April 15, 2017


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Nebraska City, NE
Wilber, NE 4:00 PM 4/15/2017
Springfield, IL 1:20 AM 4/16/2017
Rock Port, MO
0 mph


Impromptu cold front chase on way home from weather conference in Nebraska. Intercepted tornado warned storm near Rock Port, MO noting funnel clouds and possible weak tornado before heading for home at sunset.

Crew and Equipment

Solo chase. Equipment: Sony FDR-AX100.




On April 15 I gave a talk at a severe weather conference in the tiny town of Wilber, NE. The event had been a success and I was also able to raise some money selling items for Storm Assist. I wasn’t planning on chasing originally, but a cold front presented the opportunity to get some storms on the way home. I wasn’t prepared to chase, none of my gear was setup, and I loitered longer than I should have after the event chatting with chasers and helping clean up. So I got off to a late start, but I wasn’t expecting this to be a big tornado chase.

Missed Tornadoes
1 miles S of Percival, IA
6:00 PM
Without my laptop, I was just going to wing this chase using my phone. Storms were firing in a line along a cold front draped from southeast Nebraska into central Iowa. The storms were making for Nebraska City and I figured they’d cross the Missouri before I could intercept. Not wanting to fall behind, I planned to head them off in Iowa. I picked a town just across the river and let my phone route me to it, which I hoped was also the fastest intercept route. I should have been diligent and checked, but the phone routed me up and around the storms, through Omaha, before coming back down on 29. I got caught in rush hour traffic and construction along the way. Meanwhile, storms continued to build to the southwest and stayed in southeast Nebraska. Had I simply headed due east out of Wilber I would have been on them in short time. The map started to light up with tornado reports. Outside of even the 2% an unexpected tornado event was underway, and I was missing it due to sloppy chasing. I was livid. The storms had congealed and appeared to be done by the time I was finally on them, heading south near Percival, Iowa. I punched the severe warned line, upset and not caring if I drove into huge hail or other severe weather.
I was going to blow the rest of the day off and head for home. There was a discrete storm crossing the river that looked promising, however. I went in for the intercept, stopping at a weigh station off of 29 in northwest Missouri where I was soon joined by a truck driver and a couple other chasers. Some pretty classic supercell structure came into view: a rear flank downdraft clear slot with some streaky bands of rain and a wall cloud. Motion didn’t appear to be too impressive and as the rear flank continued to fill in with rain, I wasn’t expecting much out of it.
It was low contrast, but off to the west I caught a snaky rope funnel withering away aloft in the turbulent outflow portion of the storm. The rain was encroaching on my position so I got back on 29 south making for the next exit.

Nub Funnel
1 miles NE of Rock Port, MO
7:22 PM
The storm moved off to the east of the highway, the rear flank clearing. Pretty sunset light was hitting the back end of a prominent rear flank downdraft clear slot. “This storm could wrap up and produce” I thought to myself. The storm was drifting over some squirrely terrain of the river bluffs and rather than take an exit that went through it, I decided to route around the hills and pick the storm up on the other side near the town of Rock Port. Heading east out of Rock Port, the storm came into view over flatter terrain. A nub funnel was already in progress.

Cone Funnel
2 miles ENE of Rock Port, MO
7:25 PM
I knew I wouldn’t have time to get super close, so I quickly found the clearest, most elevated point from which to shoot and setup for a long telephoto shot. A long cone funnel started to condense toward the ground. I was hopeful I’d get redemption after missing the earlier tornado show in southeast Nebraska.
I setup the tripod and got the 4k camcorder on it for a nice zoomed shot. The wind farm added an interesting element to the shot. This is about as low as the funnel got. Chasers underneath it reported a brief ground circulation marked by swirling leaves and dust so it was likely a weak tornado. I couldn’t confirm it or get a shot of that from my position, so I wound up not counting this as a tornado but left it a funnel cloud for my logs. It was gorgeous in the evening light and wound up being a nice consolation prize.
I chased the storm until dusk, but it was slowly falling apart. A pink gust front went overhead at one and it would have been magical if the storm had produced at that point, but it was long since done. I bumped into Caleb Elliott and we talked about the day’s storms before splitting and heading for home. I pushed all the way to Springfield and made it back in the early morning hours.


This was a photogenic and noteworthy chase given the low expectations and impromptu nature. I missed a couple of photogenic tornadoes that I could have easily caught had I been more on my game with routing and equipment, which was pretty upsetting. The evening funnels were a nice catch and helped make up for the loss.

Lessons Learned

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