Harmon, IL Tornado

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Storm Chase Details

Chase Date: June 22, 2015
Chase Partners:
Bart Comstock

Chasers Encountered:
Adam Lucio, Bill Oosterbaan, Tom Oosterbaan, Mike Holcomb

Miles Logged: 1215
States Chased: IL
Tornadoes Witnessed: 1
Severe Risks: SPC Outlooks

Chase Recap:

A day where I feel like I made a great forecast and did almost everything right. After much debate, I finally fell for the stupid hype and left Peoria on Sunday and drove to Lansing, MI to my parents house thinking there was a good chance of storms in Michigan the next day and was even convinced there might be tornadoes. Bart had also never been to Michigan, so it was a new state for him.

We arrived in Lansing around 9 pm and hung out as Bart made meme’s about east vs west as there was a lot of spread in the targets with a lake splitting them. Do you go to WI or MI? That was the question.

I woke up in the morning and looked outside. Sunshine. I thought I would hit the jackpot with destabilization during the day. That was not to be. The morning bow echo was still in Iowa and it was still tornado warned. Even if the bow echo died (it didn’t look like it would with a very good amount of moisture and CAPE ahead of it) the blow off was approaching west Michigan and would kill destabilization chances throughout the day.

It was too late for me to fly home Monday, so I thought my best chance would be further south as a strong outflow boundary that was booking south from the bow echo as it crossed eastern Iowa and into Wisconsin.

The bow echo continued east, and Bart and I headed back the way we came, making it to Chesterton, IN for lunch. We thought about setting up there to see if we needed to head back into Michigan as the warm front was lighting up some storms, but after a short time of eating lunch we really decided getting west to Illinois and hoping for some destabilization south of the outflow boundary/warm front was the likely scenario. I still had my worries, but it would put me in a position to ride home in the car overnight instead of having to fly home from DTW like I had planned.

We headed west through Chicago and along I-80 meeting up with Adam in the small town of Annawan in Western IL. A storm was firing up near Des Moines and some people bit on it, but I didn’t really want to go to Iowa and it seemed like the storm was moving out of better upper support. Nonetheless, that storm became tornado warned as we sat and waited.

Some junk started firing just east of us, so we headed east to Princeton as it seemed to still be inhibited. I played video poker for a bit in a gas station before my dad showed up. I said hi to him and then hit the road north, watching a storm near Ohio, IL struggle. We were pretty sure that storm would do nothing as the updraft struggled and was being bent over pretty well by the winds.

Eventually we continued on, heading to Rock Falls, IL and Northwest to Morrison on a storm that was looking decent, but not great. The first thought when we got on it was how HP it was, and the second was that it had no structure on radar or visually.

Luckily we stuck with it and it became severe warned then tornado warned pretty quickly with some great rotation showing up on the DVN radar.

I was convinced multiple times we were going to have tornadoes west of Rock Falls, but it never seemed to get it done. Because of the river we ended up in a crappy situation of having to get through Rock Falls and across the river with a tornado warned and possibly producing storm bearing down on us.

We were able to finally get ahead of the precip and see the storm a little better once crossing the river. We had some whackers following us, where at on point they stop right behind me and asked “What do you think?” as the storm was obviously about to produce a tornado. I told them I think they should stop following us, and they got pissed off and left.

The storm did produce a tornado shortly after and we were right next to it as it crossed the road we were on and we paralleled it south as it moved SSE. The only other idiot out there was Adam Lucio who we ran into right there. I followed him down the road until we got stopped by power lines coming down and we had to turn around.

The driving was horrendous at this point with more rain than I’ve ever seen in a HP Supercell. There was no way I could see more than a few feet in front of me and even had trouble staying on the road.

We went through Amboy which had tree damage then southeast on a road out of there towards Mendota. We were very close to the tornadic circulation again, and was using mostly wind direction to figure out where the tornado may be. It never really made sense as we were expecting the tornado to come out and cross the road and it never did. As we headed further SE I found barn damage on the right side of the road and it clicked – the tornado was paralleling the road.

We came into the town of Mendota and it had been apparently hit by a tornado. Bart and I decided it was probably as good of a time as any to call the chase as it was getting dark and with the storms HP nature we weren’t likely to see much else, so we bailed south and east to I-39 and headed out of the middle of things.

As we were heading south I got a call from my mom that my dad had been in an accident on I-80 near Joliet. It turned out he was alright, but totaled his car. Thankfully the safety systems had saved him from greater harm, and Bill Oosterbaan was able to pick him up and help him out (Thanks Bill)

I drove to just past St Louis and then Bart took over while I slept the rest of the night, arriving back in OKC around 8am.