Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Sunday, April 3, 2011 - 6:18PM CDT

Midwest storm chase day: Sunday, April 3, 2011

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Update posted, 6:18PM CDT: Typing this from home in New Baden, as I decided not to pull the trigger on a long-distance chase today. The primary pre-sunset target area had moved even farther to the north into Iowa, and along with veered surface winds and current fuel prices sealed the deal on my choice to stay home.

Still awaiting two potential plays with this system: upward lightning at Prairie State, or a possible Day 2 setup to the east of here tomorrow. Thinking the former is going to be more doable - just hoping the storms can sustain through here in the morning, a tall order for most convection that makes it through the night.

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Update posted, 5:36AM CDT: This setup is looking worse for daytime tornadoes with each passing hour. Thankfully we have some better short-term models to use now (namely the HRRR, 4km WRF and the RUC) that make keeping tabs on an upcoming storm chase day a little easier. These models generally do not fire convection until around 9PM, at which time a dominant cell (likely supercell) is shown developing in Kansas between Emporia and Kansas City. Shortly thereafter, the cold front unzips convection to the northeast into the Missouri/Illinois target. By 10 or 11PM, the storms should be fairly intense across northern Missouri, however quickly evolving into a squall line. This line is shown eventually moving southeastward overnight, reaching St. Louis by sunrise. I think some after-dark tornadoes are possible with the Kansas target.

My original target was the Keokuk, IA area (the point at which IL, IA and MO meet). But, since this is a 4-hour drive from St. Louis, storms will not fire until after dark, storms will go linear quickly, surface winds are badly veered, and no boundary will be present to give a storm a shot at a tornado, I will likely be sitting the tornado aspect of this day out. Models show the squall line with stratiform precip moving through St. Louis early Monday around sunrise - so my plans are looking more like documenting upward lightning at the new Prairie State power plant smokestack, located in Marissa, IL about 12 miles south of my apartment. It's April, so better tornado setups are coming - it doesn't make sense to spend well over $100 to travel for today's rather meager risk up north.

As always, even the short-term models can be wrong - so if the actual real-time observations later today indicate that something up north might be worth a chase, that option is still open.

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Original post, 4:15AM CDT: Spring in the Midwest is here - and today marks the first potential tornado storm chase day of the season. I am not overly impressed with today's setup and cost prospects. The starting target is nearly four hours away, with the end-of-chase point likely being even farther. I'm expecting mainly a linear squall line event today with a slight chance of a brief supercell/tornado early on. Deep-layer speed shear is great and instability should be in place - but low-level directional shear is lacking, a cold front is the storm trigger and storms may not fire until after dark. A lightning show in St. Louis later tonight looks like a good bet, so that may be my main play.

I will make a decision about whether to jump on the northern target area by early afternoon. In the event of a daytime chase, I will be streaming live once things get going (as cellular data reception allows) at the following link:

LIVE VIDEO: Live streaming video page

If you would like to be notified if and when the stream goes live, follow the Facebook or Twitter feeds.

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