fresh new group of cells would form generally over the same exact areas and move off to the east or northeast. This started around 2 PM EDT and continued until 9 or 10 PM EDT. I have never seen so many storms fire over the same area in this fashion before. I wouldn't call what I did chasing. It was more like mobile spotting as I hopped from cell to cell, while trying to keep a safe distance from them in this horrible terrain. I probably never drove more than 10 miles at once all day. Anyway, as darkness closed in I decided to call it quits and went home to check out the storms moving in from the west. This was when things really got interesting.

I watched as the squall line worked it's way across the state with several tornado warnings and lots of wind damage reports rolling in. Sometime around 1:30 am, my area was finally placed under a severe thunderstorm warning. While in #stormchase chat watching the event with the gang, the winds started to hit. I took a peek outside and saw rain coming down in sheets. Then, I noticed a curtain of rain was moving west across my front yard! That was a bit disconcerting considering the storm was moving east. About this time there was a huge rush of wind that sent rain in all sorts of directions and the air filled with leaves. So I leave my spot and get into a bit better shelter in the hallway. I can hear the force of the winds against the house but didn't think they were really all that strong. Just as the winds seemed to be dying down outside, the power starting flickering. The power went off and came back on about 7-8 times in rapid succession before finally going out and staying out. This happened around 1:45-2:00 am.

I later went outside to check for damage and found more than I expected. Several large trees were down in my yard. A poplar tree about 60 ft tall had the top half snapped and was tossed about 200 ft into a field in front of my house. During the overnight, I could hear vehicles going by my house and then turning around and coming back. So I assumed trees were down on the highway. I went back out and discovered that about 10 trees were down blocking the highway and reported that. After daylight began to make a return I went out in the area for a better look and discovered much of the tin roof on the neighbors barn had been removed and blown about 300 ft into the edge of the woods. It also stripped the gutters off the house. Trees were down all over another neighbor's yard. I could see that numerous trees in the wooded areas had their tops snapped and blown out. When I came back I discovered I had lost a couple of shingles from my own roof. Again, I had no idea the winds were that strong when it happened, as I heard no loud roars, etc common to higher wind events. I would not have guessed they exceeded 50 mph until seeing what had happened.

I have no idea what did this damage, although I expect it was a microburst. Down the road about 500 yards to my N, the trees were blown toward the south, while at my house, the trees were blown toward the northeast. And on the other end of my road to the south, trees were again blown toward the south. I didn't see any evidence of twisting within the damage, so unless the NWS surveys it (which may happen if time allows), I will label it a microbusrt with winds probably in the 75 mph range.

So, even with no tornadoes, it was a rather interesting day. I feel pretty lucky to get away with only minor storm damage considering the risk that was present. And this is a good thing, considering my underground storm shelter was flooded from all the rains yesterday with at least 4" of standing water in the floor. Had I needed to get underground last night, I wouldn't have been able to. I also apologize for what must be the most boring entry ever made here in a report thread. LOL.

Started the day in Joplin, MO after staying at the Drury Inn for $60, high speed internet and everything, and on Memorial Day weekend! I thought I would have to pay at least $100 for a room that night. Keeping Drury in mind for next chase trip.

Hung around the Springfield area waiting for the new squall line to reach me. Contemplated taking off south after tail end charlie west of Muskogee, but decided to stay. With helicities better up around St. Louis and cells beginning to isolate and head that way, I finally jumped on I-44 and headed east for the best looking storm at the front of the line. Easy intercept, or so I thought. Cells were screaming ENE, I didn't catch the storm until nearly into the St. Louis metro - nearly 3 hours from Springfield!

Nice hook on radar on the cell, classic supercell structure at a distance - bell updraft tower, long inflow tail, low-level inflow was strong. Got under the base at Union, MO to see a nice clear slot, but the cell was getting hosed by cold air from another storm to the south. Huge striated shelf cloud on the storm now, so I decided to stop across the river from downtown St. Louis and get a shot of the mothership coming over the arch. Shelf cloud dissipated and moved off to the NE however, so no arch/storm shot :(


The big squall line of the year was starting to take shape now just a few miles to my east in IL, and I wanted ahead of it at least by central Indiana. I knew that the race with the squall line would not be easy. Jumped on I-64 and could not catch the line at 65-70mph on the interstate. Unbelievable how fast this was moving. Gave up the pursuit at Lexington, KY after too much standing water and fallen trees on the interstate to continue safely. What a mess. Squall line wins the race. Threat net showed parts of the line moving E at 81 MPH. Spent the night near Morehead, slept in, and made it home by noon Monday.

Got a few nice lightning strikes on the back edge of the monster squall line near St. Louis, that's about all I got from this high risk day. At least at the end of this chase I was only 2 hours from home :)

A thanks to Dave Crowley and Tim Vasquez for nowcasting Sunday.

[Broken External Image]:http://wvlightning.com/2004/may30.jpg

More frame grabs:

about 500 yards to my N, the trees were blown toward the south, while at my house, the trees were blown toward the northeast.

I would think a simple downburst would blow debris in a wheel-spoke pattern....i.e. everything outwards from the center. That's not the pattern you describe, George, and your account of the event is very interesting!!

2134 miles to be exact.

I have no regrets though, it was a great chase day. With that said I did learn a few valuable lessons:
1) Buy a plane ticket and rent a car.
2) IL and IN are hardly "the plains."
3) Patience, should have stayed put in Terre Haute.

Now that I have had a chance to look at radar and see what happened I am rather proud of myself. I watched a little blip of an echo race over Saint Louis around 2000z. I decided to intercept as it moved into IL. Just as I intercepted everything erupted. This cell remained discrete and a tornado warning was issued. I pretty much circled the whole thing and couldn't find any tornados, or rotation for that matter.

After that I went south as a tornado was reported on the ground 8 miles northeast of Breese. When I caught that storm I saw a wall cloud and a small funnel before rain blocked my view. I pulled into a rest area on I-70 and was glad to see that a lot of drivers had gotten warnings and pulled over.

I met up with some chasers/spotters in Martinsville as tornado warnings were going off in town. They were nice enough to let me look at their radar. I wasn't impressed by the storms anymore and light was fading so I called it off then.
Finally get a chance to post.

Left Grand Rapids not quite 2 pm EDT headed down US 31 and then south and west towards Lafeyette. Fog and haze from earlier severe storms made it hard to see any storm structure.

Driving along US 24 to swing around west of Lafeyette spotted 1 cell south of me and another 1 north. Clouds were going east, but the surface winds were fairly strong to the west. Figured to split the 2 and swing up the the SW side of the one on my north if no warnings before then.

Tornado warning for Iriquois county in IL just across the state line. Since I was only a county over I figured to go that way. It would be located near the SW end of the cell to my north anyway. Got to about 5 - 10 mi away and the warning was cancelled - rotation had disapated. Turned around to go more north after the north cell.

2 more tornado warnings to my north and west. The northernmost was for funnel cloud sighted by law enforcement.

Got into position a couple of miles east of the reported track. The sky was getting very dark with a long low clound running SW - NE. Some trees about 1/2 mile across a field blocked the southern end of the cloud line - which was closest to where the alleged funnel cloud was reported to be near.

Intense CG. Had my car window down for viewing. Saw a bright flash and yellow sparks, heard a zzzzttt followed by very loud thunder. Put my elbow back in and closed my window.

After watching the cloud movement I determined that it was a long gust front and wasn't going to be seeing anything tornadic in a few minutes. Figured it was best to clear the trees and get back to the main road before it hit - and I just made it. The front hit with the most intense CG and rain I have ever seen. The raindrops were huge. Drove in this for what seemed to be about 1/2 hour before it let up. Still had great CG lightning from one side of the car arcing overhead to the ground on the other side.

Nothing tornadic, but an amazing storm when that gust front blew through.
about 500 yards to my N, the trees were blown toward the south, while at my house, the trees were blown toward the northeast.

I would think a simple downburst would blow debris in a wheel-spoke pattern....i.e. everything outwards from the center. That's not the pattern you describe, George, and your account of the event is very interesting!!


Bob, after reading the following statement from the NWS today, I think you may be right:

715 PM EDT TUE JUN 1 2004



I suppose I may have been a bit too reserved in my thinking. HWY 846 and the area described in that survey is less than a mile to my NE, so if what happened on that road was a tornado, chances are good that what I experienced was indeed this same (or another tornado that formed along the same general track) that was a skipping, touch and go type tornado. My area sits between the two plotted touchdown points. The NWS has been extremely busy over the past couple of days checking damage and they are aware of the damage in my area. So I assume they may also check out what happened on my road as time permits. But it appears I may have possibly been in a weak tornado and just didn't know it. LOL. Man, I wish I would have had the cam on a tripod sitting in the north facing window when whatever it was blew through! Oh well, hindsight is 20/20 they say.