|The biggest setup of the year for Illinois, and I was most
likely going to miss it due to work. I had just started a new job and
absolutely could not take off. A sub 980 surface low was moving up the
MS river valley with an impressive 90 knot midlevel jet. Ongoing
activity from overnight convection looked like it would limit instability,
however. Storms were also forecast to fire early, and the timing made
storm mode uncertain. The low level shear was definitely there for
|Unable to watch the weather at work due to a
lack of internet, I did see sunny skies and a nice cu field during my lunch
break. Surface winds were also impressive. A lack of significant
forcing was holding off initiation until the jet arrived in the late
afternoon. Things were looking up for a chase after work.
Although I wasn't able to closely watch the weather that afternoon, I
believe that a dry punch brought in by a strong south-southwest low level
jet was mixing out the surface dewpoints. Dewpoints continued to drop
throughout the afternoon into the evening. When I got out of work,
there were several lines of cells from northeast Illinois down to Kentucky.
A tornado watch was in effect for most of the outlook area and there were
numerous warned cells to the south.
|I was pleasantly surprised to see a storm going overheard
right where I work. It looked a little high based, and very dry.
Only light bands of rain and virga were falling from it, and it looked like
a mini LP (Low Precipitation) supercell. The dryness made for some
excellent contrast, and made the storms very photogenic. The cell
pictured here went on to become the first severe warned cell in the line as
it passed over northern Will and Cook counties. Looking west at the
|Cells continued to organize in the line so I decided to play
them instead of tearing down 57 after the warned stuff. I moved down
to Peotone and pulled off in front of a farm on Wilmington Rd. The
lighting and contrast on these cells was amazing, some of the most
photogenic stuff I have seen in quite awhile. This storm was severe
warned at the time of the picture. Looking west at an RFB and
interesting little protrusion from the base:
|Although the storms weren't doing much in the way of
exhibiting thrilling tornadic action, they were simply beautiful. I
stood back enjoying the view, thoroughly pleased. In one shot I was
able to capture bubbling convection atop the low topped storm, highly
sheared mid levels, and a high contrast RFB with great blue and orange
The farmer whose farm I was pulled over in front of came down to
check up on me. He was extremely friendly, and I showed him all of my
gear and the current radar. He said people always come down that way
to watch the weather, and with good reason. Wilmington Rd. has
horizons like western Kansas.
|Looking south at a weaker, but still very photogenic line of
|The farmer said I was welcome to stay and watch before he
went back up the driveway. I think he released his attack cows on me
though as these little guys came running out towards me a few moments later,
mooing loudly. I guess they thought I had food or something, as they
really wanted to come over to me.
|As the storms traveled northeast into the suburbs and
Chicago, I let them go, even as they continued to strengthen. Chasing
the suburbs or anywhere near the city is a futile cause, especially during
rush hour. Instead I decided to book it south after some tornado
warned cells all the way down by Tuscola. Along the way I caught one
of the most glorious sunsets I have seen in a long time. There were
brilliant golden rays cast around bits of cloud that looked like they were
painted onto the sky.
|After nabbing a few
pictures of the sunset. I jumped back on 57 and raced south towards
the tornado warned cells. I knew it would be well after dark before I
intercepted, but I was ready for a night chase. I planned to go south
until I had an east option and catch the storms from behind as they crossed
my path. I was making good time on the interstate and the weather
radio reported a warned cell moving northeast at 35 mph. I wound up
choosing 74 for my east option, and as I passed Champaign Urbana, it became
apparent that these storms were moving much faster than 35 mph, and I would
be intercepting well into Indiana. Andrew Pritchard and Mark Sefried
had been on the cells for quite awhile, and while I was still 30 miles
behind my storm, they had bailed and were heading back home. I felt
like a fool racing to catch storms that would lead me into Indiana and
probably fizzle before I got there. I had come this far though and I
couldn't just give up. As I crossed into Indiana the storm I was after
crossed north of 74 well ahead of me, pretty much killing any chance for a
clean intercept. I had to exit and zigzag north and east, which was
slower, and didn't allow me to gain any ground on the storms.
| The storm, which had been only severe warned for about
a half hour as if it were dieing, suddenly strengthened, took on a more
classic supercell appearance on radar and regained its tornado warning.
I was able to get a glimpse of the storm's base several miles southwest of
Lafayette. I noted some ragged lowerings, but didn't see any tubes lit
up by the sporadic lightning. Radar at 01:14Z (9:14 EDT) indicating a
tornadic vortex signature (Pink Triangle), and my GPS location (White
|As I approached Lafayette I finally caved and let the storm
go as the strengthening jet made it accelerate. I called the chase off
at about 8:30 and made it home by 11:30..
The biggest setup in
Illinois of the year also meant the fastest storms speeds of the year, and
I'm labeling this chase as a bust as a result. The chase wasn't a
complete loss, however. The sunset storms I caught right after work
were truly gorgeous. It was one of the most photogenic skies I have
seen this year. Andrew Pritchard and Mark Sefried wound up getting a
nice wall cloud and a couple brief funnels on the storm before the sun went
down. Chad Cowan and a couple of his chase partners targeted central
Indiana and wound up getting behind an F3, and losing an entire tire when
they drove through some debris. They had a lot more excitement that
night than I did, but wound up spending half the night at a disaster scene.
- Photographing a beautiful sunset sky is more rewarding than racing
after nocturnal tornadic storms 100 miles away.
- Take a moment to assess storm speeds. The minute you lose on
the chase can save you 300 miles of frustration.