Kirsten is an official member of the tornado club after driving the intercept vehicle right towards a tornado in Nebraska. She spent the summer hoping for bad weather — and storm chasing — with Ron Gravelle. Ron is an Environment Canada NET controller, storm predictor, forecaster, and certified “chaser” in both Canada and the USA. He is one of only two Canadians to own Baron Threat Net and has seen 98 tornadoes. You might have seen Ron’s video footage on CNN or other projects on Discovery channel. On the first week of chasing Ron and Kirsten crossed 17 states. In the second week, they crossed 14 states — covering 19,900 kilometers! During both weeks, Ron predicted the most powerful storms in North America and Kirsten punched through them. (Good bladder control and love of laughter are beneficial traits to the chaser.) Yes, it’s kind of like Twister without the flying cows — and there is the odd platter of fried bull testicles at the end of the day.
We collected a lot of road miles to get to this stone-throwing and people shoving storm that Ron Gravelle predicted outside Fargo, North Dakota. We (Ron’s crew of 3 drivers and one cameraman plus Ron) flew into Oklahoma City, picked up the Suburbans, then picked up the TV crew including the hunky Hong Kong celebrity Wong He (who gave me a sensational massage and back cracking), and then drove to Texas for steaks at the Big Texan, then to New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska (for some fork lightning), Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and then North (and maybe back and forth) before heading south and through Kansas and back to Oklahoma. I can now say, lightning, thunder, and tornado in Cantonese. It took all those states and miles for me to not-even-master three words of Chinese.
F’n tornadoes – F1 F2 F3 F4: I have a tornado fact that I keep forgetting to share. Lots of tornadoes are born that are never counted because they don’t get an F number. There could be a massive F5 tornado that isn’t counted as an F anything because it actually has to hit something such as a man-made structure – it has to wipe out a Wal-Mart or leave a clear cut path through a forest or trailer park before hitting a barn, a bridge, a windmill (that would be a cool photo) and then it can get its Fujita scale rating when the F’n raters actually rate it after the fact. So, if what should be an F4 makes its route down a highway but doesn’t hit something, it’s an F-zero.
I fly to Oklahoma City on Friday to drive a storm chase vehicle for Ron Gravelle and a ten person Hong Kong TV crew who have hired his expertise for over a week (Photo: I took of Ron Gravelle – certified storm chaser and certifiably one of the best – thinking F-words and levels, 2008, Nebraska, on the chase that led to me seeing my very first tornado and Ron yelling “go go go” meaning for me to drive towards the F whatever, not drive away from it.)