Thursday, June 22, 2017

Carpenter, Wyoming Violent Tornado-Historic Wyoming Tornado Outbreak

With 2017 being one of the most frustrating years of chasing since 2014 it seemed chasers (including myself) were losing hope of anything incredible happening this year. Countless setups with high end potential flopping, stronger or weaker than forecast EML plaguing many setups, including most of the High and Moderate risk days issued this year. Or lack of surface flow on what would be cyclic tornado producing beastly storms. Lets not forget all the cold pooling issues this year as well. With only one photogenic tornado since March (that being the McLean, Texas tornado) that every chaser and their mother had the same shot of 2017 was taking quite a toll on my motivation to chase. That is....until June 12th. About 4 days out Stephen and myself were out chasing in the Texas Panhandle where we lost our windshield thanks to baseball size hail a system the GFS was picking up on caught our eye. A powerful shortwave streaming up into the Dakotas bringing with it a very moist airmass. We ran into Emily Pike, Brett Wright, and Chris Sanner at a truck stop in Western, Oklahoma and Brett had asked if we were heading up to the Dakotas. I personally had my doubts due to the fact every decent looking setup this year 4 days out seemed to always find a way to crap out on itself. I was more locked on working. But it definitely had all of our attention. I remember Emily jokingly say "You're going to chase and you know it."

By day 3 the SPC had introduced a slight risk area for the Dakotas and into Eastern, Wyoming with a less than promising outlook. However, when the NAM startled trickling in things started to become much, much more interesting. NAM was coming in much slower bringing unheard of parameters into Wyoming, Colorado, and the Nebraska Panhandle. On a good chase day you can get tornadoes in that part of the country with about 1200 cape and mid 50 dew points due to elevation and mountain enhanced features. NAM was trying to flirt with mid 60 dew points and 3,000 cape streaming up into the high plains of Wyoming and Colorado thanks to strong Southeasterly/Easterly flow. While eye grabbing I thought for sure this was long range bs.

By the time our system was 2 days out it was becoming clear that the best setup of the year was becoming a real possibility (in Wyoming of all places). GFS run by run started to slow down and all models were hoaming in on Wyoming/Colorado madness. I remember pulling soundings and my jaw hitting the floor. Because these soundings were conductive for strong tornadoes in Kansas and the Central Plains. Put these in the High Plains and something historic would unfold. But being how this year has gone I still refused to get excited. So many setups this year have looked almost perfect and then 24 hours prior take a dump. Then the evening before we leave came and the NWS in Cheyenne released one the sexiest AFD's I have ever read. 




For the first time all year I actually had the prechase jitters and were texting fellow chasers that were out that we are going to see something incredible tomorrow. The big question marks were still out as to if models were over doing moisture and if there would be enough cap to hold off storms until later initiation and remain discrete. Sure enough as we entered Colorado there was thick, dense fog. Something I have never seen there the night before a chase meaning dew points like models had forecast were verifying. A glance at surface obs and lower 60 dew points were already in place across Eastern, Colorado that would be pulled North later in the day. We awoke in Cheyenne, Wyoming to a thick fog deck. Again, something you don't see in the high plains on a chase day. I walked out of the car to go to the bathroom and it was so humid you would think you were in Kansas. Morning CAM models were orgasmic at best. Showing a string of behemoth supercells marching across the Colorado/Wyoming border. But I wasn't totally sold that it would be that far South. 


Stephen and I both agreed to split the difference between target areas and headed towards the town of LeGrange, Wyoming. But were greeted to absolutely no cell service to monitor how the day was unfolding and was such a small town there was no where to get wifi. So, we continued up to Torrington, Wyoming for better cell service and to grab some breakfast before the big chase day. On our way up the new outlook came out and words of 2017 were beginning to tease us with "Observed sounding out of Cheyenne revealed a very weak capping inversion). Greeeeeeeeeaaaattttt! Just what I want to hear. But, after bumping into fellow chasers Rob Forry, Emily Pike, Brennan Jontz and many others it was around 1pm Mountain Time and there were no signs of initiation. It was at this point I knew something historic was coming and the game was on. Now, the hard part was choosing North or South. Storm chasers are some of the most superstitious group of people you will ever meet. While chilling in a McDonalds parking lot I found a random quarter in my pocket. I told someone to call it and if we call it right we are going to see amazing tornadoes today. Sure enough, we called it right.....Remember that later...


As if this day couldn't get wilder not only did we have the furthest West a hatched area had ever been (let alone for tornadoes) the first ever in Wyoming history PDS Tornado Watch had been issued. My jaw nearly hit the floor. I still couldn't believe we were dealing with a 15% hatch tornado threat and PDS Watch in Wyoming of all places!


We found a hill in LeGrange where we got weak cell service but enough to load radar as we saw towers bubbling off to our North and South. Several foot tapping moments went by as we let the storms mature. The northern storm was now severe warned and isolated as all that can be. While the storms coming out of the Fort Collins, Colorado area appeared to be somewhat cluttered not making our decision easier. I've been burned so many times not listening to my gut and the whole time we sat on that hill my gut was telling me South. With a nose of 4500 cape streaming up to the Colorado/Wyoming border and mid 60 dew points pooling right where these storms were heading it sealed our fate to go South. That, and the Northern storm was moving in a Northwest direction. Not deviant for tornadoes. I even jokingly said "That'd have to make a massive right turn to go from moving NW to NE." Well, as if almost the weather troll God's were listening. As we approached the Colorado border the Northern storm was now tornado warned in an equally as impressive environment and was guess what?! NOW MOVING NORTHEAST! NEAT! Can't wait to screw up another 2017 setup. Photos streaming in from group chats of friends on the Northern storm and looked absolutely classic with a near ground scrubbing wall cloud. The car grew silent and had that sickening feeling in my stomach because I knew what today was capable of.  Disaster struck as Emily's car started leaking radiator fluid as we pulled off into a gas station and we offered her to jump in our vehicle as our storm was now (finally) tornado warned and the chase was back on. 


  
Radar presentation showed two absolutely classic supercells and both were now tornado warned as we came in to attack. 



Watching both storms approach it put on quite a dazzling display of two bases dancing with each other as one tried to become dominant while also spitting out an insane amount of CG lightning bolts way out ahead of the storm every second or two. 



While this was very cool to watch, I was quickly becoming frustrated. One storm would never take over. One base would look very good while the other seemed to be dying, only to have the dying base start to look good again and the other mature base start getting cut off. This would repeat for nearly 30 minutes and I was growing less and less optimistic by the minute. I figured the storms would just keep choking each other off and never amount to much while hoping to God the Northern storm didn't do anything as it was still looking very good. 



FINALLY it appeared that the southern storm was taking over and the Northern cell was being choked off. You could also notice this visually as now one base was quickly becoming sculpted and a big RFD cut was working in. I thought for sure this thing was about to plant a significant tornado anytime. I even messaged another group chat I am in that this thing was about to put down something big. 40mph warm inflow screaming in, taking loads of dust and dirt with it I was ready. 



Another length of time went by and I had no idea how we didn't already have a tornado at this point. Everything was there. 



Here you will see what built up my frustration to wanting to be done with the day. Our storm began to undergo a core dump and its base was quickly getting higher and higher and appeared to be on a weakening trend. Yelling at the wind I did not understand how this was not producing tornadoes. Stephen checked mesoanalysis and our problem was solved. 0-1km helicity was severely lacking. Meanwhile, the storm we had been eyeing near Cheyenne was now tornado warned and looking more and more mature with a reported funnel cloud. The idea was briefly tossed around to attempt and get up there but I couldn't shake my gut feeling about this storm despite it not looking so hot at the moment. The Northern storm to me wasn't behaving like a typical boundary riding storm where it seems to explode on one radar scan and turn hard right. It was this storm or bust in my eyes. Stephen and Emily agreed and again, it was almost like the weather Gods could hear our frustration and sadness as we thought we were going to experience yet another 2017 bust as inflow ramped up and blasted us with dust. Getting back in the jeep and continuing North to pace the storm I could barely keep the jeep on the road the inflow was so strong and you could see the base lowering in real time. I was having flashbacks to the Chapman, Kansas storm where it lowered substantially just before tornado geniuses occurred. Then a small funnel began to dip down out of the sky. 


I pulled over on our East option as the little funnel roped out and inflow was so strong it bent the power poles behind us and the base had lowered substantially. It was time. Now or never. Blasting East towards the town of Grover, Colorado on a dirt road to get to our North road our storm continued to get better organized and we still hadn't heard of any tornado reports up North (except for the Cheyenne storm that had produced a beautiful tornado that hardly anybody was on). Turning onto Highway 390 our wall cloud was really ripping and two funnels began to dip down, rotating around each other as our wall cloud continued to spin faster and faster. "Its carouseling!! its carouseling!" I yelled as the motion became stronger and stronger. 



There's no way this is not going to produce at least a brief tornado. We now ran into a road problem on how to keep up with the storm. We could blast North/Northwest and get right up close and hoped it produced, flipped around and get to our East road. Or take our East road now and keep pace with the storm. I said "North, North, North! I'll turn around and go back East this is gonna do it" Turns out there was an East road we didn't see on the map that lead right to the storm and curved North which was absolutely perfect! We found this right as the tornado touched down. Finally!!! A great 2017 tornado!!



Our road banked North. This was it! Finally our get up close shot we had waited all year for as the tornado continues to strengthen. 



The tornado began to condense again taking power poles with it as it dips down in the field beside us as we continue our approach. 


An absolutely breathtaking tornado was now underway! White stovepipe with very strong motion. Unreal!! 2017 finally paid off!! Our gut was right! We did it! 


awe and beauty quickly turned to panic as the tornado accelerated right towards a home sending huge pieces of debris into the air. This tornado was now very violent. Taking chunks of the field up into the air and throwing debris like toys. We inched closer and realized the house had some how been spared and the debris that got shredded was from their farm and silos. No cars were in the driveway and nobody appeared to be home and with natural gas spewing out and power lines downed right next to it we were forced to leave and continue the pursuit as the tornado grows back in size again. 






















Not much to caption at this point except "wow!" Multiple close range intercepts as the tornado continued to dance across this road. 


Just ahead of us we watched in horror as a real life Twister scene unfolds. A tanker truck begins to get pulled sideways towards the tornado before the truck moved the truck into the wind preventing disaster. Its a good thing the tornado was not impacting structures here because it was very violent as chunks of dirt were being carried up near the cloud base. 



With a dump streak of luck our road curved back towards the tornado for now a third close range intercept! 


"Its Alpena!!!" I yelled which was a beautiful tornado back in 2014 in South Dakota as we race North for one last close range intercept. 


The tornado turns dark, and it begins taking chunks out of the ground with very, very violent upward motion. Thankfully we did not see more damage as the tornado passes just behind this house. 



50 yards beside us, debris raining down and still violent the tornado transitions into a drill bit tornado was it begins to rope out after 20 intense minutes. 




This was the most stunning thing I have ever seen chasing. A mile long rope out, parked underneath of it looking up as a violent drill bit spins off in the field beside us. Our confidence was so low after busting the most recent High Risk setup and countless failed attempts for tornadoes (that was out of our hands) we had finally did it! 


Before the tornado completely died, it wasn't done showing off. With an orange lit background you could actually see through the tornado as it spins off in the field before finally dissipating.

Emily, Stephen and I jumped out of the vehicle with a group hug jumping up and down for joy! We couldn't believe it! The most visually stunning tornado I had ever seen and looked just like the famous Manchester, South Dakota tornado of 2004 which I had always wanted to see one like it. Fellow chasers Adam Lucio and Jonathan Williamson rolled by and I gave Jon a high five before Adam turned around. I nearly jumped in "The Tank" from giving Adam a celebratory hug. But, the storm wasn't done yet and the chase was back on. 


Crossing into Nebraska there was so much vorticity in the atmosphere that there were 4 shear funnels coming out of various locations of the storm. Something I had never seen before. We eventually caught back up to the base of the storm and trailed from the South on dirt roads where tornado number 2 would touch down!


Nothing to write home about, my still awesome none the less as this was all icing on the cake now and our third state to see a tornado in from one storm! 

Our storm would cycle again as we turned East continuing on mud roads behind Team Twirl. But as we tried to get East and then North our third tornado of the day descended to the earth.



Another brief one but another cycle was right on its tail and would produce tornado number 4 of the day! This one being much longer lived North of the town of Busnell, Nebraska. This tornado also had beautiful contrast as the tornado was illuminated white and had helical vorticies dancing around before kinking back and fourth eventually doing damage to a barn where other chasers got closer video of. 



Another beauty. Absolutely unbelievable chase day. A frustrating season turned around with just one day with now four photogenic tornadoes. This storm now had three mesos on it at one time and two out of the three had produced tornadoes. 

After this tornado roped out however, the third meso really started ripping and as we turn North tornado number 5 was born. Another absolutely gorgeous tornado! 


The lighting and shape of this tornado reminded me a lot of the Salina, Kansas and Cherokee, Oklahoma tornadoes of the April 14th, 2012 outbreak. We attempted to blast West to get a closer view but by the time we got close it was beginning to rope out. 




Finally, 5 tornadoes later and several hours of chasing later and darkness approaching our storm began to weaken and take on more of an HP mode. But, not before spitting out one last funnel and possibly tornado number 6 since we couldn't confirm ground circulation. So, 5 overall for sure. But, at that point I didn't care as we had seen total epicness in an amazing part of the country and bagged my first Wyoming tornado. 




We ended our chase shortly after filming this funnel cloud and headed back to Wyoming to get Emily back to her car and get repaired. It was also time for all of us to celebrate with steak in Sydney, Nebraska. A hard, well earned steak after this crappy year. The magic quarter worked! 




Conclusion: If its one thing this chase taught me, is to never go against your gut feeling. All day something was just leading us South and couldn't shake that feeling. With our confidence so low after busting so many times this year it was the boost that we had needed. I also got the video I have waited 7 years since I started chasing to get. Good, steady, close range video of a violent tornado. 

Sure enough the sons owner of the home found me on Facebook and informed me that his mom (the owner) was not home at the time nor was anyone else and she was down in Texas helping him on his farm when this all occurred. He was also in good spirits and told me how they've joked around for years that knowing their luck aliens would land there, it'd get hit by lightning, or struck by a tornado (oops). They believe they will be able to rebuild their home as it sustained roof damage and broken windows. The barn not so much. But were grateful it hit the barn and not their home that had been in their family for four generations and looks to be able to survive to a fifth generation! This would also go down as one of the most prolific and widespread tornado outbreaks in Wyoming history. 

Storm reports 

Video from the event: 







Monday, March 6, 2017

Violent Ava, Illinois-EF4 Tornado February 28th, 2017

Warm Front to the North with messy storm mode concerns, and Warm Sector to the South with a volatile but slightly veered and capped environment to the South. Which to choose? This would be our biggest headache on February 28th, 2017.

The Storm Prediction Center started the day with a large enhanced risk area from Missouri to Indiana and would later upgrade to a Moderate Risk, 15% hatch tornado later in the day across portions of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. I left the night before and decided to sleep near St. Louis Missouri and split the difference between target areas and allow myself enough time to monitor the situation that morning and see which area appeared to be most favorable for supercell development.



I met up with my chaser partner Alec Scholten later that day in Litchfield, Illinois where fellow chasers and good friends Adam Lucio and Stephen Jones would join us for a pre-chase lunch at Jimmy John's. It was now 2pm and our decision was not made any more clear as to which target to choose. Winds were still veered to the South with a pretty stout cap in place as a Warm Front continued to drift north of Peoria with cape values reaching nearly 2,000 despite widespread cloud cover. Also along this front would be backed winds and enhanced helicity values to aid in tornadic development. But, as we entered Jimmy John's a blimp on radar appeared. About 3-4 hours ahead of schedule. There was a brief moment of excitement at the thought of potentially daytime tornadoes. But, then quickly realized that the better parameters were not to arrive until right around sunset. All eyes were on radar as we ate and this storm coming out of Missouri near the St. Louis metro was still so isolated. Wasn't showing much signs of rapidly strengthening, let alone producing tornadoes so it allowed us time to monitor both target areas.




Pictured above is a cool horseshoe vortex that we documented while making a decision on what target to choose. An indication on just how much vorticity was up there right now.

Initiation also began to the North along the Warm Front but appeared to have many updrafts going up at once as feared with the messy storm mode.  It was time to make a decision or risk missing both targets all together.


Based on current storm mode to the North we opted South as our storm of interest still remained very isolated despite veered wind profiles. As we blasted South near Belleville, Illinois pictures were coming in from fellow chasers of a very photogenic mesocyclone that looked very mature and not far off from producing a tornado. We were still on the wrong side of the storm to see anything but this made us that much more anxious, especially having the potentially for a daytime tornado.

That would be short lived....As we closed in on the storm (which wasn't even severe warned on the Illinois side of the river yet) we noticed the core of the storm begin to shrink. RIGHT as we get the updraft into view. Then, in three radar scans the storm had nearly completely evaporated and all we were looking at as we got into position was a dying updraft.


To add insult to injury a supercell to the North had become dominant and latched onto the Warm Front and was now producing confirmed tornadoes one of which would be rated EF3 that struck the town of Ottawa, Illinois. These weren't just tornadoes either, these were photogenic tornadoes. One of which reminded me a lot of the Bradshaw, Nebraska tornado in 2010. As if that wasn't bad enough there wasn't a single play in town around us. Nothing but linear garbage to our Northwest producing some small hail. How could this day get any worse you might ask? As we try and salvage something out of the day by taking a look at the linear hailers a tornado warning comes out for Litchfield, Illinois. THE TOWN WE ATE AT THAT MORNING!!! AHHHHH!!!!! At this point the car is silent. Both ready to rage and just quit on the day as tornadoes continue to rage across the North. We pulled over on the outskirts of St. Louis as we were being plagued with GPS issues not only with my puck but on my phone as well. I mentioned to Alec about attempting to haul it North and see if we could catch the storm that was tornado warned in Litchfield and try and salvage something out of this day.



But, just like our hopes of seeing a tornado today the Litchfield storm appeared to be dying. This was on the verge of being one of my biggest bust days ever. Not only missing tornadoes on a previously discussed target, but a freaking tornado warning in the town I sat in all morning and afternoon while we continue to play in mushy storms near the metro. But, if its one thing I have learned while storm chasing is never give up until that last storm is dead. While extremely discouraged we briefly talked about just calling it a day and grabbing beers some where. But, instead I hopped back onto I-70 and blasted East in hopes that our current storm could give it one last breathe and reorganize to produce tornadoes.

We finally got ahead of the "storm" near Carlyle and it was pretty obvious this storm was not going to reorganize as it gusted out producing damaging winds. But we were here so we might as well take a look. Night had fallen and it was around this time we also noticed a new tornado warning box pop up on a storm coming out of Southeast Missouri. This being around the time the LLJ would be ramping up and the insane off the charts parameters would be coming into play. But, seeing what kind of mood we were in neither Alec and I were optimistic at all.


There was something different about this storm though compared to the cell earlier that tracked in this nearly same area. The core was beefy, and the updraft didn't appear to be shrinking as the core continued to expand in size and quickly started taking on the kidney bean shape we look for as we continued to stair step down the not so favorable road network of Southern, Illinois. I reached a quarter tank of gas and mentioned to Alec that we were fine, but we needed to start considering gas options. Our plan of attack was get gas in Ava, and blast East before the storm approached. My urgency to get to this storm grew a bit as we closed in. I have seen this look before. I knew if this storm was going to produce it was going to be very soon and if it did produce it would have the potential to become a strong tornado with the insane environment in place. We went through the town of Elkville (remember that name) when a new tornado warning came out and a SN report from fellow chaser and friend Connor McCrorey came in of a tornado on the ground illuminated by power flashes. This was it. The chase was finally on, our moods were changing, and that butterfly affect was settling in.


We turn West onto St. Rt. 4 towards Ava which we unfortunately did not get to in time to fuel up. So we had to wing it. Our plan of attack was position Northeast of the tornado, get a view, and get the hell out of its way with our perfect escape route to the East/Southeast.

As we continued West on St. Rt. 4 we encountered multiple hills and trees obscuring any possible view of the still reported tornado on the ground. After what seemed like driving on a roller coaster we topped the third hill and finally came to an opening just outside of Ava, Illinois. Winds were calm, no rain, nothing but the insane lightning barrage. Now, I knew we didn't have a ton of time to spare, but I also knew if there was a tornado it hadn't passed this location yet. I haven't really experienced a feeling like this before, but as I pulled off the road and sat there for a couple minutes something wasn't sitting right with me. That little alarm in my head was going off, and I didn't feel safe here. No particular reason either. Just a feeling I couldn't shake, and if its one thing I have learned in life is to never go against your gut. I told Alec "Dude, I don't feel safe here. I think we need to move. Something isn't right" and to my surprise he agreed and I hauled it back East on the same road back across all the hills and trees.

Again, I knew we didn't arrive with a ton of time to spare so i'm on high alert driving back East through these trees and no cell service area. About 3 or 4 miles East I pull back over and wait. Winds still unsettling calm. No sounds except the thunder. Then, things began to rapidly unfold....


Alec says four bone chilling words in my video "Do you hear that?" and I respond thinking it was thunder as CG lightning strikes really ramp up in the vault area we were in providing an almost constant roll of thunder. But then....it doesn't stop and several seconds had past since our last rumble of thunder. Louder.....and louder.....and louder....and louder this noise got and I say "Oh, my good God. That is a roar". I didn't think it was possible to get a louder roar than my Hattiesburg tornado back in January, but this one made that sound like a house fan. All of this happening when we still can't even see the tornado. Then a gentle, warm breeze begins to blow against my back....Uh oh.

Several more seconds go by and that light breeze becomes a steady flow of wind and at this point the roar is absolutely deafening. "LISTEN TO IT!!!!" are the only words I could seem to say and as if the tornado heard me say that lightning illuminated a debris filled sky with a right side of an obvious tornado on the ground.


To make things even more scary this tornado is riding right down the road we had just driven twice and crossed nearly our exact location that we parked the first time before I got the unsettling feeling and turned around.




A few seconds go by and lightning illuminates both sides of the very violent tornado. Its at this point we realize we are in danger. The tornado is in the same spot as the last lightning bolt. Meaning it wasn't moving left to right and was coming directly at us (as power goes out in the house up ahead in the frame) my chase partner shouts "GET IN THE F.CKING CAR!! WE GOTTA GO!! WE GOTTA F.CKING GO!!!" this is where being situational aware is so crucial. The storm had taken a hard right turn and was now barreling towards us riding up the road we are parked on. Neither Alec or I are one to freak out in videos whether its from excitement or dramatic affect. Both of us are usually very calm. Hearing the urgency in Alec's voice I knew he was serious and with the tornado STILL in the same place with another lightning flash I also knew we needed to move.



After blasting not even a half mile to the East out of the tornadoes way Alec and I jump out of the car after parking and an absolutely massive tornado is right on our tail with the most stomach turning roar I have ever heard! If there was ever a sound that death made it was this. It sounded like I was standing next to Niagara Falls while a jump jet was taking off at the same time. This was also a rare case where you could see the tornado better with your eyes rather than the camera. Sadly, up ahead circled are several unsuspecting motorists parked exactly where we had just parked before we moved. The headlights in front of us vanish from video and never appear again, while the taillights with its hazards on is barely spared, but i'm sure it sent them on a wild ride.





Also at this time is the most VIOLENT motion I have ever seen in my life. As it crossed the road and overtook that car the edge of the tornado had this crazy barrel motion as it engulfs the road and the tornado was spinning so fast it looked like someone had sped up a video and made a timelapse.



Pictured above is a more enhanced video grab of the tornado.

At this time Alec and I jump back into the car as the tornado continues track East/Northeast towards our location. Debris raining down on my car, pieces of wood landing on the road, and 100mph RFD winds blasting my car we finally start to curve Southeast out of harms way.



Finally we can pull off and video as the tornado tracks across the field beside us and continues Northeast. Next in line is the town of Vergennes, Illinois.


Blasting North on St. Rt. 13 the tornado impacts more structures. Leveling a house, and snapping power poles like tooth picks.





I pull off into a turn around and film the tornado as it starts to push away from us quickly at 50-60mph. More power flashes would reveal crazy tentacle vorticies on the backside and still very violent motion.


We stumble across one more East road in hopes of keeping up with the tornado for just a bit longer but as we turned North onto US 51 and came across to the other side of Elkville, a town in which we were just in not even an hour prior to the tornado had taken a pretty substantial hit on the North side, blocking our road and ending our chase. We tried to get in to help aid in search and rescue but were turned away by police blocking the road.

Alec and I looked at each other after the chase was over and were both in disbelief at what had just happened. The day had taken a 180 degree turn and we scored not just a February tornado but a big, violent, rare February tornado. However, that high was pretty short lived as photos came out of Perryville, MO where the tornado was originally reported of homes completely wiped off their foundations, cars thrown, and a fatality. What a brutal start to the year. Both tornadoes I have documented turned deadly and destroyed many homes. Not exactly what you want to see as a chaser.

The storm would encounter an intense cell merge before cycling, producing another EF3 tornado in Southeast Illinois that would track 40 miles into Southern, Indiana and had this tornado not encountered that strong cell merge causing the first tornado to dissipate this would have been a near exact repeat of the Tri-State tornado of 1925 minus the 300+ deaths being on the ground for over 90 miles! still crazy similarities none the less.



To add insult to injury, another tornadic supercell was barreling towards similar locations and the chase was back on.


As if the situation couldn't get any worse this tornado warned storm was headed towards a much more populated city of Carbondale, Illinois. We blasted South through town and found a perfect spot to watch the storm approach but we had overshot it a bit to the South, so we begin to creep back up towards Carbondale and a warning comes out of a confirmed tornado on the ground. This particular area is very difficult to chase in as there is a national forest nearby so our only view was on a bridge South of town. There was some pretty strong motion and what we thought was a power flash but we couldn't confirm a visual on the tornado as the circulation passed to our North and East. Later, there would be a confirmed EF0 and EF1 tornado from this storm and even after would go on to produce 3in hail. But, we were all exhausted, our adrenaline was high and the appetite was large. So, we called the chase and chowed down at Buffalo Wild Wings while we got social media up to date on the situation.

Conclusion:
No matter how down you are on a chase day, never EVER give up until that last storm is dead. This would be the fifth time I would have been burned if I gave up on a day and went back home or out to eat. Persistence is always key in storm chasing. This tornado would be rated EF4 and unfortunately took the life on an unsuspecting motorist on I-55 in Missouri. This tornado would also be on the ground for 50 miles with max winds of 180mph wind a width of 0.6 miles wide! This was the longest track tornado in the area in the last 25 years and had an scary similar track to the famous Tri-State tornado of 1925. My hat is off to the SPC who absolutely nailed the forecast which is pictured below with the tornado reports.


Circled is our location before moving compared to the tornado track

Video
https://youtu.be/g5QSXYFx69w