March 10 2009 Illinois Storm Chase

Mar 05, 2012

When this system first showed up on the GFS model almost 10 days out, it caught my eye. As it got closer my hopes started going up with media outlets and NWS offices beginning to use strong words to describe the upcoming event. It wasnt meant to be though. What we ended up with was a typical early spring system that was made up of really strong wind fields and a lack of instability.

Knowing it would be the last chance to chase for at least 10 days, with models showing a winter like High sitting over the country for days and the gulf being cut off for even longer…I took a half day and chose to gamble. On my forecast post on Storm Track I mentioned I wanted to target east given the weak instability and fast motions. I didn’t want another instance like Sunday where the storms went up over us as nothing more than a shower, flew away while they took their time utilizing the weak instability and becoming warned once they were out of reach. Noone seemed to agree with me though, so based on that and SPCs wording I chose to go with the main target zone of Springfield and points south.
So Danny Neal and I set off where we ended up sitting in Litchfield where we met up with fellow IL chaser Andrew Pritchard for a bit. We sat and watched as nothing more than showers went up overhead and flew off to the east. I began to mess around with the macro setting on my camera inside my truck:
An apparent ghost in my GPS!

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A skull light that plugs into the cigarette lighter:Image Hosted by

This is what happens when there is no interesting weather to photograph.

Around 530 we called the chase, got some food and decided to heard north on I-55 towards home. GR3 showed more developing showers and a bow segment over Springfield. We figured we would just drive through whatever crossed out paths.

One of the showers exhibited some shelf like structure. Im not calling it a shelf because it was detached, and took on a more roll cloud type appearance:

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Some showers developing to our west:

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Well, sure enough to our dismay, the showers well off to our east began blossoming into thunderstorms. I was pissed at myself for not following my gut, because now we were behind everything. I’m not one for giving up easily though, so I pulled us over in Elkhart to take a closer look at things [and water the local landscaping.] There was one cell that was a little more isolated than the rest. On the next GR3 scan a TVS [tornado vortex signature] and severe hail icon appeared. I glanced over the road network and the storm track and realized there was a possible chance to intercept this thing if we blasted east towards Mt Pulaski and took rt 121, which travels on a nice SE direction. We agreed this could work so that was the plan.
The plan worked out, after about an hour we saw some distant CG lightning, then some closer CG lightning, then some heavy rains kicked in. There was some new convection going up north of our target storm right over us. It made for a little excitement especially with the CG strikes.
As we neared Decatur our storm became the only severe warned storm for IL of the day. The warning mentioned winds to 70mph and hail up to quarter size. I like hail almost as much as I do tornadoes so I started to get excited. We made a perfect core punch type intercept on the storm. Blinding rains was the main punch the storm dealt, a few *dink* sounds amidst the rain leads me to believe we had some pea hail dropped on us as well. Given the storms narrow, coma like orientation and fast movement it only lasted about 5 minutes. Once this was done we turned around and headed back home, noting some street flooding in town but no wind damage.
Radar shot of us in the storm.

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The ride home was an entertaining one, jamming out to some ridiculous radio tunes and watching spongebob on youtube. Its pretty funny to freeze character faces and come up with chase related sayings to them. We make our own fun, another aspect of the the chase I love. The car ride. Eventually the cold front caught us and the thermometer in my truck dropped from 59 to 47 in about 15 minutes. It was 39 when we arrived home. Yuck.
Considering I wasn’t expecting much I consider the chase a success, mostly due to pulling off a seemingly difficult intercept from afar. Its good practice and helps keep the skills sharp. The storm itself, though not actually severe despite the warning, was the strongest of the season so far, and overall was a better chase than Sundays.
These are Dannys videos, the first video is the convection north of our target storm, with a nice bright CG strike in the beginning. The second video is the severe warned storm intercept in Decatur, my video is identical so I see no need to load mine.

Google map:
SPC storm reports. WOW!
Chase Stats:
Tornadoes: 0
Largest hail: 25″ [pea]
Highest wind: est 40mph
Miles: 510
Time to patiently await chase #3. So far 2009 has only tossed locally meager setups at me this year, but the real action is coming soon!

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