A day trip to Missouri

09 May 2014

We woke up in Springfield, Missouri Walmart car park. Yes, second night in a row! Unfortunately the savings on accommodation did not even come close to easing the pain of the hefty amount of gas we managed to guzzle today however!

The previous night’s updated forecast for today was as a chaser friend aptly put ‘embedded supercells within a clusterf***ed line in Arkansas. So appealing… not’. This summed it up. Embedded supercells usually have all of no structure due to being embedded in a line of storms – hence no real photographic appeal. Linear formations such as those forecast are hard to navigate around and increase your chance of either being chased yourself by an imposing line of storms often with severe winds at your tail, or being stuck behind them, unable to punch through the core and being left with nothing visible other than the rain shafts. Finally, chasing in Arkansas is mostly awful too due to the Ozarks mountain range and too many trees.

Luckily when we awoke, the forecast had improved and we saw a nugget of hope in advance of the cold front in south eastern Missouri – a place that was apparently much easier to chase in. After a quick breakfast we set off on the 3 hour journey east to Poplar Bluff which was 200 miles to the east. However, only an hour into our drive, storms were already starting to fire and were accompanied by an SPC mesoscale discussion for the area. We drove as quick as legally possible and closed in on the storms.

Unfortunately this area was also heavily forested with winding roads and negligible internet coverage. For most of the drive, only the tops of the storms were visible at the best of times. It was hard to ascertain their strength or structure. 

We called it off at the next forested bend and headed south to a more major road to figure out a plan. A quick look at Google Earth confirmed that the terrain further east was flatter and looked more like farmland. As we decided to head that way, the cell we had been initially following then became tornado warned. Unfortunately our weaving around forested roads had left us well behind the storm and try as we might, we were unable to catch it. After another hours driving we were pretty much on the Illinois border and it was at this point we had to face the fact that there was no catching it. So we decided to call it a day and head the 6 hours back to Kansas City.

Feeling slightly deflated we headed back, but there’s always super sweet coffee and snacks at gas stations to keep spirits up. In addition to the snacks there was also a developing cell which was due to hit us on the road back towards Kansas City. Luck would also have it that this particular little cell became tornado warned just as we approached it. We quickly changed drivers; when things get a bit hectic, Tim drives and I navigate.

We turned off the I-55 and into a small town called Perryville. They appeared to be in the closing stages of some kind of village fete. There were kids meandering around holding balloons on strings, people taking down stages and others just gibbering outside shops and yet, eerily, in the distance we could still hear the faint tornado siren. It was like the setting from some Hollywood disaster movie. But luckily the storm wasn’t on course for the town. It was heading a little further south so we headed that way to keep with it. Unfortunately this was when we got stuck behind the car covered in helium balloons doing 20mph along the country roads heading into the path of the storm. Fortunately the ballooned car turned off and this let us continue on our course at a faster pace to keep in front of the storm.

We managed to get a few piccies of it as it passed by us. Unfortunately it was no longer tornado warned but it still had a great turbulent structure on its underside and was accompanied by some very close strikes of lightning and ground rumbling thunder.

Gas Station Stormy Weather

Stormy Gas Station

So in total we drove about 500 miles today. I don’t want to even think about how much gas that is, but we saw a storm, some lightning and got a tornado siren thrown in. I definitely had a stomach churning moment when I thought we were goners as it first approached us with its warning and for me, that’s the mark of a successful day!

SPC Day 1 Weather Outlook as at 06:00UTC (01:00 Central Time the night before)

SPC 01:00UTC day 1 forecast for Fri May 2014

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Fri May 2014

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