Storm chasing began with members of the University of Oklahoma student chapter of the American Meteorological Society chasing storms to support a radar research project at the National Severe Storms Laboratory.
In rural Oklahoma in 1972, there were almost no McDonalds or Burger Kings or Wendy's. What you did have in every little town was a Dairy Queen. They were the walk-up design where you ordered at a little window and they handed you your cone or shake. A tradition developed that, if you caught a tornado (very rare in the early days of chasing, we didn't know what we were doing), you stopped at DQ to celebrate after the chase.
While I cannot speak for other chasers, I've kept up that tradition. So, my chase partner Jaime Green and I had ice cream at the Dodge City DQ about 9:45 yesterday evening to celebrating seeing two separate tornadoes (as well an additional two funnel clouds). The tornadoes were, by far, my favorite type: In completely open country and harmed nothing.
Those of you who have read When the Sirens Were Silent recognize Jaime. She and Denise Neil (her best friend) were returning from a wedding and were caught in the path of the Joplin tornado. Jaime is a photographer for the Wichita Eagle and was the wedding photographer that day.
Both Denise and Jaime were shaken by the experience, so I offered to take them tornado chasing to explain that tornadoes just don't come out of nowhere as the people of Joplin have unfortunately been told. Denise was not able to come with us yesterday but Jaime and I had a great time. She is posting some of her photos from yesterday on her Facebook page as well as at the Eagle's web site. She also hopes to produce a videotape of the chase. If she does, I'll link to it on the blog.
I'll have one more story about the chase that I'll post either tomorrow or over the weekend. It is about the fabulous new Big Well and tornado museum in Greensburg. Both Jaime and I were very impressed. I'll have photos and will give you a preview as to why you must go when you are in the area.