When the SPC Day 3 outlook pegs an area with a moderate risk, it’s usually a decent indicator that there’s going to be some nasty storms. The Day 1 outlook for May 13th had most of Illinois in the moderate risk, though it was later trimmed back to include just the western and southern parts of the state. I somehow managed to get the afternoon off from work, so I was anxious to get out there and see some action. I spent most of the morning trying to get my new AT&T data card to work correctly. I finally had to do a complete uninstall of all software / drivers related to the card and then it reinstalled correctly. I also discovered that the county was changing their public safety frequencies and my scanner needed some updating to track the changes. (probably not the wisest move to change such a crucial system on a severe weather day)
Anywho, I loaded up all the gear and headed west on I-72 from Champaign around 1:30pm. Not much was going on in the weather during the trip west, so I decided to stop in Jacksonville for a pitstop / snacks. I reassessed the situation while sitting at Lake Jacksonville watching the wind blow. (real exciting!) Looking at Spotter Network, most of the chasers were crossing over into Missouri which was not on my agenda. There are too many hills and trees for my taste, so I figured I’d stick to Illinois. I debated whether the storms that were firing up in Missouri would make it to Illinois before it was too dark. I almost called it a bust and headed back home, but figured I’d gone through the hassle of taking half a day off work so I should probably stick it out for a few more hours.
I departed Jacksonville at 5:20pm and continued heading west on I-72 towards Quincy. I was seeing several tornado warned cells in Missouri, but again I did not want nor have the time to cross the border. I headed north of Quincy on Highway 96 and made my way through Lima, IL around 6:45pm. Looking at the radar, I was a tad too far north for my comfort and was running low on gas. I headed back south to Ursa to fill up the gas tank and then headed west of town to get a better view of the incoming storm. A doppler indicated tornado warning was issued for Adams county at 7:35pm. I setup the camcorder and waited for the storm to come into view. I spotted a wall cloud and watched it try to get its act together for about 10-15 minutes, but it just couldn’t produce. Eventually the storm was getting too close, so I had to bail east on Highway 61. At 8:15pm I stopped in Mendon, IL to take one more look at the radar and decided I should probably call it and start heading back home. I headed south on Highway 336 to I-172 and then eventually east on I-72. Oddly enough, I noticed a deer on the side of the road which reminded me that debris wasn’t the only thing I needed to keep an eye out for. 🙂
I stopped in Springfield to grab a bite to eat at McDonald’s and noticed how quickly the line of storms were approaching. I hopped back on I-72 at 10:45pm and continued east towards Champaign. The rain was really picking up at this point and I was hoping not to hydroplane. As I was rounding the curve near Decatur, I noticed that my battery indicator light came on. Having had this happen before, I knew exactly what had happened and was not happy about it. Luckily I was able to hit the Rt 51 exit and find a parking lot to pull over on before the car completely died on me. I popped the hood and sure enough, my stupid serpentine belt had slipped off again. I tried to put it back on, but not having a flashlight and the proper tools made it impossible. I called my friend George (N9IPO) and he brought me a flashlight, but there was no way I could get my hand in the spots where the belt needed to go. Being past midnight as this point, I decided the best thing to do was to let the car sit and get it towed to a shop in the morning. The shop had some trouble finding the right part number, but they were finally able to fix it by the end of Thursday. I finally made it back home to Champaign early Thursday evening.
It was kind of a long drive just to see a wall cloud, but at least I saw something. I’m somewhat glad I didn’t venture to Missouri given the issue I had with my car. Had that slipped off during a more crucial part of the chase, that could have been disastrous. Also a huge thanks to George (N9IPO) for his help and hospitality in getting my car fixed. At least I know how to play Yahtzee now. 🙂
Total Mileage: 480 miles
Gas price: $2.35/gal