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Texas Hill Country & Storm-Chasing

Part 13:  The Colorado Chase

 

While I was having lunch the next day, David Gold (owner of Silver Lining Tours) waltzed by, recognized me, and came in to say hello! He told me where the briefing was that night, and that dinner was on your own (which made sense seeing as the meeting was at seven), so we all gathered in the lobby at the prescribed time, and I introduced myself to the crew. We had several Brits this time: Lisa Peachey was easy to remember as we had a Lisa last time, but Rupert and Kevin took me awhile to catch on to! Alister Chapman, our driver, was also from England (as well as being a documentary photographer), and would entertain us during the course of the trip with his own brand of story-telling! We had two Bills: Bill Stroud from Long Beach and Bill Kessler from Massachusetts.  Bill’s friend Gary Crockett was also part of the tour, but for various reasons he opted to drive his own vehicle.  Don Best was an easy-going 60-ish man from New Mexico, and Roger Charbonneau (we called him "Little Roger") was from Connecticut (kinda reminded me of Todd Graff when he had hair...).  Then there was Boisterous Barry Door who added a lot of spice to the group, and last but not least was Della Summers, a dentist from Saskatchewan.  And of course we had our fearless leaders: riding shotgun with Alister was the famous Gene Rhoden, while Roger Hill drove the other van accompanied by David. Our group (consisting of myself, Della, Lisa, and the two Bills) went with Roger and David the first day, then it was suggested that we switch vans daily (which was a good idea), so while we got to bond with a smaller group, we also got the benefit of getting to know the other leaders as well. I found out later that this was the only tour that David leads: his other job ties him up most of the summer, so he and Roger have kind of made a pact to storm-chase once a year together, so this is it; Roger leads all the other tours! Oh, and I can’t forget the Japanese crew: a group from Japan’s Discovery Channel was filming a documentary about storm-chasing, and David had agreed to have them tag along, so in addition to our two vans, we had the three vans full of Japanese folks (only two of which spoke English), Vern (who was kind of "sponsoring" them) and his SUV, and Gary’s jeep.

               

At left, Alister studies weather data on a monitor that happens to be reflecting David’s smiling face!  At right, Della Summers clutches her fast-food lunch (the usual fare for us) while Bill Stroud chats with the Japanese crew.

   

There’s no language barrier where Bill is concerned!

               

"Uh, oh—the packet of catsup sprung a leak…"

 

"Yeah, that last chase stripped the tread, but I think it’ll be okay!" (David Gold and Gene Rhoden)

                     

Weather data changes constantly, so the guys are always checking on the latest observations!

                    

Meanwhile, the rest of us socialize! (Don Best and Lisa Peachey), and Rupert Raven watches the Discovery Channel team from Japan confer...

We must have driven over 1000 miles the next day (rather, poor Roger did L), from Oklahoma City to the only even remotely promising storm system along the front range of the Rockies!  (David bemusedly told Roger, who lives in Denver, that he could have stayed home!) The bird list was short, naturally, as we stopped only for snack and potty breaks, but getting into new territory added three new trip birds to the list, the best being a flock of Franklin's Gulls over a field!  Lisa showed an interest in the hawks so I showed her what was possible from my Sibley's, and a little later a picture perfect Swainson's soared overhead!

  After analyzing the data all day, David decided the most action was going to be northeast of Denver, so we wound up north of Fort Morgan, where interestingly the Storm Prediction Center (SPC herewith) was issuing multiple tornado warnings when the radar images and data we were getting (to say nothing of looking at said storm in the flesh) said nothing of the sort!  This was further complicated by the fact that spotters were evidently actually reporting tornadoes on the ground!  There were several "gustnadoes" (dust "swirlies" kicked up by the storm's outflow) and multiple thin rain shafts that kinda looked like tornadoes if you used your imagination, so we concluded that their spotters were seeing "beer-nadoes"... J The storm was really pretty, though, especially with the sunset!

Roger explains the storm structure to Lisa while Bill K. gets his jacket ready...

 

Gene and Alister eye the photographer suspiciously...

 

The Japanese crew doesn’t miss a thing!

 

The rest of us enjoy the rain shafts that we suspect were mistaken for multiple tornadoes...

     

                        

Enjoying the storm (L-R: Rupert, "Little Roger", Barry, Alister (?), and Don)

         

Scenes as we lose the sun   

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