Old topic, quick post:

Going back through some of this years top storms. We are all saddened by the loss of great chasers Tim Samaras, his son and Carl Young. But one thing that keeps nagging at me is the media’s hypocrisy, especially when it comes to one particular person. Mike Bettes of The Weather Channel.

In 2011, there was a huge rash of tornadoes all over the south and into the central US. Chasers were out in force. For many years now (since around 2008) crowds in certain chasing areas have grown from nuisance to dangerous levels with road congestion and irrational behavior. Mike bettes when on air to complain about such situation in this video:

However, in May 2013, who else but Bettes was the one guilty of driving (well, he was a passenger) straight into a tornado and flipping the Chevrolet Suburban that was wrapped with large “Tornado Hunt” graphics. I completely wrong move.

And of course he tries to do damage control with the post event interviews. Of course he only did interviews with his own station (TWC). Never once interview with exterior sources.

I kinda feel somewhat betrayed by the set of events in that I briefly spoke to Bettes after a talk he did in Silver Spring, MD at the NWS headquarters. He seemed nice enough. Never got a chance to talk with him in the field though. Seemed a little stand-off-ish, but then again I also tend to be that way while chasing in the plains.

So, that is all. Just wanted to share that. Something quick and short to maybe see if I can get back to blogging.

Hurricane Charley – 9th Anniversary

Tomorrow, August 13th, 2013 will mark the 9th year since the Category 4 Hurricane made landfall on the southwest coast of Florida in the town of Punta Gorda. It seems like yesterday while also seeming like so long ago. In part because Hurricane Charley was only my second true intercept (Floyd 99 and Michelle 02 were not direct hits or full tropical experiences). I started with Hurricane Isabel the year before but that was quite mild experience when contrasted to the event I was to encounter in August 2004. Now with 11 hurricane intercepts and a Hurricane Hunters flight, Charley is as much a memory as an experience that will always be sired into my mind.

What Hurricane Charley did was cement the idea that I truly loved the power of nature and wanted to document something that many people didn’t…perhaps couldn’t. I had seen many documentaries and photographs of hurricanes, but they never seem to match the stories I heard about hurricanes. Andrew and Hugo in particular stuck out in my mind because both were strong storms and Andrew in particular had family that lived through it, with fantastic stories but not much proof existed. It was that passion that drove me to get more into intercepting hurricanes (with the help of both Jeff & Chris whose passion was contagious).

The entire experience was surreal for me back in 2004. To this day, I have an internal debate (and often discuss with my fellow hurricane chaser friends) what would I do today now having been through that experience. What would I do if it was an event worse category 5 storm. The real danger of intercepting these top end hurricanes is real. We pushed the limits with Charley, filming OUTSIDE in the elements. True, I was uniquely qualified to find an acceptable area to secure ourselves and vehicles. The uniqueness of the Charlotte County Courthouse and to a lesser extent the Bank of America did provide some semblance of protection. At the time there wasn’t a lot of time to decide. As with some other chasers that managed to make it into the area, they didn’t manage to get in position to document the storms like myself and those I was with. It was a team effort of course. While I provided both position input and architecture/structural knowledge, Jeff & Chris provided the needed hurricane knowledge about how the winds would behave (which is why we decided on the courthouse versus the bank). So though we all did our best, during the storm, many of us truly felt we pushed it too far. Three of us (Doug, Chris & myself) at the courthouse were outside (but in a slightly protected areaway) during the eyewall passing. It was only by probably a few miles per hour that we managed to literally hang on to a handrail before getting sucked out. Very little relief was given during the eye of Hurricane Charley because it was so small and the storm moved so fast. We had little more than 10 minutes to regroup and prepare for the second half. In fact, Chris…whom often wondered off, went missing for a while and I was a bit fearful at the time of what happened to him.

In some of our footage, you can hear just how gleeful we are at the end of the storm as we all regrouped (with Jim Edds and Mark Rackley) in front of the Celtic Ray (where I’ll be tomorrow evening). At the time it didn’t seem so odd, but it was so unique looking back now after so many other intercepts. Not one other time have I been so happy to be through it. Never have I had so much adrenaline pulsing at the conclusion of the storm. The normal mode by the end of a storm is to so exhausted, so drained, so miserable from the salt water, sand blasted, hours (sometimes days) without sleep, that I’m just happy it is over. Not that I’m unhappy, just happy to finally be able to sleep and regain consciousness. Hurricane chasing is normally a dedicated experience, not an adrenaline rush ride. Charley was the exception to the rule.

So tomorrow, I will visit Punta Gorda, spending more time around the city than I have in my other short visits. I will revisit and film many of the areas I was in. Next year, maybe there will be more fanfare with the big 10 year anniversary, but this year, it mostly will be about me getting re-acquainted with the city that I spend many days in after the storm when we were selling the documentary film. Heck, next year it would be fantastic to have everyone back in one place to discuss the storm.

New Ride. Ready for action.

Well, deep into hurricane season, and getting settled for my Florida base of operations (Maryland still part of my residency) I have one more aspect taken care of and that is a new (used) vehicle to be used for storm chasing, hurricane intercepts in addition to my outdoor activities and daily driving needs. For the new vehicle, I have returned to Subaru, getting a 2001 Forester S. As much as I had a love/hate relationship with my previous Subaru Legacy GT wagon. That was in part due to numerous repairs and maintenance items that either I or a repair shop had to complete. In this purchase, I made sure that I ended up with something that was already repaired and had most work done (even if it meant a higher purchase price). In this case, I think I found that. Head gaskets, and a slew of other gaskets replaced. New brakes, new tie rods and more. Interior is clean and while the paint is a poor job (peeling already) it is a nice minty green and when the time comes, will likely keep it.

Subaru Forester

2001 Subaru Forester, the iTecture Wagon.

Overall, it is a great car. It has many of the pluses of the Legacy I owned before (mainly the superior AWD system for chasing duty). It also fixes some of the issues of the Legacy, particularly the ride height issue that wasn’t so great in the middle of a hurricane surge. I may in the not to distant future add a slight lift (approx. 1″) and slightly taller & wider tires (which hoping gets me about 1.5 of actual ride height increase. The one thing this vehicle does not have that I really miss on the Legacy….a sunroof. Really came in handy for filming and photographing, but also was super nice for sunshine lighting inside the cabin (though in Maryland it was nice in winter, Florida I might not miss it as much). I haven’t yet attempted to fit the Yakima rack which may or may not be compatible.

Now, hurricane issues are just the first one that this vehicle will likely encounter (other than local storm chasing for local filming action). However, I don’t doubt this vehicle will see some winter action (Carolinas up through the Mid-Atlantic, depending on the where a “blizzard” will be). After that, I highly expect to be taking it out to the plains for another tornado chase season. It is sizable enough to take a partner, though not sure I will or will not be doing that in 2014. If solo, at least this is somewhat gas thrifty.

This Subaru likely will also see duty as a vehicle for geocaching, kayaking, mountain (well hill…Florida ya know) biking, and camping rig. Some of which may require limited off-road needs. I also hope to do some beach off-roading (and yes, I have a compressor to air up and down on the soft sand). Keep an eye out, you might just see me out there.

 

Brush Fire, controlled burn?

While out taking care of some errands (as quickly as possible so I can start covering weather and such around Florida) on May 8th, 2013, came across some distinctive brush fire type smoke in the distance. I attempted to drive up to it, but it ended up in an area road access was quite restricted (aka no roads). This was near the Little Manatee River just of I-75 south of Ruskin/Sun City Center.

Brush Fire, Sun City Center

Brush Fire near Sun City Center & Ruskin

Typically this is the kind of scene in the dry season (fall & winter) but in the wet season (spring and summer) it is rather rare. However, an unusual patter with an upper level high pressure system that has dominated over the southern US region & Gulf of Mexico has brought in dry conditions. It makes for great relief from the hot and humid for those that don’t like that kind of weather, but it does increase the fire hazard. Here, obviously with some damage.

Further internet research provides no further details on the damage, extent or even if it was actually a controlled burn (only a possible assumption by me because of the proximity to the Little Manatee River park and an early story I saw of prescribed burns in the Upper Manatee River park area (this is the lower region).

In the dry season I do plan of covering some of the fires, but like with my other severe weather coverage it is always difficult to report on because of the internal and external conflict. It is exciting for me to chase down, get close to the danger, but it is damaging to crops and homes and lives.

MIA NWS radar

NWS Miami Radar from May 9

This upcoming Sunday appears to see a slight return in thunderstorm activity for the west-central region (Tampa region). I’m hoping to be out filming. Granted my first time or two I’m out I probably will have a little difficulty “getting it right” but still should have some imagery to share (and sell?). Now, of course today there was some great action in south Florida….too far for me to get to. Just take a look at this radar:

Here I come Florida….again!

IMG_5633So, the second phase (and final for my mother) of the move is coming up in just a few weeks. The first trip was quite successful. We did a bit of camping (your can read that on my iGeoWarrior Blog) and got to see our first, albeit weak Thunderstorm from a little bit of sea breeze interaction over the Sun City Center area.

As things look right now, I’ll be down in the Port Charlotte area for the first month. This will be a great time to revisit in detail, areas where I was during Hurricane Charley back in 2004 (still trying to grasp that was nine years ago). That was just across the river in Punta Gorda. You’ll probably find me fairly regularly at the Celtic Ray, made famous in the Hurricane Charley documentary (on DVD). While in Port Charlotte also will be looking to acquire my next vehicle. I did sell the Jeep a number of weeks ago and now I can get something a little more practical for the long yet easy drives throughout Florida (for filming and other work). Later I’ll purchase another storm chasing and outdoors vehicle like the Jeep or Subaru I had.

Really looking forward to getting down. Wet season is already firing up and some good storm action hitting the peninsula already (I hate missing each one). Seen some good imagery from a various friends (like Jeff Gammons over at Stormvisuals). I certainly can’t let him have all the fun anymore (hahaha). Actually there is a number of people in Florida I look forward to seeing again.

 

Florida, here I come! (for a week anyway).

Screen Shot 2013-04-06 at 12.20.01 AMWell, time to get this Florida bit underway. This will be a trip to take care of some logistics and such for the upcoming move. Luckily the weather is going to be fantastic for camping. Yup, plan on camping down there this time. Saving money, enjoying a little outdoors and taking the dog means hotels are either not available or too pricey. Will be packing light of sorts. Actually driving down in a Moving truck, but after the stuff is dropped off, I won’t have much with me (still driving back to Maryland). Looking to spend about five days there, but not set in stone.

The days in the graphic are my actual trip dates, but close enough. I tell you what, can’t wait till I’m back in Florida. As much as I criticize the state, that’s all government and regulation issues. The weather, people, and more are fantastic, and this time I’m moving to the greater Tampa area, so it should be a lot better (aka more mature) than my two previous ventures in Miami. I don’t think I’ll have a lot of “weather” to document, and may not have any time to chase should storms fire. However, I’m sure there will be some sunsets and sunrises and a few other Florida themed filming and photography done. Will have plenty of updates once on the road (well, probably once I’m in Florida). Definitely have some images to share.

Late Spring Snow for Far Northern DC suburbs.

snow on the backside of Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland

snow on the backside of Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland

Well, that was fun….kinda. Yes, I do love snow, can’t get enough of it. However, this past event, much like the earlier March storm (that was all but a complete bust) didn’t seem to extrude that much excitement out of me. I don’t know whether to blame the busy home sale and pending move for my mind being distracted or whether I’m still in a post snowmageddon (winter 2009/2010) phase that now expects epic events every time.

This is probably not that much different that what I have somewhat suffered from plains tornado chasing (and seen in many others). Once you’ve been out and seen some large tornadoes and had the experience of the most intense situations, the smaller “average” events don’t seem to cut it anymore. I think in part that is why I have not been a consistent chaser that is out season after season. Granted it also has been due to things like school, work, lack of funds, but there has been some sense of I’ve seen the extreme and the rest just won’t live up.

It will be interesting to see how things play out after the move. I’m still wrestling with other priorities, but it is near the end. I’m blogging more and getting back into the weather side of things (and also a few other interests and hobbies).

Going back to this past event, I did head out in the Jeep, though conditions didn’t warrant the extra capabilities, I did manage to travel north a little to up and round southern Frederick County (the next county north of home). Originally hoped to ascend Sugarloaf Mountain, but the owner’s kept the road up close (though it was free of snow). I decided to circle around the back (north) side. More opportunities existed this time versus the earlier March event (where I didn’t even get the cameras out in time) but still limited. I grabbed a few pictures and some filming, but it certainly wasn’t enough to even make a full package out of. Footage will likely just get added to the winter stock film collection.

I can’t imagine another snow event. The next “event” that is seasonally oriented is the Cherry Blossoms, which I will likely be covering again. Oddly, the original predictions had the peak occurring of the next couple of days. That was readjusted of course, now quite a few days into April (more traditional time frame). Probably will only cover it for a couple visits (couple of days). I am going to use the next few days for planning. That planning mostly is about seeing what I have already done, and not copying, but adding to the stock library. This will be the third season I’ll have HD footage and quality pictures of the blossoms down on the tidal basin.

New Look, trying to get back at it.

Well, things are finally starting to wrap up with the house sale. The move is yet to come, but I can finally start looking at my business again and focus on working to get Stormitecture going full time. This blog and website is part of that. I decided the old look was nice, but I’m trying to find a new look. I’m not convinced this is the final either. But I wanted to have something different. I seem to do better when I experiment and add a little trial and error to the push.

I’m also going to go back and re-evaluate a number of things. Some of this is related to business and avenues for business. Some of it is social related. But in the end, it is about making a positive push.

I’ll likely have some more blogs coming up. The next one is likely to be about the GoPro Hero 3 Black I purchased not long ago. I haven’t even really given it a full work out yet. Still trying to get use to the MacBook Pro so editing is somewhat of a challenge. I may actually try the PC again to get some sample stuff out (on the internet).

I can’t wait to get to Florida though, cause that will really bring in the heavy increase of new content. Between adventures and new filmings, increased work, and new friends and business connections, should be a great time.

Here is a quick share of a picture from a couple weeks back of some slight snow. This season has been seriously lacking of snow. In part why you haven’t seen much. Even the last system which was suppose to amount to a decent amount of snow was all but a complete bust. I didn’t even get a chance to get imagery before the snow turned to rain and made the entire look of things awful. Heck, I turned my drive out to Virginia into a geocaching trip to get some enjoyment out of the day.

Image

SNOW!! Last Hurrah of winter….probably.

Well, looks like the statement: good things come to those who wait, is truly in effect. As I may have mentioned before (though haven’t blogged in a long time) that I likely will be moving back to Florida in the not so distant future. So with this late season snow storm, I will have my last play and film outing for winter conditions in what will probably be a long time. Granted I don’t rule out traveling north out of the state again for a snow event. If that happens in the future, it’ll be more like a hurricane intercept type chase.

The forecast for the DC region is anywhere from 4 to 8 inches of snow. There is a deeper snow forecast for further west into West Virginia. For this, the panhandle region is the furthest I’ll likely travel. I blog a little bit later with more specific, or blog once I’m on the road. It appears to be a LONG event with 24 hours of snow fall.

At least I FINALLY get to have the Jeep do its thing.

Extended Christmas Storm

What an usual way to wrap up the severe weather season and pull into the winter season. Tornadoes on Christmas Day, and it is followed by another round of storms coming not far behind. 

Around home, there is mostly just annoyance weather with some light dustings of snow, but today it has switched over to sleet and cold rain. It may switch back over to snow, maybe, later this evening. 

To south of me, down in the Carolinas however, the tornado thread has moved in, and considering yesterday’s tornadoes in Mobile, Alabama and Monticello, Mississippi and other areas, there is a respectable chance we could see an isolated event. Definitely a tempting day to head out and chase, but in the end, I did not. The cold air wasn’t exactly exciting, and I need to set up the new MacBook Pro laptop I recently purchased. So it will have to be an armchair chase today. Probably will update the blog later this evening once the significant severe portion of the storm has pushed off the coast. Then I’ll probably look at the next threat of inclement weather to the region (DC area) is going to be. 

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