March 28, 2020


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Galesburg, IL
Springfield, IL 11:17 AM 3/28/2020
Springfield, IL 10:46 PM 3/28/2020
Monmouth, IL; Woodhull, IL;
0 mph
Wall Cloud, RFD Clear Slot


High shear warm front/cold front play in central IL. Targeted Galesburg for afternoon tornadic supercells. Intercepted warned cell over Monmouth noting occluded lowering. Intercepted second cell over Kirkwood noting possible funnel cloud and classic supercell structure over Woodhull before losing the storm in the dark.

Crew and Equipment

Solo chase. Equipment: Sony AX100.




From my morning chasecast storm chasing forecast discussion email list:

"Day 1 Today: Initial target is Galesburg, IL at 3pm.

Secondary targets: Iowa City to Waterloo to Cedar Rapids, IA: 3-5pm; Tuscola, IL to Danville, IL 1-4pm

Never an easy slam dunk. Ongoing storms across western IL will complicate matters. Possibly bifurcating the target. However, I'm currently seeing rapid decay and exiting of these storms on radar, and it looks like a drypunch is indeed surging in behind over north central Missouri with clearskies. Models continue to trend toward a slower solution NAM especially.HRRR is more progressive. Given the rapid clearing of convection and theclear slot on satellite over MO, more inclined to lean on HRRR solution at the moment. Adjusting for boundary placement slightly further west, the warm front drooping further south. 1-2-3 Rounds thinking prevails:

Round 1 yields a secondary target off the effective warm front well downstream. Expect redevelopment off of or intensification of ongoing storms now tracking toward Springfield, IL. As warm front lifts slightly and the warm sector destabilizes, a warm front supercell and tornado is possible,probably during peak heating over far eastern IL. South of Champaign into Indiana toward Lafayette.

Round 2 models persistent on a prefrontal trough yielding initiation off the moist axis and open warm sector. Expect a few supercells to fire nearthe MS River off the nose of the enhanced low level lapse rates fueled by heating in the clear slot. These storms will track rapidly northeast into western IL. My primary target as of now is Galesburg, IL hoping a storm produces upstream on the east side of the river where I will then watchit go by at warp speed. This target is now conditional on the clearing continuing. If storms continue to swamp the IL warm sector, the target maybe split between the two secondary targets. I'm taking this gamble basedoff of what I'm seeing on morning obs though.

Round 3 the main cf/dl boundary lights up, in Iowa first closer to the low near Des Moines by early afternoon. These storms expand westward and track rapidly northeast through midafternoon and early evening. You'd want to catch your tornado near the warm front here, although the whole warm sector is progged to have great helicity. Cold air aloft, steep midlevel lapse rates. Temps at surface are actually relatively cool, low T/Td spreads, and MLCAPE is rather low here. Might be dealing with some real low, grey bases and "cold" looking storms. Little worried the warm sector is not wide enough or robust enough, but the cold air aloft, lapse rates, and low level instability could easily make up for this. I was really hemmingand hawing about making the dive into Iowa looking at that this morning,especially with some of the nasty 12z runs. The best cold air aloft is over the target area in the morning though, and is starting to wane at main show time. But seeing the clear slot in MO and rapid decay of ongoing storms has pushed me toward the original primary IL target. If you play Iowa, try to catch a storm in the middle of the arc lifting near the warm front probably between Iowa City and Waterloo in mid to later afternoon.

The cf/dl will probably yield a round 3 show in IL as well, but with worked over air and winds starting to veer it might just be a cherry on top sunset convection show rather than a real tornado play. Not something to turn your back on though.

Important today is where the 0-3km CAPE is pooling. Models, with a slowersolution, still showing a big pool southeast of the low into western IL,including the Mesoanalysis RAP which is often very telling in this range. There is a lot in Iowa too, so that's a good secondary target. The low level lapse rate "finger" coincident with the 0-3km CAPE bubble is really poking western IL on the latest Mesoanalysis and that's really grabbedmy attention, a pattern I really home in on.

The high SRH yield is all in eastern Iowa, and that makes that target very alluring too. I think the backed wind bump on the prefrontal trough is where you're going to see your IL tornado and the effective warm front aswell, even in the absence of massive SRH."
HRRR showing multiple rotating storm tracks, an outbreak scenario.
The pandemic was in full swing at this point and the lockdown had begun. An excutive order from the governor restricted non-essential travel. There was dispute among those in weather community as both the media and storm spotters were deemed essential and technically storm chasing involved both. However, most storm chasers are out there for their own personal reasons. It seemed pretty obvious most storm chasing was non-essential. Many chasers, myself included, were still planning on hitting the road, however. My plan was to limit my exposure and exposure to others as much as practically possible. I packed all of my food and water. I brought a trowel to make an outdoor bathroom. I'd be camping in the car if I needed to stop for the night. The only public surfaces I would be touching were the gas pumps, and I had gloves and a mask for that. I was effectively quarantined in my vehicle, even if I was skirting the order still. It was probably overkill, especially compared to what many other chasers were doing, and mask mandates weren't really a thing yet. We were still all figuring out the best way to respond to this unfolding crisis.

I was rolling by late morning under foggy grey skies. The air was thick with moisture and the surface winds picking up, a common start to a big tornado day.
The streets wre eerily deserted. Most residents were indeed staying home. A gust front against the grey skies and empty roads made for an unnerving, almost spooky sight. I sat on the side of the road in intermittent rain waiting for the show to get going. A police car sat on the other side of the intersection before turning away. There was uncertainty and apprehension about how law enforcement would be reacting to the lock down order. We were told there wouldn't be any random checks, but how strictly was the order going to be enforced? Would there be roadblocks? Would we be confronted when spotted on the side of the road?
A line of elongated cells were intensifying to my west. I moved in for the intercept anticipating that they might rapidly organize, and indeed they did. A tornado warning went up over Monmouth and Galesburg. I approached a menacing looking wall cloud, but there didn't appear to be much motion with it. Every stormscape was made that much more apocalyptic looking by the lack of human presence.
It was a race now to keep up with the fast moving cells in the high shear environment. I went around the north side of Monmouth and picked the storm up on the other side. There was a lowering in the occluded portion of the storm. I couldn't yet make out any rapid motion, but the area was becoming rain wrapped too.
Running northeast out of Galesburg on a highway that nicely paralleled the storm from a couple miles to the south, I hit a conga line of storm chasers. They were indeed out in force despite the travel ban. Then there were lights and sirens behind me. I pulled over as police zoomed past, probably more interested in the storm than any of the chasers. It made me wonder for a brief moment though. A tornado report came in at about this time, apparently a brief one without a full condensation funnel. I couldn't get eyes on it, and was sticking to the highway in order to hold my position on the storm. I knew it would just rocket away if I nosed in closer. It wound up falling apart not long after this, however.
I sat on the side of the road for quite awhile awaiting my next target. A north south line of discrete cells erupted back to the west. I dove after Tail End Charlie. I held at Galesburg briefly awaiting it. Given the storm motions, I didn't want to get on the cell too soon and fall behind before it produced. But it was still miles away and sporting a nice hook, so I went for it anyway. I got underneath the base at Kirkwood and then started stair stepping north and east in a futile effort to keep up with it. I should have just held my position. The storm sported glorious supercell structure: a huge horseshoe shaped updraft base and a nicely sculpted lowering right where'd you'd expect the tornado. A tornado would have been gorgeous in this light, but I was already falling behind by miles so I was kind of glad it wasn't producing.
Running east, the storm didn't drop a tornado, but right where one should have been it instead planted a rainbow.
What looked like a huge ground scrubbing block wall cloud was forming in the pink, orange and purple sunlight. At this point I feared I might miss a wedge shot, looking on from miles behind to the west.
The cell didn't actually do anything that I could tell, however. I caught up with another cell in the line and got ahead of it to the east. Pretty classic supercell structure followed.

Possible Funnel Cloud
3 miles ENE of Woodhull, IL
7:48 PM
The sun set and the base was ablaze with color. It might have been just scud, but there was a cone shaped lowering right underneath the scrawny wall cloud/tail cloud. It might have been a funnel cloud, but I couldn't make out the motion from my position. It only last about a minute whatever it was.
I stair stepped with the storm into the darkness, before falling behind and letting the next in the line catch up to me. At one point I was immediately underneath the RFD clear slot. I looked up into the twilight and saw Venus shining brightly through the hole in the clouds. A beautiful end to the chase.
A few tornado reports came in to my north along the warm front but I couldn't make out anything in the darkness, was falling behind, and the line congealing, so I called the chase and made for home. I stopped for gas in Lincoln. It was a ghost town. The gas pumps were open, but there was no other movement.

Gassing up in Lincoln
3 miles W of Lincoln, IL
9:58 PM
Gas prices plunged below $2.00 with the lack of travel, one of the few perks to chasing during a pandemic.


I missed a few tornadoes, mainly small ones and after dark, but this was still an exciting chase with photogenic and dramatic supercell structure. This chase really tested the waters on what was possible during a pandemic and travel ban. It was clear that storm chasing was open for business. The police, visibly present, were not making any moves on the traffic.

Lessons Learned

Follow On The Web!
Storm Chasers Giving Back!

Webpage, graphics, photos, and videos © Skip Talbot or respective owner 2018. Skip's Webzone