Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thats All She Wrote v2012

With only a few days left to go, I eagerly await to put the nails in 2012s coffin. Anyone who has ever chased something other than their own tail knows why. It is highly unlikely another chase will present itself, so its now safe to compile the stats. So lets take a look at the quick and dirty numbers.

Total chases: 15
Total tornadoes: 10
Tornado days: 4

New milestones accomplished:

- First Kentucky tornadoes (2) on March 2nd which were also the:
- Earliest tornadoes seen in a season

...and thats where the accomplishments stop, the first chase of the season. 2012 was an awful year, not only for me, but for most chasers. Numbers don't lie either, and last I checked, this may end up being the year with the second lowest tornado count on record so in part I don't feel so bad. Another reason I don't feel so bad is the fact I started a new job in the beginning of April and it would have been hard for me to squeeze out of work to chase. I wanted to build up a good reputation with the company, and missing a bunch of good tornado days would have made that extremely agonizing. So in a way, the selfish part of me is very thankful for that.

Still though, what made the year so frustrating was the days I did chase either A) busted or B) bad decision making or bad luck cost us the day. There were really only 2 big tornado producing days I chased. March 2nd and April 14th. Both days I saw tornadoes, but both days I also blew scoring the best catches of the days.

On March 2nd I didn't communicate with everyone what time I wanted to leave, and we got a half hour late start. My lead foot made up for lost time, but a traffic accident around Indianapolis forced us onto a critical time costing detour. My plan that day would have worked perfect, but we were an unfortunate 15 minutes too late. We did the best we could after though and got the Kentucky tornadoes, and ended up not crawling home busted...except in terms of worthy video.

April 14th saved the season for many. Take away this day and you would have a larger number of chasers currently taking Xanax over the winter. I saw 5 tornadoes...but 3 were pathetic weak bird farts. The last 2 were very nice tornadoes, but at dusk/after dark. No good video from them either. On this day I teamed up with Ben and we had a conflict of interest in terms of a target. He liked Oklahoma (of course) and I liked Salina,KS. Both our targets saw nice tornadoes, yet for some reason we ended up in the middle with mediocrity. Going back on that day I'm still not sure how that exactly happened...and would rather not think about it. After much analysis I think I finally figured out why our storms didn't produce, and will use this new knowledge to hopefully not make that mistake in the future.

I guess another milestone I could technically add is my first chase to North Dakota, but with that being just one of many busted days. I hardly look back on it and think pleasant thoughts which brings me to the next point.

The bust count was highest I have had in any year (9 out of 15!!) with days holding big potential such as April 27th and May 5th going to waste. Illinois even got into the blue sky bust action on September 5th, and until then I have never experienced a blue sky bust on home turf. That one stung...

Certainly over the years I have been somewhat spoiled by the amazing things I've seen, and this might play a role into the way I perceive things. Take my 2012 results and stick them in say, 2006 and I would probably still be floating in the air from excitement. I think part of that is because I KNOW that despite 2012 being an overall downer of a year, there were still amazing things that happened. I just can't chase everything...yet. My lifes goal and dream is to be able to do this. It is taking longer than I had hoped though, and that is perhaps adding to the frustration, I knew it would be difficult, but it appears I was over confident from the get-go.

Lack of funds were also a big factor. I may have bit on more marginal days that ended up producing if I had the funds. I always hated putting all my stock into higher risk and weekend days but those were the cards I was forced to play this year. I worked my ass off all week, and hauled more ass out to the plains on any weekend there was a setup, no matter how meager. I just had to try.

2013 is looking better in the financial department already with the coming of a HUGE raise once work resumes in April. I am definitely excited about those possibilities. Even if I still can't get time off to chase everything, the fact I wont be stressing over affording it will be nice, and if I end up not chasing much I can upgrade equipment and pay off debts to put myself in ever better shape for the future.

I go back and forth with the idea of moving. I hate Illinois and especially Chicago (for political reasons I wont get into on this blog) but this is my home, and I've grown to love the fickle and challenging climatology. I don't subscribe to the growing trend of moving to Norman so I can become the next super chaser, but on the other side there is an obvious advantage to living in the alley, so I can't completely write it off. We'll just wait and see how the cards continue to fall I guess.

We're heading into the dead of winter (or should I say anti-winter) here in Chicago, and there are many projects ongoing. Ill be blogging more frequently from now on as well as I have much to say.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

DVD Review: A Journey Through the Plains.

A Journey Through the Plains is the second DVD release from which covers the 2012 chase season. I have not seen the first DVD so I can't compare the two for the sake of evolution.

The DVD's first chapters cover some less significant local events in Ohio. Nothing terribly dramatic but it shows a couple good spring time thunderstorms with a few wind gusts and some hail. A little too much "driving in the rain" footage makes me wonder where the good parts of the storm are, but they do happen. Educational pieces cut in to explain what is actually going on and what they are getting excited about. This is found throughout the DVD and is great for education purposes. A very nice "bonus" that is not advertised.

Things begin to pick up pace once the groups actual journey to the plains begins. The first of these 3 chapters covers a severe hail event in Texas where the group encounters severe hail accumulating on the ground like snow, they then stop to help a motorist who slid into a ditch and observe some structure on the backside. Some scenes are a little drawn out, but overall highlight the event in a nice way.

The next chapter is probably the highlight of the DVD as the group has a very close encounter with a large tornado near Cooperton, Oklahoma. Many different shots of the event are provided, though the dark nature of the encounter makes it hard to see allot of the details. An out-house type structure is blown away and destroyed nearby, showing just how close of an encounter it was. The film quality takes away from the experience a bit, and I for one am not a fan of lots of screaming and yelling. If you are a fan of dramatic chapters with the close encounter, this is the one for you.

Moving on to the next chapter, which covers April 14th. This was the single day that made the season for many chasers as multiple tornadoes struck Oklahoma and Kansas during the years biggest outbreak. The group managed to get on some of the early storms that dropped a number of rope and trunk tornadoes. My favorite shot shows a vorticy in a field moving directly over a house, but doing no damage. If you are a fan of clear, classic looking tornado footage this is the chapter that best accomplishes that. While none of the footage is in your face jaw dropping, they are still good shots of classic plains tornadoes, and overall represent the goal of every storm chaser when they set out to chase. Music and narration overlays a good deal of footage which is both good and bad in its own ways. I prefer a natural sound, but I know from my own filming that sometimes wind noise and obnoxious dialogue is too unbearable at times, and music is a good way to solve that issue. This is probably my favorite chapter despite my own bitter feelings towards this day.

The final chapter covers a historic derecho that affected the Ohio valley on June 29th. I always enjoy footage of local damaging events as they put into perspective of the damage that a non tornadic thunderstorm can do.  Highlighted moments include multiple trees crashing down as the worst wind hits and then the damage afterwards.

Overall Thoughts:

The editing was a strong point in this DVD which showed good pre planning and thought as opposed to just chopping footage together and slapping it on a DVD. I was definitely impressed with it. The educational graphics and radar images are a great bonus that will help the viewer better understand what is going on. Some of the chapters run a bit longer than they need to be, especially early on during events that weren't too significant or dramatic. In a year like 2012 though it is hard to fill disc space, so its allowed. Having tornadoes in the DVD is always a plus, though none of that footage is knock-your-socks-off dramatic (not always a bad thing, but a weak point when considering the fact that much of today's audiences seem harder to please.)

I would certainly recommend this as a trade, as well as a good buy especially since the 2012 DVD market will have slim pickings due to many chasers simply not getting much. If you enjoy new DVDs, having a large collection, seeing everything that happened in every year then definitely scoop this up. If you are the type who only prefers dramatic, clear, stabilized tornado shots from beginning to end, this is probably not the DVD for you.

Check it out and order it here: