May 14, 2003


A squall line moved through Champaign county kicking up several gustnadoes.  We observed the storm from the top of a parking garage, noting no tornadic activity from our location.  Photos by Adam Nekola.


SPC put up a slight risk for the day, so I was monitoring the weather but was not planning a chase because of the low tornado probability.
There was a wind threat, however.  A squall line was anticipated and a severe thunderstorm watch went up.

Storms started firing and to my astonishment, a tornado warning went up for Champaign County.  Where do you go in a tornado warning?  Why you run outside to the top of a parking garage of course (if you're a crazed fool).
Our vantage point from the fifth level of the parking garage gave us a nice view of the storm and city.  The sky was filled with low level grunge, ragged cumulus.  Looking North.
Watching the storm approach.  The Urbana Fire Department (not pictured) was also on top with us, using the garage as a spotting location.
Looking northwest as dark clouds roll in.
This ragged cumulus made it on the news.  The public was phoning law enforcement reporting it as a funnel cloud.  We and the spotters noted no rotation, but the sirens were sounded in a few minutes nonetheless.

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A similar cloud as before, the base of another cumulus.  Once again, no rotation.

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The fire department had me come down because they were blowing the sirens.  On my way back to the dorm I could see mammatus and the precipitation core behind them.

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Radar just after the storm passed.  Some dowdrafts, bursts of heavy rain, and some nice anvil crawlers on the backside as it retreated.


Nine tornadoes were reported in the area, however, there was insignificant damage, if any.  The squall was producing gustnadoes, or small, weak vortices associated with the gust front of a storm.  They are usually detected by a debris cloud or dust whirl in a field and typically produce only minor damage.  From our vantage point, though, buildings would have obscured our view of any.  The tornado warnings sent some of the public scurrying to see the tornado instead of seeking shelter (like us).  Several false reports of funnels resulted.