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T W I S T E R C H A S E R S A R C H I V E
Welcome Storm Chasing Enthusiasts! Not so many years ago, I climbed to the top of one of the Plateaus on the Glass Mountains of western Oklahoma. I stood in awe of the vast, seemingly unending, Oklahoma plains laid out before me. The wind was so incredibly strong, I could lean forward into the wind and balance was effortless, the wind holding me up. Storm Chasing for me is a complex combination of emotions. I am continually in awe of the forces of nature that come together to form a powerful supercell or a tornado. A tornado is both beautiful and terrifying. If a tornado touches down in a rural area, without inflicting damage to property and there is no loss of life, I can truly celebrate at the completion of the thrill of the hunt and bask in the beauty of the moment. If, on the other hand, a tornado has hit a residential community and persons lives have been destroyed, it breaks my heart and leaves me speechless. In a situation of that nature I have never left a scene of destruction without it somehow, changing my life. I hope that I can or did save a life by calling in on a cell phone or HAM radio. The Hoisington, KS chase in 2001 was for me a milestone crossed...HAM license...New Better Cell Phone Coverage...New Data to be safe while chasing. Go to Hoisington Chase
Education is key in preparing
to stay safe, during and after any severe weather event. Please take a
moment and go to the "Safety" Page, and I invite persons to search out
other informative articles about 'storm safety' on other sites. Like
you, keeping my family and friends safe is of the greatest importance.
May 24, 2004
Chase and the Story of Wolf
I woke up………and things got crazy after that. I went online to look at the morning data. Aaaannnnddd the high speed internet was no longer high speed, it was no longer anything. What a day, a moderate risk day, to not have data. That was the first thing to happen. I had no cell phone coverage in Des Moines, Iowa. My cell phone provider had promised me that I would have coverage anywhere in the United States, anywhere there was a cell tower. Well, I knew that Des Moines, Iowa had cell towers….and I wasn’t getting through, on any of them. I was told by the kindest lady in customer service (what I already knew) that I didn’t have cell coverage in Des Moines, IA. SO…..I spent the morning obsessing about how to get data, and how to get cell phone coverage, I spent too much time. My first clue was when my husband, Jeff, called from Nebraska and says “You haven’t left yet?!?!?”
I threw everything in the car, checked and rechecked the room for overlooked items that I might have missed while packing the car. Ah ha, there it was my ac charger for my “no coverage” cell phone. I had to reconnect my laptop in the car, the GPS, the XM weather and set the tripods in place. I leave NOTHING in my car on over night stays. It might be a little bit of a hassle but it is better than finding a car the next morning with everything stolen. Only this morning time was not on my side and I was desperate to get on the road.
Finally, it was off to the Burger King for a breakfast sandwich and coffee. Earlier in the morning I was able to squeeze out just enough data from the SLOWWWW internet connection and my target zone was somewhere south and west of Lincoln, NE. Gosh, I was several hundred miles from my target zone and it was 10:30 am. My only source of information would be from my husband, Jeff, and what I could see on XM. Jeff called me somewhere between Des Moines and Omaha and I could have sworn that he said “Take your time, you’ll have plenty of time, I think it is just going to be just south of Omaha.” Now…….I didn’t imagine that, at least, I don’t think that I did. But when I arrived near Omaha and I received another call (from Jeff) that storms were firing near Pawnee City and where was I, and I told him my location……well, we both flipped out.
I started blasting south on Hwy 75, however I knew that I was going to have a difficult time catching up to those storms. Obviously the storms were traveling northeast and if they were potentially tornadic supercells surely would take on a more eastward heading. And honestly I was not convinced that these were the only storms to fire and that I wanted to chase them. I made it to Hwy 136, Jeff had called me several times and the messages were garbled. He was telling me to blast east, that much I could make out, but I still wasn’t convinced that I could get on those storms or even if I wanted to.
Just 4 miles east of Tecumseh, NE I stopped along Hwy 136 to take some photos. I had pulled off the hwy just past a county gravel road, I jumped out of the car, leaving my door open to take some quick shots, when I panned around to the west a VERY LARGE DOG looking to be part wolf, came from the gravel road and started walking toward me. He/she was wagging their tail just slow and easy and the dog was partially out in the highway, I was saying “Baby, baby come here, get out of the highway”. I was frantic that this gorgeous dog was going to get hit by the oncoming traffic. The dog sauntered right up to me, and seemed friendly enough, walked around me and jumped right in the front seat of my car. I was going “NO, NO, NO,…” and this 100 lb. + dog gingerly steps all over my equipment and jumps to my back seat, I opened the back door to try and get this huge dog out of my car and SHE jumped to the very back on top of my suitcases. She looked so funny squeezed between my suitcases and the headliner. I tried to get her out. But then I thought……I can’t just leave her out near the highway…..what if she is lost. The phone rings. It is Jeff, all I could understand was Beatrice! Oh nuts! I had complete tunnel vision on the storms to the east, and had not zoomed out on XM to see the storms that could have popped to the West.
I looked back at Princess, King, uh, Baby, I tried calling her several names, and said well sweetie looks like your going to have to go chasing with me until I can find your real home. She was a well fed dog, and well groomed, but she smelled like a HOT SWEATY DOG that was for sure. I put a quilted throw over the back seat and lured her to lie down there where it would be more comfortable than the cramped quarters she was in. And we were OFF! A beautiful classic hook shaped supercell had developed and was west of Beatrice. I was kicking myself that I wasn’t paying attention. Whew, sweetie stunk, I turned the a/c to high and kerplunk! A fuse blew and my a/c just quit. So I had to open the windows, which sweetie, loved. She stuck her head out of the window and just loved it.
But something about the air pressure from opening the windows and driving fast down the highway, popped open my sunroof. An electric sunroof, what the heck was going on? I stopped to push it back down in place. I was losing precious time. I am traveling on down the highway when WHOOOOOOSH…..and then a CREAKING SOUND. My sunroof was literally coming up and off its tracks! Nuts! (for lack of a better more appropriate word) Well….this definitely was not going to work. I had to roll the windows up to equalize the air pressure and hopefully keep it from ripping completely off. I had no choice but to stop on the east side of Filley and purchase some duct tape. The convenience store had one kind of duct tape, and it wasn’t REALLY duct tape. I never knew that they made imitation duct tape, but they do. And not only was it imitation duct tape it was OLD imitation duct tape. But it just had to do. So I began wrapping the tape over the jacked up sunroof and through the window and back over the sunroof and managed to use 4 rolls to cover the 3 inch opening hoping to keep out the rain. A tornado warning was already on my storm. It was producing a tornado and I was playing with duct tape. Sweetie, was lying in the back seat with her head on her paws and eyes just looking up at me as if saying “what have I got myself into”.I tried to give her a quick cup of water but she wouldn’t drink it. I thought that was odd, but figured that she was probably a bit traumatized. I was.
I started driving, praying that the duct tape would hold. A piece had broken loose and my car was filled with the loudest vibrating wind noise that you can imagine. But hey, my sunroof was still with my car and that is all that mattered. I went into total chase drive from that point on. I dropped south from Filley and took visual clues to the location of the wall cloud as well as the indications on radar. And then the moment that I had waited for……just rounding a corner and looking to my west I could see the funnel to the ground and chasers everywhere. I drove on a little further to get a better view and the funnel began lifting.
I stopped at an intersection just east of the wall cloud, the fat funnel was half way to the ground, there was lots of motion in the clouds, and actually a second area of circulation was forming to the north. The supercell was gorgeous. I stopped and shot some video and had to move east. Everyone was mesmerized by the beauty of this storm. We just traveled where it went, admiring the immense beauty. But I was concerned about this storm, the inflow was weak and just as I thought the cold north wind undercut the storm and it died. I could see storms firing to the south and east near Emporia, KS and in a line to Topeka, KS. And sweetie and I were off to Emporia, KS.
Eye candy! That is what those storms were…..Eye Candy! Beautiful, massive powerful line of storms lit by the sun to the west. I thought that there is a possibility that I could get on the storm north of Emporia and I took the toll road from Topeka to Emporia. Talk about incredible. The line of storms ran literally on the east side of the toll-road. 50,000 ft supercells just loomed all the way down the highway, the lightning was spectacular. It started getting dark before Emporia. I stopped at the McDonalds and got sweetie and me some chicken nuggets and called it a night. I drove back to Topeka. Then went to Wal-Mart and bought a leash and a really cool feeder and water bowl that had a storage area for dog food. And Big Sweetie Dog and I settled in at the Hampton Inn in Topeka.
I put the leash on the dog and she acted like she had done this all her life. I was thinking, gosh someone must really be missing her. I took her with me back and forth to the car to get equipment and then she settled right down in the room. She drank, and drank, and drank some more. And then she snacked on some food, curled up on the floor underneath the sink. I tried calling her different names to see is she got excited about any one of them, “Princess, King, Baby Cakes, Sissy, Honey Jo Bunny?” she perked up on the Sissy name, hmmmmm, her name must end in an ie. I gave up and fell sound asleep.
The next morning, Jeff, just couldn’t believe the story about the wolf-like sweetie dog. He met up with me in Topeka and we made a plan for finding the dogs’ owner. We would simply follow the GPS route I had taken, back to the stopping point west of Tecumseh and start knocking on doors. The farm houses were few and far between. The first two homes that we went to, no one was home.
At the next mile intersection we went about ½ mile to the west and a couple was outside working in their garden. I asked them if they had ever seen this dog before and they both said they had never seen her and had no idea where she might live. We were running out of options, the chances of finding sweetie dogs home were getting slim, and the next step would be to take her to the Veterinary Clinic in the nearby town of Tecumseh.
About ½ mile down the road from the intersection to the east we could see a house set back off the road on a picturesque hillside, we turned onto the driveway and were greeted by a small barking dog. There was a man standing by a beautiful large wooden gazebo. The body of the gazebo was on a trailer and the ornate top was on the ground. During conversation we found out the gentleman had built the gazebo for his son and future daughter-in-law, they were to be married in the gazebo in the next couple of weeks. I thought what a wonderful labor of love, the gazebo was the most beautiful, by far, that I had ever seen. The man was Steve Mommens and he listened to my story and offered to keep sweetie dog for us and search for her owners. What a kind gesture! Relieved yet saddened that I now had to say good bye to sweetie dog. When I tried to get her out of the back seat she hugged the opposite door, not wanting to get out. I coaxed her with her leash and petted her good bye she was a wonderful dog.
We left and headed down the dusty road toward Hwy 136, I turned toward the window and tears started streaming down my cheeks. I already missed my crazy storm chasing companion of less than 24 hrs, but at the same time I was happy that she was on her way to her true home. I turned to look at Jeff…….”Hon, how about we get a dog?”
Just a note:
I called Steve Mommens later that same evening and he had already found the owners of sweetie dog, Pam and Allen Schmid. Come to find out she was 4 MILES from home! I called and talked to Pam at length about her dogs recent travels. Pam told me that her dog was 10 years old and they had owned her since she was a puppy. When storms approach the dog always heads for their basement, on that particular day no one was home to let her in the basement. I told them all about how she went storm chasing with me and did really well. I told them how she had traveled from Tecumseh, NE to Emporia, KS and back again. Also told her, sweetie dog spent the night at the Hampton Inn in Topeka. She laughed and said, by the way, her name is Wolf. Now why didn’t I think of that!