Odd Chase Encounters/Stories

Anybody have any crazy/odd storm chasing stories? Just curious. I have a few of my own, but I'll see if anyone posts anything before posting them.
May 6, 1998 - We drove through the town of Kingfisher, OK on our way westbound to meet a storm. Not thirty minutes later, we drove back through Kingfisher the exact same way we'd come earlier, except the second time through there was a dead, bloated cow lying next to the road. It hadn't been there before, and it was obvious the cow had been dead at least a few days. So someone had to have dumped it, although I have no clue how they got away with dumping a dead cow in broad daylight in the middle of town.
The first few are from the deserts, they're kind of spooky. Whoever said the West wasn't wild anymore doesn't get out very often.

At the Texaco in the small tumbleweed town of Maricopa, Arizona, I ran into an wildlife illustrator who I knew from work. He looked at me with surprise... "What are you doing out here?" "Shooting lightning..." I said. Then I looked at him, "What are you doing out here?" "Gathering snakes" he said. (?) I knew he drew wildlife, but I didn't know he went out to gather live models.

Another time, in the mining town of Globe, Arizona, I pulled up to a red masonry wall and shined my headlights on it. The wall looked funny, it was moving in waves :shock: I thought I might be hallucinating. Instead as I got closer, I realized a hundred scorpions were coming out.

While chasing monsoon in Apache Junction, Arizona in 2003, something blue and very large flew across the road and almost hit my front fender. Now I need a new bumper sticker..."I brake for flying kiddie-pools!"

Last year, I'm in the desert near the western town of Cave Creek, Arizona. I was shooting lightning to the north, and suddenly a carload of drunk guys see me. They start hooting and hollaring as they drive past. But then, they did a quick U-turn, made a rooster tail, and started to chase me down this dirt road. Sh :shock: I threw my tripod onto the back seat, dove into the car and punched it with the back door open and the tripod hanging halfway out the back. I think I might have hit 90mph. I drove about 10 miles up the Carefree Highway, stopped and called a friend, coworker Mike, who I thought might also be out shooting lightning somewhere. I told him what happened. He was in the ghost town of Congress about 50 miles away, shooting lightning from Bradshaw mountain backcountry en route to Prescott. He was inside his truck as CGs where coming down all over the desert. "Someone's firing a gun closeby here..." his voice said nervously. Mike does not frighten easily either, his specialty is underwater shark and shipwreck photography. And yet, he sounded nervous and felt like he should bail. (Who'd be out shooting firearms in the dark during torrential monsoon storms??). A couple days later, they found a body out there where he had been chasing. :shock: What a freaky night!

And here's some weirdness from Liberal, Kansas. At about 4:30am one night, I'm using the brick wall of an abandoned Enterprise Rent-a-Car building as a wind protector. Lightning was firing over these newly painted grain elevators across the street. I couldn't resist the scene, plus, I thought because of the hour nobody would bother me. I'm set up shooting in extreme wind and torrential rain (which was flooding Hwy 54) and along comes a cop. He gets out and stands next to me, maelstrom and all, and quietly says..."Do you mind if I have a cigarette?" (Whaaaa.....) I politely left...immediately.

I am convinced now that Hwy 54 through Liberal, Kansas is the unrefuted Corridor of Weirdness. June 2004, I'm in the Plains and starting to head back toward Arizona. I had to make a gas stop before hitting the road. Suddenly, two men dressed in long monk's robes...with striped socks...started walking out of the Circle K (ROFL!!) Apparently, they were "wicked witches", employed by Dorothy's Wizard of Oz house, and were headed back to the Yellow Brick Road (no kidding, there really is one). I see the sign, and I have to follow it (of course!). It leads me to this boxy white house, but no one is around, all is quiet. I walk around the grounds but no one is there. I went up to the door, and a girl with braids and a blue gingham dress really does open the door "Hi, I'm Dorothy!". I was the only visitor to Dorothy's House, it was a delightful but weird experience.

And the Height of Weirdness comes from Amarillo, TX. I'm passing through town in June of 2004 and went to dinner late. It was the day after the big hail storm blew out all those hospital windows in AMA and damaged the motels on I40 so I had a bit of trouble finding a room. The steak place next to the Red Roof Inn, where I finally stayed, was open so I went inside and sat down. I was alone minding my own business, and the waitress comes up to me, sits down, and whispers in a caring voice close to me, "Mind if I ask you something?" I was just about ready to say "Sorry I'm not gay", and she said "Are you in the AB?" I cocked my head..."The what? What's the AB?" She said "The Aryan Brotherhood". :shock: :shock: :shock: "WHAT??" (I'm blonde but come on!) She said she had been in prison, and in prison the logo for the "AB" was a lightning bolt, similar to the necklace I was wearing!" I said "I'm just a lightning photographer, that's all!" Learn something new about graphic design every day!!

I have many more, but I should end this novel :) But remind me sometime to tell you the story of St. Anthony's Church!
Wow! I think I'm going to find it hard to top some of those stories. It's a bit too late tonight to do any storytelling. I will post some within the next day or so! Thanks for sharing! Great stories! :D
Val Castor and I were on a marginal storm in southwest Ok. A farmer pulled up in an old, beat up truck and called us over to find out about the storm. We walked to the window only to see Mr. farmer wasn't wearing any pants. At that point he said " Storm scared me so bad I guess I forgot my britches." Yikes. We left.
Had another farmer near Manchester Ok pull a gun on us because he thought we were vandals.
Found $10 out in the middle of absolute nowhere Ok.
Saw the same dead cow Shane mentioned...

This was quite a sight. A chase which was during one of those "Trans-Pecos" storm seasons, Jeff Piotrowski, a good friend from OKC , and I were in route to some "action" down towards Marathon TX. First of all your probably saying...Marathon TX....action??!! Well yes, things were a bit lean that year. Anyway, we were at this intersection of a TX Highway and I-10...or basically in the middle of freakin' nowhere. Well, we were about to jump on I-10, and there is this "creature" off on the entrance ramp. W.Texas and creatures...come on now!! As we get closer to this creature, we notice this creature is in a polka dot dress. Growing ever closer, this creature is this hairy dude in a dress and cowboy boots (smiling at us), and this "thing" looks like Tiny Tim from the 70's. Out of nowhere, our good friend dead pans...Beam me up Scotty!! The Blazer erupted in the strongest round of laughter I can ever remember during a chase. It was amazing the car stayed on the road. Now it gets even wierder. About 2 years ago...and this is no lie. Rich Thies and his son and I are eating "dinner" after a bust chase in Amarillo at the Denny's. We sit down and get our coffee. Over in the booth, it could not be but it had to have been...have you guessed it yet(??) ...it was the creature from the Trans Pecos or it's doppleganger twin. Oh my god was this freaky. And sick too. Keep your eyes out for the Trans Pecos creature...and you'll see what I am talking about. It lurks somehwere between I-40 and I-10 !!
I hear the banjo music playing right now Rob. Good move getting away from farmer with no britches. Sure he wasn't the same guy from that Columbus Nebraska famed video??
I hear the banjo music playing right now Rob. Good move getting away from farmer with no britches. Sure he wasn't the same guy from that Columbus Nebraska famed video??

If not, maybe at least a "cousin" if you get my drift!
Yee haw, y'all!

Back in May 2002 I and my chase buddies had been chasing in SW oklahoma and was staying in Altus, Ok. (never EVER stay at the days inn in Altus!!). We decided to go to the local "boot scootin" joint for a few drinks since the next few days were down days. As we headed back to the hotel at 1am we passed a few OHP offricers in a parking lot who eyed us the whole time we passed. Nothing out of the ordinary considering what chase vehicles looks like except we had just left a bar and a few of us were bombed (not driving though). About an hour after we turned in one of the guys came and woke me up saying 2 OHP officers were downstairs and my partner Phil Henry was being arrested. I scrambled to get dressed and ran down to see 2 officers by their car talking to phil. He wasnt being arrested. Turns out about 5 years previous that Phil had run into this officer who found out Phil was the designer of the Beartcat and beartracker scanners and had told Phil that the OHP didnt even have scanners because they couldnt afford them. When Phil got home he had sent the officer a radio from Uniden free. The officer remembered Phil and had been trying to find him for 5 yrs checking most of the chasers he encountered to thank him. But to search for 5 yrs and then come yank Phil out of bed at 2am just to say thanks was a bit wierd. he gave us his name and number and said if we ever get stopped in SW oklahoma to call him and he would come save us :)
I was chasing up in Wyoming in the late 90's near the old MX missle bases setting up my DirectTV satellite dish when a couple of military jeeps started down the road towards us - we got the heck out of there fast! Didn't want to try and explain what the heck we were doing in the middle of nowhere with all that equipment.

Interestingly enough I could never get a picture in that area, but just across the border in NE - no problems at all.

The April 5, 2003 ice machine (HP hail monster) pounded endangered pelicans west of Dallas and deposited them on and near the highway, hard to see because of all the hail fog...sad, but true.
Wow! I knew us storm chasers had our share of crazy stories. I mean, after all that time on the road, something odd is bound to happen. Alright, so because I posted this thread originally, I guess I should tell some of the odd things that have happened to us while travelling the plains.

- On one particular day in 2004 I remember waking up and going through the usual motions to prepare for another day on the road. We (me and my brother, sister, and girlfriend) all took showers and loaded our luggage so we could get to our target area by early afternoon. Well it's about the time I bring my bag out when I notice something stuck to the front of the car. It looked kind of like a piece of cardboard or paper that got stuck between the hood and the grill. As I got closer and closer, more and more detail was obvious, small... brown and white... two little feet...and lots of feathers. There was a small bird jammed in between the hood and the grill of the car. The most humorous, or perhaps disgusting part of it was the fact that the animal was lodged in such a way that I could see both it's head and beak, and it's feet sticking out at the same time. I know it's cruel, but I could do nothing but laugh. The real oddity to this story is that a year later, in 2005, my girlfriend was driving and she hit a bird large enough to damage the grill of the vehicle. This bird must have been about as big as an average hen. It was unbelievable! I even thought about posting a poll to see how many people had run into birds on their storm chases. I didn't how common it was, especially to have a run-in two years in a row.

- Last year, after a particularly long day of chasing, we decided to check into a motel for the night and watch as an MCS drifted over our location hoping to get some good lightning or perhaps a damaging wind gust or two. After checking in, me and my girlfriend went out by the stairwell to watch as the storm moved in. I forgot to mention we were on the second floor. Anyway, the hotel rooms adjacent to the stairwell all had windows that faced the stairwell for some odd reason. So I was just standing there gaping at the beautiful bolts hitting the ground when all of a sudden I hear my girlfriend laughing and backing away from me. I thought something was wrong with me. When I finally went to where she was standing and asked her what she was laughing at, she told me that when she glanced into the room we were standing next to while watching the storm, the curtains on the window were wide open and the light was on. I asked her what was so odd about that and she told me that when she glanced over, there were two people totally naked and having sex. I couldn't believe it! And all the while, I was standing right next to them and watching a storm.

I have a couple more, but I have to think about it for a while and come up with some good ones. I hope to hear more from you all! :)
Originally posted by Marc Austin
As I got closer and closer, more and more detail was obvious, small... brown and white... two little feet...and lots of feathers.

I had this happen on my Ranger during my 2004 chase trip. The poor bird was wedged in there so tight that it was hard to get it out. It was actually jammed into the radiator fins. I ended up having to get a stick and pry it out.

Last year I killed a bird with one of my antennas near Dalhart, Texas. It knocked the antenna over and we looked back to see the poor bird on the ground. Had a couple of close calls with pheasants in South Dakota last year.
On November 12th, somewhere in NW missouri, Darin Brunin and I witnessed an old old man come out of nowhere in the BFE woods and wave with a strange smile. Almost ghost-like. Not strange, but hilarious to watch, Bethany MO, something always happens, whether it be 15 year old kids flashing gang signs (We just laughed on july 25th) in their multi-colored POS monte carlo with wal-mart spinners, or a teen doing the "worm" on a john deere mower. Don't stop in this town, replace the "B" with an "M" ;). Seems like every chase we are on, we have a great time and laugh our asses off at something.
Nothing really stands out in my mind except once when Jeff Wear and I were headings towards Amarillo a few years back. I had fallen asleep for a bit in the front seat, when I woke up, cleared my eyes and noticed we were about to pass a cattle trailer. Something within the trailer didn't look quite right as one bull seemed to be much higher than the rest. As we passed and was able to further inspect what was happening, we realized that it was nothing short of what you might expect if someone made a bovine prison film. Nuff said 'bout that.

Ever the dead-pan comic, Jeff just shrugged it off and mildly said, "There's something you don't see everyday."


On June 6 this year Kurt Hulst, Nick Grillo and I were looking for Scott Olson's house late at night in Brookings, South Dakota. It was past midnight and I had driven straight from St. Louis to Hastings, NE and then to SD virtually nonstop except for a short safety nap.

We were looking for Scott's Mazda truck which was supposed to be parked outside. When I first heard Kurt say it I heard 'monster' instead of Mazda so at first I was driving around looking for a monster truck. Despite thinking how strange that was.
Marc's bird story reminded me of our infamous turkey encounter on June 4 last year. The story's been told many times on here, but basically we hit a turkey hard enough that it knocked the wx-station off the roof of the car. Luckily, we were in a group and the others stopped to help us put it back on (it didn't come completely off obviously, but slid backwards and ended up resting on the rear windshield). The most "odd" thing about it was, the turkey apparently walked away from the incident, as we never saw it after it hit the car.

Another one I thought of was April 21 last year. We had two flats that day on separate occasions, the second one coming after we ran over debris from our second tornado's damage path. We put the donut on, then continued into Pittsburg to look for a replacement tire. As it was well after 8pm, we all knew we were searching in vain, facing the very real situation of driving 250 miles back home at around 55mph because of the donut. The only place we saw that we tried to get a tire from was a Goodyear distribution place, because we saw a truck and a car parked outside with its lights on. Turns out the truck was just delivering a load, and while we were there, a second car pulled up to the one already there. It was a man who was letting a woman out (the parked car was hers). We asked them if they knew any tire places still open, which they didn't, but they did point us to the local Pizza Hut for some grub. The woman was very kind, and offered to let us stay the night at her place so we could get a full-sized tire the next morning for the trip home. We graciously declined, because we had work the next day. We decided to get some Pizza then limp home.

While we were eating, our waitress walked up to us with a phone. She asked if we were "the storm trackers", to which we replied "yes". The phone call was from a service tech at the local WAL-MART, who told us we could come by after we were finished eating and get a new tire. So when we were done we went to Wally World to get the new tire, despite the fact the service area had been closed over two hours. And what's more, they gave it to us free. The only explanation for all this was the nice woman we'd met drove to WAL-MART and told them of our delima, then guessed we'd still be at the Pizza Hut and gave the Wally World tech the number. This is definitely the coolest (and oddest) example of the general public's kindness towards chasers in need I've ever experienced.
During the 2004 season My partner David and I hit a total of 14 birds 1 snake and 1 armadillo.

During the 2005 season I think my total bird count was 5, with 1 snake on May 7th (bustola). Then a drive back to OKC with Micky P. in front and Shane/Jo/Chad in the back. Nick and I were in the middle. Micky hit the Armadillo first then I and I think Chad finished him off. Later that night as we were almost back to Norman I don’t know what it was but it looked like a telephone pole or a roll of carpet. Chad was in front this time and he hammered it and it took out his front tire. I just hit it but nothing happened to my tires. That was a total of three tires for Chad that season I do believe.

Also on May 12 before Nick and I headed to the supercell in TX we were west of Woodward OK. Nick wanted to watch a line of storms for a few so I parked on the side of the road. He got out set up his stuff in the middle of the road of course. And without remembering to put the car in park I got out, and the car started to roll away. It only went about 10 feet before I got back in and stopped it. That was a good laugh and I think Nick caught most of it on tape.

Dan you didn't tell me that you thouhgt I said Monster truck that got me ROFL
Originally posted by Kurt Hulst
Later that night as we were almost back to Norman I don’t know what it was but it looked like a telephone pole or a roll of carpet. Chad was in front this time and he hammered it and it took out his front tire.

I was driving and Chad was asleep...until impact, LOL. Also, it not only took out Chad's third tire of the season, but his first rim as well. :shock:
Whilst on our 2 week chase vacation to the Plains last year, my gf Helen, and our friend Graeme were making the very long drive from Ponca City, OK, to Valentine, NE, on May 19th, ready to head to NW S Dakota on the 20th. We didn't leave Ponca City until near 5pm, so it was pretty late as we turned west on 20 in O'Neill. As we got a few miles west of town, we decided to stop to swap drivers. As we did so, we noticed the aurora in the northern sky. At the same time, we noticed 3 crosses in a small field, which were covered in lights. Nothing strange yet.

However (and remember this is around 2am), an old pick-up pulls up and a guy leans out the window and asks if we're OK. We replied that we were, and we were just watching the aurora. He said, "that ain't the aurora; that's the lights from the old manure plant", and then let out the creepiest guffaws of laughter we've ever heard.

He then drove off up the road a few feet, but then turned around and pulled up on the grass verge next to use, asking if we wanted to "burn some" (I think he wanted a race!). We drove off, with him doing a massive wheelspin in the grass. However, he got onto the road and chase us, and then overtook us! He slowed right down, and when we tried to pass, he then sped up again. This freaked us out somewhat, and we just slowed to a crawl. After another couple of minutes, he pulled into a side road, and we passed (at a rather rapid rate!), and saw nothing more of him!

We then stopped about 10 miles along the road, and watched one of the most amazing auroras that we've ever seen!
Here is my story of St. Anthony's Church...

A line from the litany of Saint Anthony of Padua happens to read...
From thunder, lightning, and storms, St. Anthony deliver us. I am not Catholic...but I can still find that interesting.

St. Anthony’s of the Desert, a church in Scottsdale, Arizona, sits at 130th St. and Shea Blvd., where town starts dissolving up the side of the McDowell range and finally changes into open desert. Isolated among the cactus and a rugged saddle-shaped landform, St. Anthony’s Church is high enough to afford a view of distant city lights, and oncoming monsoon storms as well. A few years ago, I used the church parking lot one night to photograph CGs as they moved in from the south, and was able to pull this shot.

In July 2004, a similar electrical storm was pummeling the saddle-shaped mountain again so I headed over to St. Anthony’s to try for the CGs. Only this time, I was driving around in total darkness because the power had blown so all the streetlamps and the city lights were out (a good thing for lightning photography). However, I missed St. Anthony’s driveway in the darkness and pounding rain.

Rather than doubling back, I opted for a patch of dark desert near a small side road called 128th St., about 1/4 mi from the church, and began to set up for some pictures from inside my vehicle, as rains were heavy and lightning was everywhere. I remember noting that my car clock read 1:00am on the nose. It was late but even after hours of chasing, there was still a lot of action, and I always work the storms until they are done. I never know when the next big night will come.

At this point, the monsoon storms were really throwing down some solid CGs all over the desert. The lightning was quite fierce. I worked it until its swan song, and finally when it quieted for good, I headed for home.

The next morning in the paper, I couldn’t believe my eyes. At precisely 1am, St. Anthony’s of the Desert Church had taken a direct hit from a lightning strike. The lightning bolt hit the steeple, traveling down and burned a hole in a hymnal that was sitting on the altar. Had I been there as planned, I would have had a mind-blowing shot, but in the process, might have jumped clean out of my skin! Luckily, the church was in one piece, I was in one piece, and despite some damage to the sanctuary, Zeus’s best effort couldn't take the church down.

So what is with St. Anthony? Massachusetts 1997:
Two hours later, storm clouds rolled into New Bedford. A neighbor watched in horror as a streak of lightning split the sky, striking the brass atop the church. As the highest point in New Bedford, the spire of Saint Anthony had taken direct hits many times before. This time, the lightning did not race harmlessly into the ground. The cable grounding the rods had broken, and it had not occurred to Father Levesque to check it. Now the unchanneled lightning bolt sparked a fire under the slate roof. A New Bedford firefighter who happened to be standing near the church quickly called in the alarm, and engines arrived within minutes. The blaze was confined to the roof and, amazingly, did not spread. "It was as though there was this protective hand," Patricia DeAndrade says.-Adoremus.org

And what would be a more fitting name for this hospital?
From www.stanthonyhosp.org located in Denver, CO.
St. Anthony Central Hospital serves as headquarters for an international resource studying the effect of lightning on the human being. The Lightning Data Center (LDC) was founded in 1992 by Drs. Michael Cherington and Philip Yarnell, in association with St. Anthony Hospitals. It unites individuals from medical, scientific and related professional fields, as well as the public to explore natural lightning phenomena and issues.

If the lightning ever gives me a fright, I guess a little saint protection couldn't hurt!
Great story Susan! Thanks for the post!

I remember on May 15, 2003 in Shamrock Texas, during the outbreak in which the Dalhart/Amarillo area tornadoes occured, we ran into some very interesting people in a truck stop. I remember going into the truck stop to look at the most up-to-date radar imagery. While we were there, we were approached by several locals, but one man, in particular stook out. He looked as though he were ready for a rodeo. I mean, this man was Pecos Bill if I've ever seen him. I know there are cowboys in Texas, but I never imagined how real they were until this night. He asked us if we were looking for tornadoes and we told him yes as we were about to leave the place to head west and try to intercept a storm nearby. He told us "If yall had some extra room I'd like to go with yall" of course we didn't have any room. Then he said, "Hell... I'll even sit up top if you give me somethin' to hold on to." after which he let out a very loud "yeee haww!" toward the darkening skies. He was one of the most interesting caricatures I'd ever met.
One night in 2004 we ended up somewhere to the south/southwest of Wichta, Kansas on a beautifully structured and highly electrical supercell. There were still more than a few chasers following it too.

We had pulled off to observe the storm, as had a few other people, it was quite the show. We had set up tripods and such and after a little bit these two guys that fit every down home description of a red neck you have ever heard Jeff Foxworth mention!

One of them came up and started talking to me. He proclaimed that he was out chasing for the NSSL. That they had called him out to chase this, and went on and on about chasing for the NSSL. Of course, their appearances not withstanding, I knew that obviously the NSSL didn't call them or anyone else out to chase that storm and he was full of BS.

Well, it was time to wrap up and change locations, and they headed back and jumped in their 2 door car, which I couldn't see real well, and we headed out. At our next stop, there they were again, and he was back over there trying to impress me with all of the chaser lingo and wx jargon he had learned, although he hadn't bothered to learn the proper context of it all and was all over the place with his "explainations" of why the storm was doing what it was doing etc etc. It was about all we could do to keep a straight face.

We wrapped up again and moved to a third location, and of course they followed. By now I was starting to get annoyed and finally took the opportunity to tell him what I did for a living and showed him my press ID. He never said another word! Seriously! He backed out and stood close by quietly. We were in two vehicles that day and decided that we needed to ditch them so they didn't follow us again, so we quickly devised an elaborate manuver that would have made the Duke boys proud, which long story short we ended up hiding behind a large construction barricade on a curve while they zoomed on by.

We enjoyed chasing for the next hour or so with no site of them, and ended up somewhere in southwest Wichita under a gas station canopy waiting out the hail and downpour. And sure enough here came our new buddies.

It was only then I got a real good look at their car under the lights. I nice newer model Chevy Impala, with about 4 antennas on it, and the words across the bottom of it in HUGE letters that said "TWISTER EDITION".

We never laughed so hard that day, but even funnier was when a local spotter and his wife took shelter there with us and they were over there telling them about the tornado probes they were going to put out for the NSSL!!

To this day, I still laugh about that. :lol: