What are some of your hurricane chasing experiences?

Jan 13, 2005
Ithaca, NY (school); Melbourne, FL (permanent)
What are some of your memorable hurricane chasing (or surviving!) experiences?

Just to briefly introduce myself (since this is only my 1st actual post), I am an atmospheric science/meteorology student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. However, I grew up in Melbourne, Florida, so needless to say, my biggest interest is in hurricanes. And yes, this past season was absolutely crazy for my city as well as for those on this board who experienced the destruction first-hand.

Over the years, I remember the encounters with Tropical Storm Gordon (1994), Hurricane Bertha (1996 on I-95 in North Carolina), Hurricane Floyd and Irene (1999), Hurricane Frances and Jeanne (2004), and the numerous random tropical storms that did little damage between the major storms. I did not experience Frances and Jeanne first-hand, as I was up here in New York, but during those storms, I could not stop staring at the radar, satellite, METAR, and GFS, ETA, GFDL, UKMET data! With plenty of experience with tropical meteorology, I am now making it goal to do a lot more in terms of severe convective storms of the midwest.

Now back to the original question...

What are some of your experiences with hurricanes?

(This is probably the question I get most from non-chasers behind "What station do you chase for?" and "What's the closest you've ever been to a tornado?")

The only hurricane I've chased so far was Ivan in September 2004. I rode out the storm in a parking garage in Mobile AL. Although the storm turned slightly NNE just before making landfall and the eye ended up passing 15 mi east of my location, I still saw winds in gusts to about 80 mph and measured the lowest pressure at 958 mb. Here is a full account of this chase.
We have tried to chase hurricanes twice. We were only successful once. We tried to chase hurricane Charley, but we went to the wrong place and got nothing. The second time we chased hurricane Ivan. We stayed in a Motel 6 in Pensacola, Florida. I don't know how high our winds were but there was a lot of damage in our area. We worked very hard to get to the right place (drove from Colorado) and we were very lucky to get a motel room. I only wish it had hit during the day instead of at night. It was a lot of fun for me.
Yes, the irony of hurricanes is that they always *seem* (obviously not statistically true...) that they make landfall at night. Or perhaps the most memorable ones occur when it is dark out. All of my experiences with hurricanes, with the exception of getting caught out in Bertha on an interstate, were at night. It just makes the experience that much more haunting. The ceiling caved in over our bedroom in the middle of the night during Frances - good thing everyone evacuated.
I chased Isabel in 2003 and Frances in 2004 - both very successful with being within 50 miles from the eye - which I guess is not successful if that is the only aspect of the system you are after. I just wanted to appreciate the totally enveloping nature of this massive systems - something which we will never experience back home.
After watching Jim Leonards Charley footage I sort of really want to chase one. I know I'd enjoy a strong one, but I always wonder if I would enough to make the drive to the coast(starting to not like long drives).