Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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Tuesday, April 10, 2007 - 8:42PM

Raleigh vehicle work day #1: Tripod Compartment

By DAN ROBINSON
Editor/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Observing
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Cooperative weather returned to Raleigh today, giving Matt (my brother) and I a full day to get started on the car (Why in Raleigh?). After removing literally every item from the car, including the accessory wiring, radios, and related chase gadgets, we gave it a good vacuuming and started the brainstorming session on how to improve the setup.


Cleaned and ready for work

When the rear seats are stowed, the back storage area platform overhangs about six inches up to the back of the second row seats. This leaves a roughly six-by-six cavity across the width of the interior behind the second row seats. We decided that this space will be ideal for the power console, and we'll be getting to that tomorrow.

The main project today, besides the initial cleaning of the car interior, was to construct one of the fruits of our brainstorm - a tripod compartment for the rear storage area. One of the biggest issues with past weather expeditions was space for fully-extended tripods. When you stop during an expedition to set up your cameras, time is of the essence, and the task of extending tripod legs is often problematic. The tripods also need to be easily accessable, able to be deployed and re-stowed quickly. Our tripod compartment will solve these issues for us.

The tripod compartment is created by simply adding a 'second floor' to the rear storage area. For most SUVs and wagons, this can be built by nailing plywood to a set of 2x4 risers. On my car (Ford Freestyle), the rear storage/seating area features ledges that are conveniently suited to simple bridging, using a set of boards cut to fit:


Tripod compartment baseboards

We opted to use individual 1"x12" boards (with a small gap in between each) rather than a single sheet of plywood, which made installation easier. We purcovered a 4'x6' piece of gray carpeting to serve as the surface of the 'second level'.


Installing the carpeting

We cut the carpet to fit the space, and used upholstery tacks to fasten it to the boards. We cut the carpet so that the ends could be wrapped around the front and the back of the boards. The carpet holds the boards together and keeps them from moving around. The carpet and gap in the boards allows the whole 'floor' to be folded up whenever it needs to be removed.


Matt and I, along with the dogs (Buffy and Beau) try out the finished tripod compartment.

The finished compartment has room for up to six extended tripods. The space on the second level has the same surface area as the original, which means we can use the same configuration for the rest of our gear as we have in the past.


Pelican case on the second level

The cables dangling from the bumper in the above photo are the security cables for the Pelican camera case. After we finished installing the tripod compartment, these cables were threaded through the frame of the car under the spare tire. I cut notches in the carpet to allow the ends of the cable to come up through the 'second floor', where they were threaded through the Pelican case and subsequently locked together:


Cutting notches for the security cable

Rain is in the forecast for tonight, so we're moving the expedition vehicle setup operation to under the carport for tomorrow, when we'll start on rebuilding the electrical system console and wiring for the inverter and all 12-volt devices. Stay tuned for more photos!

Forecast update
We are less than two weeks away from the start of our semi-standby date of April 20, and exactly three weeks away from our 'normal' chase standby date of May 1. The GFS is portraying a large trough moving across the US next week, with severe storms possible starting this weekend. After that, the GFS shows the strong trough over the eastern USA, suggesting a downtime in the Plains for at least a few days after April 20. Remember, for our weather expedition, we look for a strong 'dip' (trough) in the jet stream to set up in the western USA - the classic large-scale pattern for severe storms and tornadoes. Compared to 2006, the main difference we're seeing this season so far is that the patterns have been 'progressive', that is, they are moving along rather than stagnating for weeks on end. Which is a good thing! That would suggest that we'll need to be on the alert for another western trough possibly moving in at the tail end of April. But for now, that's nothing more than speculation. As a result, our departure date probability will remain unchanged as of today.

Based on the current outlook, this probability table charts the chance of our trip starting on a particular date:

2007 Weather Expedition - Departure Date Probability as of April 10
April 21-3010%
May 1-1022%
May 11-2022%
May 21-3122%
June 1-1522%
No trip2%

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