March 28, 2004


Initial Target: South of Kankakee, IL
Departure: Urbana, IL 2:20 pm CDT
Arrival: Urbana, IL 6:20 pm CDT
Intercepts: West of Herscher, IL 4:00 pm CDT
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: None
Wind: Non-Severe: 36.0 measured
Features: Shelf Cloud
Miles: 170.2


Potential for isolated severe cells in squall line.  Waited until line was close due to lack of severity.  New Day 1 predicted possibility of isolated severe gust, so headed north to intercept line between Pontiac and Crystal Lake.  Caught nice shelf cloud west of Herscher, noted 36 mph gust and heavy downpour, no lightning or severe.

Crew and Equipment:

Solo chase.  Equipment consisted of a NOAA weather radio, cell phone, Vortex Anemometer, TH-F6 HT Tribander radio.  Photography by Skip Talbot.


Another early season chase, and once again, this one had a limited severe weather potential.  Dewpoints near 60, a cold front, and a jet overhead were moving in.  The sheer was good but instability was lacking.  A slight risk went up, favoring wind gust damage.  I waited until the 2pm Day 1 to head out, noting that nothing was going severe in Illinois yet.  I figured I wouldn't intercept anything severe, but perhaps a pretty storm or at least have a nice road trip.


CAPE was more favorable to the north and the cells on radar were stronger in northern Illinois so I headed north on 57 towards Kankakee.  I pulled off near Ridgeville, IL to get my bearings.  Winds were gusting to 30.

The weather radio mentioned a line from Pontiac to Crystal Lake and I could just make it out looking northwest.  Going off this I decided to head north and get off the expressway just before Kankakee and head northwest on the highways from there.

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I got off near Ashkum and headed towards Herscher.  On the way, I spotted a tower between a break in the clouds and stopped for a picture.  The roof mounted anemometer recorded 40 here but I was backing the car at the time so it probably wasn't quite that high.

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I ran west on Route 115 once I got past Herscher and this dramatic site came into view.  I pulled off the road and watched this beautiful Shelf Cloud roll in.

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Better contrast as the shelf cloud came closer.  I did not see a single lightning flash with this storm, probably because of the low cloud tops.  Winds were warm and gusting to 30.

My "good vs. evil" picture that I like to take as the storm moves in.  Looking north.

Another dramatic shot of the shelf cloud moving in from the west.  I was watching the field for a gust front spin-up  (gustnado) but I wasn't that lucky.

The shibster and the shelf.  The roof mounted anemometer was going to get field tested for the first time in a minute.

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I recorded a gust of 36.0 mph as the shelf went overhead.  Not all that impressive of a reading, but it was still exhilarating feeling that sudden, strong blast of cold air hit.  The temperature probably dropped 10-20 degrees.


The motion in the ragged shelf bottom was fun to watch until a heavy downpour hit, eliminating my visibility.  Looking east.

I got blasted with some heavy rain but a little hail was too much to ask for apparently.  The updrafts just didn't have the strength to produce any hail.  I headed home shortly after the heaviest downpour cleared and drove through a thick rain band all the way back to Urbana.



Not a bad little chase for an early season storm.  Despite the lack of severity I'm not counting this one as a bust because of the nice shelf cloud feature that I intercepted.  This was my first solo chase.  Although I have been told not to chase alone, I knew the area and was not dealing with a tornado or massive severe storm. I was able to pull off the road and navigate for myself without losing much time.  In the end, there were no reports of severe weather in Illinois that day.  I would have been upset had I not chased and missed something.  Even though there really was no severe weather I was still glad I went.


Lessons learned:
  • Central Illinois has nice flat terrain and a good road network.
  • Storm chasing can be worthwhile even when the prospects are low.