During President’s Day weekend, Barb and I traveled to Denver, Colorado to attend the 14th Annual National Storm Chaser’s Convention at the Red Lion Hotel. We were looking forward to the trip and the anticipation to meet other chasers whom we had converesed with through Facebook and other social media outlets. We decided to rent a car and headed out at 7pm on 2/17/2012 as it was a 14 hour drive to Denver. It is so much better to drive in Kansas at night since there is nothing to see. No offense to my Kansas friends of course!
We arrived in Hays, Kansas ad daybreak and stopped for gas. After refueling, we noticed that the gas gauge was reading empty. I checked under the vehicle and did not see a leak, so for verification, I re-topped off the fuel tank. The gauge still read empty! We contacted the leasing company and they told us that the nearest available car to us was 3 hours away in Denver! What a coincidence! After bickering back and forth with the leasing company, we just decided to drive as far as we could and see what happens. About 50 miles wast of Hays, the fule gauge rest itself. Whew! What a relief!
We stopped at the Colorado State Line for some pictures. It had been 10 years since Barb and I had been to Colorado and that was during our western tour honeymoon back in 2001. It was a beautiful morning.
I actually forgot how beautiful our country was. As we approached Limon, Colorado, I was reminded of this as we saw the majestic Pike’s Peak in the background. The last time we traveld through here in 2001, there was hardly any snow on the mountain. A few weeks prior to the convention, the front range received a major snow storm with some areas measuring their snow in feet. It made for a spectacular backdrop as we drove towards Denver.
Since this was our first time in Denver, I was curious to see the mountains from another part of the state. Realizing that Colorado Springs and Denver are actually not that far in distance, it was kind of cool to see the Rocky Mountains in all of their glory.
We arrived at the hotel, exhausted and hungry. We waitined until our friends from St. Louis, Jerry and Debbie Prsha to arrive by plane. Once they arrived, we ate dinner and prepared for the first class. Forecasting by Jon Davies. My wife decided to take the Basic lass and I chose to take the Basic and Advanced class. I can honestly say that Jon put a lot of what I was looking at on maps in perspective. For anyone who has the chance to take one of his forecasting classes, I highly recommend it. We called it a night after the class and was ready to go early in the AM. All of the classes and speakers paid tribute to Andy Gabrielson whom passed away a few weeks prior to the convention. Andy was actually scheduled to be one of the speakers. It was very bittersweet to listen to the accolades and tributes from his friends. Kory Hartman gave a great presentation to his friend and fellow co-worker at Severe Studios.
Next on the agenda was Dr. Greg Forbes with the Weather Channel. For the storm chasers, the majority of the presentation topics centered around the Joplin EF-5 tornado. Here is Dr. Forbes explaining some of the reasons why the storm did what it did.
Chris Novy Spoke to the group about chaser etiquette and shared some of his expierences while chasing out in the field.
The next speaker on the agenda was Timm Marshall. Tim is know for going into character and covering his topics with flare and resilence. This year, Tim came into costume as Darth Nader, champion of Storm Shelters. His talk intrigued me as he spoke of how the codes allow for the construction of storm shelters, which was right into my line of work. I even has a chance to speak to Tim afterwards about ICC 500, the standard for Storm Shelter Construction. Tim never broke from character and held his “lightsaber” close to me as he told me to “pray that he did not further alter the bargain.”
Tim was followed up by Dr. Howie Bluestein from the University of Oklahoma. Both he and Dr. Forbes are great speakers and presenters, but for chasers who are new to the convention or new to chasing, it would have been nice to speak to the attendees in a more understandable relation and not like we all are 3rd year Meteorology students. But all in all, they were great presenters.
We broke for the afternoon to prepare for the dinner and keynote speakers, Sean Casey and Brandon Ivey from the Discovery Channel series, “Storm Chasers” We met up with our forecasters fro P.D.S. Storm Tours, Colt Froney and Isaac Pato and were joined by fellow Basehunter chasers Kevin Rolfs and Scott Peake. We had a great time at dinner!
Sean and Brandon spoke in great detail about their journeys and how the “Tornado Alley” movie came to fruition. Sean also spoke on how the TIV (tornado Intercept Vehicle) was built and where it was derived from. Brandon and I have struck a friendship when he was last here in St. Louis. I appreciate his kindness as Barb and I was very happy to finally meet his wife, Valerie at the conference.
The dinner and keynote speakers ended around 9;00 pm and most chasers headed over to the bar for some liquid refreshments. In the conference room, Tim Samaras perpared the screen for viewings of chaser videos from the attendees. It was interesting to see other chasers and their styles of chasing, some being cautious, with others looking for the closest and greatest shots. We called it a night around 11:30 pm after watching videos and eating popcorn. Just like at the movies, minus the beer of course!
Sunday was a half day of speakers. Dr. Jason Persoff, “The Storm Doctor” lead off with a talk about witnessing the Joplin tornado first hand and giving the accounts of helping the injured at St. Johns Hospital which took a direct hit.It was numbing to hear these first hand accounts from a first responder during a mass casulty incident. One thing is for sure. We decided long ago that while chasing storms if anything took a hit during the storm, our chase was over and we would focus on helping until proper help arrived. Being in the Fire Service for 28 years does not prepare you for the unexpected. i am glad that I have gone through the training I have to make a difference. Here is a picture of Dr. Persoff explaining what he came across that day.
And of course, a little storm chasing humor is thrown into the mix as well. Crazy to think that some of this made it into the press.
The next speaker was Dr. Greg Forbes. Dr. Forbes spoke for about an hour on debris balls and their signatures on radar and the new dual pol radar. He lost me on the correlation coefficient..
The last speaker of the morning was Rich Thompson, lead forecaster at the Storm Prediction Center (SPC). Rich talked about linear storm modes and how spin-ups of tornadoes can happen given the right atmospheric conditions. Rich gave great examples or radar images to help decipher what to look for within these storms. The conference ended at 12:00 with a lot of door prize giveaways. All in all it was a great 2.5 days of stories and expierences ad well as training.
This was my first convention and will not be my last. I met a lot of great chasers and wish that I had time to introduce myself to many others. I was dissapointed by the attitudes that some of the chasers had towards me and others. Whether we are chasing for spotting, pictures, film, or for whatever reason, we need to stick together. Again, everyone has their own unique style of chasing, including me. I started this business to share my passion of weather to those who are a bit apprehensive to it and explain it to them in a simple manner. Some people are afraid of storms, others are adrenaline infused and enjoy the thrill of the chase. Whatever your position is, always take time to learn and study and understand. Be the exception, not the rule!