Category Archives: Prologue


2016 Season Summary

08Here is the overall plan for my 2016 storm season (which I’ll update as events warrant):


22Jan Fri Bolingbrook,IL Norman,OK ChaserCon 2016
23Jan Sat Norman,OK ChaserCon 2016
24Jan Sun Norman,OK ChaserCon 2016
12Mar Sat Bolingbrook,IL Wheaton,IL 26 DuPage OHSEM Advanced Spotter Training (seminar)
24Mar Thu Oak Brook,IL Naperville,IL
26 NEMA Radar Class #1: Rochelle, IL F4
07Apr Thu Oak Brook,IL Naperville,IL
26 NEMA Radar Class #2: TX outbreak
21Apr Thu Oak Brook,IL Naperville,IL
26 NEMA Radar Class #3: Mesovortices
12May Thu Bolingbrook,IL ??? Prologue
13May Fri Oak Brook,IL Kearney, MO 469 mi
DAY 01: To the “Show Me (Cheap Gasoline)
14May Sat Kearney,MO Oklahoma City, OK
(via Medford,OK; Wakita,OK;
El Reno, OK)
527 mi
DAY 02: The Unexpected
15May Sun Oklahoma City, OK Oklahoma City, OK 7 mi
DAY 03: Around OKC
16May Mon Oklahoma City, OK Plainview, TX 593 DAY 04
17May Tue Plainview,TX Ozona,TX 350 DAY 05
18May Wed Ozona,TX Van Horn,TX ??? DAY 06
19May Thu Van Horn,TX Raton,NM ??? DAY 07
20May Fri Raton,NM Limon,CO ??? DAY 08
21May Sat Limon,CO Kimball,NE ??? DAY 09
22May Sun Kimball,NE Dodge City, KS ??? DAY 10: Murky tornado
23May Mon ??? ??? ??? DAY 11
24May Tue ??? ??? ??? DAY 12
25May Wed ??? ??? ??? DAY 13
26May Thur ??? ??? ??? DAY 14
27May Fri ??? ??? ??? DAY 15
28May Sat ??? ??? ??? DAY 16
29May Sun ??? ??? ??? DAY 17
30May Mon ??? ??? ??? DAY 18
31May Tue Bolingbrook,IL Epilogue
Plan was to not chase GRAY
Planned Chase Day (future) WHEAT
Available to chase; no weather (“blue-skied”) BLUE
Chase Day (available and expect stormy weather) GREEN
Weather Stormy, but not available for chasing PINK
BUST DAY – no severe storms where we looked! ORANGE
Training Day WHITE

Web Links

11May2016 Wednesday: Rumble in my ‘hood

Thunder and lightning are at my door. Nothing severe here, but I feel like I’m being teased. Note: the two odd-shaped polygons in the center circle are the city limits for Naperville, Illinois (where I volunteer for the emergency management agency’s weather desk) and neighboring Bolingbrook, where I live.


I’m going through my pre-vacation checklist. I just finished one deceptively small item: cleaning my Nikon camera lenses, a two-hour job, thanks to not doing it in a very long time. Beats having dirty lenses!!

Here’s what’ was left of a much longer list when I started my work day:

  • Re-check with Tempest office – confirm all paperwork, T-shirt size (medium) etc. in good order. Let them know I am driving down, not flying – Thu
  • Respond to introductions (email) once they arrive – Wed
  • Computer and media checks:
    • Test laptop  – done
    • Test 3 TB hard drive – done
    • Format memory cards (an evening’s work) – Thu
  • Prepare vacation task list for work – Thu
  • Clean and check all Nikon lenses and camera – done
  • Utilities, etc. in VACATION mode – by departure date
    • Mail held at post office – done
    • Water –  a.m. of departure day
    • Gas – water heater – a.m. of departure day
  • Update travel plans with my U.K. contingent:
    • Sun 08 May – done
    • Wed 11 May – done
    • Fri 13 May
    • Sat 14 May
    • Sun 15 May

Amateur Astronaut Checklist – 2015 edition

Every year my gadget collection evolves, as gear wears out or needs a technology refresh to keep up with new capabilities in the field.  The following checklist (and its predecessors) have been my constant companion for over 10 years:

The ever-evolving checklist, obviously technology-driven

The ever-evolving checklist, obviously technology-driven (click to enlarge)

Without the list, I’d be rushing off on certain mornings, only to return to the motel where I’d left a key piece of gear.

I learned the lesson years ago when a member of the tour staff left an expensive camera in Norfolk, Nebraska.  We returned several days later to collect the missing camera, but only after frantic phone calls and changes to our positioning strategy to allow the return. While the camera had been turned over to the local police department, it could have just have easily disappeared.  After witnessing the anguish suffered by my chase companion, I decided not to repeat his experience. Thus, the list was born.

CHASE2014: Season Plan/Summary

Here is the overall plan for my 2014 storm season (which I’ll update as events warrant):


DATEDAYSTARTENDMILESREMARKSSEMINARS/CLASSROOM TRAINING: 14 FebruaryFridayBolingbrookILDenverCO-ChaserCon2014-minilogoChaserCon 2014 – day 1 (convention) FebruarySaturdayDenverCO—ChaserCon2014-minilogoChaserCon 2014 – day 2 (convention) FebruarySundayDenverCOBolingbrookIL-ChaserCon2014-minilogoChaserCon 2014 – day 3 (convention) MarchTuesdayBolingbrookILNapervilleIL-nexradNaperville EMA
Radar class (#1 of 3)
Weather Command Class I
http://www.napervilleema.org12 MarchWednesdayBolingbrookILNapervilleIL-nexradNEMA Spotter Training (mandatory)
http://www.napervilleema.org15 MarchSaturdayBolingbrookILWheatonIL-nexradDuPage OHSEM Advanced
Spotter Training (seminar)
http://www.dupagesevereweather.com26 MarchWednesdayBolingbrookILNapervilleIL-nexradNaperville EMA
Radar class (#2 of 3)
Weather Command Class II
http://www.napervilleema.org09 AprilWednesdayBolingbrookILNapervilleIL-nexradNaperville EMA
Radar class (#3 of 3)
Weather Command Class III
http://www.napervilleema.orgTBAPOSTPONEDBolingbrookILNapervilleIL-first-aidBlood-borne Pathogens (mandatory)
http://www.napervilleema.orgSOUTHERN/GREAT PLAINS CHASES: mid-May: 4060 miles / 11 days

 09 MaySaturdayBolingbrookIL––Prologue10 MaySaturdayBolingbrookILOklahoma CityOK–TRAVEL11 MaySundayOklahoma CityOK—PLAYING TOURIST12 MayMondayOklahoma CityOK______DAY 1: ORIENTATION; DEPART BASE13 MayTuesday_________DAY 2: _14 MayWednesday_________DAY 3: _15 MayThursday_________DAY 4: _16 MayFriday_________DAY 5: _17 MaySaturday_________DAY 6: _18 MaySunday_________DAY 7: _19 MayMonday_________DAY 8: _20 MayTuesday_________DAY 9: _21 MayWednesday_________DAY 10: _22 MayThursday_________DAY 11: RETURN TO BASE23 MayFridayOklahoma CityOKBolingbrookIL___Homeward bound24 MaySaturdayBolingbrookIL   EpilogueIL/IA CHASES/SPOTTING: Chaser/spotter fun within 300 miles of home
(TBA)(TBA)BolingbrookIL(TBA)– VIRTUAL CHASES/SPOTTING: Like chasing without leaving home (or the office)

Plan was to not chase GRAY
Planned Chase Day (future) YELLOW
Available to chase; no weather (“blue-skied”) BLUE
Chase Day (available and expect stormy weather) GREEN
Weather Stormy, but not available for chasing RED
BUST DAY – no severe storms where we looked!
Training Day
Accommodations Restaurants Tools Web Links

NOTE: The restaurant and accommodations links will be dead until I get out in the field.

Lisa’s Big, Fat Camera Collection



Top to bottom:
B. Panasonic
C. Panasonic
D. JVC GZMH77U HDD camcorder
E. Canon Vixia HDD+SDHC camcorder


Top to bottom:
A. Pentax ME super SLR
B. Pentax K1000SE SLR
C. Pentax ZX-5 SLR
– Focal M-200 flash w/W.A. Adapter & color filters
D. Pentax K20D DSLR w/pro master 7200EDF Digital flash


Pentax lenses:

Top to bottom, left to right:
A. Sakar 0.42x fisheye
B. Pentax 35-80 AF
C. Pentax 28-70 AF
D. Tamron 28-200 AF
E. SMC Pentax-F 80-200
F. Toyo 200mm


Support (tripods, clamps, etc)

Top to bottom:
A. MX2000 (brand unknown) tripod
B. Bogen 3001 tripod
C. Dynex DX-SW040 monopod
D. (2) Sima SVP-3 Videoprops
E. (2) ultra-compact “toy” tripods
F. Various Manfrotto quick releases

(No, Jim [Reed] and Bill [Reid — ‘no relation’], I do not plan on dragging all this to Oklahoma for this trip (LOL!) )

15 May 2011 – “The Air Up There”

I left the house on time, thanks to Alfonse, my limo driver, arriving a tad early. His warm, boyish smile almost made me forget we left at 5:30 am. 45 minutes later and $60+tip poorer, I was at the terminal at O’Hare. Collecting my E-ticket, taking my two (carry-on!) bag through TSA inspection, and getting on the plane were effortless.

I passed the time waiting for the plane conversing with this young man (20-something) about such topics as the flood in Louisiana, my his to Maui the previous week, Michael Jackson, basketball, and storm-chasing.

Flight went well. Took some cloud photos; looking at them during on the flight, I thought I’d toss most of them away (due to poor quality), but changed my mind when I saw them on the computer after the Thunder-Grizzlies basketball game. (“Let’s Go, Thunder!” billboard dot the OKC landscape, by the way. They sure love the NBA here in OKC!) It was great to get aerial cloude photos; I hardly ever see clouds from and vantage point but underneath. It’s great to look at “the air up there.”. Here it is:

I had Italian food at Portfino’s (Reno & Meridian, a few miles north of the hotel), Loved the Chicken Caccitore, minestrone soup, and the tiramisu. Service was good, though I was unclear that my soup was a substitute for my salad.

After lunch, I spent some time (and money) at Shepler’s Western Wear (down the street 2 blocks from the hotel). I finally broke down and bought my cowgirl boots (to be shipped home) and a new black cowgirl hat (for the trip), I love shopping there: the selection is authentic and huge, and there are real bargains if you look hard enough. (I am concerned about the boots arriving before I return. maybe I can email Stuart and have them delivered to *his* place in my absence.)

Tried to find a high-end photo supply store (to get a 37mm UV protection lens for the JVC camcorder, but no luck. Tried the Walmart and Best Buy near McArthur and I-40, but to no avail. I will have to soap the thread on the 30.5-37mm step-up ring, to avoid another ‘stuck lens (like I experienced yesterday). “Proceed with caution ” applied here.

Dinner was the ribs and chicken combo at Charleston’s, a really nice eatery located across the street from the motel. A 5-star taste at a 3-star price!

I was in a really good mood over the Thunder advancing to the NBS Western Conference Finals. The Bulls also beat the Miami Heat (as they had during the regular season). I was thinking how cool it would be to have two talented young NBA teams (Bulls and Thunder) face each other in the NBA Finals.

CHASE2009 – PROLOGUE #1 – Pre-chase preparation – round 1

Another Season of active weather is in full gear, and I am ready to join the fray.

This Year’s chase approach

Since my regular chase partner is unavailable when i have time off, I am using my fallback strategy: go with a commercial chase tour (my old favorite, Tempest Tours).   Beyond that, I will be limit to weekend chases (with a long-distance trip for Independence day weekend, weather permitting).

Given that my regular ‘commuter car’ — a 2001 Chevy Prizm that has never had a moment of trouble until now — is not in running condition, my chase vehicle is my temporary commute vehicle.  I use a separate vehicle for chasing to avoid risk to the car I use to go to work, but cannot realistically exercise that option now. Once my tax refund arrives, I’ll fix the Prizm and revert to the old vehicle strategy.

Pre-season training and certification

As in past years, I have done some pre-season training, highlighted by the Advanced Spotter Training seminar that DuPage County (Illinois) Emergency Management Agency (DCEMA) sponsors annually.  This year, the training counts toward my biannual spotter re-certification, so I do not need to re-do the basic spotter training class. As usual, the DCEMA folks rounded up some excellent speakers and the talks were educational and informative.  I even sat a few seats from a fellow survivor of the 1967 Belvidere, Illinois tornado, the storm that is probably responsible for setting my path toward storm chasing. (OPTIONAL: Insert Twister / Helen Hunt joke here.  Cool).

[SIDE NOTE: YouTube has a couple of Belvidere videos here and here, if you want to learn more.)

The annual WGN9-TV/FermiLab severe weather seminar acts as the other part of my training refresher (especially the presentations on lightning, tornado injuries, and storm safety). Some high precip storms came through the area (drenching us when we entered the build at 5pm).  The local chasers were easy to identify: all had a ‘should I stay or chase’ look on their faces. Nothing like have a good storm during the storm seminar to confuse the die-hard weather weenies!

The 6-10pm presentations ran so late that Ron and Cheryl Schmalz (my local chase partners) and I left early to get our first real meal of the day.  The evening meal at the local Sonic, the post-storm sounds and smells, and my van full of chaser gadgets made it feel like the end of a chase day.

Cheryl was fortunate enough to win on of the weather radios that was given away. (I believe that brings the unofficial radio count for the Schmalz household to 20 or so!)  I’m sure she and Ron will enjoy many hours of use from the new radio, as they are very active in storm spotting for their community.  They are both terrific examples of the many selfless individuals who give their hearts and hands over to the cause of keeping their neighbors safe when the skies grow threatening.

More pre-chase preparation

Hopefully, before the trip, I empty out the 2008 chase video from my HDD camcorder, prep my cameras (including the Pentax 14M-pixel K20-D), and get my chase laptop rebuild (as it is a bit too-crash prone to use in the field right now).  I also want to update my chase pages, espeiclly the tools section.  I’ll be using some Tim Vasquez weather book for inspiration in that area.

Stay tuned for more updates soon!


Vacation Day from Hell – 20080523


Today has been an awful day.  I spent the whole morning geting my storm chase boorkmarks entered on my laptop when it started acting. In short, I lost 4+ hours of work when Foxmarks collided with a temporary file cleaner that’s part of Norton 360 protection software — at least I think that’s what happened.  The local file got clobbered AND then got auto-uploaded to before I even realized what happened. I was able to restore the web-based Foxmarks bookmarks from a backup, but I lost everything I’ve done on this project for the last two days!

*head spins*

At least it wasn’t a hardware failure.

I guess it’s a blessing in disguise that the chase team won’t leave until Sunday morning.  I’ll certainly need all day tomorrow to pack, discover and fix any problems with cameras, clothing for the trip, etc.