Sunday, August 16, 2009

Considering a tornado chasing vacation?

A group from Silver Lining Tours scanned the skies over eastern Colorado in June for signs of a tornado.

“WE’VE got to go right now, folks,” Roger Hill shouted on a recent Monday afternoon in Scott City, a beautiful speck on the map of western Kansas. “We’re going east. The eastern storm is a monster.”

After waiting hours on a sultry day — first at a Pizza Hut, then at a Dairy Queen — we finally heard the words we had been waiting for. We were on the second day of a tornado chase in the Great Plains led by Mr. Hill and David Gold, owners of Silver Lining Tours, a 12-year-old company that specializes in extreme-weather travel, and it seemed that our quarry was finally within reach.Along on the journey were seven tourists, from Oregon to England — each had paid $2,200 for a six-day storm-chasing vacation devoted to seeing some of the world’s worst weather up close — and me, a reporter shadowing their experiences for two days. It was not, as you might imagine, a typical vacation. As Russell Glenister, from London, told me, “Most of the time when you tell people you’re chasing tornadoes, they think you’re crazy.”

(I have chased tornadoes on 3 separate occasions, and gotten "lucky" each time, although the truth of the matter: I had to invest a couple of weeks each time I went out before I actually saw a tornado. The first few days you invariably see hail, rainbows, thunderheads of every possible shape and dimension - a LOT of false alarms. If you know what you're doing and how to approach a severe local storm the threat to life and property is fairly small and manageable. The biggest risk is being hit by lightning, or some yahoo driving at 100 mph + to try and intercept a twister and get the money shot! It is the most amazing visceral rush you can ever imagine - a buzz to end all buzzes! Not sure you have to pay thousands of dollars to see a tornado - one of the cheapest, most effective ways to see a tornado is to fly to Oklahoma City, rent a car [never use you own car, the hail damage risk is off the scale!] and drive down to NSSL, the National Severe Storms Lab in Norman, Oklahoma, and TAG ALONG with the pro's. That's right, stalk the pros! The best time to go is late April into mid May. If you spend at least 2 weeks in Oklahoma, and are willing to drive a rental car (fast) into Texas, Kansas, Nebraska - if you're tenacious, you WILL see a tornado!)

For the complete New York Times article from Brian Stelter click here.

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