Imagine speeding down the highway, o'er amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties. It's a beautiful day in the midwest: the sun is shining, there's a slight breeze, and there are a few puffy clouds off in the distance. You are on the cautious lookout for stray cattle that may be loitering in your path. Unless you want hamburger for dinner, then you'd better stay vigilant. That fourth cup of coffee is helping out, for sure.
It's an hour later. The sun had given up shining long ago, and the slight breeze has picked up to a brisk gale. Those puffy clouds of cauliflour have mutated into black seething anvils of doom and, from the light and sound coming from them, you might even believe that the gods are actually forging steel up there. You still haven't stopped driving. In fact, you've been driving for the past five hours, indeed, the past several days, just to arrive at this moment.
A massive wall cloud drops down right in front of you. The pounding of your heart nearly drowns out the pounding of the hail against your windshield as you pull off the road and turn on your hazard lights. You set up the camera and tripod as you've fruitlessly done a hundred times before, yet today's storm brings a different spectacle. A tornado drops right out of the churning cumulonimbus cloud a mile distant and quickly develops into a well-rounded and very devastating F-3 twister. You have reached... storm-chasing nirvana.
What happens from then on... it defies my explanation, because I haven't experienced it. Yet this experience (or lack thereof) is what defines this blog. It's the thrill of the chase, 20th-century style.
So, here we are, the autumn of 2004, and our supplies are as follows:
- One (1) crazy-brained idea that, some day in the not-to-far future, a storm chasing expedition will be held, and it will succeed.
- Two (2) tornado seasons before college during which to accomplish this feat.
- One (1) vehicle (with four (4) tires) ready to be outfitted with all sorts of storm-chasing goodies.
- Many (>1) available technologies (GPS, wireless internet service, radios, etc.) to assist in reaching this goal.
- Two (2) parents who think otherwise.
So! Here we go! Hopefully, when all is said and done, Storm Chase '06 (projected date) will have been a huge success. But we've got a long way to go.
To get everyone out there in reader-land started, here are a few resources on this unique hobby. These are also linked to in the side-bar on the right-hand side of the page.
- The Online Storm Chasing FAQ
- The Tornado FAQ
- Stormtrack - check out their "Chase humor"... bundles of fun
- Tornado Safety Poster (PDF) - not quite what you'd expect
- Chuck Doswell's Chasing FAQ - while his comments may be unnecessarily harsh and unexpected, this FAQ and linked essays contain a motherlode of information; Chuck Doswell has been chasing since 1972!