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May 22, 2004 – Chase in Northern IL

I had predicted this day to be a big outbreak since February, yet everyone laughed at me. What would cause me to make such a bold precise statement like this so far in advance? Cubs/Cards tickets of course! Yes, being a lifelong Cubs fan and never had a chance to visit Wrigley was just too much for me to take. A friend of mine had somehow secured some tickets the day they went on sale in February. I made a prediction that on May 22, 2004 there would be a super outbreak in the midwest. So wouldn’t you know it, 2 months later and there’s an outbreak setup in the making. The morning Day 1 outlook had parts of NE/IA in a moderate risk. (later upgraded to a high risk) Some would call it irony, others would blame it on the many curses of the Cubs. I have a few choice words for it myself, but will refrain from using them at this time. 🙂

To make matters worse, the forecast for the game was not looking good. Radar was showing 2 bands of showers and thunderstorms heading right for Chicago. Due to the realistic chance that it might get rained out, I decided to drive my vehicle up just in case a chase presented itself to me. We loaded up and headed north to Chicago on I-57. My friends thought it was funny that some people were slowing down behind me because they thought I was a cop due to all the antennas on my car. (it’s kinda funny and annoying at the same time!) Anywho, as we got up to Chicago, the sun was out and the skies were partly cloudy. While we were wasting time, I got a text message on my phone regarding a severe thunderstorm watch that just happened to include Champaign. (it never fails!) Anywho, not wanting to drive all of our vehicles into the heart of Chicago, we dropped them off at one of their relative’s houses in Forest View, IL.

We managed to find a parking lot just a few blocks from Wrigley Field which was pretty amazing given the time and amount of people in the area already. As soon as we got out of the vehicle, it started raining. (oh boy, here we go) It was a very light rain and didn’t last too long. We made our way to our seats and my jaw dropped as I experienced Wrigley Field’s awesome environment for the first time. I really wish I would have brought my camera in with me, but I was worried that it would get dropped or some idiot would spill beer on it. It rained for a little bit during the middle of the game, but it was very light and provided a slight breeze to the area. Throughout the game, I continued getting text messages regarding severe and tornado watches going up in Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan, Kansas, and a few other states. (Illinois not included of course!)

After the Cubs finished the game with a 7-1 whopping of the Cardinals, we slowly made our way back to the vehicle. We were rather surprised to see that no one had blocked us in so we were able to get out very quickly. Unfortunately we got confused at how to get back to Forest View as the map we had was the worst thing I’d ever seen. (didn’t even have mile markers on it!) Why I didn’t bring my laptop/GPS setup along is beyond me, but live and learn right? 🙂 We finally made it back to Forest View around 5:30PM and shot the breeze for a little bit. I was ready to head back and they decided to stay up there and have dinner. So as I’m driving down the street ready to get back on the highway, my phone alerts me of a tornado watch for northern Illinois. (holy mother of something, can this be for real?!) I go to get some data and yet again I’m in a no-data area. I call up Mike Cox and see if he can give me an update as well as see if he’s out chasing the PDS tornado watch. 🙂

At this point, he was having a lot better luck than me. 🙂 I told him I was going to head west and see if I could get out of the city and see something. My plan was to head west on US 34 and then jump on I-88. Once I got on US 34 though, the speed limit was a horrid 30mph. (who makes a speed limit that low on a highway??) It didn’t take me long to get fed up with that crap, so I hopped on the I-294 tollway and headed north to I-88. As I made my way out of the city life, I noticed my phone saying it was able to get data again. I checked out radar and saw a couple cells firing up to my west, so I continued west on I-88. As I approached Dixon, IL., I noticed some towers through the grunge. They looked like crap on radar, but it was all I had in the area. I stopped at Dixon to fuel up and then headed south on SR 26 to attempt an intercept of the storm. I jogged east on SR 24 and then south through Amboy on US 52. I gave up on the storms and decided to start heading back home.

As I continued south, I got a call from Mike Cox again stating he’d just bagged five tornadoes in Iowa! I was happy as hell for him but very frustrated that I wasn’t there. (can’t win them all!) I stopped in Mendota, IL for food and then made my journey back home. I arrived around midnight and tried to get some sleep for the next day’s possible chase.

Final thoughts:
A very exciting day Cubs wise, but frustrating on the storm front. (pun intended) I almost had the best of both worlds, but mother nature didn’t cooperate on the second go around. No worries, more chasing is in the forecast!

Total Chase Time: 6 hours
Total Chase Miles: 400 miles

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