October 29, 2004


Initial Target: Waterloo, IA
Departure: Bolingbrook, IL 11:00 am CDT
Arrival: Urbana, IL 1:00 am CDT
Intercepts: Iowa City, IA
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: None
Wind: Non-Severe (not measured)
Features: None
Miles: 688


As another trough moved into the area, ample wind sheer, instability, and dew points were expected to return to the region.  Targeted Waterloo IA region and left Bolingbrook at 11.  Data stop in Iowa City informed me of a tornado watch and a squall line that was beginning to develop.  Continued to target.  Waterloo data stop showed isolated cells ahead of squall, but they were out of reach before nightfall.  Stopped for a few tornado warnings on the way back, encountered heavy downdraft and torrential rain from squall before leaving Iowa.

Crew and Equipment:

Solo chase.  Equipment consisted of a NOAA weather radio, cell phone, TH-F6A Tribander, and GPS equipped laptop.


One week after my worst bust, the weather patterns were setting up again for a possible Friday severe weather episode.  Much more leery this time, I didn't seriously watch the models until the ETA was within two days.  Eastern Iowa looked like it had a decent setup, and since it was much closer than my last bust, this chase was a go.  I decided to play the cold front in Iowa instead of the warm front in Minnesota, mainly because of the distances.
I left Bolingbrook at about 11 am.  At Iowa City I stopped for food, gas, and data.  A tornado watch had been issued for central Illinois and the radar showed that a squall line was beginning to develop.  Conditions still looked pretty good for my target area, so I continued north, hoping to catch a discrete cell ahead of the squall line.
At Waterloo, I still had a cu field overhead but nothing seemed to be going up.  I stopped for data again.  The squall line had gotten its act together and discrete cells were firing ahead of it.  There were some nice looking supercells on the Missouri border with tornado warnings on them.  I had worried about being too far south and now I was too far north.  The discrete cells closer to me didn't look great but I thought they might have a chance of getting their act together before sunset.  I blasted north out of Waterloo  The convection that I spotted looked pretty junky however.  I could see a more promising anvil to my south so I turned around and headed for that instead.  It was already starting to get dark so I thought I would start heading back and maybe intercept something on the way home.

Just before I got to Cedar Rapids a tornado warning triggered my weather radio.  It was for the county I was in.  After dark, I was going to try and take my chance and intercept.  I took the nearest exit only discover that the road network was terrible, thanks to a group of streams.  After about 15 minutes I made it across the streams and onto the road grid I was after.  The lightning was scarce so my visibility was extremely poor and the weather radio was very sketchy on where the tornado was.  I drove around the deserted country side trying to get my bearings until the warning was cancelled. 

Well, back on the road I went.  The lightning was picking up now and the weather radio was spewing out severe thunderstorm warnings so I knew the squall was close.  It caught me when I merged onto 80 near Iowa City.  The winds on this squall were fierce, some of the strongest I have seen all year.  I'm tempted to say it was severe but I can't confirm that.  I pulled ahead of the squall but just as I passed Iowa City a tornado warning was issued for Jones County, just to my south.  I pulled off again hoping to see something.  I let the squall line roll me over again but I quickly realized that spotting a tornado in this mess would be futile and got back on the freeway.

Near the Quad Cities I said to myself, "Hey, this is probably going to be the last storm I see this year."  So I pulled off and let the squall roll me one last time.  It had weakened by now but the winds were still peaking over 40 probably.  I continued on to Urbana to meet Jenny, hitting spotty weather until I was past Bloomington.  Arriving at an early 1 am, I was back two hours earlier than my last chase.  No fighting heavy eyelids this time!



Well apart from the squall line and its momentarily intense winds, this another bustola.  I wasn't expecting much for this late in the season, though, and was willing to go out on a limb for marginal conditions.  The main show turned out to be in Minnesota as most had forecasted with a couple of tornadoes touching down in the center of the state.  The storms on the Missouri border didn't amount to much.  Andrew Pritchard did net a nice looking storm near Bloomington (wish I was there instead).  Check out his log and pictures here.

Lessons Learned: 

  • Late seasons chases with marginal conditions usually result in a bust.
  • Don't ignore a potential target closer to home (like Bloomington).