Friday, April 29, 2011

April 27 2011 Alabama Tornado Outbreak - More Thoughts.

So much to talk about. I wanted to keep this separate from my usual chase log which can be seen here.

First off the tornado itself. It was by far the creepiest, scariest and loudest tornado I have witnessed. Sure, the visual appearance to people who only live through the event from behind their screens may not understand why but allow me to shed some light.

As we found the view we did we watched the storm approach for quite some time before the tornado emerged. When you chase tornadoes, seeing them is often somewhat fast paced. You get in position, you watch the sky and BAM a tornado forms but this was different. This tornado was already ongoing long before I got a view of it. It slowly emerged from the rain until it finally and obviously made its presence known. I was further away than I prefer to be, but I could hear the echoing of it tearing through the forest over the hill tops. It was by far the loudest tornado I have ever heard.

Its hard to put to words but when you chase you have a feeling of adrenaline that keeps things exciting and pumped. That was not the case here...the tornado was moving incredibly fast, yet the whole experience seemed like in slow motion. The tornado just came into view, did its thing and moved on, as if ignoring my presence.

It was like seeing a ghost step through a hallway in a cheesy horror film.

Just like that it was over as debris began to rain down on us. We would catch another view of it as we tried to pursue it, but the whole time I just felt incredibly "put in my place" by this tornado. It would not wait for me, and nothing would stop it from charging on its way. It came, I saw it, it conquered. I was not cut off by the damage as if the tornado was saying "Ha, nice try!"

As we stopped to survey the damage some distraught and injured locals approached us. Their house had been hit down the road but they were all accounted for and their injuries weren't life threatening. We provided them with some bandaids and clean tissue to dress the wounds as well as water. Volunteer fire was now arriving and took control of the scene and we moved on.

All throughout the day this situation played out. Damage blocking road and locals approaching us. Many trying to simply figure out a way they can get by to check on loved ones and in some cases just to see if their house or business down the road survived or not. We tried to help clear trees when we could, but there was simply too much.

As the day went on a new problem would arise. Power outages and the need for gas. As a rule I don't like to chase with less than half a tank of gas because in my mind I always somehow pictured this possibly happening. I stopped at station after station after station after station. Same story. No power. Each station had people already stranded there and out of gas. One station had generators going, but it was to keep ice cream from melting. Really?!

We pressed on and 200 miles later my tank was on E. I stopped in Decatur, AL out of options. No fuel, no power. I was prepared to spend as much time as needed there. Luckily fellow chasers came to my aid. I owe Ben Holcomb and Bill Oosterban all my gratitude for helping me get out of the predicament. Bill came with 5 gallons and I was able to drive north and get more fuel. I rationed it with a few other people at the stop, who then followed us to the station with power. Bill was leading the way.

The town was pandemonium, but at least in a non chaotic way. Fuel lines were 20 cars deep, as well as all the lines at fast food places. So many people displaced. So many people with no food, gas or anywhere to sleep. All the motels were swamped. I was amazed and never experienced such a disastrous event in this way before. I tried to help as many people as I can in small ways, but felt bad I could not do more.

Ive been called a fool for chasing down there, and some tell me Im stupid and wasting money. I fail to see the logic, sure I didn't see the big dramatic Mississippi and Tuscaloosa tornadoes because I was not on that storm but I successfully documented and tracked a major tornado in a difficult area, and in my first attempt at chasing down there too. Quite an accomplishment in my books.

This event brought it all into perspective for me. Storm chasing is what I love to do. I documented the severe weather, including a tornado that not many else saw. I was able to help out many people in small ways. Far from a waste. If I could, I would be there each and everytime this happens, but unfortunately am limited in my own means to do so. Unfortunately it will happen again someday and I hope I can be there.

That is all for now, more may come later.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Litchfield, Illinois Tornado

What a chase!

I will keep it short and sweet here, the detailed log can be seen at:

It was finally what I had been looking for as far as a tornado went this season. I know it is early but everything that has been dealt either seemed to be in bad terrain or after dark. Some amazing tornado was coming out from across the country and I was ripping my hair out because I was missing it due to a variety of factors but alas, today worked out well, and I got the shot that can make my year. It feels good, and only in April too!

In 2010 I didn't even bag my first tornadoes till April 22nd, so this year is ahead of pace!

Anyways, pic and youtube video link below!

I am a bit miffed by my crappy camerawork, which was due to a number of factors. It doesn't take away from the experience too much though, and will only motivate me to make sure I do better next time!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Does the "To Do" list never end?

Before I get started, I did have a good chase in Iowa yesterday. The cap broke early and storms were pretty despite not being tornado producers.

If you wish to see more on the day you can visit the chase log seen here:

Ever since I began chasing I have always done so with limited resources, at least compared to what others have out there. My laptop is old, my cameras is a POS. As a man who never had much money [and unfortunately isn't funded by rich parents] Ive had to slowly and painfully try and upgrade my arsenal a little bit at a time. It took my entire tax return to get an HD camera last year. This year that tax return simply went to the gas fund.

Sometimes I feel like it limits my ability to compete with all these rich kids out there just starting out with the latest and greatest technology simply because they can afford it, but at the same time I am glad I know I can survive and have success without out. Still though, it seems like my to do list to have a full chase setup is always growing, never ending, and before I can make the next upgrade, something breaks which requires an immediate fix and only further hinders my attempts to move ahead.

I need:

A new laptop [mine is 6yrs old and can barely handle running everything needed for chasing.]
A new machine at home [this one barely handles the HD video]
A DSLR camera [my 200 dollar point and shoot is a joke]
An actual wired setup [my cigarette plug inverter just crapped out on me in the last chase]
A cell amp
An external hard drive
A smart phone
*insert stuff I know I am forgetting here*

Things not related to chasing that I need to get before I can worry about the above:

A new rear window [long story]
A new set of tires
A shutter in my torque converter fixed.

On top of ridiculous gas prices. I am certainly stressing over the finances related to this season. Last year everything was great and somehow just completely fell apart over winter. Its been difficult trying to put the pieces back together. Sometimes I feel burnt out and feel like throwing in the towel. Something I love shouldn't come with this much stress should it?

And then I get out there like I did yesterday...and all the struggle is worth it. Even when there aren't tornadoes. Just beautiful storms to witness and experience. It really ramps up the motivation from within. This weekend is looking like it will have more chases, and I will be there!