RT’s Suckfest is Over

For several years now, Rich Thompson has been mired in a prolonged situation where he sometimes sees tornadoes, but only at a distance, at night, wrapped in rain, in low contrast, while driving and unable to safely pull over, or other settings absolutely not conducive to quality still photography. In some ways, I can relate, because I’ve had stretches of a few years at a time like that.

In addition, however, Rich has had untimely medical problems that forced him to either miss some great chase days, or in one case, he couldn’t hold up a camera well enough to this tornado because of a surgically repaired arm mired in a cumbersome, unwieldy sling. Pneumonia, flu, surgery, suddenly hospitalized relatives, bad patterns, inescapable prior commitments…you name it, aside from the lack of photogenic tubes when able to head out, other calamities of many sorts have dominated his chase vacations. Rich has described the phenomenon to many friends and colleagues this way: “(For photographing tornadoes) this whole decade has been an absolute suckfest.”

I am happy to report the suckfest is ending. Rich, chasing with Ryan Jewell, saw a few decent contrast, daytime tornadoes out on NW KS yesterday, and from what I’ve heard, got a few shots of them. They’ll have more opportunities for perhaps even better success today, as stronger storm-relative upper level winds give them a shot at more updraft-precipitation separation.

Outstanding! This is great news, not just for Rich and Ryan, but for the rest of us who have watched this sad state of affairs unfold since 2000. I say this not just because Rich and Ryan are among the photographers for Insojourn, and the possibility of more great images beckons. Instead, as a fellow 23+ year storm observer who has experienced long droughts, it stinks to go extended periods without the atmosphere providing photogenic hoses on available chase days. Rich is as skilled and knowledgeable of a storm observer as there is. But misfortune with timing — luck still being the biggest factor in chase success — has had him snake-bitten for the most part. The only cure is a feast on the smorgasbord of atmospheric violence. And so it is.

I’m glad they called with their reports, too. Rich and Ryan didn’t have contact info and aren’t on Spotter Network yet, so it was good to be able to relay their reports to the right offices quickly and without disrupting official duties whatsoever at my unnamed workplace. It was also neat to be able to see their observations on Ryan’s dashboard camera, which will be active again today whenever they have digital cellular telephone connectivity.

I’m watching this whole several-day event unfold in front of computer screens, being on a set of evening shifts throughout. I won’t complain, though. It goes that way sometimes, and I actually don’t mind as much as it may seem. There certainly are worse things to keep you from observing an event than forecasting for it. Doing outlooks for these events is challenging in a good way, because every forecaster wants to tackle the “big stuff.” Work has to take priority anyway..it pays the bills! I’m also saving hundreds of bucks in fuel and lodging that I’ll surely spend later when Elke and I go on our June vacation.

So my hope for Ryan and Rich today is a hosefest of epic proportions, to further flush the suckfest down the toilet of history. Go git’ em dudes!


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