My Dust Devil on the Weather Channel

About a month and a half ago, I was contacted by a producer inquiring about using my dust devil video from March 31, 2000 for an upcoming show on the Weather Channel. I’ve been contacted in the past, but nothing has ever made it to television. I found out today that they will be airing the video this Sunday (9/29/13) at 7:00pm central / 8:00pm eastern on the Weather Channel’s ‘Caught on Camera’ series.

Apparently this episode is all about dust devils so I am anxious to see how they use my video. Unfortunately I do not have cable so I will not be able to watch it live. However, they will be sending me a copy of the show so I will eventually get to see it.

If you are able to watch this episode, please let me know how it turned out. Thanks!

Update: (10/8/13) Apparently this episode aired a week later on 10/06/13. It was season 4 episode 6 labeled Close Calls. It will air again on October 16th at 2:00am-3:00am if you missed it. So far I have not found a copy online to share. I received a copy of the episode on DVD today and watched it. They showed my dust devil video right after the dust devil researcher clip. Pretty spiffy!

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May 25, 2011 – Moderate risk chase in central Illinois

It’s been a crazy year for storms except here in central Illinois. The amount of large cities virtually wiped off the map has been unbearable. The death toll is also really hard to grasp right now. Just this week alone we had Joplin, MO take a hit from an EF-5 tornado on Sunday and then numerous large tornadoes in Oklahoma on Tuesday. When I woke up Wednesday to a moderate risk, I started to get concerned. I thought that our luck had run out and mother nature was going to bring her destruction to Illinois. I love chasing storms, but I definitely wanted no part of that nightmare scenario.

All morning we had storms roll through the area. The concern was that the morning stuff would prohibit the afternoon stuff from being able to reach their full potential. By mid-afternoon, storms were moving into IL and triggering tornado warnings. I was stuck at work till 4:00pm, so I decided to pick a target closer to home. I was keeping an eye on storms firing up north of I-70. They seemed to start out promising, but then died out quickly as adjacent storms fired up. While this was disappointing, I decided to go for it anyway.

After fueling up for gas, I departed Champaign at 4:30pm. I headed west on I-72 towards Decatur. The initial plan was to drop south of Decatur to intercept what I was hoping would be a decent storm. Unfortunately, my promising little storm had dissipated into a brief shower. I noticed more storms firing up further east and south, but I was really out of position. The storms west of me were all jumbled together so seeing anything would be pretty slim. I got stuck in Decatur for a little while trying to find my way to IL 121. I finally made my way to the north side of Mt. Zion and pulled over to observe a storm. This same storm had been tornado warned earlier, but it got downgraded to a severe thunderstorm warning once it moved into Macon county. Other than a few seconds of very small hail, the storm didn’t do anything.

I decided to turn around and head back north to US 36. The storms coming in from the west were starting to move in and a nice shelf cloud had appeared. I jogged east on US 36 and pulled off the road on S. Prairie View Road. (6:07pm) I let the shelf cloud come to me and it was quite a nice sight. The wind started picking up as did the rain, so I headed north and east to stay in front of it. As I approached IL 105 and E 400 North Road, the winds increased considerably from the southwest. I decided to pull over at this point and shoot some video. (6:24pm) I didn’t have time to hook up the anemometer, but I estimated the winds to be around 50-60 mph. (It was rocking the Jeep pretty good!) The high winds combined with the heavy rain was reducing visibility to almost nothing. A few minutes later I heard hail slapping the back of the vehicle. Normally I’d stick around to see how big the hail got, but with this much wind I wasn’t taking any chances. I headed east as best I could in the blinding rain and then north on N 500 East Road. The winds and rain were coming straight from the west now so I was getting slammed. I found a spot to pull off across the street from a large outbuilding which was reducing the impact of the wind. (6:35pm)

I continued east and north towards Monticello. A tornado warning was issued for Piatt and Champaign county at 6:53pm. A few minutes later I heard some traffic stating that a tornado had been reported near Seymour and it was heading towards Champaign. *gulp* I hopped on I-72 and hightailed it back to Champaign. Thoughts of all those cities getting destroyed earlier in the week popped into my head. As I got back to Champaign, I headed home to make sure there was no damage. All was well at the homestead as well as everywhere else I looked. *whew!* I called a few friends and relatives and everyone was good. I was impressed that most of the people I talked to took shelter in their basements (if they had them) when the warnings went out.

Final Thoughts
I think I was more relieved that mass destruction didn’t occur vs being upset that I didn’t see anything spectacular. It was a nice local chase and was good to get back out there again. Hopefully we can get some less violent weather in the next few weeks. I’m due for a good mammatus cloud display sometime soon. :)

Total Mileage: 127 miles


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Review: Andrew Pritchard’s PWX 2010 DVD

Before I get to the actual review, I wanted to point out a few general observations about Andrew Pritchard’s storm videos.

Storm chasing is expensive
Unless you’re lucky enough to have a cable network paying your way, then chasing is usually funded out of our own pockets. His DVD’s are inexpensive and a great value in my opinion.

He chases Illinois
Like myself, Andrew mainly chases Illinois. He gets away to the plains when he can, but most of his chases are right here in Illinois. There’s a gazillion chasers in Oklahoma, but a much smaller percentage in Illinois. It’s nice to see video from my home state especially on days that I am unable to chase.

Limited narration
I have seen a lot of chase videos over the years and a lot of them are degraded by the excessive talking, yelling, and cussing in the audio. (I’ve unfortunately been guilty of this a few times) You don’t get that with Andrew’s video. There may be a few occasions where there will be other chasers near him being picked up, but for the most part he lets the storm do all the talking.

As for my thoughts on the PWX 2010 DVD… I think it is probably his best one yet. Sure his 2010 stuff might not have been as intense or numerous as other chaser videos, but he made the most of what he did have. Throughout the video he provides numerous time lapse videos with a wonderful soundtrack to fit the scene. I was a little apprehensive about him including non-2010 chases in this video that were covered in previous videos. For chasers who compile annual DVD’s, it’s nice to only see stuff from those years. However, Andrew didn’t just include the same video from previous years. He re-edited them to provide more details, contrast enhancement, as well as time lapses of the storms. He concludes the DVD with impressive still photos which really demonstrates his photography skills.

Stan’s recommendation: Buy PWX 2010! It’s only $15 with free shipping. Support Andrew’s chasing passion and buy the DVD!

For more details and ordering information, visit his website: PrairieStorm Media

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October 26, 2010 – Late season chase in eastern Illinois

I haven’t chased in October in a long time, so I was very interested in today’s setup. All the forecast models were predicting a near record low pressure so it definitely was worth paying attention to. The SPC had issued a high risk east of here and we were right on the edge of the moderate risk. Unfortunately the timing of the system would bring the storms through in the early morning before there was any daylight. Nevertheless, I was anxious to chase one more time this year.

I woke up around 4:30 in the morning and a line of storms were moving across Illinois. I departed around 5:00am and headed west on Rt 10 just west of the Champaign/Piatt county line. I put my anemometer on the roof and was surprised that it still worked. :) I was only getting winds in the 20-23mph range though so think it might have been on the low side. I waited and waited, but I didn’t get much to write home about. I decided before it completely passed me that I would head back to Champaign and wait it out. I went up to Parkland College and shot some video of trees and lights blowing in the wind. It was almost 7:00am and I was about to call the chase a bust.

However, I noticed some of the lights towards the buildings go out while simultaneously seeing a blue power flash in the rear view mirror. I saw a few more flashes, so I quickly turned the car around to get a better look. A few seconds later, I was slammed with a wall of water and measured a 56.8mph wind gust. It didn’t last very long at all, but was pretty exciting. On the way back to my apartment, I discovered our dumpster was sitting in the middle of the road. I was going to call it in, but I heard the police mention it on the scanner. The major damage in Champaign was located in the 3200 block of Edward Hoffman drive which was just a block to my southwest. (see the News Gazette article for more info on that damage)

Final Thoughts
It didn’t last very long here but it was pretty exciting for late October. I must have just been on the edge of the microburst that hit the neighborhood to the southwest of me. The storm system also set a new low pressure record for a non-tropical system in the U.S. The NWS says that a pressure of 955.2mb / 28.21″ was measured in Bigfork, Minnesota. That’s pretty amazing!

Total Mileage: 30 miles


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August 4, 2010 – Wind, hail, and heavy rain in Champaign/Vermilion County IL

It was nice to wake up to a slight risk of severe weather here in central IL. Of course it’s August, so we were also under an extreme heat warning. Heat indices were hitting 110+ so conditions were definitely ripe for storms. I was anxious to go chasing so I could try out a new chase gadget. I recently picked up an iPad which I mainly bought to get me quickly on the road rather than wasting time hooking up a laptop. Since most of my chases this year have been without a laptop, I figured it would be a nice change to have a larger screen device for radar.

A severe thunderstorm watch was issued at 3:15pm for central IL. I finished up some things for work and then prepared to head out. There was a nice severe warned cell in western IL, but I didn’t really want to drive all the way over there and have it die out on me. I decided to focus on the storms in the northern part of Champaign county.

I left Champaign at 4:30pm and headed north on Mattis Avenue / CR 1000E. The biggest storm was straddling the Champaign / Ford county line. I headed east on Route 136 to catch up with it. Once I got east of Rantoul, my AT&T data was very spotty at best. When I did get a glimpse of radar, the storm appeared to be nothing but a flood machine. Once I reached Potomac, I headed south to I-74.

Heading west on I-74, I pulled off at the Fithian exit at Route 49 and waited for the storm. (5:50pm) I encountered very heavy rain, wind, and very small hail. (nothing severe though) While I was sitting there, I glanced behind me toward the off-ramp and noticed a group of 3 or 4 bikers waiting out the storm. (oops!) The rain was letting up a bit, so I proceeded west on I-74. I exited at the St. Joseph exit and went north of town a few miles. A very nice shelf cloud was stretched across the sky which made for some nice pictures. At 6:20pm, I started heading west on CR 1850N just west of CR 2100E and the skies opened up. The wind was pushing waves of water right at me reducing visibility to almost nothing. I pulled off for a few moments and let it pass.

That was the last storm in the area, so I called it a chase and headed home.

Final Thoughts
Despite not seeing too much excitement, it was a pretty fun chase. While summer storms usually don’t bring much but heavy rain and lightning, at least they move slow enough to keep up with them. The iPad faired pretty well minus the data hole on the Champaign/Vermilion county line area. It was nice to not have to spend 10-15 minutes setting up a laptop. :) I definitely look forward to chasing more with the iPad.

Total Mileage: 105 miles

Click here to view/purchase photos from this chase.


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