Wednesday, June 3, 2009

06/02/09 Illinois Supercell & Tornado

Wall cloud west of Mt. Sterling, IL

Tuesday, featured a stationary front across central Illinois. South of this front instability was easy to come by with CAPE greater than 2,000J/kg. I pulled the plug on chasing on this marginal day by mid-day seeing a possible OFB (outflow boundary) near the Quincy, IL-to-Pittsfield, IL area. This would later prove to be essential later in the day. A severe thunderstorm developed ahead of a weak low (possible meso-low) in northeast Missouri. As it did I noticed on its current trajectory it would bisect a boundary east of Quincy, IL that seemed evident on surface analysis and visible satellite. As I began driving southwest toward this general area everything began to favor my thinking and parameters were pointing to this area as prime for a supercell. The severe thunderstorm moving out of Missouri was entering a very favorable area with decent low-level shear as winds were backing in this area locally at Quincy, IL and Pittsfield, IL. These were the only stations reporting backing winds so I knew there had to be some sort of a boundary in this area. After being briefly severe-warned the storm lulls for about an hour. I thought well that may be good since it was only 2:00pm...not tornado-time quite yet. As radar scans kept coming in it seemed this storm was crawling which made catching up to it a breeze unlike most chase days. As I entered Rushville, IL I couldn't believe no other chasers were heading to this area or at least were not visible on Spotter Network (SN) originally. Than again I wasn't on SN till I was within 20 minutes of the storm. As I headed west-bound out of Mount Sterling, IL on U.S. 24 I made a bold decision to get a little closer to the storm to get some better shots. I stopped before entering the town of Clayton, IL so it would leave me an escape route. Good thing I did as the wall cloud produced a brief tornado near my location. It was rotating strongly at this point and was a little too close for comfort. I than decided to blast back east to be safe. I quickly find myself pulling over to the side of the road though as I see a tornado developing in my rear-view mirror. Heads-up on my part! Storm goes quickly tornado-warn for a good bit with very good rotation and brief funnels. The tornado accounted for minimal tree damage which does not surprise me since it was very short-lived. The tornado reports from this day can be found here. The photos from the day I've included below:

Finally, a supercell with some structure
(rapidly rotating wall-cloud before it produced)
It wasn't a photogenic tornado by any means, but indeed a photogenic supercell
Messy outflow with brief funnels at this point
Funnel sneaking up on some of us as a
local also was observing at my location

This was a just a beautiful supercell to watch
Wall cloud again (portrait-view)...
Trending more outflow-ish as the evening progressed
Wall cloud trying to reform one last time, but to no avail
Evening sunset as I make it home before dark that seems to never happen

Finally, I broke out of the 0 tornado-column for 2009. It has been a frustrating year so far. Good storms, but not many tornadoes for most of us to chase and no real clean cut tornado outbreak setup. My only regret on this day was that I didn't get closer to where the tornado dropped to get a better view however given some of the chasing terrain in this area I'll take it. It's ashame that this was a brief tornado and not very photogenic...argh! Hopefully, #2 comes much more quickly than the first tornado of 2009! Well and not to mention not as "grungy" as yesterday's tornado proved to be. Nonetheless, it was good to have a "triumph" as it has been awhile! I might end up in the plains this weekend for what could be a "good day". We'll see...