Day 5 - Storms and the City

05 June 2011

Today we awoke in a small motel in Wisconsin, glad to find ourselves showing no symptoms of having been murdered. This seemed like a pretty good start to the day.

Our first port of call would be a look over the models. The SPC had shifted their risk area quite far east, into the Carolinas and even further. This wouldn't be much good to try and chase, but it also seemed like some reasonable opportunities existed to get onto these storms as they kicked off, while also holding out some hope for some chase potential later in the day, if the cloud would diminish and leave the sun the clear sky it needs to do its job.

The first storms we got onto were starting up in northern central Illinois and seemed to be heading towards Chicago. There was still considerable cloud cover so it wasn't possible to see much structure to the storm, but from a stop in a garage we could hear the thunder intensifying, so we drove on into it. As the storm grew there was a good display of lightning, and you always know when you can feel the thunder through your feet, in the car, that it's good thunder! Plus enjoyed the sounds of some, perhaps 0.5", hail bouncing off the car. We followed this storm while we could, but after a time our options became limited as the region became more metropolitan. We ended up turning south as we got to Plainfield, not far from Chicago. It looked like there might be a spectacular lightshow in Chicago itself, but the steadily slower driving conditions you experience as you get closer to a city precludes toying with any such ideas.

Throughout the afternoon we waited, manoeuvred, and waited a bit more. Storms were firing occasionally and we'd start to make a play for it but the storm we had been on first thing was now big enough that, even being a state away, it was still the dominant feature in the area and any other severe weather was struggling to find any traction. During this dance we did see some good views of the storms forming that were somewhat out of our reach or, more pointedly, not really worth chasing, but beautiful nonetheless.

We caught an unusual view of a very high based updraft forming a funnel cloud underneath it. One of the prerequisites of tornadic storms is that their base isn't too high that funnels can't realistically reach the ground. So this is very much the same process, at least as some types of tornado, but way high up in the air.

We watched on radar as one of these storms finally built into something that might last long enough to get on it. Although the light was fading now, opportunity loomed to see some good lightning and possibly take some lightning pictures. In the meantime we'd had some more good views of the sky.


We found ourselves alongside the storm with some pretty good CGs coming down for much of the time that our cameras shutters were closed and vice versa! Nonetheless it made for some impressive viewing, and at least when you're chaining shots on the camera you're generally able to watch the sky at the same time.

After it passed us we elected to drive straight through it. Second time today, straight through the middle of a storm. Although these were far from the most powerful storms we've encountered, it was entertaining to note the disdain we hold for any that don't appear to have any risk of tornadic activity. As soon as we see (or radar tells us about) any strong rotation the respect we treat them with grows enormously.

Cambo used this opportunity to try out the game of driving through a storm. There was plenty of rain, a bit of hail and loads of lightning, and we got through it neatly in time to watch a nice lightning display as the storm wended its way off to join its big brother further south east.

We took a look at the next day's outlook and journeyed up to Burlington, IA to bed down at the ever illustrious Hotel Walmart.

SPC Day 1 Weather Outlook as at 06:00UTC (01:00 Central Time the night before)

SPC 01:00UTC day 1 forecast for Sun June 2011

SPC Day 1 Weather Reports for the day.

SPC storm reports for Sun June 2011

< < Day 6 - Upside down day      :      Day 4 - Busting out a number 2 > >

Weather Photography Blog