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)
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…
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.
I had no intentions or reasons to chase today, everything looked to be out in KS/OK. Anything that did come our way appeared to be overnight stuff that isn’t much fun to chase. I briefly looked at the models and it showed very decent shear but no cape to work with. As I went to work in the morning, the whole state was covered with showers and thunderstorms. (nothing severe) As worked progressed, I noticed a watch box go up out west for KS/OK/AR/MO. Not having much to do, I loaded up a few weather programs and kept an eye on it just for kicks.
While I was sitting there, I saw a tornado warning pop up on the screen. At first I didn’t think anything of it, but then noticed it was from our local NWS office in Lincoln. I thought maybe they were testing or someone hit the wrong button, but as I looked closer it not only was real but it was for Champaign county! (what the ….!) I about fell out of my chair when this happened and shared the news with several co-workers. The radar didn’t really show much of anything which made me think this was just a farse. Not too long after I received several damage reports around the county that did indeed confirm the tornado. Even with this very local event, I still didn’t think much of it.
What a week of weather across the midwest and plains, but it wasn’t done yet. One more final burst of severe weather was in store before some calm finally rolled in. Would Illinois be in a path for this deadly destruction and wild weather? The SPC certainly thought so when they issued their unprecedented fourth high risk of the week on Saturday morning. The first morning Day 1 outlook just had part of northern and central Illinois in the high risk, with the rest of the state in a moderate risk. Further updates greatly expanded the area of high risk to stretch all the way from northeast Oklahoma to Ohio. The last high risk we’ve had here in Illinois was back in October 24th of 2001 and I remember what happened that day. Given the amount of severe weather throughout the week, I had very little doubt that this high risk would pan out.
The day started off very active with numerous storms moving throughout the state with many being severe and even tornadic. My early attempt to chase these was in vain as they were just too far out of my reach. I then noticed how quickly the skies cleared out and made way for the lovely sun to heat up the atmosphere. While this somewhat provided a cap, I figured that would actually help to get some really good storms late in the afternoon/evening. With my car not in the best of shape, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to chase. While looking at data on the computer, I received a voice mail from Matt Hartman and Joe Walters from INCHASE. They were just west of town here and well in range of the local 2m repeater. They were heading towards Springfield and then would check data from there. As they reached the range of the repeater, we said our goodbyes and I wished them well on their attempt to chase in a high risk area.