I was starting to wonder if the storm season was over already. Only a few mediocre chases this year and not much to show for it. Much to my surprise, the SPC issued a large moderate risk area stretching from Iowa to western Pennsylvania. While many chasers targeted Iowa, I didn’t feel like driving that far. (I’m getting lazy as I get older I guess!) 🙂 I decided to stick to western Illinois and hope the storms would fire up before it got too dark. Another reason I didn’t want to travel too far is that I just purchased a new chase vehicle a week before and did not have all my gear installed yet. I decided to go old school chasing with nothing but my cameras, weather radio, and my iPhone. (I did have a computer with me, but I never turned it on)
Before chasing, I stopped by the dealership where I bought my new vehicle to pick up the remainder of my gear from my old car. After talking with the salesman for a few minutes, I headed out to my target area which was initially Galesburg. Along the way, I received word that a tornado watch had been issued for that part of the state. I decided to keep driving west towards Monmouth and eventually ended up in Oquawka, IL right on the IL/IA border. I filled up the gas tank and happened to notice I had no cell signal whatsoever. (seems to be a recurring theme this year!) Not wanting to go into Iowa, I decided to turn around and head back east.
When I got back to Monmouth, I went south of town and then zigzagged my way back east. I was getting a little frustrated at this point and was about to call it a chase. Luckily, a train decided to block my east road option so I had to head south and then east ending up in Abingdon. I started heading north at this point towards Galesburg, but stopped just south of there to check data. There was a decent storm directly to my west which was looking really good on radar. I was concerned that if I did stay there, I’d be right in the path of a tornado should it drop one. Apparently the NWS agreed as they issued a tornado warning for this cell. I turned around and headed back south on Highway 41 and pulled off on Knox Road (300N) to watch the storm.
I had a good view to the north and watched a wall cloud develop. I snapped a few pictures and then followed the storm to the east on Highway 116. There were numerous trees on this road and I kept getting glimpses of what was at least a funnel cloud. As I approached the west side of Farmington, I turned north on CR-22 to get a better view. As I went up the hill and got away from the trees, I saw that my wall cloud had indeed dropped a tornado. I was almost shocked that I was seeing a tornado in person as it had been a long time. Quickly getting over my shock, I pulled off the road near a barn with a good view to my northeast. I let the dash cam record the video while I got out and took some still photos. The structure was pretty awesome and to have a tornado underneath it just added to the thrill. It had the elephant trunk look to it as it marched across the sky. I was too far away to see individual pieces of debris, but there was definitely a visible debris cloud from my vantage point.
It appeared to rope out but I was still seeing a debris cloud. I watched it for a few more minutes and decided to continue east on Highway 116 to keep up with it. As I got closer to Peoria, I saw numerous emergency vehicles heading west towards the damage path. That’s always a sickening feeling as you never want to see damage and injuries. It was getting dark at this point, so I decided to make my way home rather than continuing to chase in the dark. (something I ignored on my March 12, 2006 chase). I got on I-74 and headed east back to Champaign.
Well I finally ended my tornado drought and bagged one this year! I’m hoping the new vehicle had something to do with it. 🙂 (not too shabby for its first chase!) I also got some HD video of a tornado as well as some good digital photos. (about time I get to utilize some of this gear!) Of course the excitement of this catch was short-lived once I found out that Elmwood had taken a direct hit. Luckily no lives were lost but there was a lot of damage in town.
Total Mileage: 396 miles
Torando Count: 1 (near Elmwood, IL)
NWS Survey: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ilx/?n=5jun2010Tornadoes
LOCATION: KNOX AND PEORIA COUNTY (YATES CITY AND ELMWOOD)
EF SCALE: EF2 – 130 MPH
INITIAL TOUCHDOWN: 4.5 MILES WEST NORTHWEST OF YATES CITY IN KNOX
COUNTY AT 756 PM CDT.
MAXIMUM WIDTH: 50 YARDS.
LIFTED: 1 MILE EAST OF ELMWOOD IN PEORIA COUNTY AT 807 PM CDT.
TOTAL PATH LENGTH: 7.8 MILES.