March 30, 2017


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
Champaign, IL
Springfield, IL 12:50 PM 3/30/2017
Springfield, IL 7:00 PM 3/30/2017
Danville, IL
0 mph


Warm front setup in east central Illinois. Intercepted HP supercell south of Danville before it gusted out. Car stalled near house on way home requiring a tow to the dealership where the problem went undiagnosed and unresolved.

Crew and Equipment

Solo chase. Equipment: Sony FDR-AX100.




An early season warm front setup across Illinois looked to provide some local storm chasing. Chances for a photogenic tornado seemed low due to storm mode, but it was practically in my backyard so I was going for it.
The Forester was fresh out of the shop with brand new mirror after I had taken the last one off on downed power lines during the last chase. I had a local car audio installer mount a 1000 watt inverter under the driver seat and hardwire it to the battery along with a fuse box and toggle switch for future projects. Some necessary steps for making this a chase vehicle were finally getting done.
I chase along the I-72 to I-74 line hoping to pick up a discrete supercell, but cells were pretty lackluster.

Storm over the trees
4 miles SE of Danville, IL
4:14 PM
I wound up south of Danville in some pretty gnarly terrain with twisting roads, low hills and lots of trees. Much of east central Illinois is absolutely amazing chase terrain, but there are some river valleys in the Danville area, and of course that's where I wound up. I could see the turbulent striations and midlevel banding of a mesocyclone coming over the tops of the trees, but that's about as good as my view ever got before the storm dumped cold outflow and fell apart.
The real story is what happened on the way home. Just a couple miles from the house while cruising on the interstate after five hours of driving, the car's engine suddenly revved and then I lost power. It was almost like the car had been shifted into neutral or a low gear and was engine braking. But then the engine sputtered out so I coasted it over to the shoulder. I tried a restart several times. The engine cranked but wouldn't kick over. The fuel was getting low, but still indicated 50 miles to empty. "No worries I thought", I'm super close to the Subaru dealership and this thing is under warranty still. I'll have this glitch sorted out in no time and then I'll be back in business with my chase vehicle. I wish it were that easy. The car was towed to the shop and brought in the next morning, where it proceeded to start up like nothing had ever happened. The mechanics kicked it out the door with a shrug and told me that perhaps it was "moisture" that caused it to fail. No diagnosis was made and no work was done on the car. I didn't know what was worse, the fact that they didn't have a clue why the car had stalled or that a bit of moisture could randomly cause a failure. I'd be driving this thing into the atomized rain of the near tornado environment. I can't have a vehicle that quits on me in front of a tornado due to a little water in the air, or just quits at random times. I need a reliable vehicle or it becomes a huge safety concern for storm chasing. I picked up the car, not convinced that the dealership had given it adequate attention, but hoping they were right that it was a one off fluke. It wasn't.


The chase was pretty lackluster apart from the momentary midlevel structure south of Danville. The worst part of course was having the car stall on the way home. One of the main reasons I bought a Subaru was because they are supposedly really reliable and their customer service is great. After experiencing the stall and dealing with the local dealership, my confidence in both was shaken.

Lessons Learned

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