Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Monday, October 19, 2009 - 4:48AM

Miscellaneous thought post #15

25 Years of Storm Observing
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I don't know if this is actually my 15th post like this, but I didn't feel like going back and counting. As you can see from my post time, I'm back to the nightside schedule for a while - thanks to the mountain snow event on Saturday night. I'll hopefully be back to normal in a day or two - but in the meantime if you try to call me sometime during the day and I don't answer, that's probably why!

Call CPS for taking a kid storm observing?

Not that I want to give the most recent fiasco making headlines any more attention, but there is a relevant issue I wanted to make a comment on. Not that I'm all that concerned about any perception that storm observers may get as a result of the story in question - but this is my blog, and so occassionally I get a chance to bring a voice to the table on current issues. And that is, again, another opportunity to drive the point that observing storms (specifically tornadoes, in this instance) is not a dangerous activity. Again (I say that frequently because I have said this many times), the goal of observing (for most) is like the goal of a safari - to see and photograph the wild beast in its habitat, not to get into a situation where it can harm you. For observing tornadoes, the dangers are so easy to avoid that in fact it takes great skill and persistence (or a stroke of extremely bad luck) to get into them.

Picture the vastness of the Great Plains. To have a shot of simply seeing a tornado, you have to pinpoint in that vast expanse where the supercell storms will develop and track. Now, admittedly, that's not too hard, particularly for someone with a laptop, a good data source, and a little field experience. But to get in the path of that tornado means that you have to be so precise with your forecast as to get there well ahead of time, making it to that exact spot where a tiny (relatively speaking) event crosses a road. That is no easy task - and one that I've rarely come very close to achieving in 9 years. The times I did, it was no accident (and I was alone).

Getting very close to a tornado is, *surprise*, also no big deal as far as danger is concerned. Time and time again, storm observers have proven this to be true with nothing more than a broken window or two to show for it. Some have even found themselves inside tornadoes with little effect. Now obviously, we know stronger tornadoes can inflict catastrophic damage on a vehicle and therefore are not threats to downplay - but, like a freight train, as long as you stay off of its track, you are in little danger from it. How close can you get to a train without feeling endangered? Apply that thought to a tornado and you've figured out the level of risk from one.

So is it outrageous to take a child storm observing - enough to suggest Child Protective Services get involved? To answer that question, you'd need to answer these: Would you allow your kids to go skiing? Would you take them whitewater rafting? How about giving them a bike for Christmas and letting them ride around the neighborhood? Play on a playground? Swim in a pool? Go camping? If you answered 'yes' to any of those, you'd be OK with things that have a proven far greater threat to a child than observing storms. Just look up the death and injury stats of any of those other activities I mentioned!

If I had kids, I would not hesistate to take them storm observing if I felt they had a real interest in it and were old enough to endure the long times on the road. I would certainly not push the limits as far as close intercepts, hail cores and muddy roads (which are things I avoid anyway). And there are some more extreme weather-related subjects I'd never consider taking a child to (like a flash flood, hurricane or icy road event). But there is no reason that kids shouldn't have the opportunity to experience an expedition and all that goes into one.

Storm observing with a dog

Sort-of related to the taking kids observing topic, I embarked on my first long-duration event with a dog tagging along. My parents' Cocker Spaniel Tess accompanied me on my winter storm expedition this weekend, enduring 12 hours on the road with me. She seemed to do OK with the experience, taking over the extended cab area behind the seats with a blanket and pillow, even eating and drinking out of her bowls back there. The only issue she had was that ice chunks would build up on her paws from the snow when I let her outside in the grass, at some point making it uncomfortable for her to walk. The ice quickly melted when she got back inside. I have long considered getting a dog, but wasn't sure how one would fare with long-distance and long-duration trips - so this was a good test for that future possibility. All in all, it adds a little logistical challenge to an expedition but not enough to make it impossible.

click to enlarge

Under the Radar

If you like contemporary Christian music, you might want to check out this internet radio show I discovered a couple of weeks ago: Under the Radar. Back in the late 90's and early 2000s, Moody Broadcasting had a show on their nationwide network called 'MBN Saturday Night' that would play a good selection of both mainstream and less-mainstream contemporary Christian music. I discovered most of my current favorites on that show, and would make a point to go on long drives in the country every week to listen. MBN Saturday Night is no more (nor is the local Moody afilliate station) - but I have some great memories of those night drives that I credit as a big factor in my growth as a Christian.

While I am a fan of any radio station that plays CCM (including KLOVE and most local stations), I have found that like most things in life, I gravitate to some lesser-known and less-popular types of music that often escape airtime on conventional stations. MBN Saturday Night was a great source to hear new songs (and older ones I'd never heard) like that, many of which I would later seek out and add to my collection. With shows like MBN Saturday Night gone and most Christian stations sticking to a rotation of popular songs, it's been harder for me to find new music I like lately.

So, it was refreshing to find out about Under the Radar - a source that has already netted me a few new downloads on Itunes - like songs from Jason Gray and Brooke Fraser. And, the host of the show is one of the former hosts of MBN Saturday Night. Now I can que up the podcast of this show and listen to it on a night drive like I used to 10 years ago with MBN.

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