March 15, 2016


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Hannibal, MO
Springfield, IL 2:30 PM 3/15/2016
Springfield, IL 8:00 PM 3/15/2016
Carthage, IL
0 mph
Wall Cloud


Earl season cold front/dryline play across west central Illinois. Targeted Hannibal, MO for late afternoon supercell initiation, but diverted to ongoing warned storms by Carthage due to delayed initiation. Noted wall cloud but missed brief tornadoes due to being out of position. Arrived home to find a tornado tracked within a half mile of the house, knocking the power out and damaging neighbor's homes.

Crew and Equipment

Solo chase. Equipment: Canon 60D, Canon t2i, Canon EFS 10-22, Canon EF 50mm, Sony HDR-xr500v.




My 2016 chase season looked like it was going to kick off with a bang. Parameters were coming together for a tornado play across central Illinois in March. I'd start the season chasing in my 2010 Town and Country again, equipped with acrylic camera dome on the roof housing a couple of Sony camcorders or DSLR combiantion (see video).
A deepening surface low with a diffuse cold front or even a dryline looked like it would make it to the Mississippi providing ample low level wind shear, moisture advection, and enhanced lift.
My initial target was Hannibal, MO. The HRRR was consistently showing run after run that a long track supercell would initiate along the Mississippi track south of I-72 and eventually strike the Springfield area after dark. Other storms were forecast to develop to the north as well, but the Tail-End-Charlie storm was forecast to be dominant. I set my initial target for Hannibal, MO hoping to catch the storm on the river and chase it into Illinois before it got dark. I left by mid afternoon, arriving in Hannibal over an hour later, and then waited. The HRRR can consistently naillocation of storm initiation, but it's often off on the timing of storm initiation. Meanwhile storms were erupting north of Quincy and picking up warning, while I was still sitting under clear skies. As 5 pm approached and I realized I had no storm and dwindling light, I realized I better abandon my target and race north if I wanted to see something in the day. I figured the Springfield storm might even be a no show due to capping. I raced north, attempting to head off a tornado warned storm in Carthage, IL.

Wall Cloud
1 miles E of Carthage, IL
6:06 PM
Arriving in Carthage, a wall cloud emerged from the southwest. It looked like it was getting rain wrapped already, however. so chances for a visible tornado weren't looking very promising.
I started to run east and north to keep up with the fairly quick moving storm. The road options and terrain were just bad enough that I lost visibility and pacing on the storm long enough to miss the couple of tornadoes it produced. They seemed to be rather brief, non condensed and partially rain wrapped. But for a first chase of the season I would been more than happy with that, and was super bummed I was out of position.
A hail shaft under an RFD clear slot near Bushnell, IL:

I tracked the storm through dark until it approached the Illinois River valley and roads and crossings were getting sparse. It of course produced another brief tornado in the last of the twilight and I was able to miss seeing that one too. I called the chase and started making my way home for Springfield.
Meanwhile, the long lived supercell that the HRRR had been plotting run after run had indeed initiated, and not long after I abandoned my target for the north end of the setup. It wasn't ready to start producing tornadoes until well after dark, but near Jacksonville the storm was sporting a sloppy hook echo and a tornado warning. And it was heading for the southwest of Springfield, right where I live. I called home to alert the family and have them take shelter. I wasn't expecting a big tornado with the sloppy looking hook but I remember saying something along the lines of, "just in case it does something stupid, you should head down to the basement." Jenny reported that the power went out shortly after she got down there. I arrived in Springfield expecting to see a good chunk of the west side out of power or something similar, but much of it appeared normal. It wasn't until I got onto our street at the very back of the subdivision did I see there was no power, and then I knew something was wrong. Emergency vehicles were stopped a couple blocks away rendering aid at a damaged house.
The NWS would survey an EF1 tornado the following day. The red dot is the position of my house, about 2,000 feet from the track of the tornado. For reference, I also plotted the track of the March 12, 2006 EF2 that struck Springfield, which was also my third chased tornado.
The forecast path of the March 15, 2006 supercell wound up being remarkably close to that of the "Six State Supercell" of March 12, 2006. Sometimes there are some freaky coincidences in the weather.
The enhanced risk for tornadoes more than verified on this event.


This chase felt like a real slap in the face. Not only did I miss the tornadoes on the storm I went after, but I literally could have chased from my back porch. Storm chasers twice as far from the Springfield tornado than my house managed to get great shots of the funnel. Not to mention there was the heart break of seeing damaged homes in your own neighborhood, one of them was missing a roof. I always pick a daytime target over a night time one, but I had known how incredibly close that tornado would have passed, I would indeed have just stayed put. Little did I know this would be just the first slap in the face of many during the 2016 season.

Lessons Learned

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