June 19, 2009 – Chase in Eastern Illinois

A moderate risk and 10% chance of tornadoes across Central Illinois is a nice way to start off a Friday. A severe thunderstorm watch was pasted across northern and central IL at 2:30pm. Around 3:00pm, several storms were firing up along intersecting outflow boundaries in DeWitt and Logan counties. The cell that I had my eye on was in DeWitt county which was severe warned at 3:41pm. Thanks to my lovely AT&T piece of crap data connection not working yet again, I was limited to the radar on my phone.

I departed Champaign at 4:00pm and headed west on RT 10. I pulled off just north of Seymour (CR 1675N / 0.25 miles west of CR 200E) to observe a nice looking wall cloud. It had lots of vertical motion, but it couldn’t get its act together and quickly died out. A severe thunderstorm was issued for this cell at 4:21pm. I decided to head south a few miles and then follow the storm east across Champaign county. At 5:07pm, I pulled off at the Unity East Elementary School parking lot in Philo and observed another wall cloud. I would estimate the winds were around 40mph as the storm moved past me.

I continued east on CR 15 and entered into Vermilion county. I was heading south on CR 600E just south of Fairmount when a tornado warning was issued for the southern part of the county. Unfortunately everything was getting rain-wrapped at this point, so I made the decision to head west and intercept the line of storms behind these cells. Back in Champaign county, I pulled off at CR 1500N just west of CR 200E at 6:38pm to await the line of storms. I was expecting a decent amount of wind as the storm was bowing out near my location, but I did not encounter much wind at all and definitely none that was of severe nature. Not wanting to chase the line that was now east of me, I called it a chase and headed home.

Final Thoughts
Another chase full of wall clouds and nothing to show for it. I will definitely have to find a different data solution for future chases though because AT&T just doesn’t work in this area anymore. Luckily the road network and visibility was decent enough to chase without really needing data.

Click here to view/purchase photos from this chase.

Total Mileage: 109 miles

May 30, 2009 – Chase in Eastern Illinois

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.

Final Thoughts:
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. 🙂

Click here to view/purchase photos from this chase.


Total Mileage: 160 miles

May 15, 2009 – Chase in Champaign County

After Wednesday’s adventure, I was really not wanting nor planning on chasing today. I had a lot of things to catch up on at work, but I wasn’t completely ignoring the weather. At 2:35pm, a tornado watch was issued for a big chunk of central Illinois and part of eastern Missouri. A tornado warning was issued shortly after for a cell in western Illinois. I watched it progress across central IL, but I was not seeing any reports of tornadoes. It continued to generate tornado warnings as it moved east, so I continued to keep an eye on it. Around 6pm I finally finished up my work and needed to head to the post office to mail some things. I decided since I was heading outside, I might as well take the gear with me and do a local chase. After setting up the gear and filling up the gas tank, I departed Champaign at 7:00pm. I stopped out in the country on CR 1500N just west of Rising road to watch the storm roll in. I wasn’t seeing much of a concern from my vantage point, though I was probably too far north to see the potential area of circulation. I decided to head south and then east to keep ahead of the storm. Around 7:30pm I encountered about a minute of small hail which I thought was going to last longer than it actually did. (luckily not the golf ball sized that was reported in Monticello!)

I made it to Tolono and decided to head back north on Rt. 45 towards Champaign as it was getting dark and the storm was piddling out. It was slow going as it was really pouring and water was starting to pond on the roadway. As I attempted to get back home, the flooded roads in Champaign were making that simple task very difficult. I turned around numerous times and then finally pushed through a flooded section of Prospect Ave hoping the car wouldn’t die. I finally arrived home at 8:20pm.

Final Thoughts:
Not too bad for such a short and impromptu chase. At least the belt stayed on the car this time despite driving through some decent amounts of water. 🙂 Hopefully I won’t have to worry about that issue any further.


Total Mileage: 38 miles
Gas per gallon: $2.29

May 13, 2009 – Wall cloud in Western Illinois

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.

Final Thoughts:
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. 🙂

Click here to view/purchase photos from this chase.


Total Mileage: 480 miles
Gas price: $2.35/gal

April 5, 2009 – Chase to Southern Illinois

Normally I try to avoid chasing in southern Illinois due to the less than ideal terrain. However, my SDS was getting the best of me and I was anxious to chase something. I also wanted to try out my live video stream via ChaserTV. The Day 1 outlook had southeast Illinois in a slight risk and a 5% risk of tornadoes.

I departed Champaign at 10:15am and headed south on I-57 to Effingham. Once I got there, I continued south on RT 45. That was probably my first mistake as I quickly found out they were doing lots of road construction which slowed me down a bit. As I continued south, a tornado watch was issued for southeast IL, southern IN and western KY. (yay!) I stopped in Flora, IL to check data and watch the approaching non-severe storm heading towards me. I decided to keep heading south and see what I could find. I stopped again around 1:45pm in Norris City to grab a snack and check data again. It appeared like there were some storms firing up in southwest IL so I decided to head west and check them out.

I took RT 45 south and then went west on HWY 13 towards Marion. Around 2:50pm I pulled off just east of Marion in a church parking lot to watch the storms roll in. There was a line of non-severe storms that just produced some lightning and heavy rain. I didn’t see much else behind it so I decided to make my way back home north on I-57. Around 4pm, I noticed a storm fire up west of Salem, IL and it was all by itself. At 4:25pm, I got off I-57 at Farina and headed east on CR 17 to keep up with the storm. It seemed to split into 2 cells, neither of which were triggering any warnings. As I went east of Iola, IL, I encountered one of the worst roads I had ever traveled. (Sparrow Lane / CR 7) Part of the road was flooded, other parts were pothole city. I finally made it back to RT 45 and headed north to Effingham. All the storms were to my east and dying out, so I decided just to head back home to Champaign on I-57.

Final Thoughts:
Another frustrating chase but at least I got to test out the live video streaming. Hopefully better storms will come along and I can give the viewers something more exciting than rain and bumpy roads to watch. 🙂

Total Mileage: 335 miles