Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A New Look.

When I designed this blog last year, man was it dull. Primarily due to the limited creation and editing one could do within a Blogger page. It really caused me to think hard about maintaining any kind of presence on the web. It was never really easy for a guy like me to even want to share things on his own dedicated web page.

It became more about work and less about fun. So, this page never really went anywhere.

I renewed my interest recently and found many changes done to Blogger that would make things easier to load and more flexible in designing a page. So, I decided to give it another shot and completely redesigned the look and the function of the blog to make it look more like a web site.

My goal was to make it a "One Stop Shop" of sorts to my friends, colleagues, and fellow chasers to see what's going on with the weather, If I happen to be out chasing that day, and to give those interested a chance to ride along as we drive to the next storm intercept.

In addition to the visual and organizational changes of the site, I'm going to be experimenting with a few new additional technical abilities for the 2012 chase season.

The first is that I've added additional follow capabilities. ChaserTV offers a great display feature called "iMap" on one display iMap allows you to view radar images of storms and other weather related data overlayed on my present location which is displayed as a vehicle icon. Clicking on the icon will bring up a window displaying my live streaming video from my vehicle if I happen to be streaming.

iMap also gives you the opportunity to receive "revenue" dependent on viewing activity. So, you'll see a small ad at the lower portion of the screen while watching my coverage. If I receive enough viewing hours, I receive a small payment. The way I see it, If it pays for a tank or two of gas during the season? why not. I'm not holding my breath though. This is a hobby for me, not an income stream.

The second is I'm working on the ability to add audio to my live video stream. Most chasers don't do this because it's a pain in the ass to maintain and everyone gets to hear everything that goes on in the vehicle during the chase. But I can also see it alleviating the sometimes live video that has no narration, excitement, and tension because you're looking at silent video.

Even if it's the drone of the road noise while we're on the road, People find it much more interesting to hear as well as see what's going on. Yes, you may hear me say some not very nice things about the idiot driving next to me or, swearing because I just missed the f**king turnoff. If it offends you? well, turn down the volume or change the channel.

Hey! it's an experiment. If it works? great. if it don't well, it gets put away until it can or it never sees the light of day again.

The third and the one I find most interesting is the ability to live text chat while on the road. What I'm going to do is incorporate this with live streaming so I can answer your questions verbally after you type them in the chat window over there on the right hand side of the screen. No, I won't be typing out text responses while driving so, this seems like a good compromise. Again, an experiment. Maybe it works, maybe it don't. Costs us nothing to find out...

By the way, none of this is earth shattering technology. Many chasers have been using this in the field for years. The way it's being used by each chaser is what makes it unique. Who knows, maybe I'll come up with an idea for using this technology in another way. Time will tell...

And last but not least, This web site will also work with your mobile smart phone. So please, stop by regularly!

Preview the new mobile NWS website

Nice to see the NWS taking mobile devices seriously now.
The site looks like it could really have promise.


Monday, January 30, 2012

A Very Lucky Break.

I found this while going through last year's chase videos. I was chasing alone in SD last July and had intercepted probably the best storm I was going to be able to prior to sundown.

Everything was falling into place for the possibility of a nicely backlit tornado. The cell had produced several wall clouds and I had gotten into position to shoot some video. I had no sooner than gotten my equipment set up and the cell deteriorated.

But redevelopment was occurring right over my head. I made a dash a couple of miles further down the road to reposition.

One problem. I left my expensive HD camcorder on the roof of my truck.

The video is recording my reaction to the realization that I drove off with the camera on the roof. It's pretty damn funny now in hind-sight.

Incredible as it may seem, it survived the ordeal with just a couple of scratches. It had jammed itself in between the roof of my truck and the roof rack. I drove back to a point five miles away at high speed where I was previous to find it there.

The cell ended up producing nothing. It was a lesson learned:

Make damn sure you keep track of your gear when out of the vehicle and never take out more than you can stow away in seconds in case you find yourself in a position to bail out of the area quickly.

Minnesota Storm Chasing Convention 1/14/2011

Over two hundred chasers from around the region converged on the Kelly Inn in Plymouth MN on January 14 2011, for the 3rd Annual Minnesota Storm Chasing Convention. Chasers get a little antsy around this time of year so it's a great way to get together for a few hours and watch some great presentations. I enjoy being able to place faces with names that pop up on the chase radar during the season and trade stories of the previous season.

Of course the best part was that all of the proceeds of the day's event were given to Habitat for Humanity and the work that they're doing to put peoples lives back together from last years tornado that damaged many homes in North Minneapolis. Over $3400 dollars was raised for the cause.

Special recognition goes out to Michael Stanga, his wife Lisa, of WxPage.com and Dean Baron for organizing this years event.

The keynote speaker this year was Reed Timmer of TornadoVideos.net who I must say, In person? comes off as a very likeable guy as opposed to the hyperactive, over-the-top, character portrayed in Discovery Channel's program Stormchasers. A little drama ensued when it was claimed on another storm chasing blog that Reed had announced at the convention that the show had been cancelled. It did indeed come out later that the show had in fact been cancelled but, was never announced at the convention as claimed.

The program had become quite a joke to the storm chasing community at large due to the dramatic editing that went on over the run of the series. It became more about the interpersonal relationships between chasers and less about the storms they were chasing. Unfortunately, it went the way of many of Discovery's shows. Too much flash and very little substance.

Todd Krause/NWS Chanhassen

Michael Stanga

Dr. Bob Conzemius

HFH Check Presentation

Reed Timmer

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kind of Mind Boggling

To think it's January 22nd and there's a near unbroken squall line of storms stretching from near Chicago all the way to the border of LA/AL.

Potentially Dangerous Situation

Things are heating up down in AR!

Watch number five of the year and it's a PDS!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Stanley Wisconsin 4/10/2011

2012 and I'm finally getting around to finishing my logs for 2011. Maybe by March I'll be caught up and then I can enter them in a more timely manner... In the meantime, think of them as winter re-runs...

The first chase of the season. And quite possibly, Could have been our last. Definately, a learning moment.

This was one of those days. Snow was still on the ground in many parts of the area and storms were firing from North Eastern Iowa through SW Wisconsin at 50 kts. Plenty of elements to get things going later in the day. So, being itchy to get out, I bit at the setup.

My daughter joined me and we headed E on 94 with a target area somewhere between Menominee and Chippewa Falls. The thinking was an intercept possibly N of Eau Claire if the road network supported it.

We ended up in Chippewa Falls waiting for initiation which occurred just SW of Menominee. Not being patient, We back tracked to Menominee where a chaser convergence was already well underway.

Should have stayed in Chippewa Falls. These storms were moving at 50Kts or greater. Back to E 94 we went. We did watch one cell we were parallel with running S of 94 explode right before our eyes. I wish we could have gotten Time Lapse video.

Instead, we decided to attempt an intercept and exited from 94 at Stanley where there seemed to be a good north/south road we could dive down and get SE of the cell before it crossed 94.

As you can see, Co Rd H was a wonderful choice. Until you see the lack of E/W roads. Brilliant.

By that point we were committed. And so was the cell we were intercepting. Remember, 53Kts...

It was also about this time we realized Radar hadn't updated for like 10 minutes. This thing was going to come over the top of us if we don't drive... fast.

It took no time at all to realize we were not going to get far enough South. We were going to get "Core Baptized" our first trip out for 2011. We determined it would be best to turn around since we were receiving reports of large hail just south of our position from another chaser.

Not only did we get "Cored", we ended up on a course where we went right through the inflow notch.

This cell re-intensified several times along its NE track. It ended up dropping a Tornado approximately 55 minutes later in the town of Merrill Wisconsin
We managed to join up with the rest of the chaser community that had managed to make their way out for one more intercept of the day. It produced nothing of any substance at our location.

Here's a bit of video from our encounter with the inflow notch. Watch the direction of the rain on the pavement shift direction and as it does, Rain stops falling on the vehicle indicating a updraft of some sort.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

So Just Who Is This "Chase" Guy?

For me, chasing is a hobby. And for the past several years, a chance to run down a few storms in the hopes of meeting up with the elusive cone and document its amazing form and behavior safely. And I've been fortunate to run into many great folks with the same motives during that time.

I have been amazed with this weather phenomena since the days of black and white radar. And now that I find myself on the "other side" of middle age, am able to experience it even more.

And that's where "Chase" comes in.

I was on the Internet Archives one day and stumbled onto a film on Storm Spotting circa 1950 called aptly enough, "Tornado" Made possible as a public service by University of California Extension Media Center, United Gas Corporation, and Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation. Cooperation of WKY-TV, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Southwestern Bell Telephone Company.

Admittedly, I got a good laugh at the now completely archaic rules to follow when a storm approaches and the insufferable acting from the citizens of "Elmville" demonstrating what to do. But it was then I realized I wanted an individual of that era to represent my chase efforts and remind me of the advancements we've made in the fifty some years since this film was produced and to not take things too seriously especially after going through a couple tanks of fuel while running a few hundred miles chasing a dry line that produces nothing.

In tribute of  those fine folks of Elmville and days gone by, please welcome my foil:

Mr. Chase Maehem

First Confirmed Tornado of 2012

Just happened to be cleaning up some files from last years chases when storms began firing down in TX yesterday morning. So I grabbed a few images from the warned cell that eventually produced a confirmed F1 TOR in Fort Bend County with 95 MPH winds.

The VIL signature on this cell was extremely impressive.