June 1 2009 Illinois Storm Chase

Mar 05, 2012

AAARRRGGGGHHH!!!!!!

Ok, the AAAAARRRRGGGHHHH wasnt because the chase was bad, but because due to some malfunction with my crappy DVD camcorder I lost the best straight line wind footage Ive ever gotten! Garbage cans flying, tree tops snapping, a gas station awning I thought was going to crash down on me…complete with hail and a loud roaring sound….GONE!!!!
So again I say….AAAAAARGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Anyways…back to normal summary format I go.
Summary:
Chose to target IL today while most chasers opted for a western target. Intercepted first storm only a few miles from my target city getting cored with lots of hail up to nickel size. Had run in with friendly Warren County sheriff before dropping over to my target city of Monmouth, IL where a downburst or microburst of some sort provided some intense straight line wind action. Took the long way home to mess with more severe storms around Peoria, incredible CG [cloud to ground] lightning but not much else. Drove home and watched another amazing display of AC [anvil crawler] lightning. Got home only to realize for some reason my footage is all gone.
Stats:
Tornadoes: 0
Largest hail: .88″ [nickel]
Highest wind: Est 60mph severe straight line wind.
Miles: 417
Lesson learned: Handle DVD camcorder with more care.
Detailed account:
Mondays setup looked to be the first real shot at anything good. The statistical peak in May was ruined by a powerful death ridge that squashed most severe weather and ruined allot of chasecations. The last time I was out was 16 days ago, which doesn’t seem like much but in the peak of the season one should be going out once every other day. Needless to say I was itching for the action. The target area was vast along a southward sagging cold front. Tornado chances were very low across the entire area. Most chasers opted for a western target with slightly better vorticity but I opted to stay back in IL. Mostly to conserve resources. Come that afternoon though I noticed things coming together around the Monmouth area, in particular it looked like there was a small jetmax at 500mb which would enhance what little speed shear there was. I made this my target and off I went.
Not long after I set off convection went up in the western suburbs, some tried to tell me I was a fool for leaving but I knew better. One of the storms clipped me on the highway but contained nothing more than heavy rain and a few lightning strikes.
After this though the rest of the drive would be under a stratus deck, killing further heating, I started second guessing myself but again told myself that when I go against my gut more often than not I regret it so I pressed on. Sure enough, 3 hours later I arrive in west central IL just in time to see the first significant blip appear on radar. It quickly exploded and went severe warned for hail. I was about 45 minutes away and IL’s awesome road network provided a way to intercept perfectly.
I started getting excited when GR3 showed 3 inch hail with the storm as I raced to intercept it. As usual I was cursed with many laptop malfunctions so I stopped to reboot and while that was happening I stepped out to snap a picture of my target storm, still in the distance.

Back in my truck, it gets closer.
One thing that storms didn’t lack today was lightning. Even at this distance I found myself in a close barrage of CG lightning. The storm began to play mind games with me and started to look like it was wanting to go tornadic with a nice base, some inflow and a suggestive lowering.
Even what looked to be a flanking line.
Eventually I made my intercept. Hail started to fall sporadic and small for a few minutes. I had a feeling GR3 was overdoing it but regardless I decided to sit and let the core get me. If Im not going to get a tornado, I like the hail cores! Heres a GR3 shot showing the heart of the core about to head right over me.
Hail began to fall at a flooding pace, and got a bit larger too. Biggest stone I saw was nickel size, and the sound of it falling as fast as it did made for good video with it bouncing off my hood. During the core a Warren County sheriff pulled up behind me with his lights on. I was not pulled over in an ideal spot, but was completely onto the shoulder but still my first thought was I was in trouble. Because we were getting cored he instead rolled up next to me. The hail was so loud we could barely hear each other, I shouted I was reporting for the NWS [which I was, SN report of .88 inch hail received by DVN and relayed to SPC.] and that I wasnt in need of help. He shouted back “Ok, GOOD JOB” and pulled away.
One the core was over I zoomed out on GR3 to see storms were all over the place now and began training. Since I wasn’t far from my target city I decided to head there, stopping along the way for some photos.
A strange hole in the clouds, showing part of an updraft tower.
I like this picture, you can see 3 bases and 3 rain/hail shafts as storms formed one after another and moved over the same areas [aka training.]
These pics also show how good the terrain is in Illinois, eat your heart out Oklahoma. One last pic of a rain/hail core.
About 5 minutes after this picture I arrived in Monmouth and stopped at a Caseys to fuel up the truck as well as myself. I sat there eating a slice of pizza and going over things on Gr3 when suddenly it began to pour out. A storm quickly strengthened and was making a B-line for my location so I decided I would sit there. Hail began to fall and I noticed the winds started to increase. The awning over the gas station began to rock back and forth and I started to think it might come down. Suddenly I heard a loud roar, the truck got blasted by horizontal rain and leaves, I rolled down the passenger window and filmed hail bouncing out of the grass, possibly quarter size when some garbage cans went flying by, followed by more tree debris. Some trees in the distance lots their topmost branches and a driveway sign was now leaning over.
It was pretty intense and I was happy to have captured this little microburst on film. Ive never really gotten decent straight line wind footage before. Had I known it would be later lost I would have driven around and documented and photographed the damage but my attention turned to staying with the storms. The whole complex was racing SE and my best option to stay with them would be to take 74 to 55. It was way out of my way for the way home but hey, thats ok. Saw a nice updraft segment complete with anvil on the way down, the setting sun provided nice contrast.
Met back up with the storms around Peoria, all severe warned, so I found a spot to stop and film the impressive CG lightning, including one striking a light pole and sending down a shower of sparks. I tried my luck with lightning shots but came away empty. One day when I get a camera better suited for lightning shots, I will have many to post! At this point all the storms were sub-severe at best and I decided it was time to head home. On the way home a storm took on an interesting shape, resembling a ghost.
The ghost storm provided some pretty blinding rains and lots of lightning. The display of anvil crawlers lasted over an hour and was beautiful. It was at this point I realized I like anvil crawler lightning better than cloud to ground lightning. The magestic bolts can travel across the entire sky and last for more than 5 seconds, sometimes even ending as a CG strike.
I arrived home quite happy with the chase. I got to sample several severe storms, get cored and experience the most intense wind of the season so far. Soon after though, that joy was quickly crushed. I was plugging my camcorder into my PC to transfer the footage, I didn’t notice a tangle in the cord and when I went to lift the camera it slipped out of my hand and fell to the floor. The disc became disloged and the camera made a grinding noise.I quickly scooped it back up and popped out the disc, upon inspection there are no visible scratches so I thought everything would be ok. WRONG. FAIL. GAME OVER.
As of right now I cannot get the footage off the disc. The camera wont recognize it and when I plug it into the PC the uploader says it is “unsupported” which I know is a lie because it is the same disc I used to record the Edina tornado. Im not sure why the disc becoming disloged would cause this or if it was some other random glitch. Needless to say I am quite crushed about losing that footage, but will keep the disc in hopes that somehow I will be able to get it off the disc. It was the best straight line footage Ive been able to capture in my years of chasing so far.
Although in a positive light, I am more motivated to chase such storms in the future, and get even better footage!
Google map.

SPC storm reports for the day. My hail report was the first report Ive submitted to make it to SPC. Ive submitted other reports but so far none other than this have made it

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