Wisconsin Weather

Mar 28, 2020 - Mod Risk in Illinois Storm Chase

Last Saturday I traveled down into Iowa, then Illinois where I intercepted three tornado warned storms. I didn't see any tornadoes; narrowly missed one near dark by Cambridge, IL.

Iowa or Illinois? - I had to make a tough decision in Davenport. Do I head west towards the low pressure center (central IA). Or do I stick to the plan in far west-central Illinois? I went east into Illinois. Had I stayed where I was I would have missed everything in the null space between two targets. Was it the right decision? I don't know. Don't really look at it like that. It was good just to get out.

South of Cambridge, IL just prior to tornado development.
South of Cambridge, IL just prior to tornado development.

Storms moving at Highway speeds

I had to resist the urge to jump on initial development and balance out the long term reality that storms would track quickly northeast. I could have done a better job, been more patient. I went into Galesburg for dinner and it just so happened the second cell was tracking just west. The nice grid road network in Illinois provided at least a chance to keep pace. This type of chase would've been practically impossible in Wisconsin. I was quick to let the storms go once they passed north of me...just didn't feel the need to keep with them. Some of the roads in IL were of poor quality. Safety of myself and others was definitely top of mind.

My first intercept on Mar 28, near Galesburg IL.
My first intercept on Mar 28, near Galesburg IL.

Not enough Instability

The IL target area only warmed into the mid-upper 60's by early evening. Instability & the setup didn't come together right. Moisture was better in Illinois vs. the western target but the sunshine didn't come. This time of year instability is the priority. Close to 1500 CAPE in eastern IA (despite lower dew points) - where the sun was present most of the day - pulled west into the surface low yielded more tornadoes.


It's not my normal production. These are weird times and I'm in a transitional phase. I'm contemplating a different chase strategy. I need to be more aggressive, take a bit more risk, get closer. In the past I've been too cautious. The March 28, 2020 chase was a way to test my new approach.



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