Twelve days have elapsed since first arriving to the relaxing, quiet country abode of Roger and Elke Edwards, both whom were gracious hosts during my extended stay in Central Oklahoma. From September 27 to October 9; the range of experiences, individuals, and moments merged into a classification all by itself. Norman, Oklahoma is a “bubble” of severe weather research and storm chasing history for obvious reasons. The city is home to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, Storm Prediction Center, University of Oklahoma: School of Meteorology (all falling under the umbrella of “Battle-Star Norman” as it’s affectionately known by some), the “Dominator” fleet of TV fame (see below), and a seemingly endless supply of weather enthusiasts.
Documenting the “Dominator” (i.e. DOM-4).
Since first arriving, the convergence of daily conversations (on camera and off) was the norm. The daily regiment of two to five interviews per day would typically begin around 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m. if I allowed some time to sleep in. Typically the first in a series of one-to-three hour interviews would begin at 10:00 a .m., and with a sporadic break (if at all) in between, conclude by 12:30 a.m. in certain cases. What carried from person to person however was a mutual interest on a shared topic, severe weather. On the flip side, the aggressive pace I was continuously keeping with interviews prevented any serious updates online, with sleep winning out every time.
Emmy the Cat.
The majority of my days began or concluded with a similar greeting from Roger and Elke’s Himalayan cat, Emmy (see above). She was a nice distraction after a day of near-continuous communications.
The visit to Norman even resulted in a couple of storm intercepts which served as much needed mental breaks between interviews, let alone a boost to a very anemic chase season! The storm intercept chase partner Rich Thompson and I embarked upon on October 1 ended up in a refreshing success across southeast Kansas.
Rich Thompson, meteorologist and lead Storm Prediction Center forecaster, gestures to a rotating wall cloud east of Melrose, Kansas, 01-October-2014.
As the days progressed, every moment; each conversation seemed to be a extended portal into another facet of storm chasing culture that I either was aware of, or completely oblivious to. Having backed away from the activity of storm chasing consistently post 2008, much had elapsed.. of which I quickly got caught up on. Despite speaking to numerous individuals over the course of a week and a half, I made merely a baseball-sized dent in the body of interviews I was attempting to accomplish. This project has royally educated me into the realities of independent documentary journalism, filmmaking, and how much energy I can personally invest on a daily basis! I am very thankful for everyone who took a few hours out of their busy schedules to meet, catch up, and discuss their piece of the storm chasing history puzzle.
Casa de’ Edwards.
By far, I extend an enormous thank you to Roger and Elke Edwards for hosting and feeding me during the entire visit! Your company, conversations, and delicious meals made for a wonderful visit to Norman. Emmy the cat was the cherry on top!
As has been the case during this entire journey, pictures speak louder than words. I’m also limited with travel time between cities now that I am on the road once again (in Amarillo, Texas per this writing). The following imagery are a select few of *many* photos snapped during my time in Norman.
Dr. Howie “Cb” Bluestein juxtaposed with the FMCW “Mobile” Doppler Radar unit.
Don Burgess and Blake Naftel in front of the National Weather Center, Norman.
Storm chasers as a family unit! From left to right: Dan Dawson III, Dan Dawson II, and Robin Tanamachi.
Mark Herndon describes being a mobile stand-in (including wearing a blonde wig) for Helen Hunt during the 1995 filming of Twister.
Matt Biddle discussing Project VORTEX I, impacts of Twister, and recounting a close encounter near Allison, Texas on 8-June-1995.
Gene Rhoden describes his infamous stalled vehicle incident from 26-April-1991, among many other stories.
Dr. Chuck Doswell discussing his early days with OU ‘Tornado Intercept Project’, Al Moller, and life in general.
Dr. Lou Wicker discussing TOTO, VORTEX I, II, and his early days at OU.
Reed Timmer, updating social media, prior to embarking on our first impromptu storm intercept together.
Bobby Prentice on the evolution of online storm chasing communications in the mid-1990’s.
Kevin Barton, lead mechanic and creator of the “Dominator”, at work in the 91-degree Oklahoma heat.
Greg Stumpf and Blake Naftel strike a pose following a conversation about the 1980’s-1990’s era of chasing while sporting mullets.
Rich Thompson recounting many moments shared within the confines of the “Meatwagon” with fellow chump chaser Roger Edwards.
Fellow West Michiganders finally unite: Reed Timmer, Blake Naftel, Kevin and Cindy Barton, and Gizmo the Dog.
Heidi Farrar and David Demko recounting the overwhelming (at times) onslaught of social media following the ‘Storm Chasers’ program boom of 2009.
Per this update, my route is slightly being altered. Due to scheduled interviews on October 11, I am pushing north by northwest to Denver. The remainder of the trip, and previous travel itinerary is being re-tooled at this point. Updates, as have been the case previously will be sporadic at best.