A classic Tornado Warned Supercell drops softball sized hail across Forest City and Oregon, Missouri. The large hail busted many windshields including herds of storm chasers.
Missouri Baseball Hail
Oregon, Missouri would be ground zero for severe weather, but there would be some obstacles in our way to get there. After busting in southwest Iowa the day before, today had a chance to produce tornadic supercells across Kansas and Missouri. We left Omaha, Nebraska to target Topeka, Kansas as a starting point. We arrived in the early afternoon and found a park to set up shop and wait for storms to develop. Instability was high and shear was more than adequate for severe thunderstorms to form. The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has most of the area under a moderate risk. The problem, like yesterday, was a capping inversion that might prevent storms from forming. However, the SPC issued a Tornado Watch, as storms initiated within the central dense overcast over southern Nebraska.
On radar, the main storm showed a classic hook echo and headed in that direction. We traveled north on highway 73/159 to make some headway towards southern Nebraska, but we noticed another cumulus tower trying to get its act together closer to our position. Eventually, the cumulus tower became a strong storm in extreme northern Kansas.
We were now dealing with two storms fully developed moving east at 35 mph in southern Nebraska and northern Kansas. The southern storm in Kansas was the most obvious choice because it was closer. Before we rolled into Reserve, Kansas a police officer pulled us over for speeding. Unfortunately, we got a ticket and lost about 20 minutes of time to catch the supercell. We continued to Falls City, Nebraska and the original storm to our northwest was collapsing. We choose to chase the storm to our east. There weren't many bridges to cross the Missouri River so we took highway 159 and followed the storm from the backside. The hailstones on the ground became large as we entered Forest City and Oregon, Missouri. At this time, chaser convergence was a problem as this became the dominant storm of the day. There were many hailstones larger than tennis balls and we got out to collect a couple of samples. Oregon appeared to have some damage from the hail, but the extent of the damage was unknown.
The storm developed a distinct lowering on its southwest flank as it moved east of Oregon. A beaver tail was evident signaling strong inflow into the updraft. At one moment, the wall cloud tightened up into a bowl shaped funnel cloud but failed to produce. We chased the storm further east until dark and experienced hailstones that hit our vehicle. They weren't as big as the ones in Oregon, but we quickly drove south to get out of the hail core. We ended up being hit by a strong rear flank downdraft (RFD) as the mesocyclone passed to our north.
We decided to call it a night and crash in Kirksville, Missouri. The highlight today was the amount of large hail in Oregon, Missouri. I have never seen hail that big. Big thanks to NWS Meteorologists Bill Borghoff and Nick Schwartz for a successful weekend of chasing!
Make sure to browse the chase logs section for additional Storm Chasing Fever Chasing Adventures.