May 7, 2010 – Chase to Northeast Indiana

It’s rare for me to have a day off during the week, so I jumped at the opportunity to chase today. A moderate risk of severe weather in Indiana and Ohio sounded pretty enticing to me. I’ve never chased in that area before, but according to other chasers the terrain didn’t sound too bad.

After topping off the gas tank and washing the car, I left Champaign at 10:00am (CDT) and went east on I-74. I made my way north of Indianapolis and stopped in Wabash, IN around 2:15pm (EDT). I grabbed some lunch and attempted to download some weather data. Apparently that area is a dead zone as I was just barely getting a signal on my Verizon data card even with an external antenna. I was getting better results on my AT&T iPhone, but still no 3G speeds. I also realized I didn’t seem to have the power cable to my data card, so I packed the computer back up and just used the phone for data.

I sat there for a couple of hours waiting for storms to fire up. A tornado watch was issued at 3:30pm (EDT). At 4:30pm (EDT) I noticed a storm firing up to my west, so I decided to go take a look at it. I headed NW on Highway 15 towards Roann. As soon as I got close to town, it turned into tree city and gravel roads. I zigzagged back and forth and finally made my way back to a paved road. I headed east on Highway 114 in an attempt to keep up with the storm, but that was pointless as the storms were moving 65mph.

I saw a another storm pop up on radar just to my south, so I hopped on US 24 south to intercept it. As I was entering the town of Roanoke, I got slammed by heavy rain and gusty winds. I pulled off at Commercial St. and 4th to wait it out. The wind-driven rain was taking numerous leaves off the trees. It lasted about five minutes and then it moved away.

It was a little past 6:00pm (EDT) and all of the severe stuff was well off to my north and east. I was ready to call it a chase so I took I-69 south for what I thought would be a quick trip back home. However, some sort of road construction had brought traffic to a stop for miles. I was getting low on gas so I took the first exit I could find. As I exited the interstate and went over the overpass, I noticed that traffic was crawling for as far as I could see. After filling up the gas tank, I decided I wasn’t going to proceed any further on I-69. I plotted a new course which took me west on US 24 then on to I-74 west back to Champaign.

Final Thoughts:
Chalk up another frustrating chase in 2010. Other than the brief storm at the end, the rest of the chase was pretty dull. The storms were just moving too fast to keep up with. The poor data coverage combined with the trees did not help matters. Oddly enough I discovered the power cable for my data card was with me the whole time but hidden in a bag. (oops!) It was nice to shoot a little video of the storm I encountered near Roanoke. Next week looks to be really active in the weather department, so we’ll see what happens!


Total Mileage: 460 miles.

April 24, 2010 – Chase to Southwestern Illinois

There’s nothing quite like waking up on a Saturday morning to a moderate risk of severe weather in Illinois. While the best conditions for severe weather were in MS / AL, there was still a decent chance right here in Illinois. I’ve been very jealous of all the chasers who bagged tornadoes in Texas during the week, so I definitely wanted to get out today and see what I could find. I was initially targeting Salem, IL and then would readjust from there.

I left Champaign at 9:00am and headed south on I-57. On the way down, I saw two buses going the opposite way with a giant tornado logo on them. (that had to be a good omen right?) 🙂 As I passed by Mattoon, I heard chaser Brad Emel calling me on the radio. He was also heading down that way to see what he could find. I stopped at the rest area just south of Salem to hook up all my gear and check out some data. Most of the region was socked in with clouds, but I was hopeful that they would clear out in the afternoon. I determined I need to get further south, so I picked the Pinckeyville area as I’ve chased there in the past.

As I got closer to Pinckeyville, I stopped to take some pictures of some mammatus clouds. I decided to keep going a little further west and ended up in Sparta, IL. It was absolutely pouring at this point, so I figured it’d be a good time to stop and grab a bite to eat and check out more data. After the rain ended, the sun came out which provided some promising heating. I sat there for several hours just waiting for things to develop. At 3:20pm, a tornado watch was issued for central and southern IL. There was a line of storms in Missouri that were starting to get their act together heading towards St. Louis. I was getting tired of sitting there, so I decided to head west and north to attempt an intercept.

I was hoping to get into an area without so many trees so I could actually see what was coming, but I wasn’t having much luck with that. I finally had enough of the Missouri-like terrain, so I just bailed up to I-70. I almost called it a chase at that point, but the line was still throwing off tornado warnings and I wasn’t too far from it. I took the Greenville exit on I-70 and headed north on Highway 127. I wasn’t see too much worthy of taking pictures of at this point, but I went ahead and turned on my video stream just to make sure it still worked. Between the heavy rain and darkness setting in, I figured I’d better start making my way back home. Near Raymond, I found I-55 and headed north to Springfield. The worst of the storm was to my northeast, but I was hitting all the heavy rain on the backside of it. Once I got to Springfield and went east on I-72, it got a little more dicey. For awhile I was doing about 45mph as anything faster probably would of caused me to hydroplane. The crosswinds and heavy rain were really not a good combination for driving. I finally got ahead of the main line and was able to make it back to Champaign around 8:45pm.

Final Thoughts:
Well it was a long frustrating day of chasing, but that goes with the territory. I knew I’d have problems with trees/hills in going to southern Illinois, but a moderate risk just seems to make you forget about things like that. Equipment wise I was pretty happy with the way everything performed. I didn’t have any problems with the camera shutting off this time due to vibrations. I fixed that issue by switching to an SD card instead of using the built-in hard drive. The only data problems I had were a few areas with no signal and when the router battery died. (ran out of power outlets, oops!) It wasn’t a bust per say, but it was pretty darn close.

Click here to view/purchase photos from this chase.

Total Mileage: 455 miles

April 3, 2010 – First chase of the year

It’s been a very quiet year here in Illinois in the storm department. Today wasn’t really forecasted to be a severe weather day here in Illinois. Too many clouds from leftover showers along with low dew points didn’t make for a good setup. Everyone and their mother was focused on the potential severe setups early next week, but I wasn’t giving up on today. After watching the showers move through the state, I wasn’t really expecting much to fire up behind it. However, around 11:00am, I noticed a few cells popping up west of Decatur. I watched a couple radar scans and they were growing pretty quickly. I decided to do a minimal chase by leaving the laptop at home and just using the radar on my phone.

I hit the road at noon and headed west on I-72. I watched several cells on radar continue to develop and head towards me. I pulled off at the Cisco exit and took a few pictures. This cell was already dying out but more were firing to the southwest of me. I zigzagged south and west for awhile following the storms and eventually ended up on the west side of the bigger storm. Someone at the Lincoln NWS office decided to switch the radar over to clear air mode which made figuring out how strong the storm was on radar pretty much impossible. Despite this minor annoyance, I punched east on Rt 36 and started seeing some lightning. (sweet!) As I passed through Hammond, IL, the sky opened up with very heavy rain. I commented that all I needed was some hail and mother nature did not disappoint me. (unlike my new camcorder which I will mention later) I began getting pelted with pea-sized hail which combined with the heavy rain forced me to pull over until it let up a bit. It was starting to pile up on my car, but unfortunately melted before I could get any pictures.

I kept following the storm into eastern Champaign county but it was losing strength as were the others in the line. I’d had enough water-filled pothole country roads for one day, so I made my way back to Champaign.

Final Thoughts
For the first chase of the year, this was pretty exciting. No warnings and nothing really severe, but the structure and brief hail storm really provided a much needed boost to my psyche. Unfortunately my new camcorder was not as excited about the storms as I was. It got scared during the hail storm and stopped recording until it was over with. 🙁 I’ll definitely be looking at other solutions to keep this from happening on future chases. I guess it’s better to miss out on a small hail storm now vs a once in a lifetime tornado shot down the road. Technology is fun isn’t it? 🙂

Click here to view/purchase photos from this chase.

Total Mileage: 125
Gas per gallon: $2.849

December 27, 2009 – Snow in Champaign IL

While we missed out on the big blizzard of 2009, we did get a little bit of snow from what was left of the system. I decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to try out the new camcorder (Canon HG21) and tripod. It’s unedited raw / stock footage so it may be a bit boring but a good experiment for me. I also took some photos as well. Locations included in the photos and video are near Kaufman Lake and Parkland College in Champaign, IL.


New video uploaded from past chases

I have been going through some old chase tapes and copying them to the computer this weekend. I managed to finally put something together for that insane day back on March 12, 2006. I also uploaded a video from the tornadic supercell near Carlock, IL on July 13, 2004. Enjoy!

July 13, 2004 – Tornado and hail storm near Carlock, IL

March 12, 2006 – Storm Chasing near Jacksonville and Springfield Illinois

March 12, 2006 – Storm Chasing near Jacksonville and Springfield Illinois from Stan Olson on Vimeo.