June 19, 2006 – Chase in East Central IL

After not chasing since April, I was beginning to wonder if there would be anything left to chase this year. The morning SPC Outlook had central and eastern IL in a slight risk with the main focus on large hail and damaging winds. The mid-morning forecast discussion from ILX had mentioned the lower freezing level which meant hail would have a better chance than the past few days. A few storms fired up in northern Vermilion county during the morning, but nothing further west. I didn’t really expect anything to fire up, but I kept the weather software rolling throughout the day.

Around 1:15pm, a mesoscale discussion was issued for Missouri through Illinois regarding the possibility of severe thunderstorms. Storms started firing up in western IL around 2:00pm, but they didn’t look very promising at the start. Eventually the one got its act together and prompted a severe thunderstorm warning for Tazwell and McLean counties. At 3:10pm, a severe thunderstorm watch was issued for central/southern IL to western IN. (yay!) This cell was moving to the east-southeast somewhat towards Champaign county, but it appeared it wouldn’t make the city. (I’m getting lazy!) I decided to give it a go and left work at 3:30pm to grab my gear. (where did I put those darn cameras??)

As I was getting everything ready to go, radar was showing another cell in DeWitt county moving into Piatt county. This storm had a severe warning and looked promising, so I decided to go after it instead of the other cell that was now in northern Champaign county. I departed Champaign at 3:45pm and headed west on the popular and beloved Interstate 72. (pardon my sarcasm!) I met the storm in Monticello and it appeared to be weakening. I punched the core of the storm and all it could muster was very heavy rain. I headed south on Route 105 in an attempt to get behind the storm for some structure shots. I stopped a few miles southeast of Bement at 1000N/600E and took a few shots of the storm to my northeast. A nice hail shaft was visible and radar was indicating that the storm was building again.

I bailed south to Route 36 and then went east into Douglas county. As I neared Tuscola, I saw one of the best rainbows I have ever seen stretched across the highway. (skittles anyone?) The one end of the rainbow was illuminating a house which looked amazing, but unfortunately it started raining so I couldn’t get a picture. I headed south about a mile on Route 45 and all hell broke loose. I encountered very heavy rains and some small hail, so I decided to head east and keep up with the storm. Larger hail stones were now pelting my car and making things very interesting. At 5:00pm, I stopped at 750N/1000E and shot a minute or two of hail video. As I rolled down the window, one hailstone bounced into the car and it appeared to be about an inch. (though I’m sure there were a few isolated stones a tad bigger than that)

I headed back north on I-57 and jogged out into the country to take a few more shots of the storms. The cell that was moving away from Champaign county was quite impressive looking. I made my way back into town and arrived home at 6:15pm.

Final Thoughts:
After not planning on chasing today, it turned out to be quite exciting. The visibility was great and the rainbow/hail were pretty nifty! It’s nice to chase during the afternoon when there’s good lighting to work with. There appears to be more chances of severe weather this week, so we’ll see what happens!

Click here to view/purchase photos from this chase.


Total Mileage: 95 miles

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