Sunday, May 25, 2008

5/24 Chase

I chased a single cell from Hennessey to Perry OK Saturday. I missed the first tornado from this cell that destroyed a large pig farm, but caught 4 more tornadoes, possibly 5, as it made it's way VERY slowly towards and past Perry. The first torn, between Hennessey and Marshal, was a small wedge white funnel against a dark background. The second, north of Marshal, was after the storm became very HP, and had bad contrast. This was the one KFOR was reporting as a mile wide. The wall cloud base was possibly a mile wide, and very low, so I could see how some might have called it that. Video I shot clearly shows a 1/4 mile wide multi-vortex violent tornado, but had poor contrast for most of the time it was visible. Finally about a few miles NW of Orlando, I caught one tornado dying out to the SW of me, while a new one formed just to my WNW. This was by far the most photogenic funnel of the day, with great contrast, and a long rope out at the end. This was my first catch with the new HD cam, and after looking at the vid, I'm ecstatic I decided to go with HD. You can see the wisps circulating around the funnel as it ropes out. I'll try to get a vid cap when I get the time, though it may be a while. Just south of Perry, there was another tornado reported, but I didn't get a visual on it. I had several great shots of the storm at this point, so it must have been embedded. Oh well. After that the storm began to fall apart, so I headed home. KOCO did buy a segment of the good footage, so gas is paid for this trip!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Storm chaser arrested

Brian Barnes of Violent Skies Tours was arrested on May 6 for basically storm chasing. The official violation was obstruction of a highway or other passage way. He was parked at a rest stop, with plenty of room for other vehicles to get by.
Here are a few links to stories covering the incident:
News West 9 - has some good video of the arrest
CBS 7 - another account
ABC 33/40 - has Brian's original post to a weather list
Here is some edited commentary I posted on the same weather list I subscribe to:

An arresting officer has to have a valid reason for arresting someone, and not following his orders is not one of them. Here's a nice little wiki on false arrest:
I don't know Texas arrest laws in detail, but some things are common in all 50 states. Miranda rights for one, if Brian was asked any questions, I wonder if Brian was read his? Also, Brian should have been told at the time of arrest why he was being arrested; the exact criminal offense. As the wiki article mentions, in the case of a misdemeanor, he should only have been detained long enough for identification and to issue a summons (ticket). If it actually took 5 hours for them to tell you what you were charged with, then this should be an easy false arrest case (imo).
(Whether the officer was) Untrained about the weather or not, unless the passengers of the van are being held against their will (they, in fact, wished to be there, or they would not be on a tour), he can't just arrest Brian because he refuses to move. He could barricade the entrance to the rest area, etc, but unless Brian was breaking the law, he can't force him to move. He could even issue him a citation to be fought in court later for a misdemeanor parking violation if he thinks he's parked wrong, but again, he can't arrest him for just not following his orders. If that were the case, police could use that to arrest anyone, anytime.
I can think of any number of ridiculous scenarios following that logic.

I would like to think I would have done the same thing had I been in Brian's shoes, but sometimes I'm too nice... Although in this situation, after seeing the video, I think I might have just done the same thing.

Friday, May 02, 2008

May 1st chase

I wasn't going to chase yesterday, as I wasn't all that excited about the way things were setting up, and didn't think anything was going to go up anyway. As I was heading to my wife's dance studio in OKC to pick up our kids after work, I saw towers going up. A quick look at data and it was an easy decision to go chase.
I headed to Eastbound I-40 to try to intercept the cell that went up by Moore. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, as I intercepted it as it was just north of Tinker AFB. It had a nice lowering with decently rapid rotation and was putting down plenty of hail. During that time, I was also listening to radio rebroadcasts of a local TV met and station chaser who were going nuts about the storm. At one point they mentioned debris on the ground and then went on to assume it was a clear funnel / tornado, and called it a tornado on the ground. I was looking directly at the rotating base (yes it was rotating), but didn't even see a funnel. My guess is it was straight line RFD that managed to blow down a backyard shed, which is what they saw as debris. That's just my informed judgement. I followed the cell up to Chandler and the majority of the time it had lowerings / a wallcloud on it. As it travelled further Northeast, the cloud base got higher and higher, so when I got to Chandler, I broke off as daylight was fading.
Now onto the second part of my post. TV mets are getting worse and worse about going nuts over relatively non-dangerous situations. Don't get me wrong, they provide a great service to warn the public, as they are the most visible venue for storms. I just get irritated when I hear them screaming "Tornado on the ground!!!", when I can plainly see there isn't one, and if there was, it wouldn't do much damage to even a car, much less a house. I just wish they would tone it down a bit and present the facts as they are warranted. If I believed the radio broadcasts, every time we have a severe storm coming through the OKC metro, a strong tornado is always present... bleh. [off my rant box now] Also, some stations are worse about it than others.