An Early Birthday Present

I've been learning about weather since the May 3rd Tornado of 1999 that hit my home town (at the same time as the one that hit Oklahoma City) and have been wanting to go chasing since. Well in one way or another all of the pieces fell into place and one afternoon in April of 2009 while I was working at the county zoo, I got my chance.
It had been cloudy all day and by around two or three in the afternoon it'd started raining, not too much at first but the lightning was unusually strong for a simple summer thunderstorm. I'd been given the go ahead to go home for the day, considering the weather, and was on my way out with one of my bosses. She had some business inside the membership office so I followed, curious to see the radar. One of the office staff brought up the radar on their computer and as everyone in the room gathered around the screen to see what was coming, which didn't look like much to them, I pointed at a storm that was just about to cross over the Oklahoma/Kansas border. "You'll want to keep an eye on this one," I said before telling everyone that it had a few things about it that I didn't like.
My boss (that I mentioned earlier) and I made it out to our vehicles in the middle of a heavy rain. As I made my way home the rain let up and the skies cleared a bit, I was in the break between the storms, both the cluster that had been passing over all morning and the storm that I'd pointed out to my coworkers. I was just about to my grandfather's house, which was on my way home, when the tornado sirens went off; a storm that had just passed to the East of the city and was on it's way to El Dorado, Ks. had gone tornadic. I called a friend of mine to see if he wanted to go chase it with me, after a few minutes though we both determined that it was too far away to chase.
By the time I got home the storm that I'd pointed out to my coworkers had gone tornadic so I called my friend back up and we agreed to meet at his place and chase the storm that was coming toward Wichita, Ks.. After meeting up with my friend we made our way (in my truck) out South of Goddard; about twenty or so miles to the West of Wichita. At this point, while my friend knew where we were, I was very effectively lost. We stopped for a bit next to a freshly plowed field because he had to use the bathroom and that's when the real fun started. As I said before I had no idea where I was but I was damn sure of what was looking at as the clouds directly above my truck started rotating very tightly, and lowering.
I got my friends attention and pointed at the clouds above the truck, the only words out of his mouth before a tornado touched down in that very same field (maybe 500 yards from us) were, "Ah, S**t we gotta go!" He got back in the truck and we were off. I remember very vividly flying down the dirt road we were on at eighty trying to keep up with the storm, I don't think I slowed down the entire way, except to turn onto a paved road where we met up with some other chasers, and a few spotters for the National Weather Service. We followed them for a few miles before stopping at a crossroads to wait on another storm.
I'd lost the frequency on my Amateur radio and had gone to ask one of the spotters what frequency I needed to be on, and walked back to the truck, no sooner did I close my door than everyone started scrambling to get back in their vehicles, as the wind picked up I told my friend, who was sitting on the door at the time, to get back in the truck and just as he sat down we got hit with a down pour of rain that was heavy enough to fill the three or four foot deep ditches on either side of the road we were on within about ten minutes, even though they were next to empty when we pulled up. One of the spotters had to ride out the wind and the rain by holding on to the door latch on the passenger side of his car because the winds were so strong that he couldn't get it open, and he was on the lee side of the car if that tells you anything! I can honestly say that not only did we come very close to (if not actually getting hit) getting hit by a second tornado, but that was the best birthday present I've had in a long time.

Here's the real kicker to this story, I told my mother for nearly two years before this happened that I was going to see a tornado on my first chase (to be perfectly honest we were all but taking bets on it). I not only saw a tornado that night, I caught it on film, got up close and personal with it, and pretty much got hit by a second one. Needless to say that was a very fun evening, and I'm eagerly awaiting my next opportunity to go chasing.
You can check out the footage on YouTube at if you're interested.
caseycash52190 caseycash52190
Jul 21, 2010