Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Sunday, September 2, 2012 - 1:54AM CDT

Swing shift's parting hit - sidelined during Isaac tornadoes

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Hurricane Isaac's remnants brought two tornado days to the lower Midwest on Friday and Saturday. I had been anticipating this for a couple of days prior, but I expected the risk to be relatively low. As it turned out, both events produced better than I had forecasted. More widespread breaks in the cloud shield allowed the development of good surface-based instability.

So where was I when these events swept through my backyard?

Few things act to conspire against a storm chaser more than working a job on evening (swing) shift. I have been on a 3PM to 11PM work schedule since November of last year. I had originally expected to transition to day shift by spring of this year, but circumstances beyond my control prevented that. So with great trepidation, I entered this year's storm season largely sidelined during the entire prime severe weather time of day: the afternoons and evenings. A observer's nightmare! If it wasn't for that pesky thing called life and responsibility, I would have quit my job back in March.

There were a couple of mitigating factors. I had saved vacation days for storm chasing, and had plenty to use for the season. In addition to the two normal days off during the weekend, I also had the option to call of on short-notice during 3 days per week. However, there were two days per week that I could not call off without at least a 1 week notice. With observing, it's rare to get more than a couple days advance notice of non-outbreak type tornado events (the type common in the Midwest). So, there was a 2 out of 7 chance that any given tornado day would happen on a day I could not call off of work, and a 5 out of 7 chance that one would happen that I could go after.

With those odds, I expected to have to miss a couple of tornado days during the season, but figured that the odds would favor more events happening on days I *could* call off.

Guess what happened. Four out of five of the producing tornado/supercell events in the Midwest in 2012 happened on those two days per week that I could not call off. Not only that, but the April 13-14 event in Oklahoma also happened on my two must-work days! I was only able to chase those days because thanks to models, I had enough advance notice to call off.

So, I'm finally moving to day shift on Monday. My very last swing shift days were this past Friday and Saturday, which also happened to be those two days per week that I could not call off on short notice. See where I'm going with this? Yes, the swing shift schedule and the weather conspired to give me a knife-twisting 'parting gift' by forcing me to miss not one, but *two* back-to-back local tornado days in my backyard. Swing shift 4, me 0.

All I have to post from the past two days is the beginnings of the event before I left for work. Some of these weak showers demonstrated the shear present by the good updraft/downdraft separation.

So, good riddance to swing shift! Don't get me wrong, I'm happy and thankful for my season so far, it's been a good one otherwise. Furthermore, day shift will result in me being prepared for the fall-winter tornado seasons (if we get them) by having all of my afternoons and evenings free. Stay tuned.....

And finally, listing a few recent storm outings:

August 8: St. Louis storms

I shot this storm over the city and captured this bolt behind the Arch:

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