Thursday, July 28, 2011

Storm Chasing Part 1

Hi, It's Rebecca again, I've been undecided on which topic to write about. I've been playing with the Idea of doing things like: The types of lightning, the different types of clouds, how to forecast the weather, and so on. Those are all great subjects and I will be writing about them in the future.  Something I saw on a video clip yesterday made my mind up. The clip was of two guys taking a video of the tornado that formed in Oneida County Tuesday afternoon. They were heading back to work after lunch; they saw the funnel cloud and since they had a video camera they decided to chase it. They hoped it would give them bragging rights with their friends.  The tornado was only rated an EF0  and most likely because of luck they didn't really get that close; so they were never in any real danger. However, this fact is not the point. As was the case in the Super Dixie Outbreak in April people who have no business chasing storms have close calls all the time; sometimes people who know what they're doing (myself included) make mistakes and get too close. Just because you have a camera doesn't mean you're a storm chaser. It is a very dangerous hobby that can bite if you're not careful. Anyway the topic of my next few blog post will be on storm chasing. During the course of this series, I hope to convey, how to storm spot, how to chase safely, and the equipment needed to chase, and so on.

Before I get started I want to a say, anyone who is even remotely thinking of doing any kind of chasing should take a sky-warn class and read things like my blog entry on  storm structure. Understanding storm structure is the single most Important thing you need to learn, your life could depend on it

Here is a link for a on-line spotter guide.

Why do I chase storms?  I enjoy watching the lightning and hearing the booming thunder in my ears. I could spend hours watching the swirling dark clouds  and feeling the blast of wind on my face. When the weather is bad, you will often find me outside taking pictures or just enjoying the moment.  I have always been fascinated by severe weather,  I saw my first tornado when I was six or seven. I can't remember much about it....But I do remember how excited it made me feel. I still get  this feeling whenever I see a tornado. The feeling is hard to describe, It's wonder, reverence, excitement, apprehension and fear all rolled into one. Even though a tornado is destructive it is also very beautiful to watch. Video doesn't come close to the experience of watching a tornado. The rotating winds, the rush of inflow toward it, The blast of the cold outflow, even the sound are all part of the show.  Every storm is a very unique example of nature's awesome power, no two are ever the same.

As strange as it may sound seeing tornadoes is not the reason most of us chase. Like most, I relish the adventure and challenge of trying to decipher what will transpire; if I'm on my game and very fortunate I will bag one of nature's most elusive creations; if not, I don't really mind, I love to travel to different towns,  meet all the fascinating people, try  restaurants with funny sounding names, and explore different areas of the country. The friendships you form with other chasers are lifelong and strong. When you're chasing you see all kinds of scenery, wildlife, cloud formations, and beautiful sunsets. For me storm chasing is more like a wonderful vacation than it is anything else.

Twister the movie and reality.

 I'm sure most of you have seen "Twister". The movie involves a team of storm chasers darting around Oklahoma during a outbreak. They do lots of stupid things and seemingly finding tornadoes every five minutes.  It's a very entertaining film which I like a lot. However, it really doesn't resemble reality. The movie gives the impression that you can run away from a large tornado and live to tell the tale by tying yourself to a few pipes in the ground. If you tried that, the least that would happen , you would most likely be severely hurt by flying debris.  My biggest pet peeve is how the movie showed tornadoes forming from stratus clouds out of a clear blue sky; you could also see blue sky in the same shot as the tornado. In reality this would never happen. In the case of the F5 tornado at the end of the movie, the sky is brilliant blue right next to the tornado. Also, the tornado dissipates way too quickly.  When in reality An EF5 would form from a very large supercell which would make the sky very dark. As for the second point, when a large wedge tornado dissipates it normally does so in stages ending in the rope stage just before it lifts off the ground.

In my next blog post, I will tell you some storm chasing rules. What a typical chase day is like, and a little about Klingons and why chasers hate them.

Thanks for reading,
Rebecca Ladd

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