Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Monday, April 2, 2007 - 3:33AM

Raleigh vehicle preps, 'No Trip' outlier

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Raleigh, North Carolina: The beginning of Event 2007What does Raleigh, North Carolina have to do with our storm chase expedition out on the Plains? This week and next, I'll be in Raleigh to visit family and to start the annual pre-season re-configuration of the car. The past two seasons, Raleigh has been the site of the pre-storm chase expedition vehicle preparations. My grandmother's second home in the semi-rural southern outskirts of Raleigh has a large yard with plenty of space, making it ideal for spreading things out and doing any cleaning and installation work on the vehicle. Here in Charleston, such a task would involve parking on a street, with limited space and cars passing close by. In a previous post, I talked about some of the modifications that are planned to the car - so I won't repeat them here. I might get around to posting some photos of the vehicle work while I'm there.

No Trip?
I wanted to elaborate on that last little category on our departure date probability table - the somewhat obtrusive one that says 'No Trip'. There are a few reasons that might result in the total cancellation of our chase. The first would be the most obvious - the weather's lack of cooperation. If no strong severe weather system occurs in the Plains during our standby period, we won't be heading west at all this season. Such completely barren seasons are rare, but are still possible. Last year was one such example, with no 'real' promising setups occuring during May and June. Last year, we elected to make the trip anyway, giving the benefit of the doubt to a weaker, short-lived pattern in late May. However, this year our standards will be high. We'll only make a trip, Lord willing, for a strong system that holds good promise for success. If 2007 is identical to 2006, there will be 'no trip' and we'll wait patiently for 2008.

The other reasons that could threaten our trip could be any logistical or financial contingencies that may arise. I've been known to press forward on a chase when the bank accounts are low, making the investment in what I knew was good footage and pictures. Now that my stock video library is full of tornadoes, the financial justification for gathering more tornado imagery is less viable. Currently, I've got ample finances to make the trip, but a major car or house repair, delayed check from a client or other unforseen expense could tip the scales.

Despite all these possibilities, I always keep a strong optimism that the potential for an all-season no-go is very low. The storm chase expedition is a highlight of my year, and something I won't give up on too easily. As such, the 'no trip' probability will start out at 2% and remain that way throughout or standby period, barring any of the aforementioned problems.

On to the forecast outlook. Long-range models suggest a breakdown of the upcoming eastern trough and cold outbreak around mid-month, which might allow severe weather activity to ramp up once again out west after then. Mid-April is prior to our standby allocation and therefore still too early for us to plan a departure date, so our probability table for today will remain unchanged.

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

2007 Storm Chasing & Photography Expedition - Departure Date Probability as of April 2
April 21-3010%
May 1-1022%
May 11-2022%
May 21-3122%
June 1-1522%
No trip2%

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