MAY 25TH, 2011 MISSOURI AND ILLINOIS STORM CHASE - NEARLY A ST LOUIS TORNADO

05-25-11 CHASE LOG:  MISSOURI AND ILLINOIS

After seeing 3 tornadoes the day before, MaryLynn and I left Tulsa, OK the morning of the 25th and headed up I-44 towards the St. Louis area.  There was another High Risk in place for severe weather, this time across southeast MO, northeast AR, western TN, western KY, southern IL and southern IN, where a tornado outbreak was expected due to the extreme instability and wind shear.  The set-up included a strong upper low moving east from KS into MO through the day with a surface low into northern MO, a warm front draped east of the low through northeast MO and south-central IL and a strong cold front advancing through AR back into TX.  An intense shortwave and vort max was forecast to round the base of the trough and kick off the severe weather threat and tornado outbreak across the region, in an environment characterized by dewpoints in the upper 60’s and 70’s, over 70 kt mid level winds, 2500-3500 MLCAPE values, and extremely high helicity through much of the lower atmosphere.

The terrain through which much of the High Risk and greatest tornado threat was in, was a very hilly area characterized by winding roads and dangerous chasing conditions.  Our plan was to head towards the northern end of the greatest tornado threat and go for storms more along and just south of the warm front through northeast MO and south-central IL.  We first stopped in Waynesville, MO for lunch and were treated with the first tornado warned storm in the warm sector of the day.  This storm had several weak wall clouds on it as we followed up I-44 and even a horizontal funnel near Doolittle, MO.  Storms began to congeal near St James, MO and we ended up trying to get ahead and through St Louis, MO into IL before storms would reach us.  As we approached St Louis, a supercell rapidly developed ahead of the main line of storms and we witnessed a very low, sharp and rapidly rotating wall cloud enter the southern St Louis suburbs and actually drove through nickel sized hail on I-270.  This wall cloud was the closest thing all day to producing a tornado and could very well have as there was a tornado report out of the St Louis area near the time this storm was going through.  The pictures below detail just how close this storm came to producing a tornado right in the St Louis metro area.  It was a rather scary scenario and thank God the storm did not produce a large tornado as it moved through this heavily populated area.  Towards early evening, the storms got messy and the best looking supercells were well to the south of our location, so we got ahead of the advancing squall line and got cored by a line of storms producing damaging winds and small hail near Mattoon, IL.  Thereafter, we drove through the night and got back to Burnsville, MN very early the next morning.

Here is the video:

Driving by Joplin, MO along the Interstate, we noticed major damage, even though Joplin is a few miles north of the road.  Joplin took a direct hit by an EF-5 tornado on May 22nd, 2011 and was completely descimated.

More damage as seen along I-44 driving near Joplin, MO.  Makes we wonder if there was a satellite tornado or if it was indeed that massive.

Weak wall cloud approaching us in Waynesville, MO.

Horizontal funnel near Doolittle, MO.

Intense storm with decent structure and wall cloud as seen on the bottom left near Rolla, MO.

Intense supercell and very low wall cloud approaching Concord, MO, the southern suburb of St Louis.

Extremely tight wall cloud, possibly large funnel, that was rapidly rotating near Mehlville, MO in the southern St Louis metro.

Another view of the vault and wall cloud/funnel near Mehlville, MO in the southern St Louis metro.

Closer view of the wall cloud/funnel close to the ground near Lakeshire, MO.

Shelf cloud about to overtake us in Vandalia, IL.

More photos from this day can be found here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/39991047@N02/sets/72157626755184785/

Storm Reports: