With several friends, I chased a line of severe storms in Nebraska on May 30 that offered much in the way of photo opportunities, even if they cut off our northern route in a beautiful landscape with almost no roads. What are you gonna do? Every trip is a mix of hits and misses (for instance, four tornadoes, but none on the high risk day), but it’s always educational and frequently fun – when it’s not frustrating. Like anything worthwhile, it takes a lot of work and, in this case, a lot of miles. To be precise: 11,865.
It’s always surreal returning home. Home is Florida, where it’s soupy and hot and summerlike, a big contrast to the breezy and cool spring of the Plains. Our rainy season hasn’t kicked in yet, so we’re not getting much in the way of thunderstorms. The dull drum of domesticity is met by the pleasure of being home. I’m watering the tomatoes, petting the dogs and catching up on sleep. I’m trying to find my rhythm as I get into a new career of self-employment. And I’m hoping for more adventure.I want to thank all the great chasers I caravaned with or otherwise hung out with on the road this year, among them “Dr. Wedge,” William “Bill” Hark; the storm chasing doctors Jason Persoff and Robert Balogh, who acted as first responders twice, including after the devastating Joplin, Mo., tornado; New Yawkers Dave Lewison and Scott McPartland; Mark Robinson and his team of Canadian “Storm Hunters,” Brad Rousseau and Dayna Vettese, Heather Reynolds and Meghan Yeo; Australian videographer Daniel Shaw; the crazy guys of Cloud 9 Tours; and Bill Reid and the Tempest Tours folks.
As for that lurker who followed Bill H. and I one day, what the hell was he thinking? Storm chasing isn’t like what you see on TV. It’s no Disney ride. It would be a lot simpler if it were.
Keeping it brief: again, too much driving after busting in Colorado yesterday. I’m waking up in Salina, Kansas, after that very long round trip. I kind of knew I was in trouble when all the cloud cover manifested over my target area yesterday, but I figured, I was halfway there, so why not go for it? The thing is, “halfway” when you’re talking about driving to the front range is pretty dang far. The scenery in eastern Colorado is lovely, though, spare and ascetic. Today, the target is central Oklahoma, though this won’t be one of those crazy outbreak days. This is kind of a “maybe” day. I can feel my trip beginning to wind to a close. I still haven’t decided whether to chase marginal chances this weekend or begin heading home for Florida’s lightning season. There’s no place like home! Click, click, click …
The potent tornado machine is slowly moving east, losing a little of its punch, though my friends in Pennsylvania should watch the weather today. Florida might get storms, too. I hope we get rain at home to keep the plants happy!I chose not to chase in the hills and trees yesterday and instead repositioned north and west. I plan to go into Colorado to see what storms I can catch today. I’m looking for a little of that upslope magic.
I’m slowly catching up on my chase reports. Check out all the 2011 photo logs. The latest addition is the day of the Joplin, Missouri, tornado, which I did not chase, instead choosing to go after a promising area in southern Oklahoma. Again, it meant fewer hills and trees, and that’s a factor in the decisions that chasers make sometimes. Visibility is important. That day I also saw the TIV and the Dominator on the road, which you may have seen in Discovery’s “Storm Chasers” show. I saw storms that day and, of all things, a couple of tarantulas! See the May 22 photos.
On a better note, I had a fantastic day May 23, when I saw a slim tornado, a beautiful low-precipitation supercell, hail, flooding and lightning. All without worrying about tornado-geddon! I’ve posted pictures of the May 23 chase.