August 19 2009 Illinois Storm Chase Bust

Mar 05, 2012


Dashed home and bolted out the door once tornado watch went up in local turf. Blasted down I-57 intercepting 3 tornadic storms with radar showing intense couplets. Storms would never produce. Called chase once storms moved into urban areas and picked up speed.
Tornadoes: 0
Tornado warned storms intercepted: 3
Largest hail: .00″
Highest wind: 30mph thunderstorm gust.
Features: Rainbow, weak mammatus.
New awesome road discovered: route 41 in Indiana
Detailed Account:
I need to stop being so pessimistic about summer setups. With such a fall like system in place with good upper support that should have been enough to commit to the setup. Alas though, in foolishness I thought typical summer MCS garbage would contaminate the setup so I did not commit. We had clearing though, and a tornado watch went up. I quickly scrambled home and bolted out the door, with tornado warnings already in progress. I was getting a late start but I knew that storms would be able to maintain intensity or have some new development take place.
I blasted down I-57 and made pretty good time. Stopped in Gilman at my usual check point where some travelers questioned me about which way to head and be safe. At this point I had a choice to make. Head back north to Kankakee where a damaging bow echo was currently headed, or continue south to some isolated storms and hope they become tornadic. I chose to drop south which ended up verifying.
Caught my first glimpse of a storm over Champaign, quite a lightning show:
One thing about the setup that did verify for me was the lack of visibility and structure, LCLs were ground level and there was haze and grunge all over making it harder to see.
There was an interesting radar echo that had an intense velocity couplet going for about 15 minutes and I made that my storm. I planned for an interception point near the town of Fisher. It went tornado warned and I thought my plan was going to pay off. However, the Champaign storm turned into a bow echo which quickly raced out ahead of my storm and chopped off its inflow. The storm literally fell apart before my eyes.
Radar shot of the couplet as I begin to head west towards it:
By the time I got there 10 minutes later this was all that was left:
I really had never watched a storm fall apart so fast, it was kind of neat in a way but thats about the best thing I can say about it. I was ready to call it at this point so I turned and headed for home, but some new isolated storms to the north began to develop tight rotation couplets as well and soon went warned. I spent the rest of the chase intercepting these storms only to have the same thing happen. Strong couplet vanishing within 10 minutes of my arrival.
Storms earlier in the day produced, and there was some significant damage, but there was some sort of ingredient missing [or perhaps some limiting factor present] once these storms reached I-55 it seemed, I was really shocked these storms didnt produce at least something to take home. Such is the gamble though. Chicago got hit with a nice bow echo is well that even went tornado warned over the NW suburbs. I could have stayed home with the same results, but I would rather try and come home empty handed than sit and beat myself up over wondering what could have been.
Pics and radar shots will tell the rest.
anvil canopy:
Nearing the core of a tornado warned storm. The storms today were not hail makers and GR3 only showed .50″ hail. Lame.
In the above picture you can see a house, a few seconds after this pic a light pole infront of that house was struck by lightning, I wish I had the camera rolling as the strike came complete with a shower os sparks and a crack of thunder that actually made me think I blew a tire.
Sheriff-nado! Or one of the many reported scud funnels.
Heading home to some nice back-lit convection:
I still had an anvil canopy overhead which provided a sharp shadow on this tower:
Stopping for gas with some…mammatus I guess you could call them:
Radar shot of couplet near Watseka. Shocked it wasnt warned at this point. Warning came shortly after:
Today turned out to be a big day that unfortunately I let my skepticism keep me from the best action. The storms I did get on were tornadic, and I did make good intercepts and despite my late start I was able to make good time. I will re-evaluate the way I think about summer setups. Any chase with warned storms is a good chase, at the very least it keeps skills sharp and helps further educate.
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