After a long night driving back to Overland Park, Kansas from western Oklahoma, we rested up for the next day of chasing. The prospects of tornadic supercells was not great enough to warrant Brian Stertz joining us, so off to work he went. Tom Zeitinger, my son Ryan, and I headed out toward home with the idea that if things looked interested on the way home, we would alter our trip and make a chase day of it. As we got to Highway 54 and Interstate 70, we got off the highway to assess the rest of day. We made the decision to make a play on the storms today and go as far north as Northeast Missouri and look at any storms there that developed. We picked the target city of Shelbina, Missouri. That gave us road options to go every direction if storms began to fire. After a short stay in Shelbina, we noticed storms on the front beginning to fire. We made the choice to move west and meet them in Macon, Missouri. As we got there, a storm to the southwest of the city was severe warned. We waited for the storm to pass us. As the storm went over us, we got hailed on, mostly pea to nickel size.
We followed the storm up the highway until it weakened and was out of our range. As we drove east watching that cell, a new cell developed south of us, we decided to intercept this rotating storm. To do that we needed to cross over the Mississippi River at Hannibal, Missouri and head south. We sat as that storm approached, but even though it had promise as it approached, this storm weakened.
We headed south again for another storm coming out of Missouri. After what seemed like a forever ride down Route 96, we finally worked our way to the Hardin Bridge and headed to Jerseyville as our intercept point. This seemed to be the best storm of the day. Our storm was showing it had an intense hail core on it as it approached Jerseyville, Illinois. We went through town and on the south side of the town, began running into the hail falling. As we watched, we realized that the hail was getting bigger and turned the car around to avoid breaking the windows and having a car full of dents.
Oops, too late to avoid the dents. Oh, well!!! We came back north and let the storm go by. As we drove south again, we began seeing big hail stones laying on the side of the road. We stopped in a building parking lot just to the south of Jerseyville and took a look. The biggest hail stones we found laying around were 2.25". It had done damage to the siding of the building.
Hail in Jerseyville, Illinois Hail on Church Parking Lot 2.25" Hail
More 2.25" Hail Damage to Siding on Building
After a few pictures and a quick call to the St. Louis Weather Service, we continued to the south. After another mile or so south, we saw even bigger hail stones. Getting out to survey, we discovered the biggest hail stones at this location were 2.50".
We did not stay long and we had all figured with a bit more time, there may have been some even bigger hail stones present, but the storm went tornado warned so we jumped back in the car and tried to work our way east again. Options east out of that area are pretty non-existent, so we ended up working our way south, then north, then east putting us well behind the storm. Our attempt to catch up came to an abrupt end as we encountered a road with flash flood water rushing over it and we refused to try navigating through it.
We turned around and found another east road to the north of that one and continued to work our way toward the storm with the intent of hitting Interstate 55. As we headed east on Route 16 out of Shipma, Illinois and got to the top of the hill looking toward Gillespie, Illinois, we looked out the window in front of us and saw a feature hanging down from the cloud. I immediately called it a tornado. It was in very low contrast, but our video on the dash was recording it the entire time. Video screen capture with the lightning confirmed it was at least a funnel if not a full tornado. We drove into some trees and when we reemerged and tried to see the feature again, it was completely hidden from view in the gray. A couple minutes later, a lightning strike illuminated what looked like a big bowl wall cloud. Radar did verify a couplet during this whole sequence. Since we never saw the feature again and the daylight had now disappeared, when we hit Interstate 55, we headed back toward home. There was never any storm reports of a tornado in that area, so I will share with the weather service.