November Outbreak

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A major last season (fall) tornado outbreak occurred across the Midwest and Ohio Valley region on November 17th, 2013. It was my first opportunity to chase in the thick of such an outbreak.

November 16th was a travel day and I was targeting for somewhere near the central Illinois/Indian border for the 17th. On that morning, several intense supercells and tornadoes began to drop across central Illinois. I drove into the eastern part of the state. As the image above shows, a line of tornado-warned cells was approaching me. (Time was 11:31 a.m. local)

I was directly approaching a tornado-warned cell, but a combination of traffic, low visibility (trees), a loss of radar and damage to my car caused me to ultimately miss out on seeing that or any other tornadoes.

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It was at this time that I had to bail out, but before I could do so, winds became so strong that they ripped off my driver side windshield wiper. I continued east to realign myself, but this was difficult. My radar signal was dropping in out and out due to the rural nature of the area.

It wasn’t long after this that I drove directly through a line of intense straight-line winds.

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I estimated the winds to be as strong as 70 mph. A weak tornado was later confirmed just about a mile to my northeast.

I drove with the storms right into central Indiana for the remainder of the afternoon, but since the forward speed of the storms was around 80 mph, I was never able to catch up with them. I had two flat tires by the end of the next day, probably from running over debris.

I spend the night at a hotel and did a damage survey in Kokomo, Indiana the next morning. A significant EF-2 tornado ripped through town. Some of the most intense damage included a bank that was completely leveled.

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All in all, this was another great learning experience. If there was one single factor that was the most challenging, it would have to be the topography of the area. I really should not have been going after a tornado-warned cell that was in a heavily wooded area.

I came so close to the storm itself that severe winds literally took off my windshield wiper. It was not fun at all trying to drive like this through a tornado outbreak: illinois_2013_1

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Quincy

Quincy is a meteorologist and storm chaser who travels around the country documenting and researching severe weather. He has on-air experience with stations such as WTNH-TV in New Haven, CT and WREX-TV in Rockford, IL. He was most recently a digital meteorologist for weather.com. After achieving his B.S. degree in Meteorology at Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) in 2009, he returned as a University Assistant to help produce weather broadcasts. He also gave guest lectures and worked on website design. He has over nine years of professional weather forecasting experience and his forecasts have been featured in newspapers and on radio stations in multiple states.

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