July 22, 2001 – Two different chases in one day

One word to describe today: nasty. The humidity was downright off the charts and even with the A/C on, there wasn’t much relief. There wasn’t much expected in the way of showers and thunderstorms which didn’t help matters either. However, around 12:30pm, a little thunderstorm popped up just south of Champaign. Rather than sweating to death inside, I decided to get in my A/C-lacking vehicle and go check it out. As I got closer to this little cell, the air became a little more reasonable to be around. Unfortunately, this little cell fizzled out and didn’t really do much but cool it off where I was. I saw some more towers to my east, so like a couple other chases this month, I went east on Rt.36. I eventually encountered some rain and a few lightning strikes, but this storm also fizzled out.

Not wanting to go immediately home, I continued east on 36 into Indiana until I encountered a weird detour that sent me to Hwy 63. I decided to go south a little ways until I realized there wasn’t much going on. I headed back west into IL and came into Paris, IL. (I have never seen so many one way streets in my life) After getting lost in Paris for a while and temporarily going the wrong way down a one-way street, I found Rt. 16 and headed west towards Charleston. After a quick drive-by my now Alma Matter, I headed back to Champaign on I-57. I got back home around 4:30pm and figured the chase day was over.

After watching a very interesting Weakest Link which featured some of the Survivor castaways, I flipped on radar and noticed a decent line of storms to my NE. My email program then notified me of a severe thunderstorm warning for Iroquois county (which is the county directly NE of Champaign) Not wanting to miss out on some decent lightning, I decided to give it a shot. I headed north on I-57 and noticed just how hazy it was. As I proceeded north, I wasn’t seeing too much in the way of lightning or cloud structure due to the haze. Once I got past Rantoul, it definitely started to get interesting. At 8:15pm, I got off at the Paxton exit and proceeded east to Rt. 9. I was finally starting to see some lightning to my ENE which got me going. The weather radio wasn’t impressing me when it said the warning had expired and no new warnings had been issued. I still continued to go east until I reached Rankin. It now looked like the storm was getting much closer to me, so I decided to head south on Hwy 49.

I approached the Hwy 49/Rt. 136 intersection and noticed the lightning really increase in intensity and frequency, yet I continued south. This storm was definitely moving faster than I thought and was closing in fast, so I turned around and headed back towards Rt 136. I then headed west on 136 towards Rantoul, all while the lightning kept closing in behind me. As I entered Rantoul, it appeared like I’d finally gotten ahead of the storm, so maybe I could finally stop and take a few pictures. I got on the 442.250 repeater in Decatur and got a hold of KB9ZDM who told me that there was just a little cell in NE Champaign county. (I figured that was the one that had been chasing me)

I kept going west on 136 through Rantoul and eventually turned north on CR 1200 E. I went a couple of miles and was about to setup for a few shots when it started pouring. (you could see that one coming!) I headed back south on that road and that’s when my tape ran out. So I sat at the intersection of 136 and 1200E changing tapes when BAM, a strike hits just a few miles behind me. (here we go again) Once I got the new tape loaded, I headed back east on 136 and then jumped south on I-57 and headed back home. After a few minutes of heavy rain, I finally got away from the storm. It started dying at this point, so I just called it and went home. I arrived home at 9:45 and I could finally say the chase day was over!

Final thoughts:
Well, chasing twice in one day was pretty interesting. The storms in the evening were alot better than the dinky ones during the afternoon. I’d never chased up in that area before, so it was kinda nifty to be up there. (the terrain wasn’t too shabby either) At least the storms brought a little relief to the areas that they affected.

Special Thanks:
Once again, thanks to the weather gods for bringing some cool stuff to the area. (well, maybe ‘cool’ isn’t the right word to use)

Total Chase Time: 2 hours
Total Chase Miles: 90 miles

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