How Long Have I Been Chasing?
People often ask how long I have been storm chasing. Aside from running out into thunderstorms as a kid, I didn’t really start trying to storm chase until college. It was sometime around 2006 or 2007 that I made my first early attempts at storm chasing. Keep in mind that I lived in Connecticut at the time and usually only got around to parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. These early chases were very difficult for a number of reasons.
I did not have mobile radar access until after college (graduated in 2009), so my first few attempts at, let’s call it “storm intercepting,” relied solely upon intuition and ground observations. Given the road network and thick forests of the Northeast, let’s just say it was very challenging and next to impossible to storm chase under most circumstances.
As technology improved and my passion for wanting to storm chase increased, I got out for a few chases in spring of 2013. I had my first close call with a significant tornado on May 29th in Upstate New York. I found myself just a few miles behind a rain-wrapped tornado, but due to road conditions, it was neither safe nor realistic that I could have ever really chased that storm. A storm intercept near Springfield, Massachusetts in August of 2013 included my first experience with large hail, but also sparked an even deeper desire to get out into tornado alley for actual storm chasing.
My first two “real” storm chases were on October 4th and November 17th of 2013. Being completely new to the area, chasing solo and having had limited chase experience, they were more learning practices than anything else. They happened to fall on weekends, but involved long, non-stop drives from Connecticut to the Midwest, making the experience even more difficult with little to no rest.
After career moves in 2014, I took several storm chase trips throughout the spring and summer. Still living in Connecticut, I was not able to get out for every storm chase. In 2015, for the first time, I devoted the vast majority of my spring and the first half of summer solely storm chasing. I can honestly say that I learned more from just being out in the field on a regular basis than one can ever learn from a class or sitting at home watching radar (of course those can help!). Waking up every day, spending hours reviewing data and then driving sometimes hundreds of miles to get into a position is not only exciting, but it forces you to learn. I take each storm chase as a learning opportunity and the neat thing about chasing is that never really know what you’ll see until it happens. Some chase setups down pan out, others make you change course at the last minute and sometimes you’ll stumble into something amazing.
Looking ahead, I will continue to storm chase when I get vacation time and occasionally on weekends. Otherwise, in my current career, I am able to track thunderstorm outbreaks from my desk and provide information to storm chasers and the public alike.
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