Normally this time of year we’re planning for an ice storm or snowstorm, but today was different. High temps around 60 degrees, dew points in the mid 50’s, and a slight risk of severe weather? This is February right? Before leaving for work, I packed up the gear and had it ready to grab and go when I got back home.
At 12:45pm a mesoscale discussion was issued for MO/IL for an upcoming tornado watch! Thirty minutes later, the tornado watch was issue and I was in it! Unfortunately I couldn’t leave until 4pm, so that was going to cut it close for chasing. However, I had to run some errands for my boss around 3:30pm so that would save me some time. I stopped by the bank and the teller ladies were all talking about the tornado ‘warnings’ that were coming this way. The one jokingly said “You be careful out there, there’s tornadoes coming!” Of course I didn’t mention that I was in a hurry to go chase them!
I got back to work around 4:00pm and dropped off some things for the boss and they headed home to grab the gear. After a quick stop to fill up the gas tank, I took a look at the radar to see where to head. It appeared that all the better stuff was to my south so that is where I headed. I jumped on I-57 and headed south to intercept the line heading my way. As I left, a tornado warning was issued for Piatt/Moultrie/Douglas counties! (is this really February??) As I continued south I encountered heavy rainfall with some lightning. I heard someone come across the scanner stating that a tornado had been reported near Atwood, which was to my west-southwest. (nothing like punching a storm from the north!) The rain continued to fall, but I never did see any sign of a tornado/wall cloud.
Around 4:55pm I got to Arcola and decided to head east a bit to follow the line. I quickly realized that due to the speed of the line I’d never be able to keep up with it. I decided to make my way back north on RT 130. I made it back home at 6:00pm.
I never would have imagined my 2nd chase of the year being in February! Granted I didn’t really see much but the thrill of it all so early in the year was pretty sweet. Hopefully this is a sign of better storms later this year!
Distance: 80 miles
SPC Outlook: Slight Risk
Target Area: Douglas County, IL