Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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DAY 3: Aurora shows, heading back home - temporarily

Digital photos by Matt Robinson - click to enlarge

Auroras over Dwight, Illinois on May 15

VIDEO: Aurora Borealis display in northern Illinois, Windows Media, 3MB

ABOVE & RIGHT: Amazing Aurora Borealis in Illinois early on Sunday (photos by Matt Robinson).

The saga gets more interesting by the day. Ever since Lexington, Matt had been suffering from what we thought was a bad case of allergies. It turns out it's more than that - the common cold has struck our chase vehicle. It's not long, I'm sure, before the same fate befalls me.

This new development has forced us to make a major change of plans. Our friends Kurt and Nick (currently in Norman, Oklahoma) were planning to ride with us to share expenses, but we don't want to expose them to the pesky virus that would be sure to overtake them if they did. The upcoming few days did look like so-so opportunities in Kansas and Nebraska. But without passengers to split costs with and two cases of miserable cold-infested storm observers, we decided that a four-day, long-shot, $500-plus jaunt to the western Plains was not a wise proposition. To make matters worse, the big storm-killing ridge of high pressure is beginning to set into the Plains, which will mean at least a week or more of high and dry weather.

So, we decided to head home and plan for a return trip later this week. We made it back to Charleston tonight, and Matt will return to Raleigh to recover from his ailments for a few days. As for me, I'm hitting the Zicam regimen to hopefully stave off or lessen the cold that I am almost certain to get. We are planning to regroup on Friday and make another run westward to meet up with Bill and Fabian, who will be there when we arrive. *Hopefully* by then our ridge of high pressure will move east and allow the storms to return to the open prairies.

Now, for some good stuff. Last night, we were asleep at the hotel in Dwight, Illinois when my cell phone rang twice at 3AM - Bill from Virginia and Doug from Minnesota were calling to alert me to the aurora show going on outside. I trudged outside, looked up, and my jaw dropped. Wow!! I woke Matt up and we spent the next few minutes recording the most amazing show of Northern Lights we've seen. So the sky did end up giving us something to take home, even if it wasn't what we expected.

Video captures - click to enlarge

I'll take the auroras as yet *another* sign that the Lord knows what is going on (as if I need any more!), so I'm not too upset about this trip's 'false start'. At the very least, we're saving money from not driving around the Plains trying to observe storms hopeless severe weather setups. Money better saved for tornadoes, not blue skies.

Our early trip home also meant that we were able to drive through Dayton, Ohio - and a particular legendary town in the tornado history books, a name known by storm observers everywhere:

Digital photos by Matt Robinson - click to enlarge

Signing off again and praying that the Zicam works...

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