20190512 – T-1: Around OKC, 2019

After a busy day yesterday, we slept in late.

Our day really started with Chinese lunch at Golden Palace, a place with over 100 items of high-quality Mandarin and Cantonese appetizers, soups, entrees and (American-style) desserts.

After lunch and a quick fuel stop, we visited the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.  If you go, allow up to two hours to walk through the amazing exhibits, pictured below.

After the museum visit, we went to the Oklahoma National Memorial (“the bombing memorial”).  Although it is a somber place with moving tributes to those lost, it also holds a message of hope and recovery. Photos are below.

We met up with most of the tour group and walked up to Charleston’s for dinner.  Simon and I split a Kale-Quinoa salad, which was still an overwhelming amount of food, even split in half.

Then, we returned to the hotel, where I spent the balance of the evening charging devices, uploading photos, and (finally) sleeping.

20190511 – T-2: Oklahoma Bound

This morning I woke up in Springfield, Missouri. Did not need an alarm clock, as one of my Motel neighbors (who I will simply call #MethMom) was shouting over the second floor balcony to her friends that this motel was “no f***ing kind a place for my f***ing kids!”  If memory serves, this is how certain moms in Missouri (and other states in the Midsouth) indicate that there is no pool for the kids. No matter. I am awake now.

After a quick round of dental hygiene (to remove that taste that I can only describe as “Walt and Jesse starting a meth lab in my mouth”) and a quick cuppa tea I was ready to face the day.

After a quick round of dental hygiene (to remove that taste that I can only describe as “Walt and Jesse starting a meth lab in my mouth“) and a quick cuppa tea I was ready to face the day.

I spent a little bit of time in reviewing yesterday’s photos and getting the updates for yesterday‘S blog page started

Today’s weather is gray and drippy day, a fairly common sight after the good storms have passed through the area a few days earlier. A quick look at the SPC outlook seems to indicate that the next few days are going to be for a little bit quiet, weatherwise. So will be playing tourist and various natural wonders instead of chasing. That’s the way it goes.

I checked Facebook and responded Do a post asking about “what equipment do you use when you chase” as follows:

COMMS:
* Kenwood TMD-710GA 2m/440 ham radio
* Radio Shack PRO2067 500-channel scanner
* Radio Shack TRC-519 CB Radio

INTERNET/GRlevelX(Radar)
* HP Pavilion 13×2 laptop/tablet
* Arnova 10-inch Android tablet

NAVIGATION:
* AVMAP GeoSat6 GPS
* Garmin 18X GPS puck

I also carry a good assortment of cameras/camcorders.

* Nikon D7000 DSLR (plus a lens collection)
* Two GoPro Hero2 cameras (w/3-D frame, various mounts, including the popular suction mount)
* Sony AX-53 4K camcorder (plus zoom and telephoto lenses)

Next stop: Sid’s Diner in El Reno. We arrived about an hour before closing time. I had the King Burger Deluxe, Paul the BLT, and so on. We had a moment of dismay when the British Contingent  realized no beer was available there. We survived, however.

Final tourist stop for the day: the Twistex Crew Memorial. We let Simon try his hand at rural Oklahoma driving  He negotiated gravel roads, muddy ruts, and got us to the memorial in time for some great photos, including shots of a beautiful classic western sunset.

After a quick WalMart stop, we returned to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

(Photos to be added later)

 

20190509 – T-4: The British Contingent Arrives

This Thursday was like any other Thursday, except for my great excitement that my friends are arriving from London. Well I did get work done at work, I am mostly prepared for being absent. I sent a quick email delegating various responsibilities, reasserting the chain of command, and outlining a few goals for the team during my vacation.

Other than leaving my mobile phone at home, the day went pretty much as planned. But I had to come back by the house anyways after work because I was not going to drag a company laptop with me on the road. Absolutely no reason for me to incur that kind of risk when it is in my power to simply store the laptop in a safe place.

After a quick stop by the house, I headed to O’Hare airport. The drive was everything I expected it to be cold and slow moving, filled with cars, trudging along. Here’s a quick time-lapse video to give you a taste of my drive:

9F3539EE-E74E-45DC-BEF0-862E2D60A0E2

Fortunately I got an early enough start that I arrive right around the time that my friends’ flight was arriving.  That said, fortune seem to smile on me: I found a parking spot that was only two or three slots from the sidewalk leading into Terminal 5 (the international terminal), encountered my friends quickly, and left almost as quickly (after Phil ran back into the building to pay for the short term parking, as I flew right on by the pay station without thinking about it).  From the time I arrive to the time we departed could not of been much more than 10 minutes, a personal best for an airport pick up.

 

Kathy, Phil and Simon were happy and energetic as we exchanged hugs. Their Dreamliner flight seem to agree with them and they even remarked that the meals exceeded their expectations. Sliders anybody?

Our ride from the airport down the tri-state, 88, and I 355 went smoothly (but slowly due to moderate traffic).

We sat down to a nice dinner at the Family Square Restaurant in Bolingbrook, just a few minutes From the British contingent’s hotel.

I hung out during the check in process to make sure everybody was able to get into their rooms and settle in for the night. Getting to the rooms just before sunset and having a large meal contributed to everyone aligning their sleep schedules to U.S. Central Time. Jet lag is not much fun, but I hope we were able to get it under control by lining up sunset and meals.

Friday morning comes with an early start, so hopefully everybody gets some good solid sleep so we can enjoy the day. I’m pretty sure the positive attitudes will carry us through no matter what, but some good sleep will really help. I’ve been really tired lately, so the rest will be welcome.

 

20190508 – My Chaser “Dewars Profile”

First real storm chase: May 1996

First tornado:

Chasing: 05 May 2002 – Happy, TX (F2)
Survived: 21 Apr 1967 – Belvidere, IL (F4)

Best chase day: tie:

24 May 2016 – Dodge City, KS (12 TORs)
25 May 2016 – Chapman, KS (EF4; 90 min)

Worst bust: 2012 season plus countless other days

Favorite state to chase in: (tie) TX/OK/KS
(I volunteer with my local EMA, so I don’t chase much in my home state of Illinois)

Most overrated state to chase in: Iowa (WHAT tornadoes?)

Last tornado: 16 May 2017 – Elk City, OK
(Chase team surrendered the next day to help with cleanup.)

Windshields replaced: 0 (but there is always hope, ha ha ha)

Favorite single tornado:  22 May 2011 – Southwest City, MO
( I rarely post footage but see https://youtu.be/woStjRu5aRM)

#StormChaserStory

20190507 – T-6: Last-minute preparations

I have lots of stuff on my mind. House stuff. Packing stuff. Car stuff — OK, that’s 100% finished, actually. But I won’t have a peaceful departure until the pre-vacation ‘to-do’ list reaches zero items pending. (That’s just how I’m wired in my brain, folks.)

The last 48 hours before ‘launch’ are always a bit anxious for me: what will I forget. One year I forgot to put the water heater in VACATION mode, but I’ve never made a serious error like leaving the stove on.

Last night, I taught a 3-hour class on using GRlevel3 and CR2Analyst programs for weather awareness during emergency management agency (EMA) operations. Not bad to handle this on 4 hours sleep!

Today, I’m drinking lots of caffeine and thinking about the last three items on my to do list:

  1. Purchase a wireless shutter control for my Nikon D7000 DSLR camera
  2. Pack my clothing (photographing the contents of the bag as I go)
  3. Adapt the bucket handling my roof leakage to send water to my bathtub while I’m on vacation (‘flood and mold avoidance’).

There are little ‘nice to have’ items I’d like to finish before the trip, but if they don’t get done, the trip will still be pleasant and relaxing.

The truth is that I’m a bit distracted today. The SPC Day 1 outlook showed a MODERATE RISK blob over the Texas Panhandle, one of my most favorite places to chase. It was accompanied by a 10% TORNADO RISK blob.  Those who can chase today should be richly rewarded!

While I’m not superstitious, it’s sometimes fun to consider whether or not sighting the weather radar-themed UHAUL truck is a good omen.

I guess we’ll know later today!

2019 Season Introduction

Howdy!

My name is Lisa Beal. I’ll be touring with Tempest Tours for my 17th trip this year. Where has the time gone?

I’m nearing retirement, but still have plenty of energy for storm days. I’ll need it: I usually carry a hefty assortment of gadgets, earning the name Gadget Girl on tours past.

I live in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and I work as an IT middleware engineer (that means I make big servers go, go, go). Like my buddy, Owen, I’m tied to a keyboard most of my waking hours — and sometimes those hours run really long.

To maintain my sanity, I will NOT be answering calls from work on vacation. Would you?

My typical chase-cation starts with a drive to Oklahoma city, usually with a stopover near friends on the way. And I take about 3 days to get home afterwards, if severe weather is around for chasing.

I have a dedicated chase vehicle (“Gadgetmobile III”, as the first two were gracefully retired in 2007 ans 2018, respectively).
See more information about my chase vehicles here.
I like chase in groups, with a friend or two, or solo.

I’ll be arriving in Oklahoma City on the Saturday evening before the trip so if anyone is wanting to explore locally, let me know! Usually, I make a trip to WalMart on the Sunday before departure, and it is pretty usual to have 2-3 others with me for that store run. Let me know if you need to do that. Text me … to connect for that store run, a lunch or dinner on Sunday, etc. I welcome the company.

I cannot say enough good things about the Tempest Tours crew, especially Bill Reid. He is the storm whisperer, and has put me in front of at least 30 of the tornadoes I’ve seen, among the 50 total I’ve seen. Bill is also an excellent photographer. Don’t be shy if you need camera advice. His is very solid advice.

I will be blogging each evening (or early the next morning) after each chase day. Look for updates athttp://www.underthethunder.org/blog/2018/05/(once I set it up, in the next few days) . I’ll also be posting (after the fact) to Facebook &/or Twitter. I’m user polarpal99 on both.

See you soon!

LisaB

2016 Season Summary

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

CHASE 2016 DAILY JOURNAL

SEMINARS/CLASSROOM TRAINING:
DATE DAY START END MILES REMARKS
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)
http://www.dupagesevereweather.com
24Mar Thu Oak Brook,IL Naperville,IL
Bolingbrook,IL
26 NEMA Radar Class #1: Rochelle, IL F4
http://www.napervilleema.org
07Apr Thu Oak Brook,IL Naperville,IL
Bolingbrook,IL
26 NEMA Radar Class #2: TX outbreak
http://www.napervilleema.org
21Apr Thu Oak Brook,IL Naperville,IL
Bolingbrook,IL
26 NEMA Radar Class #3: Mesovortices
http://www.napervilleema.org
GREAT PLAINS CHASES:
CHASE2016-01:
DATE DAY START END MILES REMARKS
12May Thu Bolingbrook,IL ??? Prologue
13May Fri Oak Brook,IL Kearney, MO 469 mi
(60694-61163)
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
(61163-61690)
DAY 02: The Unexpected
15May Sun Oklahoma City, OK Oklahoma City, OK 7 mi
(61690-61697)
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
 
COLOR CODE
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

Accommodations
Restaurants
Tools
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.

20160511-2219C-KLOT-CR

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.