April 20, 2023


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Rushville, IL
Springfield, IL 2:13 PM 4/14/2023
Springfield, IL 6:45 PM 4/20/2023
Industry, IL; Easton, IL
0 mph
Wall Cloud, RFD Gust Front, Hail Core


Cold front play in central Illinois. Targeted Rushville to head off ongoing severe warned storm. Intercepted tornado warned supercell at Industry noting wall cloud and gust front structure, but no tornado. Let storm go near Peoria, retargeting Tail-End-Charlie by Havana nothing hail core and scud.

Crew and Equipment

Solo chase. Equipment: Sony AX100, Samsung S9.




I was down for a couple weeks, a welcome reprieve from chasing. I skipped the previous couple of events, a setup over the weekend in Missouri that would have been a grind over bad terrain, and April 19, a surprise over-performer on which I would have surely played Iowa and not been thrilled with my results compared to Kansas or even the hazy, rainy beasts in Oklahoma. But April 20 was in my backyard and I had the time so I figured I’d come out of my shell. Playing the Midwest the day after a big Plains day is often a move of desperation. It’s usually leftovers on the cold front. And that’s what April 20 looked like, so I had no expectations going into this one. It looked like a complete crapshoot up and down the front, marginally better directional shear to the north toward Wisconsin, with stronger instability to the south over southern Illinois. I decided to stop nitpicking the forecast and just go with my “gut”, aka pattern recognition from past experience that’s more emotional than thought out logical. A couple of cells fired by early afternoon in eastern Missouri, the northern one dominant, and it’s usually that first really robust storm that does it. It was lined up to follow a similar track of the Table Grove/Lewistown tornadic supercell of April 4, right over the Illinois River Valley/highway 24 “mini tornado alley”, and would ride just outside the border of the 5% probabilistic tornado outlook and tornado watch boundary, rather than bulls eyeing through the center of it. All of that said this is your storm, for no other reason than superstition. Grinding on cold front junk didn’t sound appealing, but watching from home only to see this thing just down the road go potentially tornado warned seemed even less appealing. I was out the door and rolling just after 2pm with an initial intercept plotted for Rushville.

Updraft Base with Wall Cloud
2 miles ESE of Littleton, IL
3:06 PM
I took Highway 125 northwest toward Rushville. Multiple times I had to slow and wait to get around farm equipment as it was planting season. Time was far less on my side than I thought it was too. I anticipated some right turning and catching the storm close to Rushville, but the storm did not turn right, riding veered flow on the cold front as it speedily tracked northeast. I’d have to head it off on 67 north out of Rushville, and it was now a race to get it before it crossed, or else I’d wind up playing catchup tracking the storm from the south. North of Rushville, the storm came into view, a large wall cloud hanging from the base.

Wall Cloud and Tail Clouds
2 miles NNE of Littleton, IL
3:10 PM
The wall cloud and RFD gust front surged eastward and I blasted north across its path to catch my next east and stay ahead of it. I’d beat the storm, but now I was committed to getting into the notch and forward flank as the business end of the supercell would cut me off to the south. The tips of the tail clouds crossed the road behind me and I hit the forward flank just before Industry. I was blasted with rain and hail as I made my turn east, clear air just ahead, and the wall cloud off to my right. Of course that’s exactly the moment the storm went tornado warned, as I was precariously perched in the notch. Thinking back to Reed’s harrowing intercept the day before in Oklahoma, I thought to myself, “Great, now it’s my turn to look for deviant motion.”

Tornado Warned Gust Front
7 miles WSW of Vermont, IL
3:18 PM
I pulled ahead of the storm, the tail cloud spanning overhead and the RFD gust front crossing the road behind me. A mile or two into the clear air I stopped and turned to face the storm. The gust front looked dramatic, but I didn’t see anything that looked imminently tornadic.

Teal Horseshoe
7 miles WSW of Vermont, IL
3:32 PM
The gust front bowed into a little horseshoe, marked by streaky bands of rain and highlighted in shades of teal and turquoise. I let it pass to my north, with decent visibility from which I could spot something spinning up from within. But the storm remained quiet. Not today. You’re chasing the leftovers, remember? I started heading east again before the trailing gust front caught me. I was rather dismayed to see that I was heading straight into Table Grove, hit by a tornado on April 4. I felt bad for the residents, who were once again in the path of a tornado warned supercell. And I was further dismayed that my route from Industry to Lewistown was exactly the route to view all the tornadoes and structure from that day. The universe was sticking it to me with the cruel irony that I would now get to drive that route, but without any of the tornadoes or structure. Because the horseshoe then filled in with rain as the storm transitioned into a high precipitation mode, and then an embedded HP as the flanking line congealed, and then finally a curling book-end circulation on the north end of the line. I stayed ahead of the storm on Highway 24, watching the evolution unfold on the radar, ready to move in for the intercept in case any kind of play presented itself. But there wasn’t any, and the tornado warning was dropped. I made it to the Illinois River crossing at Pekin, a low point in the chase on March 31 and April 4, where I decided to call off the pursuit on this storm. More discrete activity was tracking toward Springfield. I could perhaps catch it near Lincoln, hopefully not after it spun up tornadoes just a couple miles from my house again. I routed to go south on 155 instead meandering on smaller highways all the way down there. Tail-End-Charlie on a short line segment to the north tracking toward Rochelle went tornado warned. I thought about diverting north for it, but the circulation looked embedded in the RFD core and was probably transient. I’d start driving that way, only to see it dissipate long before I arrived, while something else to the south started to get its act together. And I knew better than to just chase warnings. I turned south when the storm I had just left was re-tornado warned as it moved over Peoria. I could easily turn around and try to get ahead of it once more, but it looked like a squidgy complex of spiraling arms so I decided against that too.

1 miles WSW of Emden, IL
5:09 PM
Off to my west, Tail-End-Charlie on the line I was originally chasing was catching my eye. Convection was bubbling in the sunny skies on the western horizon. The cell was discrete and robust on the radar. It might be riding right on the cold front or caught behind the gust front of the lead activity, but so what and why not? I turned west on 136 toward Havana for the intercept. Pileus capped the tower, highlighting how stout the updraft was. The gust front of the complex was visible as a diffuse band, but it looked like it might curl westward into the updraft of the target storm. Perhaps this was a tornado play after all, and as I approached there was a suspicious pointy lowering underneath the base that was getting me excited.

Intense Hailer with Scud
5 miles NW of Easton, IL
5:30 PM
However, as I arrived I could see that it was just a mass of scud being kicked up by what was an intense hailer. I finally had a moment to get out of the car and just watch the storm for a while, which felt great. I stayed a bit too long, and the intense hail core was suddenly right here, the trees to the west enveloped in white and the hail roar becoming prominent.

Outflowy Base
4 miles WSW of San Jose, IL
5:45 PM
Highway 136 was open and fast, and I was quickly ahead of the storm. I stopped a couple more times, until the base was scooting off to my north and I let the storm pass. I was rocked by cold outflow before the updraft went overhead, and I could tell the storm was starting to dissipate on the radar. Everything else was winding down across the region even though we still had more than an hour of good light left, so I called the chase and started making for home.

Outflowy Base
4 miles WSW of San Jose, IL
5:47 PM


It felt nice to get out on a low-key local chase. Even though the tornado play across the region was an all-around bust with no real reports, I wasn’t expecting it to really pay out. I had made the most of the day, catching a tornado warned supercell right at its peak with some dramatic wall cloud structure, so I counted the day as a successful intercept. Standing outside, feeling the winds, and watching the cold front hailer in the evening light was just as enjoyable as well.

Lessons Learned

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