Monday, May 25, 2015

Odd Season

Its been a pretty odd chase season. It started off incredibly slow, breaking records in fact. The gulf coast and dixie alley seemingly got skipped altogether (good, they needed a break, and chasing down there sucks anyways.)

Then an El Nino pattern developed, and May suddenly has gone bonkers, but basically in the same spot every day, unlike 2011 which was country-wide chaos. Most of this years tornadoes have been HP and difficult to see unless you were willing to give up your windshield (I paid for 2 replacements this year)

There have been a few photogenic treats mixed in, most noteable in KS on May 6th, a day that was way under-forecast. A day I unfortunately could not chase. Then you have the rainbow-nado in CO a few days later...thats a year maker for those who were there. We had Elmer on May 16th, which is my year maker...and since then, just about every day has seen more low contrast non-wall hanger HPnadoes in the same spot over and over again.

I had to return home for normal life. I envy those who have found a way to chase everything, have money, and not be bound by work. I need to achieve that in my life...some how...some way. 
I have decent flexibility, but clearly not enough yet. Im beginning to think its time to just flat out tell my company "I can't work for you in the spring anymore" and see what the response is.

Now it looks like the jet is about to make its leap to the north. What will June bring? I have no idea. I hope for at least 1 more Elmer-type day. I need at least 2 more Elmer days to consider a new DVD at the end of this year.

Perhaps I should have chased this weekend? Eh...I'm 50/50 on that. Nothing Ive seen has made me jealous...and assuming I was on those storms while I was out there, Im not sure I would have been personally satisfied. Oh sure, a nighttime wedge is awesome to see in person, but like the best structure in the world, Im not upset to miss it. Afterall, I dont get my amazing DVD shots from that. Maybe I need to lower my standards and learn to be happy with less? Or is this a defense mechanism I've created for myself because my life still wont allow me to chase everything? Whatever the reason, its saving me from the looney bin right now.

Overall though I can't complain. There haven't been many blue sky busts this year, unlike years past. Almost all the chases featured intense supercells with good structure and at least hail. 2012 and 2014 were still dismal at this point. 2013 had turned itself around in a big way at this point last year. Its not even fair to compare any recent season to 2010 or 2011...those 2 years rose the bar high when it comes to chase seasons. 
I've had a good year so far, the main struggle has been finding a way to be out there for all these marginal events that keep producing. Oh well, cheers to hopefully an awesome June for us all!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Chase Dates

Me being a stat junkie + a February that refuses to let up with frigid temps + being bored at 3am during the off season = what Im about to post. 

I've wanted to do this for awhile now, I've decided to see what dates I have chased the most to see if any trends or patterns would emerge. There is obviously no scientific value in this at all, but sometimes its fun to see how things come together. I went back and plotted all my chase days during traditional chase season. Chase dates during other months are so obscure and random there really was no point in doing the entire year. 

Here is how things stacked up between 2004 and 2014. 10 years of documented storm chases. 

So there really isn't a whole lot to conclude here but a couple things did emerge.

April takes the lead with most chase dates, which surprised me. Only 2 days in that month have not featured a storm chase in 10 years, compared with a surprising 5 in May. Shear tends to be stronger in April, which prompts more "potential tornado days." There is also a lower "death ridge" potential since the summer airmass hasn't quite taken hold yet, something that can sometimes completely shut down May. It appears that in any given year, April is at least likely to give me the most chase opportunities.

May does lead the amount of repeat chase dates though. Instability tends to be higher, shear decreases and weather patterns move slower, leading to more multi day chase setups. The longest stretch being May 19-24th which also includes 3 of the months 4 3-peats. The statistical peak of tornado season is May 22nd, and it looks like my personal chase stats reflect this well. I can probably conclude that this period is in fact, when I am most likely to chase.

There has not yet been a date where I've had 4 chases on. Will 2015 break that? It seems probable.

June 5th is the only date with a star on it. Meaning that it is the only date with multiple chases that featured a tornado on each of them (2009 and 2010.) I can therefore conclude June 5th is my best chase date.

You can also see how quickly things shut down in Junes final week. So when that June 20th setup presents itself, it might just be worth biting on, despite any negative parameters. That could be it for the traditional chase year!

I also realize there aren't 31 days in June. I used the same blank calendar for each month and forgot to delete it. Seeing as how this is not a scientific study and it really has no value to anyone but myself, it is prone to laziness and personal error.

Bring on chase season 2015 already...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

2015 Game Plan

Ah the winter doldrums. Preperations for chase season 2015 are well underway. Its been a fairly productive winter for me in that regards. I've tackled quite a few items on my to do list. That list seems to have this magical power of being able to regenerate itself when I knock an item off though. Like how starfish can regrow a severed arm, I cross an item off and *poof* another one pops up in its place. The end of the list only exists in theory...anyways...

I often get asked what will I be doing different this year and if I've made any big upgrades etc etc etc.

The answer to that is this year will be pretty straight forward. The biggest upgrade is the creation of a new website with one of my regular chase partners. This site has some good potential, and we've got big plans for it. Its only 2 weeks old and the response has been good so far. Aerostorms will always be my "personal" brand that I identify with, but ISC will be more of a collaborative effort with greater public outreach potential.

Chasing wise, I will be adding a dash cam this year. Over the years there have been random surprise moments I wish I had captured on film. Things such as very close CG strikes, near misses with animals, drunk drivers careening off the road and smashing into a telephone pole ahead of us, and even quick spinup tornadoes that come and go so fast by the time I hit record I've already missed it.

Over the years Ive continued to develop my chase strategy, and am finding a personal preference as to where I want to be in relation to the storms and tornadoes. I am going to focus a lot on that this year, and plan to be in a similar position on all the storms if possible. This will hopefully lead to an increase in quality footage. Too many times in past years Ive sat idle too long and let storms slip away because people I am chasing with want lightning photos or shots of distant anvils. No more. There are dozens of chances to get those shots in a year...only a handful of chances for tornadoes...and while I'm at more sitting behind the tornadoes while they slip away, making for a more difficult pursuit of the next cycle (Pilger day.)

Hoping the chase-mobile survives the season. Overall it runs good, but the 9 year old vehicle with 227,000+ miles is starting to show its age and abuse. Its beginning to get a little moody and quirky. I've begun putting money away for the inevitable replacement...but I need to get at least 1 more year out of it before the purchase wont become a complete financial burden.

Hoping 2015 is a better year than 2014 obviously. Every chase knows I don't even need to explain why. Not just for tornadoes, but even structure. I've barely used my DSLR and want to get some great images.

I've cleaned up my social media presence, got my Youtube channel all updated and spiffed out. Same with twitter. I have a far greater understanding on how this stuff works than I did in previous years. I now know what kind of content people want, so Im hoping I get a chance to deliver it this year and increase my numbers/revenue. In the end that part is up to the weather. Years like 2012 and 2014 do little to help me out there.

One big new thing Im going to attempt this year is a chase-cation. Ive always been a marathoner and will continue to be one, but I've missed being out there for the long hauls, playing some really marginal days that can still pay off big, and spending time with all the awesome people out in the plains. I havent nailed down the dates yet, but Im thinking something like a May 20-June 10th unless an awesome pattern presents itself before that.

Thats about the extent of my plans. Nothing extreme, just going to continue advancing in my self driven chase career, hoping to achieve that next milestone while figuring out ways to make chasing more sustainable for me. Never give up the passion, its worth fighting for!

See you all out there!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

2014 Season Stats

Well, traditional chase season 2014 has come to its yearly end. Obviously I know setups can present themselves year round, which is why I used the term "traditional" when describing the period that covers March through June, when 90% of chasing is typically done.

Few will argue 2014 was a rough season, slower than average, especially in traditional tornado alley. You really had to work for your prizes this year. For me it was overall a sub-par year. Take away the Pilger day and this season would be hanging out with 2012 in the years I'd rather forget than remember category. Pilger day itself can best be described as a diamond in the rough. Such an incredible, career day thrown into a mix of steaming dinosaur turds.

The other big events of the year I simply wasn't there for. It was a year of picking the wrong setups to chase. Since Im not one of these rich kids with no real world obligations or responsibilities I still have to pick and choose my days. The biggest flop was not staying out for the 2 days after Pilger, because that incredible 3 days stretch would have given me enough content for a new DVD, and bumped this year into 2013 like final-hour amazingness. Setups couldn't get easier than those 3 days right there with basically 1 storm to get on and enjoy the show. It was bad logistical planning that cost me those next 2 days. Until I someday hopefully reach the ultimate pipe dream where I am able to chase everything, that is always going to be a tough issue to solve. Big setups fail to produce, and small setups do big things. That is probably the only real challenge left in storm chasing...picking the right days when you simply cant just chase them all.

So here's what I've got for this season.

Chases: 15
Tornadoes: 17
Tornado Days: 4
States Chased: OK, KS, NE, IA, IL, MO, MS
New Milestones: Most number of violent tornadoes in a single chase (4 on 6-16)
Largest Hail: 2.25"
Approx Miles: 13,500
Windows lost: 0
Pulled over and ticketed: 1
Stuck in the mud: 0

The tornado count of 17 looks impressive, but take away the 7 on Pilger day, and those other 10 probably only netted me 2 minutes of video and aren't even DVD chapter worthy. Instead theyll get lumped into a montage chapter whenever the next DVD comes around. Another strange thing about that tornado count. Every single one of them was in NEBRASKA. That will undoubtedly make Nebraska the state I have now seen the most tornadoes in, moving Kansas into the #2 spot.

The number of chases is pretty average compared to my other years as a chaser who is stuck having to have a day job. The 2010-2011 seasons logged 30+ chases simply because I was free to chase it all. I definitely miss that.

Thanks again to Pilger for saving the season from the 2012 category, but it wasnt enough to move the whole year into the 2013, 2011, 2010 category. Instead, 2014 will simply find itself in that middle ground with years like 2008 and 2009. It wasnt awful, but it wasnt great.

Its not over yet though, and big things can still happen. We're just at the point where nothing is a gaurantee. You're always going to have chaseable setups in the spring. Summer and fall is never a sure thing, and Ive seen years where the summer and fall do nothing, and years where they go big. Now its time to work work work and build up the finances and make sure Im ready in case this year decides to throw something else my way.

I decided awhile ago (before Pilger) that the best way to beat a lowsy year is to set myself up for next year in case its big. Work more, make more money, and be ready for it all. If this year was a big year, I wouldn't have been in a position to financially chase it all anyways, so I need to make sure next year that wont be an issue. This has been the case since 2012 with slower than average years, and I need to take advantage of that for when the next 2010 or 2011 comes around.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Why I Will Still Call Myself A Storm Chaser.

Storm chasing, like everything else in the world we live in, continues to evolve. New trends emerge, old ones die. Lately a new trend I've noticed is people suddenly "un-labeling" themselves as a storm chaser. So, that begs the question...were you ever one to begin with? Or did you simply just partake in the activity of chasing storms to go along with some alterior motive you care about more. I've always said chasing a storm doesnt make you a storm chaser and I stand by it. I play baseball sometimes with family/friends. I sure as hell aint a baseball player.

The reasons for this are the suposed dispicable acts of the growing number of fellow chasers. The funny thing about that is most of this stuff can be avoided. The last few chases I have seen more posts on my feed about convergences than the storms. I can't think of an issue easier to avoid than that. Stop putting fuel economy first and actually chase in a vehicle that can take you away from the crowds if it bothers you so much. Until then, STFU. Stop chasing in May in the same targets as everyone else if it bothers you that much, until then, STFU.

I dont care what others do, and neither should you. Its a free country. It only matters to me if you get in my personal way. In which case I will flatten you. Storm Chasing is what I love, my life revolves around it and nothing anyone can do can take that away from me for as long as I am alive and able to chase, when I am not able to, life can pull the plug. I will forever self label myself as a Storm Chaser...and Im damn proud of it. Its what Ive always wanted since I was a child, and (for the most part) I got it.

I always find it funny how the ones who bitch the most about chasing and what others are doing, are the ones chasing the least. As I've said many times before, STFU....and chase.

God 2014 has been a craptastic season, this is not what I should be blogging about...oh well.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Relating to the Mike Rowe Letter.

While farting around online today I stumbled upon this:

I don't know how much of this is legit, and how much is made up...whether the person writing the letter actually wrote that letter or even if its actually Mike Row who took the time to write that lenghy response. Its a good read regardless, but the last paragraph is advice GOLD as far as Im concerned:

"Stop looking for the “right” career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today. But don’t waste another year looking for a career that doesn’t exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs.

Many people today resent the suggestion that they’re in charge of the way the feel. But trust me, Parker. Those people are mistaken. That was a big lesson from Dirty Jobs, and I learned it several hundred times before it stuck. What you do, who you’re with, and how you feel about the world around you, is completely up to you."

If I had enough room on my arm I would have this tattooed so people could read it everywhere I went. I am a perfect example of this.

Chasing storms is my dream, my passion, the reason I live my life. People are shocked to learn that I have a "real job" that involves outdoor wood restoration. Primarily decks, fences, gazebos, and whatever else thats outside and made of wood. How can this be? Its quite simple really. I need money to chase, and its damn near impossible to make enough money to live off storm chasing alone. So I have to work...but if I work to make money, I cant chase.

Now theres a what is one to do? The answer, as stated above, is to find a job that fits. My job, as I see it, is a pretty damn good fit. First off, you cant work outdoors on wood when it rains. Normally when its raining/storming and I am out chasing, its raining/storming at home. So most of those days I "take off" to chase I dont end up working anyways.

Second I was straight up honest about it when I got hired. I said look, during the spring time I can be somewhat flaky with last minute notices I wont be around to go out chasing. On the flip side, they have hardcore dedication from me otherwise. I work 14 hours days sometimes 6-7 days a week during the off season. That includes weekends and holidays. I give my time back, its the least I can do. Ive built a good relationship and they know they can count on me.

My job isnt my passion, who the hell is passionate about restoring wood anyways? The chemicals are hazardous and probably shortening my life each year I work with them, and working out in the summer heat is purse misery....but those are all the sacrifices I make to be able to reap the benefits of flexibility.

The pay isnt the greatest, but its sufficient, and overall I am happy at my work. I like my job. It fits my life and what I do, and at the end of the day I am glad I have it. Obviously the dream we all have is to not need to work, but unless you fall into the rare 1% of people who can skirt by without working, you have to seek elsewhere.

Its easy to choose the high paying career, the path thats expected of you and do all those things others and society envision for you...but at the end of the day if you aren't happy and there is this passion inside you that yearns for more attention then you need to ask yourself this question. "Are you living the life you want, or the life you THINK you want." There is no point in living just to exist. I still get my bills paid, I may not own a big house or drive a fancy car or own a boat...but thats not the shit I want in life. If it was, I'd go get it.

Ive always been one to advocate doing what really makes you happy in life and let me tell you....its much, much harder than simply doing the normal routine of going to school to get a degree in hopes it will land you a high paying career. If you think that shit is tough, try pursuing a dream thats not part of the normal life curriculum.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Stats of a Slow Season

2014 may in fact be my slowest start to a storm chasing season ever. With each run of the GFS it looks increasingly likely March won't offer up a storm chase. Not the first time, other years I haven't chased in March were 2008 and 2013.

In each of those years, my first April chases were April 6th and April 10th respectively. So, theoretically 2014 needs to go to April 10th in order to rank it as the slowest personal start to a season ever....BUT...something interesting about 2013 and 2008 is that both of those years featured an Illinois chase in JANUARY, and 2008 had the notorious Super Tuesday outbreak in February that I chased. While not part of traditional chase season, the setups all included tornadic thunderstorms and do count as official chases for me.

So, going off that, plus the fact in all the other years I've had a March chase by now, its safe to say that 2014 is off to the slowest personal start of any chase season.

Not chasing February 20th was a huge blunder on my part. I almost did, I checked the RAP the night before and it showed the potential, but it was an outlier and I thought it was overdoing things like its been known to do. With no other model support, being climalogically unfavored, and me not having any of my gear ready I simply decided to ignore it. What I should have done was wake up early to monitor things in the morning but by the time I slothed out of bed at 1pm it was too late. That day stings.

So here we have it...the slowest start ever for me. I am bored, coming down with serious cabin fever. I need to be out there soon. Cmon 2014, get your shit together!!!!!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Finding My Place

Chasing has rapidly changed over the years. On the evolutionary scale you have the first breed of chasers, the old schoolers. They have the best instincts, can chase blind without the need of technology and run circles around everyone if they chose to do so, but they dont (lucky for the newcomers.)

Then you have the new breed, they spend more time keeping up to date with technology than they do actually learning about the science of meteorology. They come from rich families, own fancy cameras, expensive laptops, but couldnt chase their own tail into a wall if you pointed it out to them. They wouldnt survive 10 years ago, plain and simple.

The dividing line between the two groups might as well be the Grand Canyon. I can tell just by what I observe online. Veteran chaser status are only commented on/followed by other veterans, and likewise for the newcomers. The mixed involvement seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

And always, I find myself in the middle. Inside the grand canyon. Climbing up either way and falling back down. I came in at the tail end of the old generation, just as the transition towards the new generation was beginning to take shape. I hate technology and wish it would go away. I chased blind my first several years, but have since adapted to the ways of new in order to stay relevant. I loathe it, but I simply do it because its a necessary tool for success.

I can relate to both sides. I love the ways of old, and appreciate the ways of new. My whole live I never really had a best friend, or a main group of friends. Rather I spread myself across the vast network of various social groups and people (I think I just called myself a whore in a creative way,) creating a vast network of bar buddies, chase pals, hood rats, etc etc. The kind that are soon to forget me, the same as I am them. I move on quickly. Its never bitter and the friendships never end...its just those I move away from seem to gravitate to those who are more like them. I never understood the whole "clique" thing. I've always found those groups to be shallow and empty, despite the illusion of their close-knits bonds that have been threaded by mere similar opinions.

I've always been an introvert in that regards I guess. I get along with everyone, but I don't really identify with anyone. I am not hardcore conservative christian like those before me, but I am not a vegan humanist like those who follow me. I tred the middle line, dabbing in both sides...just like chasing.

Im happy being a general loner though. It seems to keep peoples expectations of me low. I just do my thing, meet people along the way. They stay as long as they want, get what they want, and move on. Or maybe its me who does that...I dunno.

Is there a storm coming yet?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Crunch Month

Its February. 2 great things happen this month. 1 - Football ends. 2 - March is within 30 days the entire time.

Since I apparently love a challenge, this is going to be a chaotic month as I get everything ready for chase season. I've had a long list of projects for months and as always it will come down to the wire. It wasn't all my fault this time though. The biggest setback I suffered was a hard drive failure that delayed the production and release of my 2nd DVD by nearly 2 months while I dealt with the lengthy and costly process of data recovery. Luckily that had a happy ending, and Im pleased to see that sales of the DVD are getting close to offsetting that cost. The support has been great, and again I thank you all for that.

Those sales funds are what is needed for my biggest upgrade this year and that is a new laptop capable of doing very fast, in the field video editing for upload to media. I don't chase just to make money, but lets be real. If I can make a good buck, and therby giving myself the ability to chase more, I am going to do it. My old laptop, while reliable could not handle editing the HD video, and it would always take me 8+ hours to get video online. Anyone whos dealt with ENG video knows, that is 7hrs and 59 minutes too long.

That and the laptop will better run the live stream and software programs, hopefully without random crashes like the old one.

I've also ordered a wind filter for my camera. I hate wind noise. It is just as annoying as squeeky windshield wipers. A hard problem to avoid since tornadoes are obviously surrounded by wind, so hopefully this filter will help reduce that issue.

I began to finally study for my HAM test, but that is being currently interupted by some side work I picked up. I'm basically building an entire basement. We've been at it 1 week and will be at least 1 week more. My day job is seasonal so I don't work in the winter, and thus funds are always tight since throughout the year I typically just save up enough to pay my bills and eat. So the extra money this side gig is bringing in couldnt come at a better time, especially if March decides it wants to start out active...which right now it doesn't look like its going to.

So, back on point, once I am finished with this side work, studying for the HAM test will resume, as well as getting at least the laptop setup. I am also probably going to upgrade my data plan to a 4G one. I havent figured that out yet, but that is another change coming. My current provider now only offers mifi devices, something I wasnt thrilled to learn, as Ive used one in the past and hated it, but Im told theyve improved quite a bit since then so I may give it another go.

I also need to wire up my 1000 watt power inverter to the battery, and install some toggle switches to flip it on and off along with a new set of fog lights since my last ones got smashed by hail. THEN, if I pass the HAM test. I will need to buy and install the radio equipment. The list is forever growing.

IF I can wrap all this up, with time and money leftover, I plan to finally tap into the SLR world. If not before the season, then probably during the season once I am back to working my normal job and the bankroll is fruitful once again.

I have no idea what this season will bring. This winter has probably been one of the harshest of my life. Doing a bit of history digging I've found that springs and summers that follow winters like this have swung both ways, either extremely boring or extremely stormy, there didn't seem to be much of a middle ground. All I can say is now...we'll just have to wait and see.

I plan to stick to my new agressive chase plan. 2013 was a season of rebirth for me. 2014 will hopefully be the year I add some steam to that momentum. Up close and personal is the name of the game this year. Like it or not, its the way its going to be done! The way 2013 ended is the way 2014 will hopefully begin.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tornado Dates Updated

Updating a previous post with the 2013 data added in. I find this quote from the original post amusing:

"Perhaps that will be a fun little goal I can try to hit in 2013, double up on a calender day."

So, did I accomplish that goal? Here is the updated list.

2nd (2012) 
22nd (2011) 

9th (2011) 
13th (2012) 
14th (2012) 
17th (2013)
19th (2011) 
22nd (2010) 
27th (2011) 
29th (2010) 

5th (2007) 
10th (2010) 
12th (2011) 
13th (2009)
18th (2013
19th (2013)
20th (2013)
21st (2011)
22nd (2010)
23rd (2008)
24th (2011)
25th (2008)
27th (2013)
28th (2013)
31st (2013)

5th (2009, 2010)
6th (2007)
7th (2008)
10th (2010)
14th (2009)
15th (2009)
17th (2010)
19th (2011)
20th (2011)

26th (2011)

4th (2013)
12th (2012)
18th (2007)

7th (2011)
17th (2013)

Ironically, I did not double up on any dates in 2013. Even during the active perdiod in May, all the tornado days fell on dates I have not previously witnessed a tornado on. June 5th still remains the only day I have seen tornadoes on in more than one year.

Side note - further illustrating how much 2012 sucked, it is the first year since I started visiting the plains in 2007 that I did not see a tornado in May or June. Sad...