May 2, 2004 – Chase in Central IL

Today was not an anticipated chase day at all. (seems to be a growing theme this year) I didn’t even look at any sort of weather data when I got up. My focus on this chilly morning was to visit a local amateur radio hamfest in Decatur, IL. I got up around 7:15am and got everything in order to make the hour drive to Decatur. My initial thoughts were to just take the laptop and HT, but some strange voice inside me told me to grab the camcorder and gear bag. (thanks strange voice!) I loaded up the car and headed out around 8:00am. I made a quick stop at the ATM to get some cash, but my debit card decided to expire without letting me know so I was unable to get any bling bling. (the stupid thing ate my card too!) Despite this minor setback, I decided to push forward and continue on my journey. I arrived at the hamfest a little after 9:00am and started roaming around to see if there were any goodies. I met up with my ham/chase friend George (N9IPO) and we made the rounds inside and out.

While we were walking around, my cell phone started buzzing. I figured it was just a weather watch for some place on the east coast or something. A few minutes later, it buzzed again. I checked it out and there was a severe thunderstorm warning as well as a mesoscale discussion for Illinois. (what the heck!?!?) Cell phone coverage wasn’t too good in the building, but I managed to find a spot where I could download the full text of the discussion. The lovely cold air aloft was triggering some decent hail, hence the warnings. I continued browsing the hamfest not thinking much more about the weather situation. George and I made one more pass of the outdoor vendors before heading on our separate ways. One radio had caught my eye earlier and I was surprised to see it still there when I returned. I really wanted it, but all I had was my checkbook and the guy said ‘cash only’. (blah!) Luckily, another ham friend of mine knew the guy and was able to convince him that I was a trustworthy person. (yay for me!)

April 30, 2003 – Tornado intercept in Northwest IL

Today’s setup looked very interesting and promising, but would I be able to chase today? The models seemed to be all over the place with the system, so I wasn’t sure where this thing was going to strike. The wonderful CAPE values were forecasted to make a welcomed return to the area with values around 1500-3000 depending on the location. Dewpoints were also looking good and were on their way to 60+ without even looking at the models. Lifted indices were also forecasted to be anywhere between -4 and -8, so there was definitely some very nice instability. Finally, the helicity values weren’t too good in central IL, but in northern and northwestern IL they were looking much better with values projected to be between 200-350.

My chase partner Darin Kaiser usually has Wednesday’s off from work, but he had several folks set up appointments with him so chasing was put on hold for awhile. I continued to monitor the situation throughout the morning and pondered several target areas in case I could chase. Obviously, I knew we couldn’t chase in northwest Missouri or southwest Iowa as it was just too far away. I kept looking at northeast Missouri and southeast Iowa though as the models were showing some promising signs for that area. The SPC Day 1 outlook painted a swath of moderate risk from eastern Kansas to northeast Illinois. I wasn’t too confident in that forecast, but decided to see how it all panned out. As I was eating lunch, an MCD was issued for the area regarding possible thunderstorm development.