I awoke with no intention of going on a chase today, but after looking at the morning data, it began peaking my interest. It didn't take long for me to decide that this day could not go by without a trip out to inspect the storms. Called my son Ryan to see if he was interested and made contact with Brian Stertz to confirm our thoughts with more input from our friend, Jeff Piotrowski.
Hung around the house trying to decide what the best area was to chase. Originally, it looked as though our target would be right along the Mississppi River, so was thinking we'd wait for the storms in Illinois, but was having trouble with the idea that the location where we were planning to chase would also be the location of flood waters in the Mississippi and Illinois River basins, not to mention all of the smaller streams that still could be having flooding trouble. As luck would have it, everything began setting up a bit further west, so we made the decision to head out toward Bowling Green, MO as our target. After a stop in Troy, MO for drink and data, we noticed the first tornado warning go up west of Hannibal along with some storms getting their act together to the west of Highway 61 between Troy and Hannibal.
We got to Highway 54, the Bowling Green exit and were unsure which storm to go after. We went east hoping the Hannibal storm would hold together, but a couple miles down the road decided to turn around and head back west as the Hannibal storm weakened and the one to the west began showing better potential. That west storm went tornado warned and for a brief time and had a pretty impressive wall cloud.
lllThat storm quickly weakened and we headed back toward Highway 61. We paused trying to figure out what the next move would be as now none of the storms were looking that impressive other than one many miles to the southwest that was out of our range. The decision was should we go to Illinois and hope that the boundary kicks them off over on that side of the river, or stay on 61 hoping that the storms that no longer looked very impressive would get new life in them. After grabbing some phone data again while sitting in torrential rain, we turned onto the on-ramp to 61 south. Halfway down the ramp, we pulled off on the side as we saw a massive amount of water going down the drainage ditch and then spilling onto the ramp. We ended up watching it for a few minutes and waited as the core of the storm we had just left, went right over the top of us. Along with the heavy rain, the core dropped up to dime size hail.
When we took off again, there was talk about how the day may be over and we would just start heading back home. Lo and behold, a few minutes later, the storm right in front of us wraps itself up again and becomes tornado warned again. We were on the north side of this which meant we were constantly trying to work our way through the rain, but not drive right into a potential path of a tornado that we knew would be crossing the road in front of us.
As we approached Eiola, MO at the County Road WW, we watched the ominous funnel cloud and noticed that as it crossed the road, it blew an 18 wheel truck that had just passed us a minute or two earlier, right off of the road. A little further down the road, another area of strong circulation was occurring. Both areas have been confirmed by the Weather Service as having a tornado touchdown.
As both areas passed, weakened, and went out of sight in the wrapping rain, we were given a great show of different storm structures as we made our way back down Highway 61 toward Interstate 70.
We made the loop from Highway 61 back to Interstate 70 to head back home, but the clouds continued to catch our eye. At the front end of the shelf cloud, there was a lowering that began rotating really hard. We stopped to watch it several different times, but by the time we got to the Mid Rivers Mall Exit, we got off and turned left and moved down to Spencer Road. As we approached, Ryan yells out "Large Tornado on the Ground". Sure enough and at that point, the camcorder runs out of battery and we had forgotten the charger/power cord. Only managed a few shots of the tornado as we scrambled for another option. We got onto 370 and moved along side of the tornado. Visibility was again poor as it was most of the day. Wrapping rain made us lose sight of the tornado and when it reappeared, we discovered it was crossing the road right in front of us, side swiping us. The car rocked back and forth a bit, but managed to not tip. Since we were the only one on the road, I put it in reverse and moved the car back several hundred feet to get us out of danger.
As we lost track of that rotation, we looked to the south and noticed another lowering and pursued that into the St. Louis metro, but being behind it and running out of light, we quickly gave up on following it.
All in all, a good chase with many highlights.
Total - 230 miles
National Weather Service, St. Louis - Tornado Survey / Tracks
Pike County Tornado #1 - Rated EF1
Pike County Tornado #2 - Rated EF0
St. Charles County - Rated EF2