4/22/11 St. Louis, MO Supercell

Chase Stats
SPC Outlook: MDT
States Driven: MI, IL, MO
Miles: 1002
Departure City: Battle Creek, MI
Target City: St. Louis, MO
Ending City: Effingham, IL
Outcome: Extremely Heavy Rain, Frequent Lightning
Chase Pics: Unavailable

This chase was a quick one, and my first chase of the 2011 season. It was Friday, and I had Cloud Physics in the morning at 9AM. I went to the class, and as soon as it got out at 10AM, I headed straight down to Battle Creek, MI. From there, I switched some of my gear into the new chase vehicle (more details later once it gets finished), and my Dad and I took off to my target city of St. Louis. I wasn't sure if we would be able to make it on time before the storms rolled through, but we managed to make it just on time.

As we drove, I looked over some things on mesoanalysis and visible satellite. I wasn't too keen on what I was seeing on visible satellite, as the St. Louis area and into IL was socked in clouds. We drove through stratiform precipitation almost the entire way through Illinois, and I was worried the sun was not going to come out, and we would be left with no instability. Nonetheless, as we neared St. Louis, we were getting into slight breaks of sunshine. Storms were already starting to explode in Central Missouri around 21z.

We continued through St. Louis, and stopped in Wright city to fill up. Just as we finished fueling, the tornado sirens went off in town. We quickly headed south towards Innsbrook, where data coverage got pretty sparse. After a few minutes, I got another radar scan, and noticed we were in good position to see the base. The only problem was actually trying to find a spot where we could see the base of the storm. After driving up and down the hilly terrain, we finally came to a spot where we could watch the base of the storm come over the tree line. It did not look very impressive at all, and it was evident by the radar.

We scurried south, and tried to find a good east-west road, but we had to suffice for good ol’ back country roads. While we were paralleling the storm, I noticed it began to reorganize itself, and really strengthening. The low-level rotation was intensifying, and heading right towards the radar dome. I decided not to go north a bit and check it out because first off, it was already beginning to get dark out, and with the poor road network, you would never catch up to this storm as it was moving approximately 40mph. We made it to Weldon Springs, where we followed Highway 40 to Interstate 64, and took 64 straight through downtown St. Louis. The Cardinals game was evacuated, and people were standing out in the concession area, that provides more safety than being inside the stadium.

About this time, or a few minutes thereafter, the storm was producing a tornado (eventually rated EF-4) and was plowing through St. Louis, and even through Lambert Field Airport. By this time, the chase was pretty much over as it was pitch black out, and the rain was horrendous! I was going deaf after an hour of constant rain. For some reason we could not manage to get ahead of the heavy precipitation east of St. Louis even though we were moving 25-30mph faster than the storm. We continued east to Effingham, IL where we spent the night.