June 5, 2010


Initial Target: Keokuk, IA
Departure: Westchester, IL 12:00 pm CDT
Arrival: Westchester, IL 12:30 am CDT
Intercepts: Albert Lea, MN
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: Non-Severe (not measured)
Wind: Non-Severe (not measured)
Features: None
Miles: 764


Warm front/cold front setup across central Iowa and northern IL. Originally targeted western IL for best directional shear, but retargeted to Iowa due to lack of instability. Intercepted low topped line of storms in central Iowa noting little structure. Pursued Tail-End-Charlie but it too remained linear. Called off chase watching helplessly as tornado outbreak unfolded across northern Illinois.

Crew and Equipment:

Solo Chase.  Equipment:  Kenwood TH-F6A Tribander, Dell Inspiron Laptop.  Kyocera data card and router, Holux 236 GPS, Robotic camera dome with Sony XR-520V.




Saturday's setup looked like an even bettern day for western Illinois than Friday, with strong speed and directional shear. My original target was the same as the day before, the Monmouth, IL area. I left early heading down 88. Enroute I decided that there was too much cloud cover over Illinois and that my target would not properly destabilize enough for supercells. I retargeted south central Iowa where a tornado watch was issued and storms were developing.

I stopped just shy of Des Moines where a line of storms was developing. Checking data and gassing up I saw the Vortex 2 armada pass, which was probably a bad omen, as they had missed some of the bigger days already and I'd possibly get stuck behind them later. I waited for the storms to strengthen across the area, but they never did and quickly transitioned into a linear mode. I went south after new development but it too was all linear. Cells kept popping up further and further south with none of them exhibiting supercell characteristics. I punched through the line near Lacona, IA noting almost no visible structure, but some surprisingly gusty winds inside the core. Vortex 2 then reported an embedded multi-vortex tornado a few miles from my location which completely surprised me.

Unable and unwilling to follow the line's southward building into Missouri I called the chase off. About this time my original target initiated with discrete tornadic supercells. I could only watch in complete dismay as tornado reports came in via Spotter Network. The supercells tracked across the length of northern Illinois putting down a dozen tornadoes while I followed far behind unable to catch them.



This was probably my worst bust of 2010. I had been aching for a good Illinois chase all year, and this was it, and blew it by chasing the mother of all bust states, Iowa. The tornadoes in Illinois were beautiful elephant trucks. Many chasers scored huge too getting amazing video. Unfortunately the tornadoes also caused quite a bit of damage with two of them rated EF3. The outbreak reminded me of April 20, 2004 (the day I saw my first tornado) as it covered much of the same area and featured a relatievely low instability/high directional shear setup. Indeed it was also the biggest northern Illinois tornado outbreak since April 20, 2004. I was in good company though as several other area chasers also busted in Iowa, along with Reed Timmer who was on the same storm with me the day before in Illinois, and not to mention Vortex 2.



Lessons Learned: 

  • Don't second guess your target, especially when you are reconsidering it for Iowa.