Thursday, June 25, 2009

Are we there yet?

Well, nothing really new to add to the accident situation this week. Been since Monday since I updated, when I was told a check was on it's way for my replacement laptop. Unfortunately still no check in the mail. I guess it hasn't been -that- long, but I figured it would be here by the 4th mailing day. I've got it all picked out, but am waiting til the check actually arrives before submitting. Hopefully tomorrow so I can at least get my order into processing before the weekend arrives.

No progress on the car until a few hours ago. I was finally contacted by an auto adjuster who informed me that the car was indeed a total loss (saw that coming about 7 days ago), and that someone would be in touch within the next 24-48 hours with an offer. Seems that's how it's been all week. Get a tid bit of information and then am told that I'll get to know a little bit more in 24-48 hours. I'm really just absolutely sick of dealing with it. This is such an inconvenience. I guess I should shut up and stop complaining, because things could always be worse. I'm just a big whiner. I could have been seriously injured, or even worse Jarrod or Colin could have been injured, but since that was not the case I'll just focus on what DID go wrong. Have a couple cars picked out, and really hoping that I don't get screwed out of enough money to afford them.

Looks like severe chances may increase this weekend, but doubtful at the moment that I'll participate. Suppose I could take that goofy Toyota Yaris out into the vortex. Supposed to attend a family reunion in the Chicago area that evening, and that's where I'll likely end up. Personally, pretty burned out on the chasing scene right now. Haven't had a very active year, but every time I go out seems to end in a painful bust with huge financial repercussions.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Insurance dealings, thus far...

So far so good, I suppose. I'm still pissed off to have to be dealing with this right now, but the woman's insurance (Nationwide / Allied Insurance) has been taking decent care of me to this point. Unfortunately their offices were closed all weekend so nothing took place until yesterday, but it's been a decent 24 hours. I have all but my car taken care of. Yesterday they issued me a rental care, a goofy looking blue 2008 Toyota Yaris. You'd probably never catch me owning one, but it will get me around town until my car is figured out. Today I was contacted by an adjuster who is issuing me a check to replace my laptop, and laptop desk that were damaged in the accident, plus an extra $350 for my trouble. Hopefully the two checks arrive tomorrow so I can get the new laptop on it's way. I'm sure Tia would love hers back.

The car is still up in the air. I believe it is being looked at today, but we'll see. Thus far they've taken care of me, so I'm hopeful I don't get screwed too bad in the total loss scenario.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I give up.

Well, I thought 2009 had thrown all it had at me this year, culminating with the $600 repair bust in Iowa a couple weeks ago. It wasn't to be though, as probably the worst week I've had chasing was thrown to me this week. It began with my choice to stay home while Darin Kaiser and Mark Sefried headed to the plains. To me, it didn't look good enough and seemed to me that local ops would make up for sitting out there days out west. They wound up, with many back to back great days and several tornadoes, while I waited for my chance later in the week. How did that play out?

Thursday morning. I wake up around 5:00 am, 3 hours before my alarm because of an early morning bow echo. With the weather radio sounding every 15 minutes with new warnings, a couple of which were tornado warnings. I hopped in my car as the storm entered Champaign County and headed south of town a few miles to let the bow hit me. I was treated to a photogenic green shelf cloud, but very little in the way of winds. I headed back home, and whipped up some chocolate chip pancakes before loading up the car and heading out for the real show in Iowa. I spoke with Jarrod Cook and Colin Davis from the Peoria area, and it was determined that I would pick them both up and we'd share the trip to Iowa. Shortly after picking up the last of the two, that being Colin, the fun began.

While traveling west on Interstate 74 through a one lane construction zone, out of nowhere, a car slammed into the back of my car. I didn't even have time to realize what had happened, but managed to keep the car going straight and come to a stop. Because I was looking forward while coming to a stop, I did not see what followed but heard more tires screeching and more cars being struck. We were rear ended very hard by a woman driving a Cadillac. I can't wrap my head around what she could have been doing to not see my car coming. It was the interstate, we were not sitting around some sharp curve. There were no cars in front of me, so I was not slamming on my brakes, or even braking period. We passed a flagger earlier and were in a part of the zone where workers were present, and were traveling at the posted 40-45 mph. I don't know how fast she was going, but it was enough to total both of our cars, and give the three of us a good case of sore necks. I just can't figure it out. She had to not be looking at the road for a really long time to not see us coming. She just came from nowhere. Anyway, after hitting my car she veered left and hit to other parked construction vehicles. One of the workers shortly after even climbed up on his tractor and said "Dumb bitch wasn't even payin' attention!". He pretty much summed up my thoughts. I was fuming. As any of those who know me, I just put $600 in repairs into that car. Not only that, but we were on our way to what was to be an impressive day in Iowa. Rather than create a scene though, I just went back to my car and sat in the passenger seat until police officers needed to speak with me. The whole process took about 2.5 agonizing hours on the fresh asphalt in the hot June sun. The tow trucks showed up, picked up my car, and drove off. I'm guessing that is the last of it. No way the car is not totaled. Really upset about that, too. I wasn't looking for a new car at all. Absolutely loved what I had, and was hoping to get many more years out of it.

Jarrod's wife Crystal picked us up and drove us up a mile where we were instructed to wait at either the Hardee's or McDonald's. Both were closed due to power outages. We were all very thirsty so we stopped at the little gas station near the exit, which luckily was open. I got all my insurance information from the trooper, and the deal was done for now. Afterward, I was in no mood to chase. However, I had time to cool off and throw down a Red Bull, and was now in no mood to go home and sit and think about what had happened. It was about 2:30 PM, and we could make our target by 5:30. We headed back to Colin's car, threw the gear in back and the three of us were off again.

We all know how that turned out. We made the target area in time to see the sun set with no storms to speak of. I had planned on sleeping at Colin's place and chasing with him the next day with a moderate risk already in place for Friday. Halfway home however, I decided I wasn't in the mood anymore. I was still pissed from the accident, and was getting more sore. The three hours of sleep the night before was also catching up to me. I decided I'd rather just get home that night, and sleep in and deal with the car business.

I rode back to Mark Sefried's place in Morton where I had Tia meet me and drive me back to Champaign. We returned around, 3 I think. I hit the sack, and woke up around 2 PM. I called the doctor and setup an appointment to get my neck checked out as it was now much more sore. It even hurt to yawn. I had Tia drive me there as well, and as soon as I walked in the door, Mark gave me a call informing me of a supercell 30 miles west of town, heading right that way. *eye roll* Luckily, the appointment was quick. I didn't see my regular doctor, but this guy was hilarious. He told me what I assumed, that I was just dealing with some muscles strains for the impact, and that if it got worse to come back in. I was given a prescription for muscle relaxers, and sent on my way. Stepping out, I could see the crisp anvil from the supercell overspreading town. Tia was up for a chase, so we stopped by and picked up my cameras and headed out. My laptop was damaged in the crash, so I'd be without radar or gps. I did not even have my paper maps, because those were in my car.

I don't really feel like writing up about the chase right now, perhaps later. I luckily met up with Mark and Darin, who had gps running and was able to travel with them. We followed a nice supercell that came very close to producing a tornado into Indiana. The kicker on this one? We sat almost directly under a rapidly rotating funnel cloud with the sirens sounding near Westville. An incredible scene! Getting home to watch this on video... I realized I had done it again. The camera was on stand by the entire time. Of all the scenes I filmed that day! Or even all year! In a tornadoless year, this was easily the best thing I've seen all year, and also the ONE thing I have no documentation of!! I couldn't believe it. I shut the camera off, and went to bed.

I waited all week for these two chase days. What did I get? My car is trashed, my laptop is broken, my phone is not working any longer, I have a sore neck that hurts me to yawn, I finally saw a decent attempt at a tornado and a beautiful scene altogether, and returned home to see I did not film any of it. A great 48 hours!

I'm paranoid about the insurance process. My car has not been labeled totaled yet, but it will. Guessing they'll check it out on Monday. I'll be okay if I don't get screwed over and can get an equally as good, or perhaps better car in the end. No way I'm downgrading cars because some idiot slammed into the ass end of my car when I did nothing to cause it. Unbelievable. I get pissed just thinking about it. In fact, I think I'll wrap up this blog now. Below are a couple images from the accident scene minutes after it occurred.

My car:

The woman's Cadillac, and the two construction vehicles that she struck.

The driver of the red pickup was funny. Said "that's alright, I wanted a silver one anyway".

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Eastern Iowa Tomorrow

Waterloo, IA area looks fantastic tomorrow. Early storms will likely congeal into an MCS overnight and spread into Illinois early in the day. Most of Iowa should be in the clear allowing for rapid destabilization along the warm front and outflow boundary from early storms. Extreme instability atop very good turning with height along the boundary will have NE and E Iowa primed for tornadic supercells tomorrow evening. I'll be heading to Waterloo, IA early tomorrow watching the corridor from Waterloo to Iowa City for a couple big time supercells. That low level jet really kicks in during the evening, under a nice 55-60 knot H5 streak. That coupled with mid-June instability should be potent. Supercells will likely trend towards a powerful bow echo that will follow the instability gradient into northern Illinois overnight. Supercells may be possible further southwest along the warm front, but it looks like most of Illinois will remain capped and plagued by subsidence from the early storms.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Big Day Thursday

Looking for a potential big severe event in central Illinois and eastern Iowa tomorrow. We may see somewhat of a wind threat overnight if storms in Nebraska currently manage to congeal into a bow echo and progress eastward along the instability gradient into central Illinois.

In the early afternoon tomorrow, a warm front should extend primarily along Interstate 74 from Iowa City, IA to Champaign, IL. The 4 km WRF shows extreme instability with surface cape values pushing 6500 j/kg and low level helicities averaging around 250 m2/s2 along the warm front where surface winds back to the SE. Looks like the cap erodes along the warm front in eastern Iowa and northwest to central Illinois. If this happens, explosive supercell development would be favored. Another favored area will be northern Iowa, but I will cap bust all day before heading to Iowa for this one.

At this point for Thursday I'll be targeting anywhere between Iowa City, IA to Peoria, IL. If the mcs scenario does not play out completely different than the models are currently hinting at and we see something like the models showed on the 12z runs, I'd look for a couple significant tornadoes in eastern Iowa and NW Illinois.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Severe weather tomorrow.

Stage could be set for a significant severe weather event tomorrow across eastern Missouri and central / southern Illinois tomorrow. Likely more of a damaging wind threat than a tornado threat, though a tornado threat could exist further west later in the day. A strong bow echo will likely be in progress early in the morning, which will continue across the southern part of the state, likely along and south of Interstate 72 tomorrow. Significant wind damage may occur with this system.

Further west, should the bow echo leave the area early enough in the afternoon I could see a supercell and tornado threat developing near the St. Louis area in SW Illinois and eastern Missouri along the warm front and outflow boundary left by the first round. I may play the early bow echo for some wind fun, but afterward I'll have my eyes peeled to SW Illinois close to St. Louis. There's a good chance that subsidence and a cap will likely kill this chance, but should things begin to erode I'd look for a couple big supercells in that area.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Going Local

Decided to pass on taking the week on the plains this week. Car repairs have taken their toll at a non-ideal time, so rather than screw myself for the rest of the season I'm going to spend this week here working and getting some money, while chasing locally. It looks like starting mid-week there should be off and on severe chances in the midwest. The plains will be shooting MCS's at the Mississippi River valley each day, and those will be laying down boundaries here and there that could lead to future severe thunderstorm development. Chances this week should be in the high plains, and southern Mississippi Valley area, but the threat will move north as time goes on. I'd look at Wednesday through Saturday as a potential window for severe thunderstorms in the IL/IA/MO corridor. I wish buddies Mark Sefried and Darin Kaiser much luck out there this week, but for me it was too big a gamble with potential local ops coming. Goshen County, Wyoming looks to produce again today!

In unrelated news, I'll officially be moving to DeKalb, IL this fall to finish the final two years of a BS in Meteorology at Northern Illinois University.

Friday, June 12, 2009

June 7th 2009 Seneca, KS Time Lapse

With the lack of tornado production this season I've taken quite the interest in time lapse videos. The video has not been super interesting, but at least speeding it up 5 times makes it a little more interesting. Maybe.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Well, the car is back running 100%, no thank you to Tires Plus Total Car Care in Champaign, IL. After the previous happenings with the broken rim, I waited seven days for the replacement rim to come in before finally giving them a call to see what the deal was. I was told I'd have to wait two or three days, tops. I give them a call, and the guy tells me he was just on his way out to go pick it up and would have it in twenty minutes. Probably half an hour later as I am heading out the door, he calls me back to inform me that they had the wrong rim. He said that if I wanted he could put that one on to get me by for now, while he continued looking for the right rim. How long was that going to be?! I told him I'd think about it, and get back to him.

After that, I logged on to TireRack.Com, found my rim, found the two tires, placed my order and 20 hours later had them delivered to my doorstep. I even paid for the 2-3 day shipping, but it didn't even take a full day. Tires Plus = 7 Days to find me the wrong rim. TireRack.Com = 20 hours to deliver the right rim, plus two tires to my front door. From now on I will be going with TireRack.Com 100% of the time for my tire needs, and perhaps more. I'd highly recommend them to anyone.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

NE Kansas today

Will be targeting SE Nebraska and NE Kansas today. Anywhere from Beatrice, NE to Topeka, KS looks primed. At the very least we should see some rigorous supercells this evening, producing big hail. The cap does not worry me today as much as the LCL's do. Will need to hug the warm front where they'll be low enough for a good tornado potential. With the forecasted instability (being overdone on the RUC, but still expect a good 3500 j/kg) and wind fields, should a storm form and become surface based a couple significant tornadoes. At the moment, the Topeka to Kansas City corridor is looking dangerous.

Will be sitting in Holton, Kansas awaiting any action.

Cap bust!

Cap busted today, but at least was with good company. Made the trip with Mark Sefried from Peoria, and ultimately met up with Scott Kampas, Colin Davis, Mike Hollingshead, and Scott Weberpal. Was actually the first time I'd met Scott Weberpal, so at least something was accomplished today! I had my 'Wisconsin' shirt on, just for him.

Tomorrow is just screaming Topeka, Kansas.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

SW Iowa Today

Looks like southwest Iowa will be as good a place as any this afternoon and evening. Low over southern Nebraska should continue to push eastward to near Omaha by this afternoon. With the aid of the earlier mcs dew points in southern Iowa are in the lower 60s. Surface winds should remain backed ahead of this low, and along the surface front / outflow boundary. Cape will be higher further southwest in eastern Kansas, but LCL's will be a lot better in SW Iowa, and the cap will be a lot weaker. If any storm can go up just ahead of the low and along the ofb I think it stands a chance at producing a tornado.

Current target is Red Oak, Iowa.

Heading West

My car -still- remains without a right rear wheel, but thanks to the generosity of Mark Sefried we will be heading west this morning. Not a real hard forecast this morning, but hinging on a lot of things, namely a potential stout cap. Another issue is the current presence of an mcv over western Iowa. While this could help with moisture return, it also needs to clear out of the area early enough to not leave a ton of subsidence in it's wake.

Current thinking is the Omaha area. Models continue to break out precip in that general area. My guess is we'll end up 50 miles SW or NE of Omaha in SE Nebraska or SW Iowa.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My claim of the year.

I'm saying it right now, regardless of what the models show.

Monday, June 8 will be the tornado outbreak of 2009.

The models don't show a favorable scenario right now, 96 hours out, but I'm willing to bet based on trends that I have seen this year that as time plays out this will continue to trend towards being the biggest day of this potential three day weekend that we're seeing.

I'm not thrilled with Saturday, and Sunday continues to look less favorable. I think these have the potential to be tornado producers but I'm going for my Nostradamus '09 award and saying right now that my gut says wait for Monday. I'd watch the mid-Mississippi River Valley near in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri for a potential tornado outbreak. The models don't show this at this point, but based on trends that I've seen and my gut I'd say watch for it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

That's what I get for going to Iowa

Yesterday was probably the most frustrating chase day I've had in some time. I'm just lucky that a tornado event did not occur, or I might have retired right then. From the get go it had the feeling of a crappy day. I should have turned around then. Right away my laptop is having issues connecting to the internet because my phone continues to say it has "No Connection". Shortly down the road my GPS quits updating, but that is quickly fixed. After becoming convinced that I just won't have data on my laptop today and being content that I can call someone for a nowcast if I need it my phone quits working altogether. It is now telling me to "Insert Smart Card" or Sim card as they're sometimes known. I keep yelling at my phone "It's in there damn it!". This is especially annoying because if it doesn't sense the sim card it does not operate. No phone calls, texts, and certainly no data. Taking the battery out and letting it rest seems to do no good either as I had hoped.

Then my stomach hits me. I quickly pull off at the very first rest stop that I see on the other side of Peoria and empty out my system, right next to a trucker who seemed to be having the same problem. I can deal with technology not working on a chase, but not with my body not functioning. I feel better now though, and decide to hit the road. Before driving I try my phone again... it WORKS. It connects to the internet and everything. However, it disconnects 5 minutes later and then upon reconnecting shuts down telling me to insert the sim card. I -really- should have just gone home.

I continued on though, stopping in Ottumwa. The day was already looking down (of course after I texted the comrades in the field that the day was looking up in their backyard). I decided I was in as good a spot as any in Ottumwa, even though my eyes told me that the best stuff was passing me up and heading for northern and central Illinois. I stopped and sat inside an Arby's for over an hour going over data before deciding to leave. Storms were going up in northern Missouri and eastern Iowa and I had to make a call on where to go. My phone wasn't working once I pulled out of the parking lot, but after more finicking I got it to work for me. It seemed that I could get it to work for about 20 minutes at a time, before having to take the battery out and let it sit for 5 minutes, and then repeating. I decided to take a peak at a storm just to my south, which was producing reported tennis ball sized hail and had some rotation on radar. It quickly gusted out and was not very pretty. So I decided my best bet was to head into Illinois and play with anything that developed there. I plotted my course and started flying east. Of course then my stomach rolls over again, and I quickly blast into a gas station and drop off another load. Then, I was on my way again and just ready to be home.

I saw it about a half second before I hit it. The biggest hold on the side of the road that I've ever seen. I've been making the joke, that it seemed like someone must have been digging a tunnel to China in the freaking road. I clobbered it with the right side of my vehicle. I had all my windows down, and sunroof open so I could immediately hear hiss hiss hiss hiss hiss hiss. Every time it hit a certain position air would leak out. I had heard about this "Fix a flat" product, and bought a can just for kicks not two weeks ago and decided to see if it actually worked. I quickly whipped it out with thunder growing ever louder from the squall line that I was outrunning, but was now a sitting duck to. I hooked up the can and filled up my tire. Well, hope that works! Got in my car and start backing up... hiss hiss hiss hiss. Well, that means one of two things really. Either the product doesn't work, or I have a big problem. I angrily got out, threw everything out of my trunk and tossed my spare tire on the ground. The thunder was getting pretty loud now with cg striking nearer and nearer. Funny enough, just two days ago I was changing Tia's back right tire for her after she blew it on something. Lucky I was in well practiced form and would have the tire changed shortly. All except the very last lug nut were very cooperative. No matter what I did, that thing wouldn't budge. I was slowly stripping not the lug nut, but the inside of my tire iron. I was getting more and more pissed thinking that I would have to call someone with one of those pressurized deals, for ONE LUG NUT. I was ready to slam the tire iron into the ground, if I wasn't so convinced that with my luck it would break in half and I'd be really screwed then. I fidgeted with it for a while, took a break to piss on a nearby tree and went back to work quickly getting it off. After that I quickly had my spare tire on and was on my way. I don't know what the general rule of thumb is for distance to travel on a spare tire, but I know it's not very much. I had a 230 mile journey ahead of me back to home. This would have to be traveled at about 40-45 mph too. Oh yeah, and changing the filthy tire I realized I was wearing a brand new Chicago Cubs / Fukudome t-shirt that was WHITE, that I had picked up from Wrigley Field after a game. I'm not that picky about my clothes, but come on. That would happen the day I wear my one white shirt. I managed to keep all the black filth on my hands and pants however.

Anyway, pissed off and full of regret for even chasing that day (when I was more excited about the marginal chances the next day (today)). I decided I would nurse the car home on the spare tire, a 5 hour drive that should have taken about 2.5-3 hours. Rather than take the interstate I just took Highway 136 all the way to Highway 150 and that back home. I managed to cool myself off with some loud music and a relaxing drive home with the light show to my north. That was interrupted periodically by multiple groups of deer just hanging out in the middle of the highway. Perhaps it was good that I was running on my spare tire and was only doing 45 mph, or I might have bigger problems on my hands with a new hood ornament.

Anyway. I nursed the car home and pulled in around midnight with the plans of getting up at 7 and taking the tire in to be repaired in the case that something worthwhile goes up locally today. Not 5 minutes after sitting down at Tires Plus the guy comes back and tells me what I already knew, but did not want to hear. I needed a new rim, and two new tires. His estimate: $620. That sounds about right for a capper to this chase! The new rim was going to run me about $290, but he calls back regretfully after I leave to tell me he can't find a new one in stock, but he found a used one in good shape for $140. Why would you not tell me that I had the option of saving 60% ahead of time? That saves $150. My car, as much as I love it, has the one really big downfall of taking low profile expensive sport tires. The first time I got new tires on that thing I nearly shat myself in the lobby. I'm trying to find a pair online to save a few bucks, but they'll still probably run my around $120-150 each. My cell phone is still not working, but I don't really feel like dealing with that today.

That was about as aggravating as they came. I guess I can at least look at it positively that I did not miss any tornadoes, or even any really amazing storms. The car will be out of commission until about Thursday or Friday, but it doesn't look like there will be any chaseable storms before then.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Outflow Boundary Help

Targeting Ottumwa, IA today. Not thinking I need to be as far west as some are targeting today. Extreme instability should build into NE MO/SE IA and western Illinois this evening. That, combined with the best upper level support in the area and OFB's interacting with the stationary boundary could be enough for a few tornadoes today. Would look for the Ottumwa, IA to Kirksville, MO area to be pretty active around 6 PM.