Normally, you read about transportation here, but I’d like to discuss the weather.
I saw my first funnel cloud on July 20, 1994. I didn’t even have to leave home; the storm came to me. Years later, I decided to look for them myself.
GOING TO THE TORNADO
I was partially successful on May 15, 2009. The forecast that day suggested tornadoes were possible, but well south of Peoria. I took a half-day off work and drove south. Near Hartsburg, overcast gave way to high clouds and hazy sunshine. A tornado watch had been issued, and I heard a severe thunderstorm warning issued for areas to the west and southwest. So I got off I-55 at Lincoln and drove west on US 10.
What seemed like mere minutes later, a tornado warning was issued for Petersurg, Greenview and New Holland. I realized how close I was to the last town, so I headed southwest toward a line of towering thunderheads, zig-zagging south then west, then south again on country roads.
Heavy, black clouds promised violence, and as I neared a T-intersection near I-55 with Williamsville in view, greenish clouds threatened significant hail. By this time, the National Weather Service confirmed a tornado on the gorund near Williamsville, so I made a left, followed a frontage road toward Elkhart, drove through town then made my way east on Rt. 10.
To my right. I could see the swirling purple and green wall cloud, but thanks to heavy rain and a pickup truck ahead of me, I only caught up with the storm after traveling Rt. 121 through Mt. Pulaski and on to Latham. By then, the tornado had dissipated. Near Warrensburg I captured brief video of a wallcloud, which may have reformed as a tornado north of Decatur early that evening. The journey back home was wrought to extremely heavy rain, large hail and flooded roads.
THE LOAMI TORNADO
I did it again on August 19, 2009. My intention had been to find that elusive (to me anyway) Kansas City Southern local that runs from Roodhouse to the Illinois & Midland Railroad’s Shops Yard in Springfield and back every Wednesday. I didn’t see it, but by the time I was in Springfield, it didn’t matter: a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued for Manchester, Murrayville, Franklin, Waverly and Loami.
Then like the previous May, a tornado warning was quickly issued for those same towns. Naturally, I drove in that direction, noticing a line of cumulonimbus to the southwest. I followed country roads, zig-zagging west then south, then west again, encountering not only mature corn and soybean fields, but also patches of woods.
Somewhere along Maxwell Hall Road, probably west of Watret Road, I saw it…my first tornado on the ground. Black and purple clouds rotated in the distance. Darkness had fallen; violence was just around the corner…and some guy to my left was mowing his lawn!
Maxwell Hall Road makes a sharp turn to the left, and I could see the approaching tornado out in the fields to the west. I turned around and attempted to capture video until I realized that monster was coming straight for me! I made like a rabbit, trying to get as far ahead of that swirling beast as possible.
I ended up in the town of Loami. Sirens screemed, and I quickly realized that I was still in the tornado’s path. So I drove west on Loami Road, and there, to my left, was a rained-wrapped tornado which would severely damage Loami but kill no one, thankfully.
FEBRUARY 28, 2017
Like 1994, the storm came to me. Severe weather, including tornadoes, were predicted, thanks to unseasonably warm weather and the right mix of ingredients. By late-afternoon, I noticed that an approaching storm cell would brush Dunlap, offering the chance of a tornado. I made my way to Elevator Road and the Union Pacific Railroad crossing a couple miles north, and noticed what appeared to be the early formation of a wall cloud on the southwest side of the cell. Sure enough, it began to hail. A severe thunderstorm warning was issued, and I drove east then south to get ahead of the storm.
Going west on Akron Road, I noticed that the cloud I had identified as a possible wall cloud had begun to rotate against clear blue sky to the south. Seconds later, a tornado warning notification was sent to my cellphone.
Tornado Warning in this area til 5:30 PM CST. Take Shelter now. Check local media. -NWS Tue, Feb 28, 5:06pm
I’m not sure if the video above shows an actual tornado, but it is at least a rapidly growing funnel cloud. Soon heading southbound on Rt. 40, I ended up driving under the rapidly-growing funnel cloud, an interesting experience. Just before the intersection with Cedar Hills Drive, I pulled over and shot the last two minutes of the video you see.
Someday, I hope to capture an actual tornado on the ground. Given this winter’s weird weather, spring may prove interesting…
– David P. Jordan