I was awoken this morning at 6:52am (CDT) by my weather radio indicating we were under a severe thunderstorm watch. Radar showed a bowing line of storms in west central IL heading to the northeast at a pretty good pace. My initial plan was to head west on I-74 and intercept the line at Bloomington. However, I quickly noticed that there was no way I would arrive in time since the storms were moving around 60mph. At Farmer City, I exited the interstate and went NE on Highway 54. Once I got to Gibson City, I went north on Highway 47. A smaller bow in the line was heading right towards me, so I tried to get in front of it as best as I could. I pulled off west of Strawn, IL at E 260 RD N and N 2500 RD E at 8:20am (CDT). The lightning was increasing a bit, but there really wasn’t much else to report. There were a few brief downpours but no wind or hail to report. There were no other storms behind this cell, so I called it a chase and headed home.
Today was the day that everyone had been talking about for awhile. The SPC had a high risk of severe weather out for parts of Oklahoma and Kansas. Luckily this was the week I chose awhile ago to take off work. (sweet!) In an attempt to conserve money, I decided not to leave until early Monday morning. It was a gamble to wait that long, but I figured if I left early enough I could still make it out there in time for the storms. Originally I was targeting the Wichita, KS area but the models on Sunday evening were indicating more of a southerly/easterly threat. I chose to go for Tulsa, OK and then adjust my target from there.
I departed Champaign at 5:30am (CDT) on Monday morning and headed south on I-57. I was treated to a really nice sunrise which eventually was filled in by thick cloud cover. I went west on I-70 towards St. Louis and then southwest on I-44 across Missouri. It seemed like forever to drive across Missouri, but I eventually entered into Oklahoma. At 1:25pm (CDT), a PDS tornado watch was issued for southern Kansas and western/central Oklahoma. I was already getting alerts on my phone of tornado warnings in western Kansas, so I knew this system was about to go crazy.
It’s rare for me to have a day off during the week, so I jumped at the opportunity to chase today. A moderate risk of severe weather in Indiana and Ohio sounded pretty enticing to me. I’ve never chased in that area before, but according to other chasers the terrain didn’t sound too bad.
After topping off the gas tank and washing the car, I left Champaign at 10:00am (CDT) and went east on I-74. I made my way north of Indianapolis and stopped in Wabash, IN around 2:15pm (EDT). I grabbed some lunch and attempted to download some weather data. Apparently that area is a dead zone as I was just barely getting a signal on my Verizon data card even with an external antenna. I was getting better results on my AT&T iPhone, but still no 3G speeds. I also realized I didn’t seem to have the power cable to my data card, so I packed the computer back up and just used the phone for data.
There’s nothing quite like waking up on a Saturday morning to a moderate risk of severe weather in Illinois. While the best conditions for severe weather were in MS / AL, there was still a decent chance right here in Illinois. I’ve been very jealous of all the chasers who bagged tornadoes in Texas during the week, so I definitely wanted to get out today and see what I could find. I was initially targeting Salem, IL and then would readjust from there.
I left Champaign at 9:00am and headed south on I-57. On the way down, I saw two buses going the opposite way with a giant tornado logo on them. (that had to be a good omen right?) 🙂 As I passed by Mattoon, I heard chaser Brad Emel calling me on the radio. He was also heading down that way to see what he could find. I stopped at the rest area just south of Salem to hook up all my gear and check out some data. Most of the region was socked in with clouds, but I was hopeful that they would clear out in the afternoon. I determined I need to get further south, so I picked the Pinckeyville area as I’ve chased there in the past.
It’s been a very quiet year here in Illinois in the storm department. Today wasn’t really forecasted to be a severe weather day here in Illinois. Too many clouds from leftover showers along with low dew points didn’t make for a good setup. Everyone and their mother was focused on the potential severe setups early next week, but I wasn’t giving up on today. After watching the showers move through the state, I wasn’t really expecting much to fire up behind it. However, around 11:00am, I noticed a few cells popping up west of Decatur. I watched a couple radar scans and they were growing pretty quickly. I decided to do a minimal chase by leaving the laptop at home and just using the radar on my phone.