In less than three weeks, I’ll be in Denver, Colorado preparing for two weeks of storm chasing on the Great Plains. I’m often asked, “Where will you go?” The answer depends upon where the severe weather, and possibly tornadoes, will form within a wide swath of the midwest known as Tornado Alley. It could be breakfast in Liberal, Kansas and dinner in Valentine, Nebraska, if indeed there is time for dinner. Meals on busy chase days typically consist of convenience store fast food, or whatever snack food is on hand. It is not unusual to drive 300 to 500 miles every day.
Once again, I will be a guide with Storm Chasing Adventure Tours, one of the original and best storm chasing tour companies in the United States (http://www.stormchasing.com/), and will be driving one of the chase vehicles. One of the things I most enjoy about working with a storm chasing company is the opportunity to introduce people, many of them from other countries, to the wonderful natural history and human history of the Great Plains. In turn, I have the opportunity to learn about the customs and cultures of other countries and make many new friends. On slow chase days, we typically visit national and state parks, and points of scenic and historical interest.
Our chase vehicles (SUVs) are equipped with state-of-the-art technology including mobile broadband internet, GPS satellite navigation, and laptop computers running advanced weather software.
You can experience the thrill of the chase from the safety and comfort of your own home. I will post a daily blog at https://stormchaserumobile.wordpress.com
You can also track our location and watch realtime streaming video when a storm chase is in progress at Storm Chaser TV (http://stormchasertv.com/). Because of limited bandwidth, there is no audio accompanying the video.
As I write this, parts of the southern Great Plains are experiencing a tornado outbreak. Oklahoma experienced a record 22 tornadoes on May 10, 2010. My niece and her family live on the outskirts of Oklahoma City and saw one of the tornadoes form over their house. The force of the winds damaged a trampoline in their backyard and overturned an RV at a neighbor’s house. Damage to the east of them was much worse, and sadly included at least one fatality. Events like this remind me of the destructive force of tornadoes. No matter how exciting it is to see a tornado, I am aware of the potential cost in property damage and human suffering these storms inflict. Yet, I am drawn to the power and terrifying beauty of these storms. It is a humbling experience to see such power…to feel the fury of nature unleashed. It is a reminder that we humans are not in control, and that there is a higher power in charge of all things.
Please join me starting May 29th for two weeks of storm chasing and sightseeing as I travel through Tornado Alley in search of “big weather.” Don’t be surprised if we encounter elements of the Vortex 2 team (http://www.vortex2.org/home/) in their search to find out how tornadoes form, why some are strong and others weak, and how to better forecast tornadoes. We might also encounter the Discovery Channel film crew as they shoot video footage for next season’s Storm Chasers TV program. I can’t promise we will encounter a tornado, but I can say that everyday will bring something new and interesting. What that will be, I can’t say…let’s find out together!