Completely cured of storm chasing
Back in what was seemingly an age before time existed -- the early 1990s, specifically -- I started my news career in radio, and one of the most exhilarating parts of the job was reporting on storms.
This is perhaps because my earliest employ at the radio station included the overnight shift -- 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. -- which really only ever involved radio listeners if a storm was coming. I'd get very excited to work the shifts when bad weather was coming because:
1. Re-read that sentence again about actually having listeners.
2. The radio station was built into the side of a hill, so it was unlikely the storm would do me any damage.
I'd get in for my shift early and would get most of the grunt work assigned to overnight guys like me done early so I could concentrate on talking my listeners -- both of them -- through the storm. I'd start talking about possible cells when they were still halfway through the Dakotas, and were meager green blips on the radar screen.
Being in my early 20s, storm describing soon changed into storm chasing. With these fancy new contraptions called "cellular phones" -- which were only double the size of the good old rotary phone -- we could broadcast from inside the car and describe what we were seeing. I immediately took to storm chasing because:
1. Re-read that part again about being in my early 20s.
2. I was using the station's vehicle, so it wasn't like I cared about hail damage.
There were countless times I'd grab that cell phone -- using both arms and making sure to lift with the legs so as to avoid injury -- and would go chase those little green blips on the radar screen until they turned into rotating crimson-colored blips.
It all sounded very dramatic. I'd call in, the guy on the air -- who was by that time looking for any reason to take a bathroom break -- would put me on, and I'd describe what I was seeing. The more excited I sounded, the more excited the listeners became, and their enthusiasm just made me even more excited.
More than once, I found myself in the middle of hail storms and often in the very vicinity a tornado was spotted on radar. But most often, it was raining so hard I could barely see the windshield wipers. But I was still excited!
Well, no more. Seeing the destructive force of multi-vortex tornadoes has cured me of any desire to head toward a storm ever again. Sure, I'm still more than willing to seek a little danger in the name of a good photo or story, but driving toward a storm -- well, I'll just leave that for those who are young and stupid and still in their early 20s.
On the other hand, I understand there were some pretty dramatic videos and photos shot of the EF4 tornado that hit Wadena and the one that hit the Bluffton/Deer Creek areas. Some of those YouTube videos can be found on our feed at the bottom of our homepage (www.wadenapj.com). I know there are more than the very few I've had a chance to look at, so if you have a favorite, e-mail me a link at firstname.lastname@example.org or put a link on our wall on Facebook (just "friend" the Wadena Pioneer Journal first.)
The day is coming where I will want to look at those videos. But for today, the desire isn't there. The sadness of the destruction is still too fresh.