Rural southern PA.
Two years ago at this time, I was buzzing about in a rental car along the east coast heading to a point of arrival in Falls Church, Virginia. At that point a grueling schedule of daily interview sessions were underway for the Storm Chasing Anthology. Jump ahead to 2016, and it’s only fitting a similar route would conclude the documentary project two years later.
David makes a wish, September 2016, Falls Church, VA.
Arriving to the residence of David and Nancy Hoadley, the scenery had changed very little. Falls Church suburbia outside of Washington D.C. still had the energy from when I first walked up to that address. People mowing lawns, walking dogs, kids playing in yards. David greeted me at the door, timeless it seemed. Despite nearly 11 hours on the road, often without cruse control which died mid-trip, there was plenty of time for catching up, conversation, and a surprise cake. It was David’s 78th birthday! This stopping point was a poignant moment. So many places, people, and experiences involved in the production of this independent documentary were culminating at this moment. The premiere had long since happened in April, but I was on the way to a final public screening in Norfolk, Virginia. Awaking that Friday morning, I searched around for some note paper to leave a parting thank you to the gracious hosts, only to catch sight of the Dorothy, Toto, and tornado wind-up globe of which opens the film. For a moment I paused thinking how fast it all went. “Wow, it’s really done.” The sensation was incredibly anticlimactic, yet filled with a sense of accomplishment in finishing something I had set out to do long ago. I got back on the road, zig-zagged the D.C. area traffic congestion, and headed south to Richmond.
Nauticus, home of the 2016 National Weather Association WeatherReady Fest, Sept. 10, 2016, Norfolk, VA.
The Nauticus is a maritime-themed science center and museum along the waterfront in Norfolk, Virginia. WeatherReady Fest kicked off the National Weather Association’s 41st annual meeting with a host of family themed events, showcasing well-known weather/meteorologist personalities and public education events. Fair weather and humid conditions welcomed crowds in the thousands. Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel was actively signing autographs, Dr. John Scala adorned a hat resembling Carnac the Magnificent showcasing educational events, Dr. Marshall Shepherd presented a kid-themed talk on “cola, sports and zombies” and meteorologist Nick Walker sang weather-themed hip-hop to the amusement of dozens of kids. There were events on each level, including a 1:30 p.m. showing of the Storm Chasing Anthology, publicly for the final time.
Greeted by a tack board and digital marquee outside of the visually appealing theatre, it was kind of surreal this was all happening. It had been discussed two years prior to actually premiere the film at the NWA event, but here it was, winding down the hard work spent independently on the road, toiling with film and videotape and in front of a computer screen editing for months. The film was fantastic to see on a high definition 50 x 24ft movie screen! The acoustics were overwhelming at times, making me very cognizant of the importance of theatrical audio balancing verses hearing it solely through headphones or computer speakers. Clearly the documentary was not targeted for the four to six year old crowds, but did hold adult interest for the full 67-minutes. This showing brought some old friends out of the woodwork, specifically Chris Nuttall (a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Shreveport, LA), whom I had not seen in a decade — and was indirectly part of the original documentary concept in 2004. A few of us talked, took photos, shook hands, and soon the event wrapped up. A very big thank you to Bill Murray and Janice Bunting of the National Weather Association for bringing the Storm Chasing Anthology at WeatherReady Fest, and the kind multimedia staff at Nauticus for screening the documentary.
North Chesterfield, VA, south of Richmond.
Arriving back to the Richmond area, a sensation of Déjà vu transpired upon pulling into the driveway of Roy Britt — one of, if not the first storm/chase video archivists and one whom was of vital support to the production of Anthology. Nearly two years prior, virtually the same scene greeted me. Brick houses, families sitting around conversing in the evening outside, and a maroon Chevy Impala adorned with a “VORTEX” plate. Similar to the parting glance of the Dorothy/Toto globe in the Hoadley household, that anticlimactic feeling returned. At the same point I reflected on all those who had participated to make this project a reality. All the couches, spare beds, isolating hotel rooms, and nights attempting sleep in a car flashed back; every high and low point flashed swiftly as a lightning bolt. Overall this project highlighted the broad interconnectedness so many have to a lone subject, regardless of age or era. It was not just about achieving an independent film project I had thought about producing for so many years, rather, it showcased the importance of people in our daily lives, the bonds we share, and the drives that fuel our passions. It was a personal one-of-a-kind educational experience, much like life itself, never to repeat in this particular way ever again. The travels and conversations all served up valuable moments, if only to be preserved for historical posterity. But more so beyond it all, this endeavor did clear a solid foundation to continue building on, even if the answers now are not entirely clear just yet.
Looking across the street at a family on Brandywine lane, I realized just how much this undertaking had become a part of me, that somehow I was missing out on all the social norms being had at that very moment. Date nights, dinners with a growing family, socializing, getting ready for the next school day or prepping for work. That all flashed through the senses. I had segmented into something very unique, but also something quite consuming, almost like storm chasing in a way. Feeling relieved, standing there in Roy’s driveway, it was the appropriate to time to let this endeavor go. Feeling thankful, I smiled, started the car, and drove back to the hotel room. That’s a wrap!
The Storm Chasing Anthology is now available online for educational and historical posterity.