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I was in a massive Tornado! Photos Northern Illinois 4/9/2015

We were on our way home from visiting our daughter in mid Wisconsin. When we were close to Madison my wife talked to my son on the phone and he said they had tornado warnings out and they were all at our house in the basement. While driving we could hear tornado warnings on the radio for lee county. It was bumper to bumper traffic with lots of who were passing each other making going the speed limit about impossible and driving was stressful.

After passing through Rockford the sky was looking pretty black south of us so we decided to stop to use the restroom before it started raining, and let out dog out for a bit. We pulled into the truck area by mistake and it was packed with trucks and there wasn't a parking place left. Then parked in the car area and the place was packed with people. Tornado sirens started going off and I felt trapped there, it was too small with too many people and vehicles so we didn't stick around.

Back on the road for a few a miles and it started hailing, huge chunks of ice were smashing into the car so I looked for the nearest over pass to try to stop under but there was already cars under it so we had to sit out in the open, better than driving into it.

This white pickup truck stopped right in the middle of the right lane with all those trucks flying by. It was some company truck easy to recognize. Watching in my mirror I could see trucks having a hard time switching lanes and they were blowing their horns as they passed by. I thought for sure there would be a big pileup so I was blowing my horn as well but he wouldn't move. Then a car pulled in behind him and stopped. I tried to back up but cars had pulled in behind me. Finally after the hail slowed down the white truck moved, but the car still sat there. I kept blowing my horn as did the semis and finally the car moved and we were able to get out of there before we got buried in a big pileup.

A few miles down the road I saw a black cloud that seemed to go all the way to the ground, I told the wife that could be a tornado and so we stopped to check it out and let it pass across the road south of us. Sure enough it was a huge wedge tornado! My first real tornado and it was huge! For my whole life I have wanted to see a big tornado up close and now I had my chance.

I started taking photos and noticed the lens was all fogged up and my ears were popping. I quick cleaned the lens and noticed with every shot it looked bigger, it was coming right at us! I didn't get too worried until I started seeing huge chunks of debris dropping about 100 yards in front of us and then I told the wife we better get out of here and try to out run it.

We took off and the wife said to floor it. I was watching the road driving as fast as I could trying to dodge large pieces of debris and couldn't see what the tornado was doing. The wife said we just passed that white truck again, he was parked under another overpass. At east this time he pulled off the road. Then the wind started to make it hard to steer the car and large chunks of debris and dirt were hitting my door so I held my arm up to protect my face and pulled over before the car flipped.

The sound got louder and louder. I told the wife to duck down as low as she could, otherwise we didn't say a word. The car was rocking severely, it got really dark and couldn't see anything out the windows anymore. The sound was deafening and my ears were popping again. I thought the car would be picked up off the ground at anytime. Then after one long minute or two it passed. I looked out the muddy window and the wind had switched and was blowing the opposite direction and that's when I told the wife it had passed and that we were going to be ok, so we sat up and watched it move away.

The first thing I said after it passed was that was the coolest thing ever. I got out and started taking photos again. The wind was still blowing over 100 mph and it was hard to stand still. I thought maybe there was another tornado around so I checked the sky behind us, but it was just the wind form this same tornado. I knelt down by the car to have less wind resistance but it was still strong. I leaned against the car, but the car was still rocking pretty bad, so most of my photos were a little blurry. It is hard enough to take photos in dark conditions, but with 100 mph+ winds it was quite challenging.

After we got on 88 at Rochelle we had a flat tire. The tires had bulges in them from running over debris. I'm glad we didn't try to chase the tornado, we wouldn't have made it far with flat tires.

That white truck we saw twice did get some excellent video from the north side of the tornado as it passed between us and a storm chaser got video coming up from the other direction which shows our headlights coming into view as the tornado crossed the road as he was sitting there filming it all. Behind us near where we first stopped a semis turned over and that was caught on film also.

I did return to the area and tried to get into see Fairdale but they had it barricaded off with sheriff deputies keeping people out. That highway to town had lots of debris spread out for miles. I went back to the area on interstate 39 and noticed where we first stopped had debris all over and it was spread for about 2 miles past where we stopped the second time. There was a lot of houses and barns damaged in the countryside. One gravel road had all the gravel cleaned off for about a mile and a half.

This EF-4 tornado that was near Rochelle and leveled Fairdale measured a half-mile wide and traveled 15 to 20 miles on the ground. It crossed I39 just north of Rochelle heading northeast.

rochelle tornado
Tornado by a pond near Rochelle where we first stopped.
 fairdale tornado
Notice the over pass in the distance, that's where the video at bottom of this page was shot. These are zoomed at with wide angle lens, the tornado was closer than it looks
illinois tornado
My lens started to fog up as the barrometer was dropping so fast from the tornado. People are starting to pull over because the tornado was traveling easterly, but actually northeast.
I39 tornado
This is zoomed in to 55mm, the human eye sees 35 mm, most shots on this page were at 17mm. Debris from farm building flying in the air.
5/9/2015 tornado
The debris was getting so close I figured we better relocate. This was shot at 55mm uncropped.



This was after the tornado passed, I started taking photos again. The wind was still blowing hard. The windows were covered with mud. The wind switched direction 360*.
First image after the tornado passed
after the tornado passed
shows overpass where that white truck was sitting taking video
lighter version
after the tornado passed
after the tornado passed
after the tornado passed
after the tornado passed
The tornado
The tornado was heading northeast
The tornado
Deadly twister is moving fast toward a small town
Photo lightened up some
debris right next to the car. This piece may have hit the car, there was dents and scratches all over
Trees by the road by the car after the tornado passed
tornado passed
Diane is being blown about getting a selfie
6 tornado
My selfie with a tornado, a photo I have always wanted
Herbie in the car, wife checking for damage
Debris from Rochelle tornado
9 tornado
Barn roof ripped off
15 tornado
Building has tornado damage
Barn ripped apart


Tornado Video shows our tailights at 0:38.
Tornado Video - On the left you can see our headlights disappear at 3:48 and reappear at 4:14, so we were in it for 26 seconds

Tornado Video - shows path arial view from east to west, end to start

More info as I find it:

Photo of tornado victim found 35 miles from home measured a half-mile wide and traveled 15 to 20 miles on the ground;

Aftermath Photos Show Widespread Destruction After Tornado Tears Through Northern Illinois At least two people are dead and nearly a dozen others injured after a tornado touched down in northern Illinois on Thursday evening. Dozens of homes were damaged, at least one school remains closed and two animals were killed at a local zoo.

Tornado tracks shows the path of the tornado

Smith again Smith probably did the best he could. As meteorologists were quick to point out, Smith was incredibly lucky. The tornado took a last-second jog, narrowly missing the overpass where Smith was parked: Smith probably did the best he could. As meteorologists were quick to point out, Smith was incredibly lucky. The tornado took a last-second jog, narrowly missing the overpass where Smith was parked: The tornado in question, which struck about 80 miles west of Chicago, was rated EF-4 by the National Weather Service, with winds estimated at 200 mph—a strength the NWS calls “quite rare” for the area. It was the strongest tornado so far in 2015, and the strongest tornado in the Chicago area in the last 25 years. It destroyed parts of Rochelle and Fairdale, Illinois, causing two deaths.

This last minute turn (mentioned above) by the tornado was in our direction and we were caught in it. We were facing the wrong way to see it coming and we were leaning down as much as we could.

They put my photo and story on page 2 of the local paper: Sterling couple gets up-close-and-personal pics of twister

After thoughts:

One might think, why didn't we just run to a ditch? Well it's not the same when your in a car with debris flying at your car 100 mph, some of it siding from barns, and try opening a car door with 100 mph winds blowing at you. Then try walking around in 100 mph winds to a ditch. Now imagine the car you got away from start rolling on top of you. Besides, there was no ditch to run into, it was all flat.

This screen shot shows where we were, where we went and the path of the tornado and how wide it was



See Tornado part 1  l   See Tornado page 2  l   See Tornado page 3



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