By now, the media has updated everyone on the events of the weekend. I wanted to share a thought this morning with one of the groups of people I work to try to keep appraised on the side, and whom I thought could appreciate the scenario.
If you own a weather radio or read the NOAA updates, you have probably heard or read the end tag “Spotter Activation will not be needed” at the end of a report. Or the ever worrisome “Spotter Activation will be needed at…..” and wondered what it all meant.
Those are the lines that put me and other spotter/chasers in to action each night on a alert level. Without muddying the waters I get called for other items but those lines are a “Heads up!” alert for all the spotter organizations in an area to be ready, we think it is serious. These individuals, groups, and teams- all volunteers, will spring in to action and spend their day, evening and often nights trying to keep the various NWS offices appraised with scientific data, visual cues, and imagery to help us send alerts, balloons, and warnings to the national media and direct systems like weather radios.
The price was heavy in keeping folks appraised over the weekend. Three men whom I have had the pleasure of working with since my start in the weather industry Paul Samaras, Tim Samaras and Carl Young residents of Colorado and California, died while trying to plant a measuring device in front of the Canadian County tornado. http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/06/02/the-stunning-tornado-videos-of-storm-chaser-tim-samaras-who-has-died/
It is one reason I seldom directly chase anymore. The storms are getting more unpredictable in the last 2 years (from my perspective anyway), and the influx of what we call “storm lice” or folks who are not professional storm chasers but throw themselves in front of storms recklessly because they think it fun, or cool has increased three fold. So you no longer are simply concerned with just a storm, but with endangerment of those around you. It’s a nightmare scenario, personally. However, I do chase, and did that night from Tulsa, through Bella Vista, Exeter, Cassville and in to Springfield and past in to Marshfield. We were spread too thin, with too many storms, and too little chasers.
I know how many folks will react, pointing out that storm chasers take risks. I wanted to say that Tim did not take risks. Tim was as cautions as they come. The storm made a hard jog north as Tim tried to place instrumentation in its path and his safety zone became a danger zone. One, that with a tornado that spun up as rapidly as this one did, he could not escape. Even with 4 weather centers, and over 12 people watching the storm, and the radar, myself included, none of us could contact Tim fast enough to have him change course…the storm moved that fast.
These were folks I have shared coffee with, talked with, swapped E-mails with and spoke with. They were not nameless entities on a computer or celebrities on a TV screen. What they did saved countless lives in other places and their information that night went directly to NWS Norman to call for the cover of at least 3 cities before they were struck. In any occupation, you have the risk takers…from snowboarding to boating. I just wanted to set the record straight that they was none of these, as they were good people trying to do something good to help others.
Moreover, the fact of the matter is the casualty rate was much lower than it could have been in OKC, people were prepared despite the mass chaos and dangerous storm going through a heavily populated metropolitan area. All of that is directly because of people like Tim, Paul and Carl. Because of them, we could coordinate, identify damage, and send out warnings to the places that needed them. We received measurements, visual identification, pictures, video, and calculations. None of which we would have without boots on the ground in a dangerous environment.
We have more storms coming this week. Starting tomorrow night most likely and again at the end of the week. As we measure the back build I’ll let you know what’s coming. Right now, count on hail, and high winds. And Spotters being in the field