This is my twentieth season chasing storms. Dude, that’s two decades. I’m pretty sure the older generation of chasers still considers me and my contemporaries post-“Twister” whipper snappers, but seriously. I’ve been around. I’ve seen more tornadoes that I’ve bothered to count (but have had prints made of the photogenic ones). I’ve had cars remodeled by hail and a deer (unrelated to storms, except it happened during one of those trips). I’ve learned stressful situations help forge great friendships. I’ve chased storms with friends and, often, by myself. I remember when you could have a storm all to yourself – a virtual impossibility today as storm-chasing culture, fueled by TV, has exploded (whipper snappers!). Perhaps this is all a way to say that I’m kind of old.
Nonetheless, I just started my twentieth chase trip to Tornado Alley. In between, I chase storms in Florida and take photos of weather (and other things) wherever I am, but every year, this is the time when I fuel my passion and try to capture the incredible storms of the Great Plains with my cameras. Some years have been better than others. This one started with a bang – just one day into my trip, I saw one of the best tornadoes of my career, near Wray, Colorado.
Lots of things have changed in storm chasing since I started, not least of which is the availability of Internet, and therefore radar data, in the car. (Making it SO easy for the whipper snappers.) One of the side effects of all this instant connectivity is that after you have an incredible experience filming a tornado and feel all warm and fuzzy about it (at least when they occur in the middle of nowhere), in a few moments, you see a better photo or angle on Twitter on Facebook and kick yourself for not getting the same thing. There were amazing photos of the big Wray tornado from the other side – better than mine – but it was still amazing to be there.
That’s the joy of life, isn’t it? We all have different experiences, at least when we actually get out and experience things, instead of having them spoon-fed to us on television and in other media. And one of the beautiful things about storm chasing is that every experience is not just unique to the individual, it’s unique to the moment. There will never again be a storm exactly like the one I saw Saturday that produced that dusty tornado. And the challenge will always remain to get the forecast right, to get into the best viewing position, and to avoid being swept away to Oz.
Though I wouldn’t mind seeing Dorothy’s tornado.
Given the epic amounts of driving I’ve done so far just to get into position and then chase on Saturday, I haven’t had time to update my 2016 chase reports yet. But stay tuned to SkyDiary.com, where I’ll have a full report on the Wray tornado soon (which I caught with Jason Persoff), along with photos of other chases. See you under the meso!