Summer Storm Fun in Canada

Monday July 27 tornado mb

Wow, I’ve been quiet lately. Sorry to all you awesome folks who like seeing me post. Guess the summer got to me and I’ve been out doing things rather than posting. Sadly, the ‘things’ I’ve been doing haven’t involved much storm chasing. I’m in this strange place where I very much want to get out and chase everything that even looks promising (or even those that don’t), but I’m not confident enough to go on my own. I can see me getting out there, getting eager to get close to a storm and then finding myself in terrible position. The kind that people don’t walk away from. Yikes! I like my family too much to be risking a lot. Also, there wasn’t much to chase this year. Not within driving distance at least. I seriously considered how disruptive it would be to uproot my family and take a vacation to Oklahoma for a few months. Abysmal would be the word I would use. I now understand why chasers spend hours and hours and months on the road to chase. Sitting still and waiting for storms to come to you is brutal.

Thankfully, while my season has been terrible, my favorite chase team has been busy. I miss the days they were live streaming but it’s still fun to follow their FB and Twitter sites to get updates. I can’t wait for the season premier of Tornado Hunters on CMT, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Last week, July 27th, the guys were finally chasing in Canada. I love when they chase in Canada. Not only because I am Canadian, but because these guys are local and it just feels right watching them chase here! Plus, that usually means the storms are near me and the chance goes up that we might get hit with some fun!

Yep, I am hopelessly in over my head with this draw to storms. Often times I wonder, in slow seasons, if it would be easier to just go back to hating storms… but I can’t. I’m addicted.

Back to the story. Last Monday the pros were all seeing some sweet weather patterns setting up. Greg, Ricky and Chris (and their entourage) booked it back up here, from Arizona I believe. The day was slow and the afternoon continued on as though there was nothing much to talk about. A friend of mine posted a picture on Facebook of a chaser convergence. Which we had fun with since a chaser convergence in Canada is nothing compared to the ones in the US. He, like them all, was in waiting mode.

Canadian Chaser Convergence by Ryan Crouse

Canadian Chaser Convergence by Ryan Crouse (Yorkton Storm Hunter)

Yep, that’s the Dom 3. Waiting. Everyone waits.

It was worth the wait. Finally the action began and the chaser were off. I spent most of the night following Yorkton Storm Hunter (Ryan Crouse), RAIDEN (Notanee Bourassa) and Nick Schenher live stream. While I didn’t get a chance to see the beast that the storms produced, Greg Johnson, Ricky Forbes and Chris Chittick (the Tornado Hunters) did!

Sweet Wall Cloud

Wall cloud

Since I wasn’t there, maybe next year, I’ll let Ricky describe it.

That moment

“My favorite part of storm chasing is this moment right here. When we get right underneath a massive rotating supercell. A monster chaotic storm over 50,000 ft tall above us yet so eerily calm below, as we watch the clouds start to slowly twist and churn above us. Feeling the rush of the winds blasting into this storm, and then the clouds start to lower. Faster and faster the clouds spin and tighten up, lightning blasting down, torrential rain beside us, and then a huge tornado touches down and its game time.”

Could I be more jealous? Probably not.

Then, as Ricky said, the huge tornado touched down.

MB tornado chittick pic MB tornado July 27 201 MB tornado July 27 2015 tornado tornado MB july 27 2015 July 27 2015 EF2That thing is a BEAST! Wow! It was on the ground for three hours! Three. Hours. That’s only a half hour less than the current record for longest known tornado on the ground, the Tri-State Tornado. Thankfully, though this beast was on the ground for three hours and reached a kilometer wide (I heard) and maybe more at some point, unlike the Tri-State tornado no one was killed in this storm and there was very little damage done. The rating, because of this, was an EF2. The Dom 3 measured the winds on the back of the tornado at 122 MPH. Pretty wild!

Chasers like the Tornado Hunter team, and many others, make it possible to get warnings out early and keep eyes on storms like this so that people in the path can prepare. I’m so grateful for chasers and many people owe their lives to them.

July 27 tornado damagePretty amazing to see the road torn up by that tornado. I can’t imagine the power that was in that storm and in that tornado. I’ve been told it’s not that uncommon for roads to be torn up like this, depending on the age and upkeep of the road. However, I’m still pretty impressed with the damage and the cool shot.

Here’s a sweet video by the Tornado Hunters of the wedge tornado.

http://www.newsflare.com/video/50305/weather-nature/massive-wedge-tornado-in-tilston-mb-canada-clip3

While I miss the live stream these guys used to do, I can’t wait to see the footage of this storm on the new season on Tornado Hunters coming this fall!

If you haven’t heard of Tornado Hunters on CMT Canada, you’re missing out. Last year they did a few webisodes and a couple episodes to feel out the show and I, along with many others, really liked what we saw!

You can find the webisodes here to prepare for the new season!

In my review last year of the pilot of Tornado Hunters, I said: ‘This show is a very clear look into the lives of these guys and the realities of storm chasing as a profession. All the thrills, frustrations, joys, angers, laughs and tornadoes that go along with it.’ I hope, and expect, that the new season will be the same! I can’t wait to see it and I know these guys have been busting their butts in order to give us the best show that they can!

Ricky, Greg and Chris, I can’t wait for the new season of Tornado Hunters! It’s one of the only reason that I am looking forward to fall.

Find team Tornado Hunter on their website, Twitter and Facebook page!

Ricky: Facebook Twitter

Ricky Forbes

Greg: Facebook Twitter

Great helment

Great helmet

Chris: Facebook Twitter

Chris Chittick

Here’s hoping the season isn’t over for me, or for these guys who will continue to chase as long as the season holds out. I wouldn’t be surprised to find them chasing blizzards next!

How about you? Do you love the thrill of a storm chase? Are you, like me, an arm-chair chaser and watching these awesome chasers do what they do? Maybe, like me, you’re hoping to do some chasing of your own. Tell me your story!

~Sarah

Chaser Chat with Notanee Bourassa: Part Two

Welcome back to my Chaser Chat with Notanee Bourassa! If you missed part one, you can find it HERE! If you already checked that out, let’s dig into part two!

Notanee, if you could go back and experience one tornado again (or see one you missed), which one would it be? 

If I could turn back time. I would experience the EF-5 Moore Oklahoma Tornado of 2013. It would be in my fantasy, to go west instead of east, making the intercept well outside of Moore, getting the truth into the National Weather Service and contibuting to saving lives if possible. That very afternoon, I felt it in my guts, I saw the sky before I left Norman heading south. Greg J and myself happened to meet on the highway prior to going through Oklahoma City towards our separate targets. After only just leaving the Norman area, I stopped for gas at a Shell on the main highway and saw the stormcells forming. I decided to go east towards Norman instead of west towards the cell heading to Moore. I am slightly grateful I didn’t intercept that EF-5 as I would have personally seen it unleash unimaginable damage on Moore. After several days I went to Moore and documented the damage discretely on foot, as I needed to have that to show my family and children. As part of the respect nature value I want to program in them.

Chamberlain Tornado Notanee

That tornado would have been incredible to see. We’ve talked a lot about storms and the fascination of chasing. I ask all chasers this, what advice would you give to aspiring storm chasers? People who would love to get out and do what you do? 

My advice for aspiring storm chasers is to make safety the number one priority. Perform your chase safely. Don’t endanger others by anything you do. Report the weather immediately for the safety of others and THEN take your photos and videos. Also keep YOURSELVES safe. You and the occupants of your vehicle rely on the ability to move out of danger. Don’t risk getting stuck while in front of the storm. Don’t chase a storm without an escape plan. Have a plan B. Have a place to drive to get you out of danger. Personally, I think aspiring chasers should start out as “spotters” until groomed by experienced chasers by accompanying them on many chases. As far as CANWARN is concerned. CANWARN wants spotters not chasers. No one is encouraged to endanger themselves or others to report ground truth. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a spotter. But I do come to realize Environment Canada and the media will take whatever they can get. Particularly if it can buy time to warn others of impending danger heading their way.

You don’t only love storms, you also have another favourite thing to chase. Tell us about your passion for the Northern Lights! 

My favorite thing to chase is supercell thunderstorms. I particularly love their formation, shape and tilt. The amazing power. The unimaginable amount of physical weight in that storm. How you can see the ingredients coming together, wind shear, moisture, low level jet. Textbook stuff. You can read so much but when you see it, you are much more confident and a believe of the science you’ve studied. Speaking of science, my grandfather taught Physics and Astronomy at the Univeristy of Regina and taught me to appeciate the night skies as well. I learned of constellations, meteors and the aurora borealis on my sleep overs at his place in Silton when I was a kid. Throughout my childhood in Moccasin Flats in Regina, I was always looking to the nightsky in hopes of a glimpse of heaven to take me away from the reality of living there. I remember one particular day in the eighties when an awesome geomagnetic storm had joined the north and southern bands of aurora together! I stayed up late watching it dance overhead while I stood in the back alley in the cold for hours. Since then I watched it whenever possible. After my tornadic intercept of April 12th, 2012, my mother bought be a DSLR camera in May 2012. This allowed me for the first time to potentially capture the magical lights (aurora) in the sky. A dream come true. Since then I have taken every opportunity within my price range to learn about how to use my camera and be better at shooting severe weather and the northern lights. To this end I have grown successful. I have learned to timelapse these events and CTV has invited me to share with them my knowledge and experiences with the northern lights after I released a YouTube video timelapse aurora compilation of the year 2013. I had an interview on the weekend at my house and then later in the week, their producer invited me on their morning show for 10 minutes or so. The aurora is a reflection of the awesome power of our closest star and is unpredictably beautiful and humbling. It is yet another reminder of how humble the human race should be in the face of natural power. Be it tornadoes or the northern lights, as both have the power to send us back to the Stone Ages.

Space Weather Prediction Center issued a G1 Magnetic storm WARNING

They sure are amazing to see! What do you do when you’re not out chasing in the summer? 

When summer is over and chase season is done, I shift my focus to capturing the colorful turn of nature when fall heralds the end of life (winter). I continue my obession with the northern lights and capture foggy mornings in the valley. In September, on the 19th, I fully participate in International Talk Like a Pirate Day! I dress completely as a pirate and bring a prop replica of “Dead Man’s Chest” from Pirates of the Carribean to work full of gold coin. I participate also in Regina Costume League, as the character Darth Maul from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. This allowed me to be a part of the Regina ExPo parade for the past few years and help fundraisers for various charities. I DJ for 91.3fm CJTR – Regina’s Community Radio since January 2002. I host a radio show named Hardwired featuring a futuristic industrial atmopshere for my listeners from 10-12pm on Friday nights. I also DJ at clubs in Saskatoon when opportunities arrive. One such opportunity lead to me making a tornado intercept near Craik in 2008. I have volunteers as a member of the Board of Directors for Radius Communications, the membership commmittee, fundraising committee and also volunteers countless hours to help 91.3fm keep the computer systems running and sometimes completely rebuilding after catostrophic hardware failures. I professionally work as a Trunking and Switching Techician for SaskTel. I sheppard IP traffic from cellular towers, optical cabinets and analogue cabinets throughout the province which supply internet and IPTV. All the way from the user end points to the IPcore to the IP transcanada backbone.

Notanee Darth Maul

Chasing takes a fair bit of time and money, anyone that you’d like to give a shout out to that supports you in your chasing? 

My family unit, the most important shout out has to be to my family. My wife is an incredibly understanding woman. Over time, we have witnessed the disintegration of other family units engaged in similar activities. It can put an unfair workload on your partner at little notice. I must give respect to every social networking contact who has come to trust my words. I try tremendously to give brief accurate information and secure trust in others. I have reached out to contacts in the Environment Canada, The Weather Network and local media to establish trust. I shout my thanks to them. I also thank everyone who has placed their faith in me and perhaps grown to like me over the years. I try to be a good person. Finally I shout out to the TVNweather.com family whose patience and generousity makes the live video streaming coupled with live positioning and reporting possible in the internet world. I thank Severe Studios (Kory Hartman) for allowing the public to follow Andy Gabrielson. I’d like to thank Sean Schoffer for allowing me to setup Dominator 3 video streaming.

Thanks again, Notanee for chatting with me! Where can people find you online and follow your chasing? 

I can be followed at www.tvnweather.com as RAIDEN, SpotterNetwork.org and also http://www.hardwiredradio.ca/raiden/ I have two sites under development. www.skstorm.ca and www.theflyingcow.ca.

You can also find Notanee on Twitter!

Thanks for checking out this Chaser Chat, you can see the rest of them HERE! Also, check back regularly as I have some more very exciting Chaser Chats coming up!

~Sarah

Chaser Chat with Notanee Bourassa: Part One

Notanee

I ‘met’ Notanee first on Twitter. Then at a few of events locally I was able to chat with him more. Notanee has a definite passion for weather and it’s contagious when you talk to him. You’ll see that in his interview below!

Hey Notanee, thanks so much for being willing to chat with me about your chasing! It’s awesome to be able to chat with Canadian chasers!

So, tell me what drew you to storm chasing?

Since my enchantment with the sky since the tornado of 1979 I was drawn to chase the storms because they frequently would miss Regina or a part of it that was extremely interesting would pass through and I would want to pursue it to see what happens. I grew up in Mocassin Flats of Regina and didn’t have a vehicle while growing up. So I biked to the nearest field to get an open view of the storm front. Then I joined the Navy and terribly missed the raging violence of a good prairie storm for a good decade. My only reprieve was to watch Twister in the theatre on the west coast at least thirteen times.

Love that you’ve seen Twister so many times! Do you remember your first tornado?

The first tornado I witnessed was when I was 7 years old living on 12 block McTavish Street in Regina and remembered that I was playing in the front yard in a very warm clear afternoon. When the storm hit in later afternoon, I remember the incredible horizontal rain. Trees bending to unnatural angles, branches ripping, VHF/UHF TV antenneas torn from roof tops, debris flying. We had a windowed front porch and watched the show from it but retreated into the bedrooms after a while, especially when the windows were bowing inwards.

Wow! That would be one heck of an experience! What is your goal when you go out storm chasing?

While chasing in the United States, my goal is to gain experience to be better at spotting, recognizing and learning from models, my forecasts vs others vs NOAA. I also participate in forwarding ground truth through SpotterNetwork and also transmitting video through TVNWeather.com. Photos I take are for my personal reference and also to teach my family and children the respect nature deserves. The United States provides a longer season in which to chase. So It’s a great warm up to chasing here in the Canadian prairies. While chasing in the Canadian Prairies, my goals are more focused as I have personal attachment to my country and province. I push myself alot harder and am challenged and frustrated by the lack of information from Environment Canada. I truly desire to get that ground truth in as expeditiously as possible. Brief, clear and accurate. Leaving out speculation.

What do you feel is the best thing about chasing storms?

There are many things that are close to “the best thing” about chasing storms, but from a personal view, it is scoring a tornado and calling it in successfully to Environment Canada. There are other romantic things about chasing storms, such as the personal escape from the city life so many of us are familiar with. The open road. The open skies. The landscapes. Mood appropriate music (which is a big deal for me as music is close to my heart). Time to think. Then as you approach your target area, you awaken. Data and radar can only get you so far. Then the eyes have to do the rest. Especially when chasing alone. Heavy rain, insane howling winds, escaping hail, dodging congestive traffic and finally getting to the mesocyclone. A particularly satisfying feeling having travelled hundreds of miles to be in the right place at the right time. A winning feeling. After that it’s gravy, the photos, the videos, the memories of soaking in the moments of what mother nature shows you from that point onwards is up to yourself to absorb and learn from.

Thunderstorm in Regina

Where do you like to chase? How far into the US have you chased storms?

I primarily prefer to chase in the open plains if possible. For example, treed and large hills as seen in Missouri can be very difficult to perform proper any spotting. The terrain itself dictates where the roads are and therefore dictates where traffic is funneled. Very difficult to scan the horizon from such a vantage point. The furthest south I believe I’ve travelled for storm chasing was Marshall, Texas. The furthest west I’ve gone is Artesia, New Mexico. The furthest east I’ve gone is Texarkana and ALL points north to the Canadian border. States experienced chases in: ND, SD, MT, MN, NE, IO, KS, MS, NM, AK, OK, TX.

What was the best storm chase you’ve ever been on and what made it so special?

For the moment the best storm chase was the experienc of April 14th, 2012. Greg Johnson and myself had chased on several occasions since May of 2011 and we had been looking forward to 2012. Greg just picked up “Flash” before the orange makeover and we met at his house where Ricky Forbes met us. Both Flash and Ricky were chase virgins, which Greg and I took pleasure in introducing them to the experiences we both knew were forthcoming in the south. We departed and met with Chris Streaks who is from Great Falls, MT in a hotel in North Dakota. What made the April 14th, 2012 chase so special was the fact that the team was on fire. Clear, concise communications between all of us. ESPECIALLY on our first visual contact. Both Greg and I spoke aloud, “WEDGE on the ground” as it was on our right about 6-7 miles distant. For me since I was doing navigation, radar and giving driving recommendations it felt good to keep the team on the EF4 tornado for the next 2 hours. The storm occluded this tornado multiple times. Our team work kept us nipping on the heels of this tornado. Tim Samaras was there, it looked like Vortex was there too, many chasers were onsite, but we dared a few road options which allowed us best access to the twister where there was NO ONE. It felt so good to have such an exclusive experience of that tornado that no one else had. In fact we had beat the traffic because of the road options we took, otherwise we were going to be stuck behind twenty chasers. All of us did the best we could. I even tried to stabilize Chris Streaks DSLR camera on multiple occasions while still focusing on radar and roads. There were only few occasions where I could take my point and shoot camera (which I borrowed from my wife) to take a few shots and a FlipVideo UltraHD camera (which I borrowed from my co-worker Lori-Jo ) to take video. I felt this was the best chase as we all contributed to a very successful tornado interceptive chase and worked as a team. Words really don’t describe it with justice. It is experienced.

Filmore Tornado Notanee

Thanks to Notanee for chatting with me! Part Two of this chat will come out on Friday and I hope you’ll come back for it! Meanwhile, check out my other CHASER CHATS with other storm chasers like Ricky Forbes, Chris Chittick, Craig Hilts and Sean Schofer!

~Sarah