After my travel to Colorado earlier in the week without a storm, I was anxious to get a chase in before my vacation was over. There was a slight risk out for southern Illinois and Indiana, but I wasn’t really wanting to go way down there due to crappy terrain. Around 4pm, a severe thunderstorm watch was issued for southern Illinois all the way into West Virginia. I noticed a decent looking storm moving into Piatt county, so I decided to head out and see if I could intercept it. Like previous chases, I had a hell of a time trying to get my AT&T data card to find a signal. After messing with it unsuccessfully for 15 minutes, I gave up and decided to just use my phone’s radar software to chase.
I departed Champaign at 5:00pm and headed south on I-57. My storm was now in southern Piatt county, so my goal was to intercept it in Douglas county. I noticed that my data card finally decided to start working again, so that was a relief. Visually the storm looked pretty good and a wall cloud was visible at times. I made it to Tuscola at 5:25pm and headed west of town to attempt a better view. Radar was showing that the storm was starting to split into two different cells and the one I was on was turning to the right. (see WCIA’s Kalee Dionne’s explanation) At this point I needed to get south to stay ahead of the storm, so I headed back to town and then south on RT 45.
The rain was coming down incredibly hard at this point and I could barely see in front of me. At 6:00pm, I pulled off on CR 600N and RT 45 as I began to get pelted by small hail. It only lasted about a minute, but then the sun was back out and a rainbow was visible. I continued south on RT 45 until I was clear of the storm, then headed east on CR 1900N. I zigzagged east and south for quite awhile trying to keep up with the storm. I noticed on Spotter Network that there were numerous other chasers also chasing this storm.
Just as I started talking to a few of them on the radio, we encountered the road network from hell. One road option was closed, another road turned to gravel, others had hairpin turns, and most of the roads in this area did not have stop signs which made things very dangerous. Our storm continued to chug along to the southeast and it was very difficult to keep up with it. Around 6:45pm, I made my way back to a real road (RT 16) and headed east/northeast. As I drove through Ashmore, IL, the entire town was covered in hail.
I continued NE on RT 16 and then south on HWY 49 to catch back up with the storm. After passing through Westfield, IL and looking at road options, I knew I was not going to be able to catch up to the storm. I pulled off on E 2000th Road just south of Westfield and Andrew Pritchard joined me a few minutes later. I sat there about 15 minutes taking a few pictures and watching the storm, then decided to make my way back home.
As I passed back through Ashmore, I noticed lots of fog from the earlier hail storm. I thought I would be cool and take a few country roads to get back north and west, but that didn’t go so well. I managed to end up on the other side of the earlier ‘road closed’ which made me backtrack to the east. I finally made my way back to the paved CR-3 and went north to Oakland. I headed west from there back to I-57 and then north towards Champaign. There were a couple of new cells firing up and the sky was a very strange purple color. I was getting low on gas, so I stopped at the Marathon station south of Willard Airport at 8:30pm to fill up. As I was filling up, the approaching storm was firing off lightning which didn’t make me feel too confident with a gas nozzle in my hand. The winds and rain picked up for a little while, but not quite reaching severe levels. I made it back home to Champaign at 9:00pm.
Well this is probably been the best chase of the year so far even though I didn’t see anything spectacular. It was nice to run into Andrew Pritchard again as well as seeing other chasers in the vicinity of my storm. I did find it odd that I drove all the way to Colorado earlier in the week, yet the best chase was right back home in Illinois. Hopefully sometime this year we’ll all get our storm that warrants a steak dinner. 🙂
Total Mileage: 160 miles