Nice USA Today article & interview with David Hoadley, the first storm chaser

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Dec 10, 2003
So. Cal.
Really enjoyed that. On a side note - there is something about those old black and white photos of tornados. For some reason they almost have more impact on me than today's high quality / hi res photos.
Oct 25, 2004
Tucson, Arizona
Thank you Bill, for your thoughtfulness in sharing that video and article with the gang at Storm Track. I never would have known that either one was available.
David Hoadley is the consummate gentleman. I basically have him to thank for me being a chaser for over 30 yrs. In the early 1980's a saw some obscure television program somewhere about meteorology students in O.U. at Norman that had a loose-gathering of guys that chased storms. Well, I had actually been doing as much solo chasing as I could in my native Nebraska in the 1970's, but never had a clue that other people might wish to do the same thing. Well, once in a while during one of my days off from work in the early 80's I'd go to the science library at the Univ. of Arizona (Tucson) and spend the afternoon reading their monthly copies of Storm Data (govt. publication) and Weatherwise. It was in Weatherwise that I read an article on the UNO chase team, and I just HAD to do this! I wrote down the names of the professors named in the article, and soon rang them up long distance and began bugging them by asking "do you allow non-students to participate in these storm intercepts?" if that wasn't a dumb question. I'm embarrassed to say that I remember one of the men I called was Bob He was gracious, but I could immediately tell that he had been fielding a thousand of these same phone calls from fools like me. (I still cringe when I think how I wasted his time....seriously). Fortunately, I found a letter to the editor from Dave Hoadley in Weatherwise, and decided to write him (this was before personal computers!) a snail-mail letter asking him if he wanted "somebody to ride shotgun with him while he chased". day I found in my mailbox, God Bless him, there was a letter from David Hoadley...which I still have, btw! Dave had written a typed-2 page letter to me (yes, typed....on an old-school typewriter). In it, he gently and politely declined my invitation to accompany him on his weeks-long chase But in typical gentlemanly-Hoadley form, he suggested I contact the met. dept a Texas Tech Univ. in they had a fledgling storm chase team somewhat like what was going on at UNO, and maybe it was worth a shot a seeing if I could work some sort of deal to chase with them. wasn't long before I had my game plan. I wrote to the met. dept. at Texas Tech...introducing myself. I explained that I desperately wanted to gain some chasing knowledge....and that if they would agree to work with me for a week or two, I would rent a brand-new vehicle, and pay for all the gasoline and vehicle expenses that we would accrue during our chases. Lo and behold....I soon had a response. Two fellows from Texas Tech phoned me and literally said "are you serious about this?" and I said absolutely! Within weeks when it was mid-May I landed in Lubbock, and a guy named John Waters and another named Rob Holcomb picked me up at the airport....helped me with my luggage....and said "we gotta haul azz.....huge cells are popping up near Big Spring". We found my rental car.....a BRAND NEW candy-apple-red Chrysler K-car (remember them?) with about 45 miles on it (I was the first renter), tossed the luggage in, and hauled bootie towards Big Spring. By the end of that first day and evening...the poor rental car a huge hail dents all over the hood, roof and decklid. It looked like someone had taken a ballpeen hammer and just gone off on that car. One glass headlite was b roken, and the floorboard front and back was sopping wet. This is what happens when a little car like that encounters wild floodwaters that LITERALLY-I SWEAR TO ALL THAT'S HOLY came all the way up to the top of our doors!! The ONLY way we survived was to pull over when we could....lift the hood and take the brand-new paper air-cleaner element out of it, which literally was dripping wet like it had been dunked in a swimming pool.....and toss it in the trunk. If we wouldn't have removed the air cleaner...the engine kept dying from not being able to breathe. As the floodwaters overtook us again, we'd gain traction and move forward about 10 yards, then we'd begin floating sideways for a bit. Then we'd get traction again....then float. An act of God saved our lives as an 18 wheeler truck got passed us and because of the massive wake that he'd create, we were able to make forward progress without the intermittent floating sideways that we kept experiencing. I followed right on his bumper for miles until we got out of those floodwaters. Now, I truly felt that we all were going to drown that evening. We all did. You know, you think erroneously that because that part of west Texas is so flat that there would be no way you could have water flood that deep with narrow cross-channels that flowed like raging rivers, but I'm here to tell you that everything I am saying here is gospel truth. Unfortunately, these waters swept a little baby out of her mother's arms and drowned her. It's all there for verification in Storm Data May 1986. When the day came for us to part and me to fly home to Arizona, we took the "New" rental K-Car to a do-it-yourself-car wash. We worked and worked on that car, but in the end it still looked like a 15yr. Rose-Bowl Parade Float that had been sitting abandoned in the back parking lot of some East Los Angeles K-Mart. That was because during the flooding, there were so many long strands of cotton from the surrounding fields that became attached to the car so tightly, you couldn't get them all off. Between all the cotton, the huge hail-dents, the broken glass, the filthy carpeted floorboards and the missing hubcap, she didn't look like the shining star she was a week prior. WE DID remember to replace the air cleaner, however. I was terrified to drop off the car. Once we got to the rental-car office, the asst. mgr. greeted me with a big smile and shook my hand. Cool, I thought! I made it known that I was running late for my flight. "Isn't that little car beautiful?" he asked me. At that very moment the door flew open...hard. "NOT ANY MORE IT ISN'T" was the general mgr. And he was extremely pissed!! "LEMME SEE HIS CONTRACT" he screamed. "THAT CAR IS RUINED...RUINED." He grabbed my contract off of the desk, and I swear....I saw that the veins in his neck were popping out! Ohhhh DAMMIT...he DID take out the damage-waiver policy. This meant that I paid a bit more money per day to rent the car, but that any damage I did would NOT be my responsibility to pay for. Cool!! Well... as you might guess, I wasted no time getting out of there. I managed to make my itself something of a miracle. And this was the beginnings of a marvelous endeavor called Storm Chasing that I do each and every year. My life has been incredibly richer from everything chasing offers. I my heart, I have David Hoadley to thank for pointing me in the right direction to get me started. God Bless you David!
Oct 25, 2004
Tucson, Arizona
Excellent article.

It's nice to see the media break away from the grip of the dark side for a moment and feature a true and genuine storm chasing hero.


PS: Joel, you got way too much time on your hands, but what a great story! was in the wee hours and I was wide awake, and I can blaze when I type, dude. We DO have a few tales we've built up over the years, haven't we? (as if YOU didn't know). Nobody'll be reading this anyways, probably.

David Hoadley

Stormtrack founder
Apr 19, 2006
Recently posted on my Facebook re this weekend's edition of USA Today - - -

Just returned from a fruitless chase last week and belatedly saw the USA Today article and on-line story. I think I’ll call the photo, “David bringing up flowers” (anticipating my early farewell?). Not too happy with the photo, since it makes me look even more demented than I am. And what does any of that have to do with storm chasing ???

When asked by USA Today to do a story, I thought my family and friends would like to see it. If it wasn’t for them, I would have had second thoughts --knowing, as other chasers do from their own experience, that the media sets its own agenda, which shapes what they write about you. A couple of caveats - - -

In the newspaper article and online print version, I did not say “The peak of scientific storm chasing…was the early 1980s.” After the televised interview, he talked with me again in a side-office for the print story. Obviously, many more research chases have taken place since then. I said (or intended to say) that my guess is that the early 1980s was the last time the majority of chasers were university students and research scientists. About then, the media increasingly began providing “live-action” tornado footage --as forecasting improved. At about that time, the general public began to pay more attention, and individuals from that group probably began to constitute the majority of chasers.

“…but that anyone would lose their life was the last thing in our minds.” I was referring to chasers.

“He estimates he’s driven at least 750,000 miles over the years.” Don’t recall giving that figure. It is actually over 850,000. This “meticulous record keeper” can do better than overlooking 100,000 miles!

Am glad that some editor changed the on-line print version from “said he's seen exactly 231 tornadoes“ to “seen 231 tornadoes” in the newspaper. I think Mr. Rice was impressed with my record keeping. Well, a teenager in the long ago devoured Ted Fujita’s Fargo tornado study --learning the value of counting small details and keeping records. It was essential to developing his own forecast technique. Now, it just seems natural.

Oh well, I am not surprise and generally think that Doyle Rice did a good job and left a good impression of who I am and what I am about. The kind of job he has probably requires always juggling two or three stories at the same time, so a few small errors here and there in any one can be forgiven.

But am not looking forward again to seeing any future television program of that pudgy old guy in sagging pants. Who the Hell was he?

- - - David Hoadley