Mary Beth Stowe's Website

All photographs ©2005

Oklahoma Adventure

The First Colby Chase

A little background: Silver Lining Tours started offering "On-Call Chasing" last year, wherein if a promising storm system was developing, you'd get an e-mail stating such, and you made a decision whether or not to drop everything, catch a plane, and get to the target area pronto (sounds kinda like hard-core birding, doesn't it? J) I was anxious to meet Roger (again; I had actually met him the first time when we crossed paths during the Master Class), and I give him credit: for having only gotten three hours of sleep he was pretty spunky when he met me in the lobby!  (His driver, Tim, looked a little dazed, however, but he quickly perked up as the morning wore on!)  When I made it over to their room to look at the data with them, there was a TV camera pointed in my direction with Denver’s Channel 7 weatherman Mike Nelson in the corner, who promptly came up, sat me down, and started interviewing me! (And the only thing I could think of the whole time was, "Gads--I shoulda gotten my hair cut before I left San Diego!" L) Turns out they were both named Mike (which I’ll bet was real confusing) and interestingly had not worked together before, but they seemed to have bonded well by the end of the day! He was producing a special report on storm-chasing that needed to be out by mid-April, hence why they came along in hopes of getting some footage, but what looked to be very promising storm-wise during the morning really fizzled as the day wore on, even though there were several "tornado warnings" (many are put out based solely on strong rotation picked up on the Doppler radar); the only one that even came close was what Roger figured was a "landspout", because the data coming in showed the conditions were impossible for classic tornadoes to form where one warning was going out. 

At any rate, we came up nil, but we all had a blast: we had a lot of time just to get to know each other, and interestingly most everyone there (including myself) was from the Midwest originally! We headed for our target area, which was somewhere over by Great Bend, and stopped quite a few times so Mike and Mike could shoot. We stopped at what the map implied was Smoky Hill River, just north of Hoisington (where a killer tornado hit in 2001), and while they shot I picked up two new trip birds: Eastern Meadowlark and Eastern Phoebe! When we finally did catch up with the storms they went "poof" (as Tim liked to say), so about all we got was some nice thunder and lightning. On the way out of the spot we stopped at, however, we nearly ran down a flock of Turkeys! Had a nice rainbow on the way back to Colby, however, so we stopped so the Mikes could shoot their closing lines against that (it was fun watching them take two and three and four…).

                      

               "Are you getting my good side?" (Roger Hill                 Roger’s chase vehicle comes complete with

                and photo-journalist Mike from Denver)                        GPS and access to up-to-the-minute weather

                                                                                                                                        information!

      

PJ Mike checks out the river as an interview site while Tim guards the vehicles

       

Mike Nelson (Denver’s Channel 7 meteorologist), Roger, and PJ Mike set up shop on the embankment

        

PJ Mike wires up Roger, and on they go! (Roger does a lot of interview work for The Weather Channel so he’s used to this…)

       

                    That’s the cell we’re after!            Mike N. poses by a quaint rural sign while Roger and Tim chat

        

Mike N. checks out the storm then does his famous "Tornado Dance" for the camera

                    

                        This is about as bad as it got...                                          A nifty GPS program uses the Delorme

                                                                                                                      atlases to tell you exactly where you are!

         

The Mikes make their closing shots against the closing day’s rainbow