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                   Saturday, September 24, 2016

September 16 funnel and supercells in southern Illinois

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Like many Midwest storm photography days, this one was a "sleeper" in which the potential does not become evident until the last minute. Models had been showing "squall line" and I was not expecting to photograph storms at all this day, aside from possible lightning photography at home after dark. By mid-afternoon, I realized that new storms north of Cape Girardeau, MO were staying discrete, and surface obs showed backed surface winds across southern IL. The radar had the 'look' of I-better-get-down-there, so I rushed out the door heading south.

I only had about 40 miles to get to the first storm, which I caught near Baldwin, Illinois (west of Sparta). Radar showed a strong couplet, but I could not get a visual on the base for quite some time due to the heavy forests along the Kaskaskia River basin. As the storm approached, I finally got a good visual on a nice HP notch and several suspicious lowerings back in the rain. Winds, however, were flowing westward out of the storm, and no apparent surface inflow was making its way into the notch. Another supercell was beginning to develop to the southwest, with its forward flank precip enveloping the inflow region of the Baldwin storm. Right about the time the I-55 tornado report came in from Missouri, I decided to drop south 15 miles to the new storm.

The new storm cycled several times with pronounced RFD cuts, but as with the first storm, it was all undercut with outflow from the north and northwest. Eventually, a third meso began taking shape down near Chester, so I again dropped south to check it out. Even before I got a visual of the area of interest, I could see a giant whale's mouth formation way out ahead of everything as well as strong northwesterly winds, indicating the tornado-warned part of the storm likely had no chance.

Nonetheless, I stayed ahead of the gust front for another 20 minutes just to give it a chance for some inflow to carve back in. Not surprisingly, this didn't happen.. However, a short-lived updraft ahead of the outflow managed to spin up a nice funnel near Campbell Hill, which lasted for about 5 minutes before being obliterated by the gust front.

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