How the Perryville tornado started

PERRYVILLE, MO (KTVI) – When the tornado tore through Perry County Tuesday night, Fox 2’s Chris Higgins was tracking the storm.  He was on the scene within minutes giving viewers a first look at the damage and offering aid to those in need.

Tonight, after a wild 24 hours, Chris is back to explain how storm started and tracked into Missouri and Illinois.

This storm is what is called a long track supercell thunderstorm.

A supercell means it takes on a life all its own, the entire storm literally is rotating and it is within the larger spin that the tornado eventually develops.

Using Doppler radar, we can go back and track the spinning core of a supercell to see where it began.  This storm actually had its origins in far southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas.  That`s where the storm started to spin, but the tornado did not touch down until about a mile west of Interstate 55.

Video from Bommarito Automotive SkyFOX shows ground zero, the first signs of damage a mile west of I-55 and 3 miles northwest of Perryville.  Almost immediately the tornado started chewing through trees and homes, sending debris cascading in all different directions.  It`s a classic weed whacker appearance, with many trees snapped off near their base.

The tornado was moving upwards of 50 mph crossed the interstate in a matter of seconds, then moved on to chew up homes and trees deep into southern Illinois.

A similar tornado crossed Interstate 55 in very nearly this exact location 21 years ago on April 19, 1996.  That one was rated as an EF-3 and damaged or destroyed more than a dozen homes, but injured no one.

Then there is the historic Tri-State tornado of 1925, that remains on the record books as the longest single tracking tornado that left a path of destruction for 235 miles.