Maybe I'm out of place ... and if so, feel free to put me there, but there's something I need to get off my chest...
Before I moved to Colorado in 2004, I was completely unaware of the "social" aspect of storm chasing. Any chasing that I had done previously in southwestern Montana consisted of me driving outside of the city to intercept an incoming storm and by doing so, having a good view. Following a storm through the mountains is pretty much impossible. Though I spent a lot of time on the internet, all I really knew of the world of storm chasing came from watching television. The only chaser's name that I knew was Warren Faidley ... from his videos I saw on The Weather Channel.
So, over the last few years, I've slowly expanded my chase territory from the areas adjacent Denver to further out into Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. I've spent a lot of time online meeting other chasers (especially here on Storm Track for the last two years). Many of you I've come to respect for your passion and expertise. This goes the same for many chasers I've met locally in Colorado and whom I have befriended.
I can't help but feel a little disheartened this year, though. I know it hasn't been the most ideal year for tornadoes. Sure, there have been a lot of reports and some towns damaged, but it seems like most of the tornado reports here on Storm Track this year (including one which I made on the March 7th day) are of brief spin-ups or gustnadoes or I saw the funnel cloud but couldn't see the ground and I'm relying on someone else's report to of a "spin-up".
I let myself be convinced that what I saw on March 7th was "technically" a tornado, but I wasn't ever really comfortable with that. I've since retracted on this. It listened to others telling me what I saw was a tornado when I knew damn well it was just circumstantial evidence.
Then came March 23rd. We were on that same great supercell that everyone else was. It was like the storm was teasing us all day. We saw a gustnado while it was in Oklahoma and then that amazing wall cloud before it moved past Arkansas City, KS. There were many tornado reports on that storm ... all of them "brief spin-ups" ... well, and one photoshopped tornado later, but that's another pathetic story I'm not going to get into right now.
Thinking back, this year has not been good for photogenic tornadoes. I think the best I've seen is the Saint Jo, Texas one. Correct me if I'm wrong ... I'd love to see some nice, fully condensed ones from this year!
... it just seems like we're counting anything to get our numbers up. The way I look at it, if you see the funnel but can't see the ground (or any debris), YOU CAN'T SEE THE TORNADO. Maybe I'm wrong. If you were to just have your own eyes to go on, would you call in the feature as a funnel or a tornado? But where draw the line? What if you're just looking at the storm from afar ... and there's a tornado reported. Can you see the tornado? Is any dust swirl near the updraft a tornado?
I mean, I know it's tough with the lack of moisture this year ... "fully condensed" is hard to achieve. It's just hard when I see veteran chasers ...people that I really respect, counting anything and everything. I'm not making any specific accusations here and I'm not going to call the chaser police on anyone or tell anyone what they saw or didn't see is or is not a tornado (unless it is shamefully photoshopped) My point is, I think we should personally hold ourselves to higher standards. Arguably, the tornado is the biggest goal of *most* storm chasers. It should mean something. I've only seen one ... and it meant a lot to me. ... and I've been chasing since 1997 ... 53 storm chases, not a record many would be proud of. :) I just know that if I'm going to tell someone I've seen a tornado, I want to be able to show them documented proof. I'm not trying to sound elitist. I'll be the first to admit that I have a lot to learn about being out, chasing storms. Every time out, it seems like something surprises me and leaves me scratching my head.
There are a lot of [B]new[/B] chasers out there this year and they're looking up to some of you as examples of how to do things right. Just keep that in mind.
Next week: Multiple vortex tornadoes and multiple touchdowns from the same tornado cyclone ... count them one or twenty? haha