Storm Chase Details

Chase Date: June 5, 2010
Miles Logged: 1207
States Chased: IA, IL, IN
Tornadoes Witnessed: 1
Severe Risks: SPC Outlooks

Chase Recap:

Planning for June 5th actually occurred the day before on June 4th. While looking at the 12Z NAM, Aric Cylkowski and I saw great tornado potential in Western IL along the warm front. We then realized we were looking at the wrong hours when we had inadvertantly switched between model hours, and were actually looking at June 5 instead of June 4.

Aric and I chased in Michigan on June 4th, and documented a great supercell as it moved through Lansing, MI. We eventually met up with Bob Hartig and Kurt Hulst at Outback in Jackson, MI where we had dinner. Bob and Kurt had written off Saturday already, but really hadn’t looked at any recent models. I told them to check on things for tomorrow, that it would be a big chase day. I had already cancelled completely going to Coastermania at Cedar Point in order to chase.

I woke up somewhat early on Saturday June 5th (I hadn’t gotten in until almost midnight the night before) and hit the road after a quick check of the models and taking a shower. The target seemed clear in my mind: Monmouth, IL.

Down I-69 to I-94, I was making excellent time. I had left Lansing somewhere around 9:30am eastern time, and was through the Chicago area around noon central time. Northern Illinois had cleared out considerably, leaving completely blue skies behind.

I took I-80 west until IL-40 near Langley, IL where I stopped for awhile waiting to see what would happen and catching up on the latest model runs and satellite data. It was at this point where I started to doubt my Monmouth target, and started to look further north around I-80. I decided to stick to my target, and head over to I-74 and take that south to Galesburg, and then US34 to Monmouth.

I arrived in Monmouth around 3:20pm Central. Mesoscale Discussion 816 had been issued approximately an hour earlier. Being in the eastern edge of the outlook made me a little nervous. The parameters were amazing right where I was in Illinois, but the broken cloud cover and emphasis on Iowa by the SPC made me decide to bail west around 3:40. The SPC issued Tornado Watch Number 266 at 3:50pm, again emphasizing the area outlooked. My original plan was to head to Mt. Pleasant, IA and wait. This seemed like a safe choice, and gave me the option to bail back east if I needed to.

As I was crossing the Mississippi River into Iowa, the storms off to the west and north of Des Moines really started firing up, and into a long squall line. I anticipated that this was the main event, and already had felt as if we busted at that point. Scott Bennett was heading towards Ottumwa, IA and invited me further west to come meet up with him. We were going to chill out there and wait to see what the line forming to the west would do. So towards Ottumwa I headed, meeting up with Scott at the Walmart.

I filled up and then noticed that some blips were starting to show up on the radar, but nothing too convincing. These were just small rain showers, and while watching one overhead and others on radar, nothing seemed to be getting anywhere. A cloud deck had moved in as well, taking away the sun and our heating element.

Scott and I went around the corner from the Walmart to the HyVee where Andrew Pritchard was hanging out. Scott and I decided from there to head back east towards the rain showers, whereas Andrew decided to head west towards the line of storms that were still appearing very broken.

As Scott and I headed down US-34, things still appeared to be very disorganized along the line to the west and the rain showers popping up. We stopped briefly in Batavia before proceeding further east. We thought the rain showers would be our best bet. None of them had lightning by this point.

As we were between Fairfield and Mt. Pleasant, the one storm that would go on to be the massive tornado producing storm in IL started looking a bit more organized. Within 3-4 scans from the Davenport radar, some great rotation was evident. We rounded Mt. Plesant, IA around 00Z (7pm Central time) just as things were starting to really get going.

The storm near Kirkwood, IL was showing good rotation, and by 7:45pm was showing a major hook with reports of tornadoes coming in just southeast of Galesburg. We were about 35 miles behind near Stronghurst, IL, trying to get to IL 116 so we could book east and hopefully catch up to the storm.

That would not be. As the tornado hit Elmwood, IL, we were approximately 30 miles behind on IL-116 between Roseville and St Augustine. My dad called me, and let me know L.B. LaForce had a huge tornado on his stream in Elmwood.

It was becoming more and more clear that we had busted. Hard. The storms behind us were doing nothing. Scott finally decided to give up, but I continued eastward, eventually intercepting the storms to the south near Canton that had become tornado warned. With it being night, however, I wasn’t able to see much and eventually crossed the Illinois River and tried to stay ahead of the storms. Once I got to I-155 I was able to get ahead of them, heading south towards Lincoln.

The storms were still tornado warned, and showed some decent rotation from scan to scan. I setup on I-155 and let the storms catch up to me, before heading south some more to I-55 and over to the Lincoln exit. I navigated some back roads and ended up setting up just off State Route 10 near the NWS office and airport.

As the storms approached, you could see a definite lowering, but I assumed it was just a shelf cloud feature at the time considering how dark it was out there.

I continued to follow the storms south, following the nicely gridded central IL roads. I took 1800th road south to 1400th street. I headed east on 1400th street and all of a sudden came upon some trees in the road. I slammed on the brakes, but still ran over tree limbs and sizeable branches at a high rate of speed. The truck seemed OK, and I continued through, trying to navigate my way through what looked like a forest on the road in front of me. I managed to get through, and found damage at a residence a little further down the road. I then headed south and found more parts of sheet metal and what not further south. It was at this time I realized I was so far behind the storm, that I just pretty much gave up for the night.

I ended up driving around block by block and finding more and more damage, but nothing of significance – just sheet metal and tree limbs. It was pretty limited in scope of area as well. I figured right away that it was tornado damage, and the National Weather Service in Lincoln confirmed an EF-0 later on. I must have missed it by a minute or two.

The branches caused misalignment on my truck along with a loose ball joint, a pricetag somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 to repair.

After driving around and seeing what I could see, I decided to call it a night. It was after midnight, and I needed gas in my truck. I went back to Lincoln and found a hotel to stay at for the night, but not before loading up on some hardees to fill my sad stomach.