9/9/16 Block – Homer, IL Tornado

At one point I remember being completely gripped by emotion as I stood there watching such a beautiful tornado as it just ripped one by one through house to house, shredding them into the air. I gasped out loud something along the lines of “This was such a perfect day, why does it have to look like this?”

This day was indeed a rare occasion in that I had not previously spent any time forecasting. As soon as I saw a confident update by the Storm Prediction Center warning for a small corridor of tornado potential, I dove into the data on the fly and determined that some way, some how I just had to be there. It just looked too promising.

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This was the scene arriving near the tiny town of Block, IL, south of Champaign. A decently sized supercell with extremely low wall cloud sucking in warm, moist air from practically the ground.

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Ragged.

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My eyes were trained on this lowering as the classic area for eventual tornadogenesis; however, my friend and chase partner Will Wight made clear that this supercell was actually breaking into two circulations, a tiny knot rapidly forming on its southern flank.

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We had less than 5 minutes notice after seeing this knot before a tiny circulation appeared on the ground less than a quarter mile ahead of us (just left of the silos and right of the trees). We reported the touchdown immediately to the National Weather Service, but we were directly in its path.

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The initial touchdown was spine-tingling and terrifying.

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It became a stovepipe in a hurry as it drifted into the fields south of Sidney, IL.

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It looks like a puddle of water underneath the tornado. That’s where it was on the ground. Just in front of us. And yet it’s an amazing feeling knowing you’re not in danger.

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Just down the road a bit.

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Trudged a bit farther away now.

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This image was taken a mere second before the farmstead in front of it was ripped apart into the air. A large piece of debris from the tornado’s previous target still floats in the air. No one was injured.

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Feels like a nightmare.

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We followed the tornado as it became nearly stationary before continuing on into what we thought was mostly-uninhabited farmland south of Homer, IL.

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A lot of the traffic here appeared to be locals, waiting as the now tiny tornado crossed the road and ripped one-by-one through a few farmsteads that were just unlucky enough to be in its predetermined path.

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Just the fact that this tiny circulation managed to tear through so many things was painful to watch.

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But at the same time it was so beautiful.

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Suddenly in a tizzy it erupted into a swirly drill shape.

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Too amazing to take your eyes off of.

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But debris still swirled around the ground.

It took awhile to adjust to what we had just seen. It was the most perfectly-executed intercept of an amazing tornado I have been a part of, but having to watch it do what it did was sickening. And yet this is what I love doing.

 

 

 

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