Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We're not in Kansas anymore

Yeah, I've been waiting to use that title:) Well I'm home safe now after a very fun, very successful storm chasing trip. My third and most prosperous storm chasing trip yet. I have never seen such amazing cloud structure, color and movement as I have the past 4 days. From an amazingly dramatic rotating wall cloud only 100 yards away to a beautiful snaking tornado touch down in a flat grassy field, this trip had it all.

The trip wasn't without it's tense moments either. One night we got trapped in some nickel-sized hail which made my Jeep sound like a large drum. And then there was the time my Jeep decided to seize up and not work while tornadic storms were all around. Luckily I got it going pretty quickly. Oh yeah and then there was the time this large nasty storm decided to make an eastward turn when all the other storms had been going straight north. This caused all the chasers in the way of the storm to clog up the road making for an instant traffic jam with a potentially tornadic storm barreling down on us. Did I mention that every storm chaser in America was in Kansas?! So yeah, chasing has its dangers and is meant to be taken VERY seriously. You certainly get a new respect for weather after a trip like this.

And on a somber note, a number of people lost their lives and/or homes to some of the tornadoes produced by the storm system we were chasing (there were hundreds of tornado reports the few days we were chasing). That is something you never want to hear or see. As a chaser, you always hope to see a tornado hit an empty field and quickly dissipate. While that is most common, some tornadoes do hit populated areas. On the positive side, due to the presence of many storm chasers, many of the warnings came earlier than they would have without any eyes on the ground. Yes, some chasers are yahoos, but most are respective and conservative hobbiests/professionals that play an important role in saving lives.

After two days of very active chasing in Kansas, we headed to Nebraska for our final day, and unfortunately ended up with a bust. All the action ended up being in Oklahoma with one very large active cell that kept dropping tornadoes all day long. Never the less, we saw some pretty Nebraska country side and then called it a trip early and saw Iron Man in Omaha. Which by the way is a darn good movie!

So that concludes my storm chasing adventure for the year. After starting to chase in 2001, and taking a LONG break after 2002, I finally returned to chasing and safely whitnessed my first tornado. Can't wait to do it again!