March 8th 2009 Illinois Storm Chase

Mar 05, 2012

Finally was able to get out for the first time in the 2009 season. This was my latest start since 2006 and I was itching for some action. I wasn’t too excited about the setup. A typical early spring system with dynamics nearly screaming off the charts but one key ingredient was [and usually is] missing…the instability. The NAM model spit out CAPE [the measurement of instability] between 1000-1500 j/kg in the target area, which is sufficient for severe storms and tornadoes…but the GFS put only about 500. I was hoping the NAM would verify but in the end it looks like the GFS beat out the NAM in most parameters including the forecast low track. Bummer.

It was a fun chase though, any chase is really. The worst day of chasing is better than the best day of everything else in my opinion. It was nice to be out there and do the deeds. It was a local weekend setup so I would be a fool not to jump on it.
Anyways, I chased with Danny Neal and we left around 930am for a general target around Champaign. It was a wet, cool morning up here in Chicago.

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A line of storms containing some embedded supercells was ongoing from northern MO through AR. The name of the game today was to pick a storm and hope for the best. Storm speeds were HORRIBLE. As bad as they can get for a chase…in the 60-70mph range. It is nearly impossible to keep up with storms at this speed. The plan was to pick an interception point and let the storm come to us….hope for the best…and try like hell [and later failing] to keep up with it.
We drove down I-57, driving past the scene of last years big tornado in our own suburbs, there is still quite a bit of debris laying around to my surprise. We exited the highway at US-36 near Tuscola and headed west towards the line of speeding storms. We had picked our storm out of the bunch which we thought we had the best chance for an interception. All the storms had some sort of warning with a few reports coming out. Unfortunately as we got closer all the storms weakened and the warnings expired. We headed north on CR 2100E to intercept anyways. We got nothing more than a moderate shower.
We sat and pondered our next move, one of the dying storms started to increase strength again on radar and it was just to our south so we decided it was our only hope. It got fun at this point. This was a small storm on radar but it was packing a major punch. Winds were around 50mph which sent lots of leaves, sticks and paper debris flying all around. Then a white out monsoon type rain which Danny got some video of [will link later.] This only lasted about a minute though given the storm motions. We turned east on US-36 again and pulled over shortly after to observe.
We started to get excited at this point. Right in front of us there was some wicked rising motion and when I looked north there was some very fast left to right movement which was against the mean cloud movement. It looked like rotation was trying to develop as you could clearly see the clouds moving in opposite directions towards each other. Our storm was strengthening and GR3 would soon confirm this.
Pictures of the storm at this point:

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Not too bad. I was happy to see such motions and feel that feeling of excitement again. I wanted to shoot some video but given the insane 65mph motions reported by NOAA I knew I had no time for this. I might as well have though. Shortly after blasting east we got cored by some more blinding rains from junk cells behind it. We would forever fall behind the storm at this point.
As we got back to I-57 we could do nothing but watch it grow and grow on radar as well as watch it from behind.

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Any chaser will tell you that each storm has a mind of its own. This one was just cold hearted and insensitive. It went severe warned, then tornado warned with some damage reports. As it flew further away it finally let us know how it really felt.

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It was game over at this point. It was only about 130pm too. Most chases I haven’t even arrived on my target area yet or Im sitting there waiting for initiation. Its a shame a system with dynamics such as this had to go to waste due to bad timing and some instability issues…but thats the problem with these early season systems.
My other main incentive for this chase was to test equipment. It worked well but I had the same annoying issues with gpsgate as always. Other than losing data a few times and GR3 falling behind, everything worked fine. I will try to tinker with things so they work better next time.
It felt great to be out there. I cant wait for a more ideal setup! Thanks for checking it out.
Miles: 413
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: .00″
Wind: est 50mph.
Out of practice mistake: I put a blank DVD in my camera when we stopped for gas and left it on. The batter didn’t totaly die…but had there been some really intense footage to be had…this could not have been good.
SPC storm reports:
Google map of the chase. Target area forecast verified nicely:

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