August 23 2007 Chicago Derecho Storm Chase

Mar 05, 2012

Wow, this was definitely the biggest local severe weather outbreak since October 2nd, 2006. Some meteorologists have
gone as far to say its been the most widespread outbreak since the
derecho of ’65 in terms of the damage swath around the city, very few
parts of the greater metropolitan area were
spared.

 

Where was I when it hit? The million
dollar question I’ve been asked dozens of times. Well here is my
personal account. I had been watching these storms since they formed
in southern IA/northern MO all day. I knew their track could take them
into Chicago. So 2pm rolls around and its time to go to a work outing.
3pm rolls around and as I eye them on my cell phone I realize this is
going to be major, so I tell my bosses and management I need to go. I
run to the train stop as fast as I can, hoping to beat these
home. Soon after I realize that wasn’t going to happen, as I look out
the window and see the darkest 3pm skies in Chicago I have ever
seen. Then this:

I
wish I was anywhere else but where I was, and had a real camera. This
storm was so mean looking it made me think of the Pratt, KS storm on
may 5th. Soon I was in for the Orange Line ride of a lifetime. As we
proceeded past the Roosevelt stop the wind hit. Ive ridden the train
every day for 3 years now, I’m used to it rocking back and forth, but
this pushed the train so hard I actually grabbed onto the handle bars
to keep from sliding off my seat and thought to myself “oh
shit this thing is going to tip over.” While other people are screaming,
the train slams back down hard.
People are breathing a sigh of relief
until we pass a building that is under construction, as we do this part
of the building gets ripped apart, sending large chunks of debris
flying through the air and slamming against the train breaking one of
the windows. The power then goes out. People were freaking out thanks to
a stupid girl from California who was telling everyone she knows
everything about tornadoes because shes from California and they get
tornadoes all the time. I actually have to intervene to calm these
people down and explain the worst is over and what they felt was strong
outflow winds or possibly something called a rear flank downdraft, I
had an obscured view of the storm so I couldn’t make out features too
well. Needless to say it was the best train ride i ever had!

Broken window
from flying debris.

When I got off the train and onto the bus people were still talking about
it, supposedly a window on another car was shattered totally, but I
didn’t see that for myself. It was one “L-of a ride.” I’m so glad
I left when I did, had I not been able to experience this storms winds first hand I would’ve been quite angry.

 

Well I get home
and drive around my neighborhood to observe the damage, the most
significant damage I saw were some large trees snapped at the
base.

This is 1 block north of my
house

This
is about 6 blocks west of my house.

Most
of the rest of the damage consisted of limbs, some large and blocking
roadways, and garbage cans blown all over the alleys. Areas to the north received much
more widespread and consistent damage, I submitted my report to the
spotter network then focused on watching the next line move
in.

The
second line, tho less intense, still posed a major severe threat, it
was an hour away so I just started snapping
pics.

As
it got closer, the entire sky started turning that lovely shade of
green I love oh so very much, surprisingly with no hail. GR3 had hail
signatures with it, but my guess is the rain was so heavy that the VIL
looked suggestive of hail.

I even
managed to nab a couple lightning shots. The funny thing is, Ill try 100
times to get a picture with no success and then I get two in a
row.

Well
at this point I guess LOTs radar was hit by lightning because I wasnt
getting any new radar scans, so I didnt realize right away that the
line had weakened slightly where I was at, but was developing into a
bow echo that was going to move SE into Indiana, once I realized this I
went from spotter mode to chase mode.

Since it was
pouring rain out I didnt want to run out there with my laptop so I just
grabbed the NOAA radio and the cell phone and off I went. Not always
the smartest idea but hey, chasers back in the day didnt even have
that! Besides I wanted to chase and test my visual instincts as well as
plotting a route with only a cell phone radar. Knowing how to navigate
without fancy equipment could save my life
someday.

I started driving down Cicero Ave, where I caught up with the evolving bow echo around 87th street. There were some decent
winds and lots of flash flooding. I continued south, answering many
peoples calls as you will hear at the end of this
video.

Flooding

I
guess my friend was in the presence of another “know it all about
tornados” person, there wasnt even a warning out with this storm at the
time, nor did I see anything to make me believe it would go
tornadic.
It was then I decided to turn around and
head down I-57 since the last time I checked data conditions seemed
favorable in that area for strengthening plus I was seeing it on my
crappy cell phone radar. Nothing too different for the remainder of the
chase, lots and lots of heavy rain, near white out driving conditions,
but NO HAIL! BOOOooo. The tail ends of the line would acquire rotation
and go tornado warned, which isn’t all that uncommon.
I stayed with
them till I reached kankanee, got off I-57 and shot down route 17 for
about about 10 miles, saw what I thought was a massive wall cloud
but night time spotting is hard and I only report something if I can
say with 100 percent certainty I know what I’m looking at. I ditched
it and called it a day. New development was set to head over
I-57 so I thought I would punch it on the way
home.

Night
storm.

It
was the best lightning show Ive seen since Kansas on April
21st

That ends my personal accounts of this day.
This storm produced extreme widespread damage across Chicago and its
suburbs, especially the northern parts, winds were measured as high as
80mph in some spots. Numerous trees were down, some over 100 years old.
There were many powerlines down, and some pretty significant structural
damage as well. These storms meant business. They screamed into the
area at 70mph! Storms dont move much faster than that. It caught many
people off guard right as the rush home was starting. The absolute
WORST time for a storm like this to hit. The public can be glad a
tornado never touched down, as funnel clouds were observed and
photographed in Hickory Hills.

I say it all the
time. Severe weather CAN, DOES, and WILL happen IN THE CITY. It amazes
me people still try and argue this with me, I think yesterday will
finally open their eyes.

Radar shot just before the
storms plowed into downtown. They may not look impressive as far as
reflectivity goes [in laymans terms “u dont see allot of red”] but the
thickness of the stronger reflectivities, and the bow/kidney bean shape
is enough to tell anyone with a trained eye these storms are packing a
punch!

Here
a couple photos taken by my cousin Rene, who lives in the western
suburbs.

What a mean looking
shelf!

SPC
storm reports for the day…the tornado has yet to be
confirmed.

This
is a text product from the SPC, I thought it was neat Chicago got an
honorable mention.

“SIGNIFICANT SEVERE WEATHER
EPISODE UNDERWAY ACROSS PARTS OF NORTHERN ILLINOIS. THUNDERSTORMS
PRODUCING POTENTIALLY WIDESPREAD DAMAGING WINDS WILL MOVE THROUGH
CHICAGO AREA SHORTLY AND THEN CONTINUE EAST INTO SOUTHERN LOWER
MICHIGAN TO NEAR DETROIT BY THIS EVENING.”

Well thats
all Ive got, this could very well be the biggest local outbreak of 2007, then
again this area is still a good month away from its “mini severe
weather season.” So who knows what will happen.

Thanks for checking it out.

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