Well, I went to bed about 3 in the morning. I checked all the maps/forecasts and NSSL and the SPC were predicting severe storms in the southern part of Illinois. So, I dashed off to bed and tried to get some sleep, key word being try! Around 4 in the morning, I was rudely awoken by a pop-up thunderstorm. Nothing too intense, just a few close bolts. Finally, I fell asleep and woke up around 10am. I grabbed a quick shower and a bite to eat (some scrambled eggs to be more precise!) Anyways, I needed to pick up a map of Illinois that had all of the roads in it. I dashed over to the local Barnes & Noble bookstore and found this awesome book called the Illinois Atlas and Gazetteer. This book is something I have needed for quite some time, and it was well worth the $18 that I paid for it! 🙂 After I got the book, I went back home to check some weather data and see who else I could find to chase. I loaded up the storms forecast from NSSL and they had moved the severe storms area completely out of Illinois. At this point I was quite perturbed, but hadn’t given up hope just yet. I popped on TWC and they were showing the radar out of St. Louis. There was a few cells that were beginning to form and looked pretty promising.
At this time, my buddy Mike was messaging me on ICQ asking me if he could go chasing. I happily accepted his request, because I needed someone to read the maps and give directions. I decided I better head on out and hit the road. I picked Mike up and headed south on Neil St. in Champaign. I stopped off at the BigFoot gas station to get fill up the tank and get some oil. I called my buddy Rob up on the cell phone and asked him if he wanted to chase. He also agreed that things were looking good. So after taking care of business at the gas station, we made a stop at Rob’s house. We spent about an hour there downloading radar, checking the local forecasts on TWC, and listening to the latest storm warnings. At this time, the St. Louis area was getting slammed and all the storms were heading NE at 30 mph. We decided to head south towards Mattoon and try to get behind the storms when they moved through.
Once we hit Mattoon around 2pm, we stopped off at the Steak & Shake to take a leak and get some information from Rob’s brother(Tom) back in Champaign. We decided to go east towards Charleston. (Directions after this are kind of sketchy because we drove on many different roads and highways) We ended up in the small town of Kansas (how ironic!!) We stopped at a local gas station for another bathroom break and a data checkup. We encountered a group of bikers who had just run through a patch of hail and apparently had slid off their bikes. They were a bit shaken up, but they were definitely ok. When we told them we were storm chasers, they were a bit surprised, but they respected that and didn’t laugh at us, which I thought was quite nice of them! 🙂 We left the gas station and started driving through the country roads, finally ending up in Edgar County.
By this time, we really weren’t seeing much but rain. We ended up in another small town of Marshall. By this time, we were getting quite disappointed and started to head back. We took I-70 towards Effingham, but Rob decided to take the Martinsville exit instead. I was wondering what the heck he was up to, but since we had plenty of time to kill before it got dark, I didn’t really mind. We hit some country roads again, heading back kinda where we were before. All of a sudden , we noticed some decent looking clouds, so we decided to check them out and follow them. We followed them for a ways and then pulled over to watch them.(Approximate location: Clarksville Rd. / Cleone Rd. in Edgar County) Rob gets on the CB and starts yelling “OH MY GOSH” and pointing straight ahead. I quickly grabbed my camcorder and jumped out of the car. (About 3:40pm now) I started recording the clouds I saw in front of me. It looked to be a rope type funnel cloud which really got us fired up, but after watching the video, we could not confirm any rotation.
We were still very happy though, because we had gone all day without seeing anything, and here we just stumble across this possible funnel cloud. I took about 5 min worth of video, and it finally dissipated. The inflow from the storm was very cold and windy! That’s the last time I’m jumping out of the car without my jacket on!! 🙂 We tried to catch it on the other side, but there was just too much rain to see anything. On our way home, the sky cleared up and we saw this amazing sunset, which was just too magnificent to miss. We pulled over for a few minutes and I took some video of it as well. It just ended the chase on a good note!
Overall, the chase wasn’t too bad. We didn’t get a good tornado like we would have liked, but the possible funnel cloud was well worth the chase effort! We all had a great time, well, everyone except the little squirrel that about lost its’ life after I came close to running over the little fella!! 🙂 This is just the first chase of many that are expected in this 1999 chase season! It’s only Feb 27th and already we’ve seen some good stuff. I can’t wait to see what happens in the coming months! Hopefully, we will have better, more detailed explanations in our next chases!!