On Friday, I was looking at the radar and I thought “gee, that storm a few miles away from me looks like it might have a little bit of rotation.” I talked myself out of it. This means, of course, that it produced two tornadoes an 18 minute drive from my house. On Saturday when I saw some storms getting their spin on in central Illinois, I refused to be fooled again. So I woke my girlfriend from a nap and we got in the car heading toward Paxton.
As we pulled into Hoopeston, I had a choice to make. There were some cells popping up from Paxton to Mahomet that looked interesting but not particularly spinny. The main squall line was meh except further north. I had to pick an option. My risks were basically “nothing happens” to the south or “stuff happens but you can’t see it” to the north. Given the choices, I decided to engage to the south.
We turned down IL 1 toward Rossville. I figured we’d cut west from there to get under the storms. Unfortunately, the storms were speeding up, and I quickly decided that staying near IL 9 was the better option. We took a county road back north and made it all the way to IL 9 when we encountered a flooded roadway. With John Fausett in mind, we turned around (and didn’t drown) after driving about half a mile in reverse. We picked the next county road west and went north.
The storm was near Rankin at this point and it seemed to be showing some signs of rotation. We stopped to watch it for a few minutes and saw some lowerings, but there was no spinning.
After a few minutes, it was time to reposition again. The storm had become uninteresting, so I decided to follow it’s friend slightly to the south. From our position looking southwest, it looked pretty nice.
We dropped south a bit to meet it and then followed east and a little north to watch it further. At that point, we were a little east of Wellington. The lowering maybe showed a little bit of weak rotation, but it was never obvious. After a few minutes, it became an mess.
These storms were basically done (although there was a report of a funnel cloud near Earl Park, IN later). There were some tornado warnings in the line near Villa Grove. After driving through near-zero visibility on the east side of Hoopeston, we went south on IL 1 for a little bit. But after a few minutes, the line looked less interesting and it didn’t seem worth staying out for. Also, the bag of Combos that I ate was not a reasonable dinner.
We managed to beat the line back to Lafayette by 5-10 minutes. For an unplanned chase, I’m okay with how this turned out. I feel like the decisions I made were reasonable, which was not a given considering I haven’t seriously chased in ten-plus years. Missing a photogenic tornado minutes from my house still stings, but I feel good about doing this again in the future.