STERLING, Ill. — Driving into this Northern Illinois town on Wednesday afternoon, the skies behind me were very, very dark. Had I stuck around in Dixon, the town about 13 miles to the northeast where Ronald Reagan lived as a boy and Abraham Lincoln was stationed as militia captain during the Black Hawk War, I likely would have been pounded by intense rain, wind, hail and who knows what else.
Thanks to my Weather Channel smartphone app, I knew there was a small but intense storm cell about 10 miles outside Dixon. My current location was in the prediction path’s cone. I could tell from the foreboding skies to the southwest that it wasn’t a benign storm.
After quickly checking out Lee County Courthouse grounds, the Ronald Reagan Wings of Peace and Freedom Park and Dixon’s famous Veterans Memorial Arch over Galena Avenue, I got back on the road to continue on my way.
Fortunately, the path of the Lincoln Highway along the Rock River between Dixon and Sterling kept me just to the north of the storm. But I could see the rain in the distance. I could feel the wind on the car.
Right after I checked out the Lincoln statue in Sterling’s Propheter Park, which marks the spot where Lincoln delivered a speech in 1856 to support the presidential candidacy of Republican John C. Frémont, a tornado warning was issued by the National Weather Service.