April 2, 2006

Statistics:

Initial Target: Hannibal, MO
Departure: Bolingbrook, IL 8:00 am CDT
Arrival: Bolingbrook, IL 9:00 pm CDT
Intercepts: Kampsville, IL
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: Severe (0.75 inch estimated)
Wind: Non-Severe (not measured)
Features: None
Miles: 595.0

Summary:

Teamed up with Fabian Guerra targeting Hannibal, MO.  Met up with Jerry Funfsinn at target area.  Storms initiated in central MO, but opted out of engaging while they were in the jungle.  Jerry split to intercept in MO, while Fabian and I crossed back over the river to wait for an IL intercept.  Ran south along MS river intercepting dieing supercell with several hail and no visual structure.  Only east road option was a ferry across IL river.  Waiting for ferry and slow driving on slick roads, storm pulled ahead with increasing speed sealing our bust.

Crew and Equipment:

Chase team included Fabian Guerra. Equipment consisted of a TH-F6A Tribander, and GPS/Cell Phone equipped laptop.  Photography by Skip Talbot.

Details:

Another nice, early season setup was shaping up and Fabian was in on this one.  Initiation looked to be in Missouri, and not wanting to chase the jungles, we picked Hannibal, MO as our target.  Right on the river, with good roads, we could barrel into Missouri if we had to, or be ready to chase in IL once the storms crossed the river.
On 72, we passed Jacksonville, wondering if they usual suspects were assembling.  I gave a call out on the ham radio, but there was no reply.  Fabian and I agreed to press on to the target area, since it was only another 30 miles or so, and we could get data there.  It turned out that Mark, Scott, and Darin did indeed assemble in Jacksonville.
Fabian and I stopped at a hotel in Hannibal for data where we met up with Jerry Funfsinn.  The wifi was locked so we had to call the hotel to get the WEP key, which they gladly provided.  Things started to get interesting on the radar.  Strong, discrete cells in a north/south orientated line had initiated in central Missouri.  The weather parameters were also quite favorable at our current location and towering cumulus were starting to build to our east just across the river.  Fabian and Jerry were getting a little antsy and wanted to go after the nearby convection.  The structure of the towers was rather disorganized and they were moving into weaker shear so I suggested we wait for the Missouri storms to approach.  We held our ground.
There were three storms approaching the area.  The southern storm was the largest but was definitely out of reach, the middle storm had been tor warned for quite some time, and the northern storm was falling apart.  Jerry split from us to intercept the middle storm on the Missouri side of the river and Fabian and I went back east on 72 to set up for an Illinois intercept.  Pictured at left: some distant, photogenic convection.
Fabian and I booked it south along the river.  The flood plain to our left gave us a relatively clear view of the approaching storm, but there wasn't much to see.  The three cells had congealed into a line at this point.  We hauled south to a non existent RFB trying not to get cored as the weather radio warned of baseball sized hail.  We didn't make it, and the core engulfed us.  I found an east option and we booked it again trying to get out ahead of the storm.  That's when the hail started.  Pea sized at first, and expecting much bigger, I looked for a spot of shelter for the Shibster.  Hail size increased to just over severe limits right before we found a building with a metal overhang.  The worst of the storm was over by the time we got under it though.
Sandwiched between the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, our road options were absolute crap.  After driving east a ways I took a north highway that would lead us back to 72.  Then we could hopefully blast east and get back ahead of the line.  Fabian, however, had spotted on Street Atlas what appeared to be a nice east option across the Illinois.  So I turned around and backtracked south.  Instead of a bridge, we saw a fairy sitting at the edge of the river.  The operator waved us aboard.  We both shrugged and rolled on in.
Chasing by ferry is a first.  Slowed down by the slick roads and the need to take shelter, the storm was a ways ahead of us now.  The ferry puttered along at walking speed.  A severe squall had formed now stretching across most of western IL with a forward speed over 50 mph.  We sat idly taking pictures of the ferry as the action raced away from us.  No way to get on the leading edge of the line, the chase was over. 
Back on 55 we made contact with Scott, Mark, and Darin's group, Jerry, and Stan who had also gone out.  We all decided to meet up in Lincoln for dinner, except for Stan.  We all shared stories at a mom and pop's place, which apparently was a favoriate for the ILX folks.  Jerry saw about as much as we did, but without a funny ferry incident, while the other group bagged a rare, leading edge funnel.
Conclusion:

With a a 15% hatched tornado risk, we had our hopes up for this one, but we were disappointed.  The bout of severe hail wasn't enough to lift this chase out of the bust category.  At least Fabian's video will be good for some laughs between his swearing at the hail, and our ferry fiasco.

 

Lessons Learned:

  • Don't chase along the Mississippi.
  • Ferries are not chase vehicles.