November 24, 2004 – Chase to Kentucky

I was somewhat drooling over the late November moderate risk setup over southern Indiana through Kentucky. Unfortunately, I was scheduled to work a half day which would ruin any chasing plans. What made matters worse was the expectation of 1-3 inches of snow here in the afternoon and evening. I grudgingly went into work at 8:00am and glanced at the weather setup just wishing I could chase. There was a nice dry punch of air coming in that was clearing things out very quickly to make way for sunshine in the target area.

Around 9:00am CST, one of my co-workers showed up who I thought would be taking the day off. I thought to myself (and eventually out loud), why do we need 3 techs here the day before Thanksgiving? I spoke with my boss who quickly agreed and told me to go home. (yay!) I left at 9:30am CST and boogied home to gather the chase gear. I knew winter weather was quickly moving in, but I figured why waste the opportunity to chase one more time this year.

July 13, 2004 – Tornado intercept near Carlock IL

A moderate risk in July here in Illinois?? That’s what I awoke to on Tuesday morning. The models were showing some decent wind shear across parts of Illinois today, not to mention the insane amount of instability and moisture in the air. I was thinking it would be a good day for severe weather mainly because my weather server at home took a crap on me and decided it didn’t want to operate today, so that meant no weather updates to my cell phone. When I got to work, I loaded up all my weather applications and monitored the situation closely. I noticed one lone supercell firing up in northwest Illinois late Tuesday morning that made me wonder if things were going up too soon. Several tornado warnings were going out shortly after 12:30pm, this thing was churning! At this rate I would never have a chance to chase. I normally get off at 4:30, but I pulled a few strings and managed to get off at 1:30. I went home and loaded up the gear, then headed out to chase this thing.

I headed west on I-74 just after 2:00pm, hoping to get to Bloomington and then go north from there. As I got closer to Bloomington, I was hearing reports on the scanner of tornadoes in Woodford county. I got off at the Carlock exit and as I made it to the top of the off ramp, I saw something to my north that caught my eye. There appeared to be a tornado about 10 miles to my north, but the contrast was so low that at the time I could not confirm that it was indeed a tornado. (video analysis confirmed a tornado) I headed west and then north of Carlock, trying to get closer without driving into anything I would later regret. 😉 As I headed north, I had to check the map several times to make sure I wasn’t in Missouri. Most of central Illinois is fairly decent for chasing, but I managed to find one of the most tree covered, hilly parts of the area. (not to mention the freaking corn fields!) Anywho, I made way to US 24 and headed east to El Paso (IL, not TX) and then headed south on SR 251.

July 5, 2004 – Chase to Western IL

I wasn’t expecting to chase today as the main area seemed to be further west into Missouri. (we’ve been there enough this year!) As the day went on though, the SPC sent out updates saying there was a small tornadic risk in western Illinois. (nifty 5% area!) I decided to take my normal lunch hour rather than work through it and leave early, really not expecting to get out and chase. I started to change my mind when a tornado watch was issued at 4:00pm for western Illinois. I left work at 4:30pm and went home to load up the gear. I departed Champaign at 5:00pm and headed west on I-72. Despite there being a tornado warning out for Kankakee county and seeing the storm from Champaign, I decided that the best stuff should be further west. (I would have never caught up to it anyway) As I got west of Springfield, I noticed ‘something’ to my southwest but I wasn’t seeing anything on radar/satellite. When I got to Jacksonville I almost decided to go south to attempt an intercept of whatever was down there, but decided against it.

I kept going west on I-72 until I started seeing stuff firing up to my northwest. I got off at exit 46 and headed north on SR 100. I took it north and then jogged onto US 67 which would take me more in a northwesterly direction. As I entered McDonough county around 8:00pm, I checked radar which showed a line of storms just to my northwest. (yay!) Once I got to Macomb, I headed west on US 136 mainly due to the slow people in front of me who must have thought it was still Sunday instead of Monday. Once I got into Tennessee (yes, I’m still in northwest IL..) I headed north on CR 11 towards the cell that was starting to come into view. I started seeing a very nifty shelf cloud with a possible wall cloud behind it. (about time!) As I got closer, there appeared to be some funnel looking thingies (yes that’s the official term for them) coming out of this possible wall cloud, but I don’t put any merit into them at all. (no rotation from what I could see)

July 2, 2004 – Chase to Central Oklahoma

A rare three day weekend presented itself to me and I wasn’t about to pass it up. There was a slight risk for southeast Oklahoma on the SPC Day 2, and the models were indicating some wind shear. (decent enough for July anyway!) Normally I’d never drive all the way out to Oklahoma for a slight risk, but I wanted a road trip and the storm possibilities were just a bonus. I made my way through work on Thursday just waiting for the day to be over with so I could begin my journey. I went home at 4:30pm and packed up the gear along with a few odds and ends to get me through the extended weekend. I loaded up the car and headed out of Champaign around 5:30pm on Thursday afternoon (7/1). I took I-72 west to I-55 south to St. Louis, then I hopped on I-44 west. I made a stop in Rolla, MO around 10:30pm to get a much needed food and gas pit stop.

I continued my journey west on I-44 in search of a hotel, but each one I passed looked pretty packed to me. I pressed on westward and before I knew it I was in Oklahoma. (sweet home ala..err..Oklahoma!) The state greeted me the way I left it back in June 2001. As soon as I got on the Will Rogers Turnpike around 3:30am, all hell broke loose. The sky lit up with lots of lightning and the wind was driving the rain so bad that I had to pull off for a few minutes. (SE of Quapaw, OK) As far as I know, there wasn’t any severe warnings out but it was pretty impressive. It let up and I continued my way southwest on I-44 towards Tulsa. I was starting to get a little low on gas, so I got off I-44 near Big Cabin in search of a gas station. The one I saw seemed to be diesel only, so I continued south on US 69 in search of some petrol. 🙂 As I was driving along, my low fuel light came on letting me know I’d better hurry up with the pit stop. Up ahead I spotted a small gas station with my kind of gas, but at 4:30am it was closed! I continued south and ended up in Pryor, OK where there was a nice 24 hour Phillips 66 to greet me. (whew!)

May 29, 2004 – Chase to Northern Kansas

I had been waiting for this weekend all year as it was the only time during prime chase season that I’d have 3 days off work. After last weekend’s outbreak in the plains, I didn’t think this weekend could be as good. After sifting through all the models, forecast discussions, and the good ole gut feeling, I picked a target area of Salina, KS. (which I found out later that quite a number of other folks did as well!) Due to the fact that it was Memorial Day weekend, the SPC, NWS and the media were really stressing the severe weather possibilities. It appeared the plains were in the bulls-eye on Saturday and then the midwest on Sunday. My goal was to chase in Kansas on Saturday, then race back home early Sunday morning and chase in Illinois. I’ll save you the time of asking the question and just tell you that I am indeed insane. 😉

After loading up all the gear, I departed Champaign around 7:30am on Saturday morning. We had blue skies here with a very comfortable, almost chilly conditions. I knew that where I was going, it would be a lot more warm and humid. I took I-57 south to I-70 and made my journey to the west. During the drive, I periodically checked weather data to see what was going on. There appeared to be a decent cloud cover over Kansas which had me worried at first, but with later satellite updates I noticed those quickly dissipated throughout the morning. I also noticed the SPC had issued a high risk for a big portion of NE/KS/OK. I made a stop in Columbia, MO for some gas and lunch at McD’s and wondered why both were cheaper out there than it is here in IL. 😉 Anyway, I got back on I-70 and continued west to my target area. I passed through Kansas City around 2:30pm and was alerted of a PDS tornado watch for Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. (whew!)