Summer, some people canít hack it and move to Tasmania, but generally as societies we idolize it and lets face it, even in WA we wait all winter for it. Surely nothing can beat the sweaty anticipation that comes with a humid summers day. Conditions build up over a few days, looks like a chase could be on the cards, lift is good, but whatís it lifting? CAPE is okayish and the wind is swinging with height, well sort of, the mind races as a saturation of information pours in via the Internet. I sit back and remember with a smile when I used to chase using the MSL charts out of the daily paper, if the trough was there and active then so was I. Good advice to follow too, if your not 90% sure, go anyway. Soon youíll get to know and somehow youíll develop a "intuition" type feel for what conditions will produce storms and what wont. Sometimes I think we can overload ourselves analyzing systems and setups when really a wide variety of conditions will in one way or another produce storms anyway. No two setups are the same. Get to know your area. Storms and their formation is very state specific and in that area specific. Do whatever you can to learn, chasing without the forecasting is like eating stolen candy. It tastes great going down but it doesnít sit right in your stomach and later youíll wish it had of been your own call and not the results of a phone call to someone. One must build knowledge and early on calls will need to be made to confirm your own forecasts. Chasing is a craft not easily learnt and time in the field is by far the fastest way to learn. The satisfaction of a great chase always comes back to the fact that you picked it. You looked at the info and made the decision that storms will be at point X (or at least within 200-300kís of there) you drove to point X and there they were. Rarely we stumble upon a storm and effort must be made. Remember a bust chase provides an opportunity for more learning than sitting at home does. Chasing is like, well to steal a line from a Ben Lee song "a lot goes on but nothing much happens". Really thatís what most chases are like, days waiting, watching, hours driving and all for maybe 1hr or less of action. At say 10:00am it doesnít look that good, probably no storms. By 10:15am its all happened and youíve left. Target area acquired a few hours later more waiting. Waiting, waiting, Cumulus is building but its capped and still doesnít look that good. Then you see a cell start to reach a height that none others have so far. At first like a small hole in a dam wall moisture trickleís through until that trickle becomes an enormous boiling mass of convective energy. A storm is born and the chase is on.
Storms, well most of our mothers hate em, and so do insurance companies, especially those with customers that own large car dealerships in Sydney and Brisbane. Storms are part of the world we live in but they donít always some to your doorstep. Perhaps you have a two storm a day habit that sees you driving 100ís of kís to get to them. Or maybe your fascination lies in the pure and ultimate chance of observing one from right wherever you may be. So to chase or not too chase? Upon returning from a good chase out Dowerin way I was sharing the chase story with fellow WA chaser Mike Fewings, I just couldnít put into words what I had felt. Too excited and overwhelmed I merely spat and spurted the words out in an effort to explain it. Mike looked at me, simply smiled, nodded his head and said, "IraÖÖI know". Mike and I chase for different results but ultimately for the same feeling and in that moment it dawned on me. That whatever chasing means to you, science, part time hobby, or simply the reason you wake up every day. Your chasing experiences are your own, no matter if thatís a 800k trip or a walk outside, and they will remain that way, buried inside our heads as memories. Only part of which can be shared with others as that is all words allow. The remainder is just "that feeling" all storm observers, surfers, snowboarders, motorcycles owners etc. all know yet cannot describe. The particular feeling for us however is the silent link that draws all storm chasers/observers together. As you listen or read the chasing stories of others remember that old "stoke" you felt at the big moment when you first scored a great storm. Even if they live somewhere else and donít chase for the same reasons you do, just smile and be happy for them as you once again relive that sweet memory of what that person is now feeling. Soon however memories of old chaseís die as new ones take their place, however almost anyone who has chased has been out there is those perfect moments, when storms are more than just storms, when weíre more than just chasers, amateurs or weather observers-----when we are part of a world. A world that somebody who has never chased or really observed the power of a thunderstorm simply canít understand. Mostly I chase in a kind of fascinated terror, like a small kid, clearly out of his league, hurtling down a hill on his bike, knowing that what he is doing is indeed to good to be true. Sometimes you may pay a price, unfortunately it does come with the territory. However careful planning and understanding of storms and how they behave will result in having captured a unique event in time that will never be seen again, all done safely. Chase with your nostrils wide open, donít be a yahoo but rather chase with passion. Always remember that the storm is mother natureís most powerful force that can and does take human life with apparent abandon. Respect it and it will respect you.