Chaser Chat: Ryan Crouse the Yorkton Storm Hunter

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Welcome to my blog! It’s been a while since I posted. Gosh, it’s been a crazy few months. Anyhow, I’m back and I’m here with a new year of Chaser Chats! I got to chat with Ryan Crouse the Yorkton Storm Hunter about his chasing experiences. You can watch Ryan chase on TVNWeather! If you’ve never watched a storm chase on a live stream (something I affectionately refer to as ‘Arm-Chair Chasing’, you’re missing out! It’s a blast!) I love doing these Chaser Chats and especially enjoy the local chasers I get to chat with.

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Hey Ryan, thanks for being willing to answer a few questions for me! I’m excited to learn more about how and why you chase!

First of all, what drew you to storms?

Well for me, it started as a little kid. Kids would be outside playing sports and what not and I would be in the house taking notes while listening to the weather report on the local radio station. Ever since I could remember, whenever there was a thunderstorm I would rush to the window and watch in awe. I remember even if it was late after being tucked in to bed, I would creep out and sneak over to the window and just watch the storm in all its glory.

Tell me about your very first tornado!

It was quite a few years ago, I believe I was in grade school. I was assisting my dad as he was building the garage and a storm began to form right over us. I remember the winds picking up to a pretty insane level, my mom and younger bro running into the basement of the house and dad and I, going outside, grabbing a piece of the garage frame and watching. After it passed over, we jumped in the truck and followed it 🙂

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This is a cruel question to ask a chaser but I ask everyone so… what’s your best chase ever?

Well ok, let’s see … I have a “top 5,” but if I had to choose just one I would have to pick the one that “put me on the map” so to speak. July 6, 2013. What an awesome Storm Spotting day!! It began with being in the Yorkton Parade as the Severe Thunderstorm warning was issued. Within seconds of finishing, Chris Flasko (who is one of my 2 drivers), and I bolted out of the parade and headed out towards the Melville area where Owen Parker sent me in a tip of a wild Shelf Cloud that he spotted. We caught up the shelf and got some great shots. From there headed towards Churchbridge and picked up my other crew member Katie Vickers (2nd set of eyes & 2nd photographer). At that point our target was Wroxton bound and then off to the Kamsack direction where we then met up with Owen Parker and decided to work as a unit for the rest of the day.

Kamsack bound was pretty wild! About 15 kms North of Wroxton, we ended up being in a fairly intense placement. We were pretty much in the center of a Rain Wrap and there were 3 other funnels going up and down all at the same time! The wind strength and rain was just insane!! When I called into EC, it was funny as I said we have 2 funnels and I am currently watching a Tornado in front of me, the lady was like what do you see now?

Me: Another Funnel Behind Me!!! lol

As I was getting off the phone Katie began yelling at me to turn around. As I did (now facing the west), not a hundred yards away was another tornado on the ground, coming in our direction!

Not even an hour later, we were asked to join TVNweather.com

I have to say, one of the coolest moments from that day was when all this was going on, I remember feeling absolutely calm (it might be an ADHD thing, as times like Christmas when everyone is rushing, people finally seem to be moving at my speed hahaha). I remember taking a brief moment to just watch. it was really cool, we were in the center and amongst the intense winds, tornados and rain, you could actually see the rain circle, curtain whatever you want to call it. You could see it moving and follow along with it when you moved your head along with the rain. We seen 4 funnels at the same time and place. We seen 3 touch down and possibly a 4rd, but trees were in the way. I know 2 were confirmed, not 100% sure on the 3rd.

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What’s the most intense chase you’ve ever been on?

Well, the #1 would be from the answer to the 3rd question, but my 2nd would be May 28, 2014 – Miles City Montana. Notanee Bourassa and myself had quite the adventure on that day! While in the heart of the action in Northern Montana. This beast fought with us for more than 4 hours! It possible dropped 1 Tornado (which we caught) also dropped up to 2 inch hail! I remember on Mobile Treat Net that at one point, the system which we were on was moving over 100 mph, and when I say beast – that is what it was. I remember looking south and seeing the sunset merging with the side of the storm. When looking North, a monster of a Shelf Cloud, which was gaining speed on us. The intensity came from the powerful winds of this storm. There was one moment when we were driving, and if you watch the video back it sounds like rain hitting the vehicle. It wasn’t rain but scattered fragments of dirt, sticks and who knows what else! There was even a moment I had to swerve the vehicle as a billboard sign was sliding across the road and I could see a bigger stick, log or something moving across the road with it and was worried about blowing out the tire! Some short time later, we pulled over to get a few structure shots when all of a sudden there was a loud BOOM behind us, scaring the crap out of the both of us! it was the power lines giving away.

Sounds like it was pretty crazy! What an experience! What is your favorite and least favorite things about chasing?

Well for the best, I would have to say the love of nature and both the sheer power and beauty of a good storm. I believe that there is nothing more peaceful and yet scary powerful, then watching a good severe warned thunderstorm as it forms! The worst, running out of gas 🙂

I can’t wait to get out there! What are your goals when you go storm chasing? What, if anything, do you hope to see change in your storm chasing years?

Well, first and foremost is to stay safe. Next to that, capture some great photographs and video of nature’s fury. Another important thing for me it to make sure Environment Canada knows what is going on during severe weather events. They tell me they watch my Live Stream, I think that’s great as they then have a ground level view of what “they” are seeing on radar. The changes I hope for are actually in progress right now. Brandon Crane, my mechanic and driver is working on adding some hail protection, armor if you will, to the Storm-Finder (Nissan Pathfinder).

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Looking forward to seeing you guys out there! Does one year stand out to you as the best season yet?

2013 was an absolute blast for me. There were some powerful and fun storms as well as I met a lot of great Chasers and Spotters whom have helped me on my way. 2014 was also on the top, mostly from my Texas and Montana adventure.

2014 was so boring here! Glad someone loved it! Ryan, what advice would you give aspiring storm chasers?

The first thing I would say is even though Storm Chasing/Spotting is a hobby (and an expensive one at that), for some like myself, it’s a way of life. From May – August, I eat and breathe storms. I would also say sleep, but that doesn’t really happen much during Storm Season for me. hahaha!

Learn from your mistakes, you ARE going to make them! Learn from the pros and the chasers whom have been doing it for years. I have been fortunate enough to have people like Notanee Bourassa, Braydon Morisseau, Sean Schoffer, Reed Timmer along with others aid and guide me when needed. Listen to what they have to say and respect it.

Another thing would be to do your homework. Study weather. I’m not saying that you have to be a meteorologist, but knowledge can get you out and keep you out of a possible bad situation. Environment Canada does, at times offer CANWARN weather courses – take them. If you go on Google, search SKYWARN training and you will get dozens of free .pdf booklets made from NWS & NOAA. A book that I learned a great deal from was the “Storm Chasing Handbook” written by Tim Vasquez.

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Those are great tips! What do you wish would change in the way people think of storm chasers?

That what happens in the movies are real. Storm chasing movies are very far from reality. Another would be that just because one chaser does something questionable doesn’t mean we are all bad.

There’s been a lot of bad publicity but I’ve met a lot of amazing chasers! It’s sad how one bad chaser can destroy so many opinions. Tell me about your chase team!

I have gone out alone, but for the most part I have a team. I am the “Yorkton Storm Hunter” I am in charge of photography, video, the live stream, navigation and watching the weather radar. Brandon Crane is my mechanic and driver. Katie Vickers is the 2nd photographer and another set of eyes. She also is good at telling Brandon and I when we missed our turn lol. Chris Flasko is another driver that helps out when Brandon isn’t available.

Do you have a favorite storm memory?  Being asked to live stream as “Yorkton Storm Hunter” on July 23-24, 2014 from within the Dominator 3.  The experience was just incredible! Ryan C storm 3

That is totally awesome! I’d love to chase in the Dom 3! What can we expect from the Yorkton Storm Hunter team in 2015? Any exciting changes?

More of the fun stuff! I hope to improve the quality of the stream a little. We touched on it earlier, Brandon Crane is also working on adding hail protection to the Storm-Finder. We are also working on adding a couple more video cameras into the vehicle to have different angles of footage for my highlight videos.

That sounds awesome! If you couldn’t do storm chasing, what would be next on the list of jobs you would love?

Well, I am actually doing them. I love straight out being a photographer but, my other passion is my Paranormal Investigation TV Show, “Knights Of The Dark.” We are currently finished filming season 2 and are working on going through the data, editing and making the episodes. Cheap plug, but the show airs on ACCESS7 TV at 11:30 pm on Friday’s. The website is http://www.knightsofthedark.com. If anyone in Saskatchewan whom reads this, has a story or event that happened to them and wants us to investigate, the email is on the website.

Okay, Ryan, send a shout out to those businesses that support your storm chasing career!

My main Sponsor is HAAS NISSAN from Yorkton Sk.

Precious Therapies Vitamin Store – #14-3 rd Ave N, Yorkton 

RhynoPack: Nobody likes a dead smart phone, #StayCharged with Rhynopack!

Last one, Ryan, when you aren’t out chasing (the long cold of winter), what do you like to do?

Well, I stay pretty busy as to when I’m not chasing, I am working on the Ghost Show. When I “DO” find some free time, I do enjoy playing PC games like Diablo III and Half-Life and catching up on my WWE Wrestling. I also help High Impact Wrestling promote their shows when they come to Yorkton. Next to all of that – I like to sit down with my electric guitar and jam to some good heavy metal!

You can find Ryan on his Yorkton Storm Hunter website on Twitter and on Facebook!

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Thanks for reading this Chaser Chat! Check out the others here!

~Sarah

Weather Wednesday: Boredom and Excitement

Ricky Rainbow

Great shot by Ricky Forbes!

Hey Everyone!  I’ve been pretty quiet on the weather posts lately as it’s been SOOO incredibly boring up here.  We’ve had a few cracks of thunder and a bit of lightning but, for a storm-enthusiast, it’s getting pretty frustrating.  I think I’m going through storm withdrawal.  Is that a thing?  Storm depression?  Anyhow, though the storms are non-existent up here there are still some great chasers to watch in parts of Canada and the US.  I’m surviving on live stream footage right now.  Ugh.  I sure hope that with all this heat, we see something!  Okay, there’s the boredom part of this post.  Now… on to the excitement.

You’ve heard me talk about them before (and you’ll hear it again), but one of my favourite local chase teams is doing something really exciting!  No, they aren’t taking me out chasing, this is something for everyone!

Team Tornado Hunter are doing a show on CMT!  I got to preview the trailer yesterday and it looks like it’s going to be awesome!!  Check out the trailer here:

This is my second year watching these guys chase and I love it.  Not only do they keep the hours of driving entertaining with their banter, insults and chatting with those of us watching the live feed, they also deliver quality and exciting chase moments.  We had a stormy day here this summer, sadly not near me, and it looked like the guys were out of position.  They were commenting on how it might be a bust day, but then decided to check out a cell that had just appeared on radar.

The chase was on and those of us who were watching settled in for what we hoped would be an amazing show.  Well, we sure weren’t disappointed!  Soon the lightning began, the rain came and suddenly we were hearing ‘Do you hear that?’ as Greg spoke to the guys.  The pulse-pounding, adrenalin-filled moments came when the live feed became intermittent (storms are really good at killing reception) and we were only able to get glimpses of the action.  Rain pounding horizontally across the road, debris blowing, Ricky taking the truck into a ditch as the storm got really intense.  Nothing like spotty data reception to make your watchers want to pull their hair out.  The night ended in the guys stuck in a farmers field, having gotten off track.  At 2 am, those of us still watching began sending out messages to anyone and everyone who might be in the area to get the guys out.  I debated hopping in our 4×4 Blazer and driving out to see what I could do.  They were about 3 hours away at the time and I figured they’d be well out by the time I got there.  It was an awesome day to watch!

Here’s the video of this chase with a surprise that we didn’t get to see on the live feed:

If they have data reception in the area they are chasing, these are the guys to watch!

I’m so excited to see their new series and I know it will be a blast to watch!  Make sure to mark August 18th on your calender and see these guys in action on CMT!

Greg RFD RickyChris Chittick

Are you looking forward to seeing ‘Tornado Hunters’?  

Here’s the link to ‘Tornado Hunters’ on CMT!

P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Greg Johnson!  Have a great day, Greg.

~Sarah

Weather Wednesday

It’s cold.  Not Antarctic cold, but it’s cold here.  We were sitting at -43*C here on Monday.  It’s cold.  I hate the cold.  I despised the cold before, but now I despise it more.  I can’t wait for winter to be over.  Can’t.  Wait.

Especially as my storm chaser friends start posting storm pictures from previous years.  ARGH!  I just want to get out there and see some amazing storms!

Sure, there are a ton of things that are awesome about summer. (not including the mosquitoes…)  I love the warm breeze, the sound of kids playing outside, the hint of the flowers on the air.  It’s just so much better than all of this ridiculousness that comes along with winter.  Plus….

THE STORMS!!

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Photo by Greg Johnson (http://www.tornadohunter.com/)

Look at that!!  Isn’t it amazing!!

Yes, I know that some storms are so powerful that they devastate communities, cities, crops and people.  This is the one thing that I don’t like about storms.  I don’t like that people and their lives get caught up in these powerful storms.  That’s why I really like so many of these storm chasers out there who are trying to learn more and increase warning chance for you and I.

Anyhow, you’ve already heard me talk about a lot of them.  (And I will continue to!)  Today I just want to post a few of my favourite storm images, because I just really like looking at them.  🙂

Beautiful SK storm by Andrea Clarke (https://www.facebook.com/2CPhotographyandreaclarke)

Beautiful SK storm by Andrea Clarke (https://www.facebook.com/2CPhotographyandreaclarke)

EF-4 at Great Bend, Kansas ~ Photo by Greg Johnson (http://www.tornadohunter.com/)

EF-4 at Great Bend, Kansas ~ Photo by Greg Johnson (http://www.tornadohunter.com/)

Amazing storm structure from Craig Hilts (http://www.prairiefirephoto.com/)

Amazing storm structure from Craig Hilts (http://www.prairiefirephoto.com/)

Storm barn july 24-13

Photo by Greg Johnson (http://www.tornadohunter.com/)

Amazing tornado shot outside of MooseJaw, SK, Canada by Craig Hilts (http://www.prairiefirephoto.com/)

Amazing tornado shot outside of Moose Jaw, SK, Canada by Craig Hilts (http://www.prairiefirephoto.com/)

SK storm Craig Boehm

Awesome photo by Craig Boehm (https://twitter.com/Skstormchaser)

Here are the links to the sites for these awesome photographers!

Greg Johnson

Craig Hilts

Andrea Clarke

Craig Boehm

How about you?  Eager for storm season?  Dreaming of chasing?  Have a favourite storm photo/photographer?  I’d love to see them!!

~Sarah

Chaser Chat with Sean Schofer ~ Team TVN: Part Two

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Welcome back to part two of my chaser chat with Sean Schofer of TVN.  If you missed part one, you can check it out here!  Let’s get right into it!

We had a bit of a boring season here but it was pretty active in the US.  Overall, how did the 2013 season go for the TVN crew?

“It was like riding a roller coaster from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. We lost friends and mentors. But as far as the data and video we were able to collect I’m really happy with that part. We were able to capture some of the best tornado footage ever taken.”

In May of 2013, the widest tornado in history hit near El Reno, OK.  It was a monster of a tornado and acted in ways that surprised even the most experienced chasers.  Was El Reno the most intense chase you’ve been on, or does another one take first place for you?

“The Bennington, Kansas tornado for me was by far more intense. I think even Reed will tell you Bennington was the strongest tornado he’s ever seen. That being said, the El Reno tornado was extremely powerful also and the widest in recorded history. That tornado did a few things that many chasers never have seen before and caught many off guard. We’re very lucky we didn’t lose more chasers that day.”

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I remember watching and seeing so many of my chaser friends caught off guard by the El Reno tornado.  I wasn’t there chasing but even I had my heart in my throat often during that chase.  I was very worried for everyone down there in that dangerous situation and that worry was well-founded when I heard the next day that Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras and Carl Young had been killed.  That was such a tragic day.

Can you tell me about the first tornado you intercepted in the D3!  I can’t imagine how that must have felt!

“The first tornado I intercepted in Dominator 3 was last summer in Edmond, Ok. We had Reed Timmer, Jim Cantore, Mike Scantlin, and our shooter Chris Whiteneck along with us. I was very nervous but you can’t let the nerves take over. You, as a driver, and the rest of the team have to stay very focused so we don’t make a mistake. The first thing that happened is our ears popped. Then it felt like we were getting run over by a freight train and that we were going to get launched into the air any second. After we intercepted that one, we intercepted another one about an hour later.  Then we had to stop the chase for search and rescue.”

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I love that you guys stop and help out where you can!  I appreciate that the chase comes second when lives are at stake.  What do you like most about the team you chase with?

“I couldn’t hand pick a better team. I’m very lucky to be a part of this team. The guys are always joking around and having a good time. I can’t wait to get back on the road with them.”

I can’t wait to see you back out there chasing!  Winter seems crazy long when you’re waiting for storm season!  Tell me what it’s like chasing with Reed.  Is he always intense on a chase or are there moments of fun?

“Reed’s probably the funniest guy I’ve ever met. He’s always laughing and having fun. Until we’re on a storm that is. Then it’s time to focus and take things seriously.” 

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It’s always fascinating to talk to Reed.  I admit, since I’m new to the storm game, that quite a bit that he says goes right over my head but I am always enthralled with what he has to say.  The guy goes a mile a minute when talking about storms but if I can grasp any of it, I know I could learn so much.  Chatting with Sean yesterday he says “it’s actually scary how smart (Reed) is.

Tell me, Sean, what advice would you give aspiring storm chasers?  Not that I’m asking for myself or anything…

“The first advice I’d give to aspiring storm chasers is to go on a tornado tour with a reputable company. I’d recommend Extreme Tornado Tours. They teach you so much about weather and chasing during the tour. That’s where I would start.”

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I would love to go on a tour with Extreme Tornado Tours!  I’ve met a few of those guys and have watched them chase and would totally go on a tour if I could!  Here’s a few non-storm chasing questions to wrap it up.  What do you do when you’re not chasing storms?

I like to spend a lot of time with my family at our cabin at the lake. We  do a  lot of boating, fishing, quading and snowmobiling out there.  You can find me at a company I own called Restorex. Restorex is a disaster restoration company.  I’m also a firefighter, and I’ve been a firefighter for about 17 years.”

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Thanks so much for having this conversation with me, Sean!  I love watching you guys out there in the field and can’t wait to see what you guys have in store for 2014!  Hopefully 2014 is amazing for the TVN team!

Here’s one of Sean’s favourite videos from the 2014 season:

You can find Sean on FacebookTwitter and on Instagram (@seanschofertvn).  Also, find Restorex on their website or on Twitter.

photo (4)Thanks for joining me and Sean for this chat!  I’ve had so much fun chatting with these great chasers.  I have a few more in the works and I hope that you’ll join me in learning more about storm chasing and the people who do it!  You can check out my other Chaser Chats HERE!
~Sarah

Chaser Chat with Sean Schofer: Team TVN~ Part One

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I am thrilled to be able to bring to you the first chaser chat with a TVN team member!  I, like many, am a huge fan of TVN.  Even before my world changed and I went from fearing storms to loving them, I enjoyed watching ‘Storm Chasers’ on Discovery channel and thought that the TVN team was awesome!  Well, since that time, the TVN team is even better!

Let me introduce you to one of TVN’s amazing drivers.  Sean Schofer is pretty new to the TVN crew and has the awesome job of piloting the newest Dominator, the D3.

I’m beyond thrilled that he agreed to be part of my Chaser Chat series!  Last year, Sean began chasing with TVN after being asked by Reed Timmer.  I think Sean is a fantastic match for TVN and they really seem to mesh well together.

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Thanks, Sean, for letting me ask you some questions!  I love that you are a from Saskatchewan and chase with one of the best known chase teams in the US!  Tell me how you wound up driving for Reed.

“I met Reed a few years ago while chasing in the US and soon we became very good friends. I soon realized I had more of a passion for capturing scientific data on tornadoes than taking photos. He asked me to join the team and here I am. What better way to learn more about science than with a Scientist?”

That’s awesome!  It’s great when you can connect a passion with a great team that has the same goal!  Can you tell me about the very first tornado you saw?

“Yes, I remember my first tornado very clearly. We were in Oklahoma and it was dark out already when a tornado touched down. We could only see it when lightning would flash because it was so dark out. I remember seeing it coming right for us and I was a little nervous.  When I asked the guys if they’re ready to go yet, one of them responded with “We’re not going anywhere!” Lol!”

I’m sure I would ask the same thing.  I’ve always thought that night tornadoes would be more scary because it isn’t as easy to see what they are doing.  Tell me a bit about the D3.  What is the coolest thing about driving it?

“I think the coolest thing about driving D3 is it doesn’t matter where we go everybody recognizes the vehicle and wants their picture taken with it.”

Yep, I’m the same way.  I loved getting to see it last summer and getting a picture of you guys with it!

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Reed Timmer, Sean Schofer and Mike Scantlin
I got to hang out with them this summer and snapped this pic. 🙂

What do you find most challenging about driving the D3?

“The most challenging part is deciding which tornadoes we can drive into. Even though D3 was built to go inside bigger and stronger tornadoes we still have to be extremely careful about which ones we drive into.  We are not invincible in it. We can’t make a mistake or it will be our last.”

The D3 is intense but you face some tornadoes that are nothing to mess with for sure.  Besides driving the D3, what other responsibilities are yours?

“Besides driving, I’m also on the science team. When we are stopped and I’m not driving I will send warnings on social media when necessary but Reed does most of that.”

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(I asked Sean later what the science team does.  He explained that they plan which is the best way to get the probe into the tornado. Every situation is totally different and they have a few different methods to do this. It’s extremely difficult to get the probe into a tornado successfully, but they are going to keep doing it until they have what they want.)

Sean, who makes the decisions on what direction you head? Reed seems to do most of the directing but I’m sure that you all play a part.

“Reed is very much a team player. He’s always asking the rest of the team our opinion and sometimes we give it. But overall, we know Reed’s the best at finding tornadoes in the world so he should get final say.”

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Reed really is something else.  A ‘human barometer’.  (And there’s the nerdy ‘Twister’ reference.)  🙂  You’ve been on a ton of chases and I have to ask, what was your favourite to date?

“There are so many but the best chase I’ve ever been on is Bennington, Kansas tornado May 28/13. Watch the ‘Tornado Chasers” episode and you’ll know what I’m talking about. But honestly, it’s much more drastic in person.”

I just watched that episode this week and remember that day from the live stream.  That would have been an intense and unforgettable day for sure! Here’s a preview for the Tornado Chasers Bennington episode.  If you haven’t been watching this series, you’re missing out!  After Storm Chasers was cancelled, the team decided to take their show online!  You can get the episodes here (from both seasons).

Check out Part Two as Sean talks about his first intercept and gives advice to aspiring storm chasers!!

Also, check out my other chaser chats here!

~Sarah

Weather Wednesday

Storm july 22-13While this storm didn’t produce much in the way of thunder, lighting or even rain… it sure looked awesome!  I love the structure of this storm.  The bright clouds and the dark horizon.  Gorgeous!  Missing summer storms.  Roll on storm season 2014.  (Summer storms, not winter storms!)