March 28, 2004 – Chase to Northeast IL

Thanks to my dedication to watch my beloved Illini team lose in the sweet 16 to Duke, I passed up an opportunity to chase on Saturday in the plains. It would have been a good run to W. Oklahoma, but there’s always next time right? 🙂 Anyway, the same system that dropped 7 tornadoes in the Kansas/Oklahoma was heading my way on Sunday and that meant there was a slight chance we’d get something to chase here. Granted the system was weakening, but there was still a chance. The early morning SPC Day 1 outlook showed northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin in a slight risk for severe weather with the main threat damaging winds. (a whopping 2% tornado risk too!) I mulled over the forecast models and initially wanted to target somewhere between Peru and Bloomington Illinois. Unfortunately there was a lot of cloud cover from the leftover storms that was hindering our storm chances. (share the wealth people!)

I continued to monitor the situation throughout the day and there wasn’t much happening. I didn’t want to leave too early and go on some wild goose chase, yet I didn’t want to wait too long and miss something either. I decided to wait for the 2:00pm (20z) Day 1 outlook to see what the SPC was thinking. They ended up shifting the severe threat to eastern Illinois which kind of surprised me a bit. At this time, I started seeing some very small storms go up north of Bloomington and wondered if this was the beginning of the storms. I was ready to leave but not sure where to head. My initial target was too far west and a southern target didn’t have much instability and energy to work with. The best ingredients were along the NE IL/NW IN border, so I decided to head north to my popular destination of Kankakee. (must be a new theme to chase in the same area as many times as possible this year!)

After loading up the gear and topping off the gas tank, I headed north around 2:30pm. It was mostly cloudy on the way up there though I could see numerous breaks in the clouds. I attempted to download some weather data on the way, but the area I was in didn’t support data connections so I was going totally visual. (old school chasing again!) I decided to go north of Kankakee and get off at Manteno to get a better view of whatever was coming my way. I stopped about 9 miles west of Manteno in NW Kankakee county to watch the sky. I saw a couple of turkey towers, but nothing that looked like it was going to do anything. I finally got online and discovered there were no watches, warnings, or any decent looking storms anywhere in the area. Blah! (what’s that 4 letter word for crappy chase that rhymes with dust?) 🙂

While I was weighing my options of whether to go back home or not, I started seeing a shelf cloud off in the distance. I had about 15 minutes of video left on one of my video tapes, so I decided to shoot some of this nifty thing. As it approached, I noticed alot of motion in the clouds but nothing organized. During the time, I didn’t see any lightning so I continued to stay outside and watch this thing. About the time it got a few miles from me, the temperature and humidity took quite a nosedive in a very short amount of time. It started to rain, so I packed up the tripod/camera and hopped back in the car. I sat there for a little while longer while I got pounded with heavy rain, but never did see or hear any hail.

I took one more peek at the radar and there definitely wasn’t anything to continue chasing after, so I decided to call it a chase and head back home. I was pretty much slammed with heavy rainfall the whole trip back which made the travel a little slower than normal. I arrived back home a little after 7:00pm and it was noticeably cooler than when I had left.

Final thoughts:
Technically the chase was a bust, but at least I got to see a pretty nifty shelf cloud. Hopefully April will bring some better chases to the area.

Total Chase Time: 4.5 hours
Total Chase Miles: 190 miles

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