April 28th 2014 Severe Weather Outbreak – From Illinois

May 01, 2014

Summary:

Gambled on warm front play in Illinois on what became a tornado outbreak down south. Witnessing only sub severe but somewhat photogenic storms.

Stats:

Tornadoes: 0
Hail: .50″ (dime)
Wind: n/a

The Forecast: 

The slow moving system from the previous day was forecast to bring some impressive dynamics that would set the stage for widespread severe weather across much of the country. Down south where deeper moisture, stronger instability and a potent jet max were set to exist, it appeared a tornado outbreak was possible. Further north, closer to home and in better terrain, a lifting warm front near the surface low also held potential for multiple tornadic thunderstorms. SPC highlighted these 2 targets with their probabilities, focusing on the south where a HIGH risk was issued for the second day in a row. We chose the terrain/closer to home play as opposed to the more obvious tornado threat.

Detailed Account:

We awoke perhaps a bit too optimistic, but were excited for the potential chase closer to home in the less obvious target. The forecast models looked good and showed ample ingredients for severe weather and tornadoes across the IA/MO/IL area. 19 out of 20 times I will always choose the less obvious tornado target if it means better terrain/closer to home so we left our hotel in west Iowa and began our move east. We made good time arriving in Southeast Iowa just as the first storms got going. Right away it became clear too many storms were going up as there was almost no capping. This already was a bad sign that storms would be competing with one another and struggling to become dominant.

The radar was filled will small, severe warned storms. There were so many the NWS wasn’t even warning individual storms and instead just issuing blanket warnings that covered multiple storms. Picking a storm in this type of environment might as well involve chugging a beer, being spun around on a chair 20 times and pointing your finger at the radar blindfolded. We moved from IA into IL where hopefully the northward moving storms would have more time in the warm sector before crossing the warm front and dying. We spent the next couple hours watching a few of these storms. They were somewhat photogenic, but not what we set out for.

In this last image there appears to be a small funnel, or at least a funnel look-a-like, but I was unable to confirm anything.

By this point the radar was a mess with numerous sub severe storms, none of them looking any better than the next so we simply drove east to stay ahead of them and hope for something to become dominant or head home once we reached I-55. Also, around this time is when a tornado outbreak got underway across Mississippi, the radar down there lighting up with a string of amazing looking supercells. Monitoring social media and other outlets, reports, videos, and pictures started pouring in of large, violent tornadoes. My heart sank into my stomach knowing what I was missing. This would continue for next 6 long hours as we drove home, stopping for dinner at a Perkins in Peoria. There was nothing we could do, we crawled home busted. The sub severe, semi photogenic storms offering little as a consolation prize. We simply chose the wrong target.

We arrived back in Chicago around 9pm, I was bitter and down about missing the tornadoes and so was Alec, this lead to a last minute decision to drive back down to the same area, where there  was potential for a 2nd day of strong tornadoes. Would we come to regret this decision made out of desperation? Only time would tell.

Conclusion:

Choosing to chase in the jungles of the south when another target in better terrain closer to home is always a tough call. I definitely regret doing so this time. Even though only a couple out of dozens of chasers down there actually caught something worthwile, I would rather have been down there trying to intercept legit tornadic supercells instead of grungy sub-severe storms near home that I could go out any day in the summer for. There are only a handful of tornado outbreaks a year. Sub severe storms are a dime a dozen, and I definitely regret the targeting decision we made this day. Hindsight is 20/20 though. Onward to the next day.

Map:

SPC Storm Reports:

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