Thoughts on TESSA/Super Storm Spotter

Feb 28, 2004
Burkburnett, Texas
I thought I'd open a new thread for those of you whom attended the TESSA meeting in Arlington. I thought it was well worth the trip and will certainly consider it in the future. It was thorough, well planned, and at times entertaining.

Here are a few personal observations:
The Bob Duncan Center is a gem of a venue. Spacious with wonderful acoustic quality, good lighting and clear sound system. Not too difficult to find but a little off the beaten track for non-metroplexians. Bathrooms were crowded, but thats hard to avoid considering the circumstances.

Super Storm Spotting Session:
This was my first exposure to Gary Woodall(WCM, NWS Ft Worth), and I dont know that there could have been better man for the job. Wonderful personality, he's direct, engaging , has a wonderful pace and most importantly, he dosen't stray from the topic and wander off into "editorial land". The Super Storm Spotter Session was more advanced than any others spotting session I've attended but it was not over the head of anyone who can grasp the fundamentals of severe weather. It think its important to get into and explain Severe indicies and how they can be applied. My primary complaint was with the segement on skew-ts. He explained the different elements of a skew T and showed where to find LI, CIN and CAPE,but never really spoke on how to apply that info, or explained how with the skew-t you can guage the potential of the atmosphere. it also would have been nice to show another skew-t from a non-severe day so the two could be compared. One of the best "oooohh & ahhhhh" moments of the session was when he showed video evidence that RFD can simultaneously cause both cyclonc and anti-cyclonic rotation in the action area as it decends and brings the vortex lines to the surface. Wonderful video! The intro to hodographs was nice too.
I would highly recommend this session to anyone who feel comfortable with and can apply the info and concepts of the Advanced storm-spotter guide .

Lunch, anyone? $6 for one BBQ sandwich, drink and bag o' chips was a little high, but I must admit, that was the best damn BBQ sandwich I've ever had! Wondeful smokey flavor.

The Copyright Protection for Photography session was boring. Primarilly because I'm not a photographer or videographer, but even more so because the power point display was basically long paragraphs in small print with a lot of legal talk. Mr. Lisius spoke from personal experience, and at time found it hard to hide his anger and resentment about past experiences. He is not a clear and to-the-point speaker like Mr. Woodall. This presentation needs to be polished.

Forecasting Storm Behavior with Roger Edwards. Nothing earth-shattering here. I went to take notes, but really didn't hear or see anything that I didn't already know or thought I might forget . Edwards is obviously a soft-spoken man and didn't get close enough to the mic, so my challenge was just to understand what he was saying. The "Rejected Storm Spotter Decals" was a nice touch and really got the crowds blood-pumping after Lisius's presentation, and Edwards' "Best of 20 years" montage was nice to bring the segment to a close.

I have a lot more to say about TESSA...but I've gotta step away and get some things done. I'll continue this post later today.
Gary Woodall is IMO an outstanding speaker on sever weather. I have seen a few times at the Garland Skywarn class as well. Love hearing him talk. Considering this was the first SUPER spotter 8) talk, it was very good. I'm sure that the presentation will improve as they curtail the program from trial and error.

I would also agree with the copyright talk being a bit dry, but I do understand the importance of such info for many in the storm chasing community.

Just had a chance to review the Al Moller tape I filmed. I think I understand the idea he was trying to convey on the philosophy of forcasting, but I was really hoping for a bit more nuts and bolts on the "how to". Just like Woodall, I have heard Al speak many times at the garland skywarn class, and he is phenominal once he gets going. The "garden hose" thang started in garland too I believe. Anyways, it was hard to come away with any real gems this time I believe due to the time constraints. He spoke for nearly 15 minutes about philosophy before getting to weather, after which he seemed to be rushing to get it all in. I'm really hoping they will give him more time in the future.

I would like to hear from anyone who went to both the Denver and Tessa conference. Just currious what I might be missing at the Denver conference which I have not made it to as of yet. Anyone care to make a comparison?
ok, a continuation from my first post

The Art and Science of Hand Analysis with a Al Moller
This was the biggest incentive for me to come and therefore he biggest disappointment. 1 hour was not enough for this presentation and Al did not manage his time properly. He spent so much time laying the foundation and verbally setting up the topic, that he didn't leave any time for the "meat" of the segment. He spent so much time editorializing in theory, approach and left-brain right-brain stuff that he had to hastilly flip through the hand analysis slides that were super-interesting. Even though many of the charts detailing historical severe weather events were complex, he could spend no more that 30 seconds on each one. What's more? He covered an event very near and dear to my heart, The Red River Outbreak, but had to speed through the slides and just touch on the basics. Too bad. I would love to see the same session over 2 hours. Moller seems to be one of the more charismatic severe weather experts. He strays off topic on occasion and throws in a lot of emotion. He needs a lot of room(time) to move.

Technology in Storm Science with Louis Wicker
Good Show to bring things to an end and give us things to anticipate in the near future. lots of info! Maybe too much for those of us who dont forecast on a regular basis. I was blown away by his storm-scale models. This man is a major talent. The detailed performance and resolution of his experimental models (that were later realized in tornadic storm events) was stunning. I cant imagine the the physics/math involved in all that. He did make it a point of emphaisis that even though we can create a living supercell on a computer, that doesn't mean that we understand the nuance and quirks any better. Very interesting segment.

In the future I would recommend wireless lapel type microphones for the presenters.

It was a pleasure meeting fellow stormtracker Tony Laubach. I figured if the man is gonna come all the way from Metro Denver, The least I could do is walk half-way across the auditorium to welcome him, or welcome him back to Texas. It was nice to meet Tim Vasquez and Gene (and Karen)Rhoden. I had known of them having bought "The Art of..... a few years back, but I finally got the courage to introduce myself. I hope to see the lot of you guys again soon. If you ever need in anything in Burkburnett/Wichita Falls, I'm in the book! And Tim, I'm looking foreward to digging into your book.

I will definately do the TESSA thing again! Good Times, Bad Weather.
I think, along with time constraints, another major reason Al Moller's talk may have been limited is that a couple of weeks ago he confided in me that he was working two back-to-back midnight shifts at Fort Worth, and in-between them he would be speaking at TESSA. He was VERY apprehensive about managing his upcoming talk. Not nice. Al is a brilliant, passionate, animate person and some of the most Quality moments with him come on a one-on-one basis.

When dealing with rooms full of 350+ people, any speaker can sometimes get "lost". I like to place emphasis on breaking into smaller groups for lunch or dinner, and being able to at least concentrate on some personal experiences/communication.

Again - any comments about TESSA you have that can be formed into "testimonials" can also be sent to me at [email protected].


I thought the conference went great, especially the Super Storm Spotter training in the morning. Despite being interested in chasing for quite some time (pre-Twister), I still consider myself a novice in many ways. That being said, I learned a lot during the Super Spotter Session. It was well organized and combined theory, radar, and field video exceptionally well. I didn't "get" everything (probably 90% though), but never did I feel that the presentation was too far over my head. I do feel that I could benefit even more from viewing it again. (By the way, how about a nice discount on the video for those of us who attended the session? Hint, hint... :wink: )

The afternoon session was "okay" but not as good as the morning. Al Moller's talk was loaded with lots of content, and I can tell that he's extremely knowledgeable and passionate about his work. However, unlike the SSS morning session, that presentation DID mostly go over my head. Perhaps if he had more time to expound it would have helped. It may also have been aimed at folks more knowledgeable in meteorology than I.

At the end of the day, I was disappointed not to win a door prize but at least glad I didn't win Mr. Lisius' noose!

All things considered, it was a great day from which I benefitted a lot. Thanks to everyone who worked hard to put the conference together.
Here are my thoughts about TESSA: I didn't make it there for the spotter training because of my hectic student/work schedule. I wanted to sleep in a bit and just show up for the afternoon presentations.

My group and I got there just as Martin Lisius was finishing up his talk about copyright protection. Roger Edwards' speech was alright, and I especially enjoyed some of the nice pictures that he had taken.

I was really looking forward to Al Moller's talk. However, I am in agreement with John Cameron. It was a disappointment to me. It seemed like he went off on a tangent during the first part of his presentation and he did not manage his time well. After he got back on track with his original topic, he went through it very quickly. I did enjoy seeing pictures of some of those tornadoes, and I enjoyed looking at those old surface and upper air charts. I just wish he could have spent more time on it. Please note that I have nothing but respect for Al Moller's storm chasing and photographic abilities. I just didn't think his presentation was all that I had hyped it up to be.

The highlight of the afternoon for me was Dr. Lou Wicker's talk. I enjoyed listening to him talk about the models he is working on and I enjoyed hearing about dual pol radar and other radar things. His comment about "radiating the hell out of any thunderstorm" during VORTEX 2 really cracked me up. I also feel like his presentation taught me some new things, which is good.

Overall, I thought last year's conference was better than this one. I know I would really enjoy hearing Tim Marshall speak again. Just my $0.02 :)

---Phillip Hurlbut