March 19, 2003 – Chase in Piatt County Illinois

Despite there being a slight risk of severe weather today, I wasn’t too optimistic at the start of the day. There were tons of clouds and the temps were rather chilly. There was also a nice area of rain heading up from southern Illinois which would further stabilize the atmosphere. Not much to look forward to, or so I thought.

After picking up my paycheck from work, I ran a few errands and headed home. Not much in the way of activity in the weather department at the time. The 11:00am hazardous weather outlook from ILX even mentioned there was no threat of severe weather today. Apparently they thought the atmosphere could not destabilize given the amount of cloud cover and lower dew points.

I loaded up the radar loop from ILX and noticed a thin line of storms in western Illinois, but they didn’t look too fierce on radar. Then the moment of shock arrived when I got a notification at 1:18pm of a tornado warning for Christian and Sangamon counties. What the heck!?!? Shortly after the warning was issued, there were two reports of confirmed tornado touchdowns with the storm. Unfortunately being some 80-90 miles away, there was no way of catching up to the particular cell. However, I noticed more isolated cells to the south of here that were heading in this direction. Looking at the satellite images revealed that clouds were definitely being penetrated by the sun and that was very promising.

Around 3:00pm, I decided to pack up the gear and head out towards the now multicelluar batch of storms to the SW of here. I hopped on I-72 and headed west towards Monticello. Upon arriving at the Monticello exit, I noticed the cell that I had watched on radar directly west of me. There was a lot of scud, but nothing that seemed to be rotating at the moment. I drove through town and then headed NW of town on the Deland Monticello Road. I pulled off at 1800N and decided to take some pictures. I saw somewhat of a lowering, but it turned out to be some regular scud stuff moving around in the air. I also observed a long shelf cloud / gust front heading towards me with alot of rain and occasional lightning. The storm was moving right towards me, so I decided to hop back in the car and get out of the way. 🙂

I continued north on the Deland Monticello Road and finally pulled off just NE of De Land. At 3:55pm, situated at the intersection of 2400N/700E, the storm caught up with me. I had a brief period of heavy rain, some close lightning, and even some small pea-sized hail. After the storm passed over me, I decided to head back home to Champaign since I didn’t see anything else in the area to chase. I arrived back home at 4:45pm.

Final thoughts:
While no severe weather occurred where I chased, it was still great to get out on that first chase of the year. It’s been awhile since I’ve chased and I have a few things to adjust for the next chase. I have a good feeling about this year’s chase opportunities in central Illinois!

Total Chase Time: 1.5 hours
Total Chase Miles: 50 miles

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