Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Less is More...

At least so I'm told...

After some serious consideration, I decided it was time to reevaluate my chase setup.

This season, we're going to go out a little more simply. And while the photos may say differently, it really is a less complicated (and I hope) a more reliable system. The original point of all of this was to make it easy to setup and easy to take down. I'm afraid over the years it became less about that and I was reaching the point where it was beginning to become a drudgery to set things up. This isn't what it's about for me. Hobbies are supposed to be enjoyable ya know?

Gone are the laptop and mount which gives me plenty of room for say, an occasional partner or ride-along? In any case, I get the front seat real estate back.

I also 86'ed the Deep Cycle battery and inverter that rode in the back. Even though it was firmly strapped down, I never was comfortable with the possibility of a sixty pound battery making its way to the front of the vehicle in the event of a "sudden stop" or "Barrel Roll". Not that I plan to place myself in either situation, just one less thing to worry removing, installing, charging, testing before hitting the road, etc. Good riddance.

My large HD camera and Film Tools mount are history as well. Although that will come back periodically in a cameo appearance from time to time, it won't be in the regular package. Several smaller Sony HD "Action Cams" will take its place. In fact, they will get lots of use this year given how well they performed the few times I had them out last season.

And last but not least, Streaming will not be back... Ever.

The ridiculous amount of time I spent making sure that streaming was functioning while on the road was just too much. Couple that with a less than enthusiastic streaming provider who would take weeks to answer a simple question and smart-assed troll viewers who basically would tell me how much my stream sucked, the expense to provide a data stream, and you have the makings for a non-starter this season.

This year, I'm chasing for me... And maybe a few riding shotgun.

Yeah yeah, I know. It looks like overkill. But really, everything has a purpose. If I find out it's not getting used? Out it will go.

This is the year of the tablet. I found an extremely inexpensive Windows 8.1 tablet that (should) do everything the previous notebook did in a fraction of the space. Still a couple of things to work out but nothing insurmountable. My iPad will also be going out for the ride as well.

As a matter of fact, maybe this should be the year of the iChase vehicle. Since no less than four iDevices will be running providing data, radar, backup dash camera, and of course, phone service. I'm finding that decommissioned iPhones have many uses for chasing after they stop being phones...

New this year is a standalone wifi system. In years past I was always tethered to a phone for data which served me well... Until someone called. Then I'd have to re-establish service once the call was complete. Not the type of thing you need to be doing as you're greeting a growing supercell. I will be very curious to see how reliable this is in the coming months. Hey! The hotspot I bought on-line for twenty bucks new and I'm operating prepaid. If it sucks? I'll throw it out front of the vehicle and run over the thing in effigy to Verizon as a big fat "Fuck You"

Minus a couple of cameras, this is pretty much my setup for the 2015 season.





Saturday, March 21, 2015

2015 Minnesota Severe Storms Conference

Join a bunch of us storm starved chasers who need a fix... Soon.

Head to the website for more information.,,

Tornado Forecasting Workshop with Rich Thompson - Class 1



Here's a link to class one of a nine class workshop on Tornado Forecasting. Lots of useful information but you have to work with some of the meteorological indices in tornado forecasting in order to take advantage of the lessons being conveyed. If you feel your brain scorching after class, stick with it. I've found plenty of good examples you can take in the field with you. Aside from that, Rich Thompson delivers a great workshop. And it's...

FREE!

You Fuck With The Bull... 5/30/2013

I wrote this shortly after I found out about Bettes and crew rolling their rig courtesy of the monster El Reno F3/F5 which as it turns out after final analysis of the data they drove right into. I guess my ultimate point was to chastise Bettes for the hippocracy of the moment he found himself in against words he himself uttered the season before about chaser safety and behavior beginning to erode on the road.

It was of course written well before we learned about the loss of Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and chasing partner Carl Young.

Out of respect to them, I decided to put my little "rant" aside. My righteous indignation wasn't going to change the situation. For some reason, I didn't push the "delete" button on the whole entry. And looking at it today? I'm glad I didn't.

To read it after the fact? It may seem a bit snarky and self serving but still very pertinent.

We are not omnipotent. 

If we take chances, if we place ourselves in harm's way regularly, harm will eventually come to us.

Call it Odds, call it Karma... Whatever.

In the end and in hindsight? Both teams were victims of bad decision making. and once they realized that, it was too late to turn back. And this was a group that was known for its safe chasing behavior. 

You would never label Tim Samaras a "careless" chaser.

But, he always knew there was a chance that one day, he wouldn't come home.

And so? this is the primary reason I'm now posting this two years after the fact. To remind all of us we need to be continuously mindful of the risk this hobby presents to us.

I wish all of you a safe and enjoyable 2015 chase season.


Best,

-Neil
03/21/2015   



You get the horns.

An old saying that certainly applies here.

The Weather Channel's Mike Bettes and his "Tornado Hunt 2013 crew came upon this reality yesterday afternoon, May 30th 2013 when the tornado they were "chasing" just outside of El Reno Oklahoma decided
to take a left turn right in front of them causing their vehicle to be "tossed" (their words) some 200 yards off the roadway rolling several times and ending up in a field adjacent to the road they had just been driving on.

As you can see, the vehicle sustained some mighty tough injuries. Fortunately for Bettes and his crew in the vehicle, they all walked away from this with only minor injuries with cuts and broken bones being reported.

They were lucky. Very, very lucky.


And this is the same Mike Bettes who two years ago, had this to say:



Man! Talk about being beaten over the head with your own words. Which of course, puts Mr. Bettes into just a bit of a hypocritical light. I call BS on you Mr. Bettes. Your mishap served to reinforce every negative stereotype that has been placed on storm chasers and it is us, the responsible ones that will pay the ultimate price and end up being looked at with wary eyes in the future. No amount of on-air "Mea Culpa" will bring back the hard earned respect that many chasers worked on to maintain and give this hobby some credibility.

So, I'm going to ask you Mr. Bettes, to go on the air and with the same flourish, the same gusto, the same highly polished and promoted means by which Tornado Hunt 2013 was aired to TWC's audience and tell them:

"We screwed up. and don't let our mess be representative of all storm chasers. There are very good chasers who do this as a hobby and not for financial gain and are intelligent enough to maintain a safe distance from the storms they are chasing. 

Glencoe/Hutchinson MN 07/07/14

Wow.

Looking at my "Draft" file just now found four entries in incomplete form. So I guess I'm going to have to drag out my memory of this event kicking and screaming. As I recall, this day was an "Iffy" one at best. But given the storm starvation diet everyone seemed to be on, plenty of us took the bait...




The nice advantage to this setup was I wasn't going to have to go clear out to the Dakotas to meet up with the line and I chose Glencoe MN as my initial target. I finally chose to wait it out in between Glencoe and Hutchinson MN. when I began to see some evidence of a robust updraft in the incoming line.


Which was pretty much eliminated by the cap that was in place at the time.


As the line approached, There appeared as though a couple of cells had broken off and were ahead of the main approaching line. If there was going to be anything producing, this was going to be it since it had basically all of the attention of the atmosphere forward of the now expanding squall line behind it. And it really did have some significant updraft as evidenced by the small rotating wall cloud on the approach.


Well, within that period of a few minutes, the storm evolve into a shit show of outflow domination and I was (again) treated to a mean assed shelf with about a 70 MPH gust front greeting me.


Once the line came over me, Time to call it a day. I basically surfed it all the way back to the cities. I've got to learn to hold my horses, let the line pass over me and drive back on the back side. But that presents a new set of problems if I have to go through areas experiencing short term flooding and all the stupid drivers associated with that end.

As I said up front, it was a flip of the coin type setup. Had the cap busted, I would have been right there for the main show. It was disappointing but not unsatisfying...