Monday, June 27, 2011

2011 - Thats All She Wrote...For Now.

Well here it is, nearly the end of June. Traditionally this time marks the end of what is considered to be the chase season. Granted, I live in the midwest and the season never really ends. Surely there will be a random summer setup or two I can mess around with and then theres the fall, but the most part, the season is done.

So here are some stats and facts.

Season:

Chases: 24
Tornadoes: 17
Tornado days: 9* [A new record for a season]
Largest hail encountered: 3.00"
Closest to a tornado: 30 yards [June 20th]
Longest tornado video taped: May 24th Canton, OK - 9 minutes
Strongest tornado witnessed: May 24th - EF-5 tornado near Piedmont, OK

New milestones:

Longest consecutive days chasing: 7- May 18 - May 25
First EF-5 [Piedmont, OK]
First tornadoes in the following states: NE, IA, AL* [Also first time ever chasing AL]
First time taking a "customer" chasing
First stock video sale for a TV show [Nat Geo's I-witness: Tornado Swarm 2011]
First tornado on first chase [failed to document!!]
First back to back tornado days [June 19th and 20th]

Thoughts on the season overall:

2011 as I expected wasn't as great as 2010 as far as tornado numbers and photo-genic-ness goes, but without a doubt 2011 is my second best season. The season was a major black and white season for me. I had allot of bad luck I had to overcome, especially when it came to vehicle problems. My laptop also began melting down during the second half which meant more tech problems that needed fixing in the field than usual.

I experienced more death and devastation than I ever hope to again this year, including the deadly outbreaks on both April 27th and May 24th. These days were the first in which I've ever freshly arrived on the scene of EF-5 tornado aftermath, seeing bodies get pulled from churches, kicking down doors and searching for people, helping treat wounds with clean tissues and try to help distraught locals stay calm, contact loved ones, clear trees so vehicles can get through all were new experiences I experienced and hope to never have to repeat. I know better though, and its an unfortunate side of chasing that will present itself again someday.

I saw some incredible tornadoes, but as far as video goes, only 1 of those tornadoes gave me more than 5 minutes of tornado video. It seems that on days I got great tornadoes, I missed even greater tornadoes on a different storm. While I understand I can't see every tornado on every storm, its sometimes bothersome to know that I could have gotten 20-30 minutes of amazing video as opposed to 5. There were also no real big multi tornado days. Most days only had 1 or 2 tornadoes. In fact, only 1 day had more than 2 which was April 9th - and almost all of them were at night and I got no good video of them anyways, adding to the bittersweet theme of 2011.

I made more money selling video and streaming than I have in any season, in fact, if it weren't for gas prices being over 4 dollars a gallon I would have easily turned a profit, but to know in the end I will come out near breaking even is a pretty nice feeling. Each season it seems I do better and better with promoting myself and getting exposure. I know thats not what its about, but chasing is what I love, and its what I want to be known for...not my meaningless jobs I do when Im not chasing. Chasing is my life, and its all I want the world to know of me.

Lets break it down by month.

March: The season got off to a slow start, and I had my latest first chase of any season. Despite it being the latest, I did see one tornado I failed to document due to thinking it was pointy scud as opposed to a funnel but alas, well credited chasers nearby did infact video and confirm it was a tornado. The bad luck was off to a quick start for me and the month saw no more chases or tornadoes.

April: Bonkers, with more and frequent tornado outbreaks than ever experienced.. The month broke all sorts of records. April had 3 tornado days for me, the 9th, 19th and 27th. The tornadoes on the 9th left me feeling unaccomplished still and I went into early panic mode, but the Litchfield tornado on the 19th gave me a fresh breath of redemption, only I botched the video due to auto focus. Chasing the new Super Outbreak of April 27th is something I will never forget. Seeing the devastation of the Hackleburg EF-5 moments after it happened was very haunting. Also nearly getting stranded down there due to the fuel problem is an experience I wont soon forget.

May: Most of May was a complete waste. The first 20 days of the month were just like 2009 and we couldn't get a decent setup to save our lives. Despite that, I chased hard and often, and took on a new task when I was sought out by a gentleman from Oregon wanting to chase. He agreed to cover expenses in exchange for me taking him wherever he wanted whenever he wanted. It was quite a challenge trying to get him the best action on what turned out to be really marginal chase days, but each day I was able to forecast and put us in the best spot and overall it was a very enjoyable trip in which I saw lots of friends and made new ones. It really put my forecast skills to the test and definitely gave me a new respect for the chasers who are out there all season, not just when it is convenient or a SPC MDT-High risk setup. The real chasers are out there no matter what, and I respect them that much more for that. Chasing outbreaks is easy, chasing season-long is not.

The season roared back to life in the months final 10 days which saw some significant tornadoes rake the country. Vehicle problems began to affect my chasing at this point, and I was forced to a target I didn't want to play a couple times due to logistics, causing me to miss some significant tornadoes on the 21st and 22nd [including the Joplin tornado] but on the 24th I was able to catch an incredible tornado near Canton, Oklahoma. This again would have been my most amazing video from the year, but a damn raindrop on the lens totally ruined the shot. Bittersweet 2011. Later that day we caught a brief glimpse of a rain wrapped wedge that turned out to be my first EF-5. More bittersweet because the destruction we came across was devastating and we spent the rest of the day doing search and rescue. Overall May was a solid month that gave me just about all there is to experience in chasing.

June: My favorite month went to mostly a waste. Much like the first 2/3 of May, the first 2/3 of June could not see a decent chase setup to save anyones life. I had about given up hope on a chase during my favorite month and was ready to accept an early end to the season, when the 19th and 20th rolled around and presented a couple of setups worth chasing. These setups ended up giving me tornadoes on each day and made for a real nice close to the season. Again though, while what we got on the 20th was amazing, we missed the best show of the day. We had the best post chase after party I've ever been to with the discover crew, and it was the perfect way to end a season.

So, in a nutshell that was my season. I could type a million more details, but I've already taken up enough of your time. If you made it this far I applaud you.

I am not done chasing this year though, for when that random summer or fall setup presents itself, I will be there!!!

To see some of the tornadoes I caught, check out my websites home page www.chicagoillinoisstormchaser.com

4 comments:

Shane Adams said...

I enjoyed reading that season re-cap. I love your enthusiasm. It comforts me to know I'm not the only chaser who TRULY lives to chase, regardless of what it might cost him/her in "normal life".

Like you said, "anyone can chase an outbreak, chasing all-season is hard." I would add to that: "Anyone can chase when everything's paid for and every night's a free party in a free hotel......chasing when you're paying for everything, you miss most of the post-chase fun because you either can't afford it or you're unaware, and having to drive straight through to home....is a helluva lot more difficult...and requires a helluva lot more dedication and passion.

90% of Discovery's "stars" wouldn't be chasers if they had to pay their own way, and there wasn't a camera on them 24/7. Fuck posers. Yeah I said it.

Adam L said...

Yea Shane, I fell ya on the paying your way thing. I am able to chase *most* of what I want given my logistics situation, but I am far from being able to chase everything I want.

Hopefully, one day we will be able to find the means to be able to simply chase whenever and wherever we want, and not have to worry about making sacrifices and being forced to choose what days to gamble on and which ones to sit out.

Totally agree on the sacrifice and passion thing. Its hard to have one without the other. I've always had more respect for people who have had to endure struggle and hardship to pursue what they really want, but at the same time I look at these rich kids who can chase everything on their rich parents farm money and think to myself "Dammit, why cant that be me."

Darin said...

You're completely wrong, Shane. Just because I've had the opportunity to chase with Discovery for the past two seasons doesn't mean that I or anyone associated with the show have any less passion or dedication than you have for chasing. I've had an amazing opportunity to be out doing something that I love and I don't take that for granted at all. Many times when I've chased in the past I've come home with nothing in my bank account because I spent it all on gas etc. I am no different in either situation...all I want is storms/tornadoes and if someone is willing to pay me to do it...you're damn right I'm going to seize that opportunity. If you wanna slam me or others for doing that...that's your own problem man.

mnwxchaser said...

Good write up. It's been a lot of fun from the outside watching you progress (over the past 4 years). The sky (or in this case the meso) is the limit. You have what you live for now. Run with it!