Missing the Tornadoes on the Way Home from the Illinois Republican Convention

My wife and I left the Illinois Republican Convention in Decatur on Saturday about 3:30.

When we got to Clinton, guess who saw the Clinton Antique Mall and wanted to stop.

I figured there might be a soft drink machine with a Diet Coke, so agreed.

The first part looked more like an interior designer’s store that your typical antique mall. We discovered we had arrived on a special day.

Free hot dogs.

I ran into a woman with one of those oval convention badges. It turned out to be DeKalb County Republican Party Chairman Mary Simons. I reminisced about the lumber dealer who used to be county chairman in the 1970’s. Conrad Hultgren, she said.

We talked about Tom Johnson, who went from the appointed DeKalb County auditor to Governor Richard Ogilvie’s Director of Local Government Affairs. That lead to Tom’s uncle, Stan Johnson, who represented part of McHenry County in the 1970 constitutional convention and, next, to another constitutional convention.

Simons told me that her family was from Madison County and had bought late 10950’s Republican crook State Auditor Orville Hodge’s home. People kept asking if they had looked for money in the walls, she said. (Michael Howlett won the office after that Republican scandal.)

We then found a more traditional part of the antique mall next door. That took more time.

In any event, on the way home, it was hard to miss weather alerts.

First, from WHOW, which has a new higher aerial with 6000 watts.

We listened to oldies, but goodies between Decatur and beyond.

At Bloomington where we saw this cloud, we decided to go up Interstate 39, instead of hearing up Route 55 to Dwight for the Route 47 turnoff.

Soon, we were glad we did.

After we lost WHOA, we found WJEZ-FM Dwight.

The coverage was just outstanding. I learned that Program Director Kent Casson, weather on call person, Todd Lowery, and Engineer Lane Lindstrom were the voices we heard.

The tornado had just passed north of Dwight, damaging some farm buildings. (Before we outran the station’s signal, neighbors were reported to be there helping clean up.)

When we got about halfway to Rockford we stopped at a gas station. The attendant said that a tornado had skipped across the landscape north of her station.

There was no radio station on in the convenience store, so I asked her how she found out.

“Scanner,” she replied, pointing to it.

We kept going north, thankful that we had chosen the roundabout route, but mainly four-lane route home.

It took us west of the tornado.

I figured if we hadn’t stopped in Clinton for the better part of an hour, we would have encountered the tornado as it neared I-39 and, had we taken Route 55, we would have been near Dwight when it started doing damage.

Lisa Smith, of the Wheeling Township Republican Organization, took Interstate 55 home. She was between Odell and Dwight.

She shot these photos of the tornado.

We took the Northwest Tollway from Rockford to the Route 20 Exit at Hampshire.

We were being chased by a thunder storm that turned into the tornado that hit Lake County.

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All the photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the tornado ones are worth the look.


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