March 11, 2006 – Chase in Western Illinois

Ah, finally a nice slight risk area on a Saturday in Illinois! I had planned on leaving early for this, but that plan was quickly shot down as I turned on my laptop. As my computer was booting up, I had several ants crawl across the screen and keyboard. As I looked down on the floor, I saw alot more of them. (must have been all the rain we had in the past week) So before even getting to look at a Day 1 outlook, I shut the computer off and began my assault on the ants. (when they attacked my computer, that was an automatic declaration of war in my eyes!) I began my offensive with the dirt devil (how appropriate!) vacuum sucking up as many ants as possible. Apparently ants like lots of wires as they were traveling along my power and computer cables.

Step 2 entailed containment of the ants. Armed with a mixture of vinegar and water spray bottle, I proceeded to spray all along the walls and floor where I was finding ants. This seemed to drive them away a little bit, but I was still finding them. Step 3 brought about some special ant food called Terro. It’s a liquid that you put on a small piece of cardboard and place in areas where ants like to roam. Within minutes of putting this on the floor, the ants were gathering in circles to eat this stuff. Apparently the ants eat this stuff and take it back to their nest where they then die with the rest of their friends and family. This seemed to be working and I was finally able to focus on other things like that slight risk area engulfing the entire state of Illinois!

After a quick shower, I took a glance at the radar which showed storms firing up in western Illinois around 2:30pm. A nifty cell blew up in Adams County and then proceeded to split into 2 separate cells. I decided to grab up the gear and load up the car for a chase. A tornado watch was also issued around this time, so I was getting pretty excited. Around 3:30pm, I departed Champaign and headed west-northwest on I-74. Along the way I encountered several speed traps by the Illinois State Police. At one point, I thought one of the cops was coming after me as my scanner was detecting very close radio signals. I heard my callsign go over the scanner and I thought I was doomed. Then I realized that it was another ham calling for me on the 2m calling frequency! (WHEW!)

I had a nice conversation with this ham from Iowa as I continued towards the Peoria area. I decided to avoid Peoria and hop on US 24 to intercept a severe cell around 5:00pm. Around 5:15pm I encountered some brief pea-sized hail just outside of Canton, IL. I continued SW on US 24 and then jogged SE to SR 97. The storms were all globbing together and I wanted to get ahead of it a bit. I drove through Springfield and then got on I-72 and continued east. My passenger side wiper blade was falling off and making a screeching noise on each pass. Around 7:00pm, I exited the interstate and stopped at a gas station in Mechanicsburg to assess this situation. As I was inspecting the wiper, some guy comes out of the gas station and says: “religious expletive – you have alot of antennas!” Luckily I had a new wiper blade in the trunk, so I quickly swapped that out and was back in business. After taking a quick bathroom break, I was back on I-72 again.

I arrived in Decatur around 8:00pm and the flood gates opened up. It felt more like July than March as the rains just pounded the area. I called my buddy George (N9IPO) who was out north of town playing in the rain. It was raining pretty heavily where he was at, so I could barely hear him on the phone. I had to slow down quite a bit as I didn’t want to hydroplane off the highway. I finally made it back home to Champaign around 9:00pm.

Final Thoughts:
Well had it not been for the ants, I probably could have gotten to the nifty cells sooner. Still not too shabby a chase for early March. There’s a moderate risk of severe weather for tomorrow (March 12th) so we’ll see what happens with that. I’m definitely liking the active weather already this year, hopefully it won’t be the last!

Total Mileage: 270 Miles

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