May 13, 2005 – Chase in Champaign County

Behold Friday the 13th, the day everyone freaks out about each time it rolls around. Superstitions, bad luck, and severe weather all come with the territory. (huh? did he just say severe weather??) It looked like a possibility in the morning, however, crap clouds (official technical term) were covering most of the state. The eastern part started clearing out so I kept some hope of seeing some storms. The NWS out of Lincoln (ILX) said they expected storms to fire up sometime after 3:00pm. However, at 12:50pm the SPC issued a severe thunderstorm watch for eastern Illinois and Indiana with storms firing up to the east of me. (drats!)

I continued monitoring the weather throughout the afternoon, hoping that the early morning cloud cover wouldn’t bite us yet again. Around 4:00pm I noticed 2 small cells popping up around Macoupin county. I thought maybe this would be the start of the main show, and I was right. As I watched each radar scan, the cells were getting stronger. Doppler radar was indicating hail up to 1″, so I knew that I had to take a chance at this. Around 5:15pm, I gathered the gear and loaded up the car. My plan was to go south and intercept the northern storm as it entered the southern part of the county.

I departed at 5:30pm and made a quick stop to fill up the gas tank. (2.18/gal) I hopped on I-57 and headed south to intercept the cell. I took the 229 exit (Monticello Road) and went about a mile east and then south. I pulled off just west of CR 900E on CR 900N to take some pictures. The weather radio went off at this time with a severe thunderstorm warning for southern Champaign county. (right where I am!) There was a nifty little shelf cloud to my south as well as some dirt being propelled across the ground.

After taking a few minutes of video and stills, it started to rain so I retreated to the car. Instead of punching south through the heart of the storm, I decided to head east on CR 900N to stay ahead of it. A few minutes later, I hit the dust and heavy rain head on. Visibility was almost nil and winds were pretty decent out of the south-southwest. Shortly after this, I heard some small hail pelting the car. The winds now seemed to shift from the south to the west-northwest. I entered Philo around 6:10pm and the hail got a little bigger. (estimating 1/2″ to 1″) I glanced down at the radar and chuckled as I noticed I was in the purple ‘core’ of the storm.

I continued east on CR 900N attempting to stay with the storm. I stopped south of Sidney to take a few pictures of a nice hail shaft to my northeast. I turned north on RT.49 in an attempt to catch up with the storm, but I ran into a closed road on the north side of Homer. I didn’t see any quick detours, so I decided to give up on this cell. On the way back, I encountered a decent sized tree limb completely blocking the roadway. (CR 1050N / 2500E) I took a few quick pics before I noticed a big backhoe coming down the road behind me. I quickly got out of his way and continued south on CR 2500E. I stopped briefly again to take a few pics of a very nifty rainbow.

At this point things were dying out and all moving into Indiana. I got on the radio and managed to get ahold of Andrew Pritchard (KC9HNB). He was southwest of Sidney just watching the storms roll out. I met up with him around 7:00pm @ CR 900N/1900E. We could see the clouds from the storms to our south and then I noticed a small patch of mammatus clouds. We had numerous visitors drive by and ask us if we saw the double rainbow. That seemed to be the big event that both Andrew and I missed as we only saw the one rainbow. We then had a car load of girls stop and ask us if we were “storm watchers”. The driver also mentioned she had taken a picture on her cell phone of the double rainbow and she was pretty excited about that. 🙂

Anywho, we sat there until after sunset watching more mammatus clouds become visible. I’ve never seen such a display like this before, it was truely amazing. (and in our own backyard!!) I couldn’t stop taking pictures, I wanted to get all of the colors that we were seeing. Finally it was getting too dark and all the pretty mammatus went away. Another chaser, Dave Bellmore (KC9GIW), arrived and we proceeded to poke fun because he missed the storms. I also enjoyed watching him get attacked by giant flying bugs as I took refuge inside my car. The bugs were really starting to come out in full force, so we decided to call it a night. Andrew and Dave headed back to Sidney while I headed back to Champaign. I arrived back around 9:15pm.

Final Thoughts:
I almost thought I wasn’t going to get to chase today, but mother nature finally prevailed and put on a decent show here in Champaign county. Hopefully this won’t be the main event of the season as there’s still along way to go. Thanks to Andrew Pritchard and Dave Bellmore for the chaser convergence.

Total Mileage: 70 miles

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