On any storm chase, there is kind of an unspoken goal to see a tornado. However, the vast majority of all chase days do not result in a tornado sighting. Even those who run paid storm chasing tours cannot guarantee a tornado sighting for a weeklong tour. Additionally, resource limitations, which is increasingly the case in the era of $5 gas, can play a factor. Just because a storm is occurring somewhere, at some time, does not necessarily mean a group of chasers has the time and money to get to that storm.
On Tuesday June 7th choices needed to be made regarding where to target and what storms to pursue.
First, a decision had to be made between pursuing faster moving storms across Nebraska and the far northeast corner of Colorado, and slower moving and potentially more discrete (and therefore easier to track and see) storms further south. As is the case with nearly all chase days, other decision points would occur throughout the day. These included what storms to follow, what roads to take, what angle to look at them from and even how long to stand in the middle of an empty highway taking photos.
In a way, storm chasing is all about making decisions. Perhaps the primary education value of storm chase courses is not observing the atmosphere, but in decision making experience.
On June 7th, every decision we made was the “right” decision. Or, at least we certainly didn’t make any “wrong” decisions, as has been the case with other chases. We went for the storms further south as there was more moisture there. We followed this one storm that seemed to maintain a steady state for several hours. We saw it from a few different angles.
We saw a few dust devils.
And, on several occasions, the storm looked like it was almost going to produce a tornado.
In fact, it’s still disputed as to whether or not a tornado actually occurred, as tornadoes were reported with this storm.
Chasing in this part of the country has its advantages and disadvantages. With wide open spaces and typically drier air, it is possible to see things much further away. However, the road network is quite sparse, and sometimes the only safe option is to view storms from a bit farther away. Therefore, we will never really know if we saw a tornado on June 7th.
Tornadoes are verified by their damage and where we were there was really nothing to damage (perhaps the reason for the sparse road network).
Our chase would end with a close encounter with some pretty large hail.
Of all the things I gazed my eyes upon in the sky on June 7th, I was perhaps the most mesmerized by this optical feature that I cannot even classify.
I had never seen anything exactly like this before. It is a combination of colors that can never be replicated, as it is the result of the specific angle at which the sun’s rays hit the atmosphere, water droplets and clouds. It reminds me some form of obscure artwork that one cannot possibly gaze upon without wondering as to the mental state the artist was in at the time of its production. I struggled to look away as the colors slowly morphed.
For some, this day would be characterized as a “success”, given the cool optical features, large hail and dust devils. For others, it is a “failure” as we could not verify a tornado sighting, nor do we feel like we got a really cool tornado photo or video. However, focusing on whether or not we can technically claim we saw a tornado or classifying the endeavor as a “success” or “failure” is not nearly as important as being happy about the process and making the right choices.
Although the most noteworthy events in life are clearly in the category of wild successes or embarrassing failures, most things we attempt in life don’t really fit neatly into one category or the other. There are businesses that make money but lose sight of their original purpose. There are parties that are sort of fun but missing something. There are diet and exercise programs that produce some results but not quite what was initially desired. Some people even reject the paradigm of viewing everything as success or failure, a win or a loss. The key point that this particular storm chase demonstrates is that for all of us to succeed in life, we need to focus more on the actions we take and less on the results. If you go out there, keep taking chances, keep making smart choices and keep learning, the result you are hoping to get will eventually come.