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Hard times for storm observers
Up to this point, spring 2008 has not been going too well for storm observers. So far this season, most of the promising setups have been either major disappointments, or outside of the Plains altogether. Aside from a half-decent trough showing up early next week (which actually looks too far south right now to be of much consequence), the models keep painting an uninteresting picture for the next couple of weeks.
And as if hail dents, long drives, high gas prices and uncooperative weather patterns weren't enough, it looks like storm observers have a new hazard to watch out for this year: getting arrested! Storm observers in general (and photographers/cameramen too for that matter) have been seeing an increase in hostility by a few rogue law enforcement entities in recent years - partly due to the post-September 11 climate, but more often than not due to irrational overzealousness on the part of specific officers. Granted, there are a few bad apples in our own ranks that don't help things for us (reckless drivers, traffic-blockers and post-tornado devastation gawkers). But this latest incident (involving a storm observer being ordered to move from a parking spot in a rest area while they observed a storm) shows that the worst can happen to any of us. I guess the only thing we can do is keep our cameras rolling at all times, so a full record of everything that happens before, during and after can be our advocates in court. That's partly the reason why I run a full-time dashcam in my car, whether I'm observing or not.
So back to the upcoming pattern. Things look plenty unsettled as the jet stream wiggles around in mid-country, but no major troughs mean that a nice, organized easy-to-intercept system is not on tap for storm observers. Even here in Charleston, the large-scale upper pattern will be supporting little more than cloudy skies, cool temps and off-and-on rain for at least a week. It's going to be a good time to work inside and get a few things done - which is usually a blessing in disguise. Again, we are still very early in the peak season, which runs through about mid-June - so there is plenty of time for things to change. At this stage, I don't see a trip happening until at least the 18th.
Based on the current outlook, this probability table charts the chance of our trip starting on a particular date:
|2008 Storm Observing Expedition - Departure Date Probability as of May 8|