Fairfax, Virginia $1.80/year Bi-monthly
I. COMMENTARY [by David Hoadley]
I recently completed a three week (vacation) storm chase from Texas to South Dakota and
back. Randy Zipser and I traveled from May 16 to 29 (on my own May 30-Juno 1). The round
trip to and from Fairfax, Virginia covered 11,660 miles. While we encountered severe storms
almost every day, unfortunately we did not secure any good tornado pictures. I photographed
a half dozen small -mostly shear type- funnels from one storm northeast of Garden City,
Kansas on May 30. Missed were two large tornadoes on different days duo to a moment’s
incorrect judgement and turning down the wrong road. One of those was the big May 31 Emmett,
Kansas tornado that was 1/2 mile wide and tracked 20 miles on the ground across open
I mention this in passing to lend a little solace to other chasers who, from time to time,
share in the frustration of missing the big ones. Despite the best data analysis and
experience of hundreds of storm intercepts, each storm is unique and can be misread even by
the experienced chaser. Thus far, I have had four comparatively lean years since 1974, which
was a banner year for me (three large tornadoes, a supercell and six funnels in a one week
period). The way I see it, each missed storm and every lean year is just one more “down
payment” on the good ones. This price isn’t only paid before but -often- after the fact.
Thus, I temper the occasional depressions with the understanding that I’m still paying for
the good years. Each frustrating year makes these that much more valuable. Therefore, to
those of you who marked this season with notable success -congratulations and many enjoyable
evenings of viewing. To those who failed, I offer the previous reflections and a small
measure from Omar Khayyam:
With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with my own hand labour’d it to grow;
And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d
“I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”
III. BULLETIN BOARD/COMMERCIAL MARKET -$- FOR PICTURES
IV. CAMERA TIPS
FUNNEL FUNNIES (See Travel Tips)
V. TRAVEL TIPS
The following Travel Tips include some does and don’ts of DQ’s (Dairy Queens). The small
diversion below illustrates certain practices of the novice chaser which Mr. Zipser seeks to
correct on the following page.
— Contributed by Dave Hoadley
THE DOs AND DON’Ts OF DQs
It seems that Dairy Queen restaurants, or “DQs” have become rather popular with many storm
chasers ever the recent years. This is partly due to the food chain’s widespread
distribution and frequent location along the main highway through town, thereby providing
easy access and quick egress. When considering which DQ you should stop at during a chase,
certain fundamental criteria (other than the nearest one with a restroom) should weigh in
your choice. The following suggestions are offered:
(1) Is there a covered parking space? An overhead awning or canopy will protect closed-up
parked cars with photographic equipment inside from excessive interior heat, while you’re
inside the building. Park where you can keep an eye on your car.
(2) Choose an inside location with good sky visibility. Light-tinted windows are even better
because they reduce early-afternoon glare and permit easier and earlier identification of
distant towering cumulus through haze.
(3) To save time, decide in advance what you want to order and use the drive in window
whenever one is available. Check to see if short-order items such as hamburgers, french
fries, etc. are already prepared, so you won’t have to wait long. Valuable time could be
lost here which could be spent getting into optimum photographic position.
(4) If you must wait for your order, use the time propitiously to organize and check over
your camera gear. Discuss possible road options in later, likely chase area.
(5) Keep snacks infrequent and light. Remember, “juicy” drinks leave you feeling lighter,
more refreshed and better prepared for the pressures of an active chase.
(6) Finally, make a habit of looking out for vehicles of other chasers in DQ parking lots,
whenever you happen to pass by one in or near the storm area. DQs provide a convenient,
universal meeting place for storm chasers to exchange information beforehand or trade
experiences afterwards. Not all localities have NWS or FAA offices, but most have the
When I expect to return to the same area for repeated days of local storm activity, I will
go to several motels, introduce myself, leave my name and make the following arrangements.
If I call the motel collect, they will know I want a room and either accept -if a vacancy-
or decline to accept the call -if they are full. If they accept the call, the charge can be
added to the room bill. This way, you don’t need a pocket full of change and can confirm a
room at any time. Another suggestion is to get a telephone credit card. I used one
extensively this summer and made advance motel reservations almost every night (generally, I
found the “toll free numbers” to be busy every time I called). Its convenience and the
assurance of a guaranteed room for a late arrival made my trip much more relaxed.
VI. FEATURE – Profiles of Storm Years
John Weaver of Norman, Oklahoma suggested a series of articles that “profile various storm
chase years,” and which would lead to a general accounting of each season. ST readers are
invited to send me a Chase Log of this year’s activity in the following format, as well as
similar information from prior ‘vintage’ years. Example:
SIGNIFICANT WEATHERPHOTOGRAPHED = (P) (CDT TIME = P:0000)
5-30-78 Dodge City, Ks -Garden City -Hoxie Tornadic
-Hill City -Hoxie -Garden City
CB NE of GCK (P: 1445-2035 ; smallshear type funnels & rotating dust columns
(P: 1749-1944); & sheared base (P: 2035).
Please include a summary comment section to your Log, detailing general observations and any
“learning experience” gained, from which others could benefit. One tangible benefit of this
type of accounting is to make chasers aware of others who also photographed “their” storm.
They might want to acquire slides of how the CB looked from 50 miles away, while they were
underneath it, etc. Making each other’s pictures available would permit those who
photographed a good tornado to also secure a complete profile of their storm from two or
three different locations at about the same time.
In the November 30 issue, I plan to offer some selected poetry about storms, clouds and the
plains which seem to speak to those of our persuasion. Please send me your favorites and the