April 03, 2014    

Talk of a big tornado day started off at 5:30am as I was awakened by the wife shaking me, telling me the tornado sirens were going off, get to the basement.  A quick check of the radar showed a tornadic signature passing to the south of our home.  At that time, it was doing EF-1 damage to University City, MO.  That appeared to be a big start to a weather day that had been predicted for many days prior.  I was able to alter my work schedule to head out in the afternoon to get ourselves into a decent position with the prospect of afternoon supercells.   The only question was where. 

My meeting concluded around 2:00pm, so a quick 15 minute ride home to pick up my son Ryan, a quick check of some weather data and loading the car, then our banter back and forth between the two of us about the best spot to head.  It came down to a decision about either heading south down I-55 to southeast Missouri where the terrain was more favorable and storm parameters were predicted to be very favorable later in the day or shoot southwest down I-44 with the risk of battling the hills and terrain of the Ozarks.  An earlier, mid-morning chat with Brian Stertz concluded with a him sharing with me that according to the HRRR model, there was a possibility of supercells in southeast Missouri before dark, but several hours had passed since that conversation, and after getting home, that option did not appear as though it would verify due to lingering convection still moving through Eastern Missouri.  So after another 15 minutes or so, Ryan and I make a tentative decision to head southwest after the initial development occurring in OK and KS.  Even after getting in the car and driving, we still continued to debate what direction to go. 

After talking to our friend Nick Pavlovits on the phone, he told us he was moving southwest, so as we were approaching I-44, we made the decision to head southwest as well.  We continued to drive with our target the Springfield, MO area to meet the storm development that was occurring.  As we traveled through Rolla, MO, we began hearing of storms tornado warned.  After a pit stop for gas and a bit of conversation with Nick who was only a few minutes ahead of us, we met up with him at the Fort Leonard Wood exit, we calculated we could get in front of a tornadic warned storm coming through the Lake of the Ozarks area. 
We headed up Highway 17 with a target of Iberia, MO.  We arrived 10 minutes or so before the storm arrived.  
As we watched the radar traveling up Highway 17, there continued to be a very prominent wind velocity marker on the radar and continued to be tornado warned. We were able to find a high spot in town and watched the horizon for signs of a wall cloud approaching.   Eventually through the haze, we could see the area of interest becoming clearer.  The sirens went off in town.  Several local people came up, one a firefighter, and stated there was a tornado touchdown near the lake to the west.  Have never seen anything since to confirm this tornado.
Pictures of
Tornadic Cell
as it Enters
Iberia, Missouri

Comes Into View Nick Pavlovits Taking A Look
Sirens Blaring
Updraft Tower
Quickly Approaching
Moving Into Town
Shelf Cloud Passing Over

Unfortunately for us, as the storm approached the town, the wind couplet that had been so prevalent on radar diminished and became almost non-existent.  The lowering came right over head, but had badly gusted out.  There was very little rotation any longer.  As there was nothing else going on storm wise within miles, we opted to attempt following this storm through the hills and the trees of Central Missouri watching on radar as a few spots on the gust front would occasionally spin up. 

Storm Over Taking Us
Storm Passes Us By

After making a bad road choice, it became obvious that keeping up with the storm was no longer an option as it continued to blast to the east-northeast.   There was a tornado report 20 or so miles ahead of us from this storm in Rich Fountain, MO we found out later.

Radar View before reaching our location
Radar After Passing Us with Tornado Location

We hit Highway 63 and drove south to return to I-44 and began our trip back home.  There was now a broken line of stroms to the north of I-44.  As we drove, a few spots in the line of storms would continue to spin up and become tornado warned.  We attempted to catch one in front of us that was crossing I-44 at Pacific, MO, but with the precipitation from the storms now crossing the highway and the rain coming down in buckets and the ping of small hail, it made the driving a white knuckle, hold on tight, 40mph drive back home.  Another kink in the line stirred up another circulation that passed over I-270 in front of us as we headed back north with a reported tornado touchdown a short time later in the St. Louis suburb of Glendale, MO in the dark and rain.

It wasn't a real productive trip in Severe Weather, but did have some interesting weather features.  Saw tornadic cells, classic shelf clouds, few bouts of small hail, and tons of rain and lightning.

Total trip was 332 miles, Approximately 7 hours

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