April 29th 2017 Illinois Tornado Warned Storm Structure

May 04, 2017


Tracked tornado-warned section of squall line through Central Illinois noting dramatic structure and some rotation.


Torndaoes: 0
Hail: 0.00″
Wind: n/a

The Forecast:

Upper Level low slowly making its way across the central plains into the midwest with warm front draped east. This warm front was forecast to slowly lift across the region. Numerous ongoing storms were of concern and available instability looked like it would be a problem. Favorable wind fields along and south of the warm front could provide some hope. Ongoing squall line would likely encounter this environment, and several models showed an enhanced meso-vort area where the warm was located, offering the best chance for anything tornadic.

Detailed Account:

We awoke not too far from our target area. The staff at the Motel 6 in Mount Vernon was not friendly and denied my request for an hour extension on our checkout – the first time that has ever happened. We had time to mull around the area and watch the setup evolve. We met up some Michigan based storm chasers at a Bob Evans for a brunch. Kholby and I were in the mood for a couple brews and maybe some slot machines at a local pub while we waited for the weather to do its thing. We found a small local place called Pro Place which turned out to be a fun time. The locals were all amused at the fact we were chasers and we made some temporary friends. One woman even recognized me from an interview I did with Ginger Zee back in 2008, I was floored by that.

After winning 60 bucks it appeared a healthy looking squall line would move to our north so we left and made way towards it. The well advertised bookend vortex went tornado warned and we shot north for it. We got our first views near Pana/Assumption, IL and I was quite surprised by the dramatic appearance.

Looking straight ahead we could see a conveyor belt of clouds streaming into the storm that stretched all the way to the eastern horizon. This was the warm front boundary. We were watching it feed into the storm. I had never seen that before and it was pretty cool too watch. It was obvious where the area of interest in the storm was.


Unfortunately storm speeds were quick, approaching 60mph and we could jump out for brief moments before having to bail to stay ahead of it. We got overtaken a couple times and engulfed by swirling rain bands and winds approaching 60mph. It made for a few intense white knuckle moments, but thankfully ILs paved road network allowed me to get ahead.

I was able to capture a pretty cool pano of the storm, that “kinked” area on the right is where we were watching rotation and the best chance for a tornado.

We cat-n-moused the storm for about an hour. Eventually our area went tornado warned due to the circulation showing up on radar, but we could never note anything other than some swirling rain bands in addition to cloud-base rotation. We never noted anything to indicate any circulation on the ground, but it was pretty close.

The storm started to slowly lose its punch, and took on a more predominant outflow/whales mouth appearance.

We decided to let it go at this point and figure out where we wanted to stay for tomorrow’s potential play. We grabbed some dinner in downtown Champaign which was unpleasantly crowded due to a Garth Brooks concert. We found a local bar that had some delicious personal pizzas before calling it a night in Le Roy.


Not a bad chase, the dramatic structure was an unexpected treat. It would have been nice to get a tornado in this difficult year, and we will keep trying. I also need to get back into musing my DSLR, this would have been a really cool looking storm to get some better pictures of. I’ve always been a fan of the white/grey cloud contrast against a deep green core, and this storm was perfect for that. At least it was a photogenic storm, Ive missed those this year.


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