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The Joy Of Chasing
by Matt Ver Steeg, WeatherEdge, Inc.

OK, I'll admit it. I'm jaded. But it's not my fault. Blame the high plains.

By jaded, I mean picky about where I chase storms. When I was young, I'd go anywhere, anytime to see a storm. Those days are over, and the high plains are to blame. "What do you mean," you ask...

I've fallen in love with the high plains. There, I've said it. My definition of the high plains are western Nebraska, Central and western Kansas and Oklahoma, the Texas caprock, and the front range of Colorado. There is a raw, desolate beauty about the high plains that woo me back year after year. Maybe it's the way you can seemingly see forever where the land meets the sky. Perhaps is the clarity in the royal blue sky after the dryline passes. It could be the multitudes of stars visible at night, loosed from the light pollution of the more inhabited areas of the country. Then, there are all of the quaint, time-warped towns that you pass through. Last but not least are the storms. We're not talking the wimpy little thunder-bumpers that look like fluffy little cottonballs. We're talking about monsters that walk the day and rule the night. Big, hard-edged supercells that toss grapefruit-sized hail for fun, throw lightning bolts with real hang time, and vacuum rattlesnakes off the prairie with mile wide tornadoes.

Even though I grew up and live in Iowa, which is considered to be in 'tornado alley' by many, I don't like the storms here anymore. In the last 10 years, Iowa storms have swathed themselves in scud and accessory clouds, have low bases, and aren't too photogenic. They also do more teasing than produce actual tornadoes. So, when storm season comes, I head southwest.

The dryline storms are my love, my passion. They are the ones that seemingly form out of nothing, and stand there big and bad, all by themselves, daring anyone or anything to get in their way. But it's also the drive enroute that I enjoy. I love passing through all of the small towns that time has forgotten about, chatting with the locals and hearing their individual histories. And the architecture of their buildings. Wow. Then there's the sensation of being out in the middle of nowhere, smelling the air, hearing the sharp buzz of an irritated rattlesnake, holding the red coleche soil in my hand, seeing a tumbleweed roll along, the cattle lowing on the hills...and then, those beautiful Texas wildflowers.

Thank God that chase season is here. It's time to head back to my adopted 'home' for a visit.......and to check in on that Oklahoma family that took in a total stranger one dark and stormy night, fed him, and asked for nothing in return. I'll drop in, say howdy, help with the chores, and maybe even go horseback riding with you again my friends.....

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Storm chasing is dangerous. You could be hurt or killed in its pursuit, especially if you have little or no knowledge of severe storms and their environment. Chase hazards include but are not limited to heavy rain, flash flooding, lightning, high winds, large hail, tornadoes, and flying debris. Hydroplaning on the road and traffic accidents also occur. If you desire to chase, get informed and educated about weather. Contact your local National Weather Service Office, and enroll in a SKYWARN training class. Read and view all of the published information regarding severe weather, thunderstorms, and tornadoes that you can. You are responsible for educating yourself. Next, contact an experienced chaser in your area, and arrange to travel with them, until you've gained sufficient experience to go it alone. Even at that, veteran chasers get caught in harm's way from time to time. Play it safe. This page is for informational and educational use, and the authors disavow any responsibility for actions you may take.

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