It’s been a crazy year for storms except here in central Illinois. The amount of large cities virtually wiped off the map has been unbearable. The death toll is also really hard to grasp right now. Just this week alone…
I haven’t chased in October in a long time, so I was very interested in today’s setup. All the forecast models were predicting a near record low pressure so it definitely was worth paying attention to. The SPC had issued a high risk east of here and we were right on the edge of the moderate risk. Unfortunately the timing of the system would bring the storms through in the early morning before there was any daylight. Nevertheless, I was anxious to chase one more time this year.
I woke up around 4:30 in the morning and a line of storms were moving across Illinois. I departed around 5:00am and headed west on Rt 10 just west of the Champaign/Piatt county line. I put my anemometer on the roof and was surprised that it still worked. 🙂 I was only getting winds in the 20-23mph range though so think it might have been on the low side. I waited and waited, but I didn’t get much to write home about. I decided before it completely passed me that I would head back to Champaign and wait it out. I went up to Parkland College and shot some video of trees and lights blowing in the wind. It was almost 7:00am and I was about to call the chase a bust.
I wasn’t planning on chasing today as there was just a slight risk and I was about out of gas. However, a severe thunderstorm warning around 4:00pm quickly changed my mind. I figured I’d just go sit south of town out in the country and watch the storm for a bit. I stopped at Old Church Road and Rising Road just south of Champaign at 4:05pm. It was pouring down rain and the lightning was fairly frequent. I heard a few slaps of hail on the roof, but nothing bigger than pea size. As the storm passed, I decided to try to follow it. As I put the car into gear and tried to pull back on to the road, the tires started spinning. Flashbacks of May 29, 2004 danced in my head. I remembered that one reason I bought the new vehicle was that it had four wheel drive. The problem was I didn’t know how to engage it. I pulled up on the lever and saw an indicator light saying I was in four wheel drive. I slowly tapped the gas pedal and away we went with no more spinning tires. Whew!
I was starting to wonder if the storm season was over already. Only a few mediocre chases this year and not much to show for it. Much to my surprise, the SPC issued a large moderate risk area stretching from Iowa to western Pennsylvania. While many chasers targeted Iowa, I didn’t feel like driving that far. (I’m getting lazy as I get older I guess!) 🙂 I decided to stick to western Illinois and hope the storms would fire up before it got too dark. Another reason I didn’t want to travel too far is that I just purchased a new chase vehicle a week before and did not have all my gear installed yet. I decided to go old school chasing with nothing but my cameras, weather radio, and my iPhone. (I did have a computer with me, but I never turned it on)
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.