March 1, 2004 – Chase to Northeast IL

Finally, a slight risk somewhere in Illinois! I had been watching this day on the models for the past week. While it would have been nice for this to happen on Sunday, I figured I’d do my best to get a chase in anyway. The Day 1 outlook had northern and central IL in a slight risk with the main threat being large hail and damaging winds. (better than 4-8″ of snow right?!) Unlike my Jan 3rd bust to Missouri, we actually had some CAPE forecasted! (about freaking time!) There wasn’t the nice pool of mid-60 degree dew points to work with, but with the strong low pressure I figured it might still fire something. Unfortunately I couldn’t allocate the entire day to chasing as I had to work, so I had to do what I could with the time after work. Luckily I was able to work through lunch and leave an hour early.

As soon as the clock struck 3:00pm, I bolted out the door and headed home to get the gear. As I was setting up the laptop/GPS, I plugged in the wifi card to get a last minute weather update before heading out. There wasn’t too much on radar other than stuff way up in northern IL and southern WI, which was a tad out of my range for this chase day. I continued to focus on my target area of Kankakee and see what would happen. I finally departed Champaign at 3:30pm and made the trek north on I-57. On the way up, I noticed lots of junk trying to go up but nothing that made me want to stop. As I approached the Kankakee area, I finally encountered some decent amounts of rainfall. For about 5 seconds, I had some small hail pelting the car that got me all excited again. 🙂 I headed north of Kankakee to get out into the country and observed a really spiffy sunlit cloud structure which begged to have its picture taken!

I finally found a flat area of land outside of town and began shooting numerous stills and a few minutes of video. (N 3000E/ E 6000N roads – they have really weird country road identification!) While I was waiting, I got online and checked radar to see what else was going on in the region. The cell I was on wasn’t too shabby, but the best cells close to me were NE of me into NW Indiana. About this time, the weather radio went off with a severe thunderstorm warning for Porter and Lake County in Indiana. (exactly what I was seeing on radar) I studied Street Atlas to find a route to get me in that direction, then made my way east. As I proceeded, I noticed the cell directly to my northeast was really starting to fire up with cloud-to-ground lightning. I finally zigzagged on RT 17 south and then east on RT 114 / RT 10 into Indiana.

I continued east for quite awhile until I reached Roselawn, IN., where I made another data stop. I noticed the cell just to my WNW was a whopping 61-62dbz on the radar, yet no warning was ever issued for the little fella. At this point it was pretty much dark and I didn’t see any reason to continue trying to chase given the conditions. I plotted the course back home and concluded the chase. I arrived back home in Champaign around 8:30pm and proceeded to intercept some food. 🙂

Final thoughts:
Well it could have been better, but at least I saw some convection this time! Decent cloud structure, rain-obscured rainbow, lightning, and a few seconds of hail made this chase pretty nifty! This was a nice little test run to work out any equipment issues for future chases. Spring is right around the corner!

Total Chase Time: 5.5 hours
Total Chase Miles: 230 miles

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