June 13, 2005 – Chase in Western Illinois

Nothing like waking up to a moderate risk in mid June. The tornado threat was forecast further north and west, but a widespread damaging wind event looked very probably for central IL. I monitored the setup throughout the day and had two target areas in mind. One would take me to west central IL and the other would take me southwest of Springfield. I would make that decision after work and base it on present satellite/radar conditions.

I left work at 3:00pm and I still wasn’t quite sure which way to head. I finally decided to head west and go after the cell that was all by itself. I departed Champaign around 3:30pm after topping off the gas tank at $2.34/gallon. I headed northwest on I-74 and then jogged west on RT 136. Several severe thunderstorm warnings were issued on the cell that I was going after, but on radar it appeared to be dying. I was almost there, so I decided to stick with it and see what happens.

As I approached Havana, IL. around 5:00pm, there appeared to be a possible wall cloud to my west. Now my decision was whether or not to cross the lovely Illinois river. The road network was not the greatest in this area, so I decided to stay on the east side of the river. (in hindsight that wasn’t a good idea) I went north/east/north on CR 20 which somewhat paralleled the river. It continued to look crappy on radar, but I failed to notice the 3.00″ hail indicator. (doh!) I had the scanner on and heard a report of golfball sized hail in Lewistown. (which was right over the river!) I stopped to snap a few pictures of this cell, and then decided to abandon it and head south towards the main show.

I hopped on RT 97 and headed southeast towards the Springfield area. As I got just south of Petersburg, IL., the wrath of mother nature said hello to me. 🙂 It started pouring very heavily and I started getting some small hail. I couldn’t see 10 feet in front of me, so I pulled off the side of the road to wait it out for a few minutes. After it let up a bit, I got back on the road and kept going on RT 97. When I entered Sangamon county, I encountered more hail. Radar was only indicating 1.25″ where I was, but further south it was showing 2.25″ hail. I couldn’t get an estimate on the size of the hail as it was raining so hard, but it was very loud. 🙂 As soon as I hit Springfield, I dashed into a gas station to take shelter from the hail and to make a pitstop.

At this point I decided to just head back home as everything was going linear. I went through Springfield and then got on I-72 to head east. I tried to chase the line back to Champaign, but I just couldn’t catch up to it. As I passed through Decatur, I heard lots of damage reports on the ham repeater. There was a tornado warning issued for southern Piatt county, but it didn’t look like much on radar. The storms coming into Champaign appeared to be dying, though that’s par for the course in Champaign. 🙂 I arrived back home around 8:30pm.

Final Thoughts
Well this was a promising yet disappointing chase today. I should have stuck with my Fulton county storm longer and crossed the river. Lack of updated radar probably cost me on this one as well as the road network/river. Oh well, you live and learn right? 🙂

Total Mileage: 250 Miles

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