Fran5We started our tornado-chasing journey by having dinner with the people who had survived the first tour.

Having dinner is an excellent way to get to know your fellow chasers. Our tour consisted of quite a cast of characters; a mixed group of 15 thrill seekers from all over the world.  A bunch of wild Australian couples, a British couple whose wife, Ruth had a fetish for Reed Timmer, the star of the TV show Storm Chasers and would do anything to get an autograph; a repeat client, JR from Ireland who everyone loved to tease and make him do ridiculous things, Thad who every morning would pass around a baseball cap with funny sayings in it ,  Glen a good ole boy who insisted I had a New York accent and was a pip,  and various others from all corners of the U.S.

Each of them quirky and wild in their own way, as you would expect people who want to chase tornados would be. Our tour was unique though because usually the groups consist of all men, and we had five fiery women on our trip!  Nothing like Estrogen and tornadoes to make men happy!Fran7

After dinner a bit of evening entertainment was in order. George decided that right there in the parking lot he would show off his fire breathing skills.– skills that he learned from some guru guy on the other side of the world and was willing to teach to any of us daring to try it.  Collin gave it a shot and everyone applauded. 

I was so upset I missed the lesson!  I was upstairs in my hotel room when I heard the clapping and cheering. I looked out my window just in time to see a four-foot plume of fire darting out of George’s mouth and Mike standing within sunburn distance to snap a picture of it.

I ran down the hotel stairs to be part of the action, but the demonstration was over. Charles was grinning like a proud father.

At that same moment,  my fellow Tiger adventurer, Bonnie, who lives in Norman, stopped by the hotel with her family to give me a quick tour of the city before I headed out to Tornado chase next day.

Wanting to make a lasting impression for her kids, I asked George if he could do an encore of his hot breathing.  He was just about to happily oblige when the local police showed up. Apparently some Walmart shopper, whose pants were on too tight, got nervous and called the police. The officer was nice, he didn’t arrest George but did tell him to put his toys away. When the officer realized we were tornado chasers he proceeded to tell us how last week’s tornado ripped out the windows of his car. 

For some reason, that made us all excited.

Fran6With the near arrest now under control, and the lasting impression on the kids in place, I got in the car with the Bonnie family and we headed over to the National Weather Center (NWC).

Bonnie gave me a  quick education: Norman, Oklahoma is the epicenter of weather in the country. The NWC is located on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. The NWC is a confederation of federal, state, and academic organizations that work together to understand events occurring in Earth’s atmosphere over a wide range of time and space scales, from tornados to hurricanes to severe storms. They also have the National Severe Storm Laboratory as well as the Storm Prediction Center. 

Needless to say, Oklahoma people are very storm savvy. (That’s akin to New Yorkers knowing how to avoid a stabbing!) After the tour Bonnie’s husband, Jim showed me some of the devastation that last week’s tornado had caused.

I got back to the hotel at midnight, sorry for the people who lost their homes, and realizing the power of what we were about to experience. The adrenaline soul in me was excited to start this fantastic adventure