I am a weather geek.
This likely comes as no great revelation to those who know me, or think they know me through the reading of this column on an at least a semi-regular basis.
While I have enjoyed my career as a journalist, there is a part of me deep down inside who if given the chance by God to live my life over might have chosen to pursue a career as a meteorologist. Another possibility if dealt a “do over” card is to have become a storm chaser, who spent his springs, summers and falls on the lookout for the next tornado outbreak.
While I have witnessed a wide assortment of weather conditions during my lifetime seeing a tornado and/or funnel cloud has to this point eluded me. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t come close on at least a handful of occasions.
As a teenager in Rolla I missed seeing a funnel cloud one dark and stormy night. According to our next door neighbor the funnel, which wound up damaging a few houses less than a mile away, passed overhead between our two homes.
Where was I? I missed seeing it because I simply did not look up. As the funnel approached the wind increased, blowing in rain through the front door because the storm window was up. Consequently, when the funnel passed overhead I was busy trying to lower the storm window.
During the five years that my wife, Nancy, and I lived on the plains of Kansas you would have thought we would have seen something. But while we witnessed rotating clouds and the sky turn St. Patrick’s Day green on multiple occasions, never once did we see a funnel or tornado.
During my time as a lightning photographer I never captured anything funnel-like on any of my chases. That was before I stopped going out to take photos of tornado-warned storms because the lightning wasn’t good enough to warrant the risk of going out at night.
Another close encounter occurred during a beach vacation in the Carolinas. My son, Jacob, who is an accomplished storm photographer, came hustling into the house in which we were staying and encouraged me to grab one of my cameras because he had just seen a waterspout (a tornado over water) in the nearby Atlantic Ocean. Of course by the time I could get one of my trusty Pentax cameras and charge outside the waterspout had dissipated. As frustrating as it was to not see the waterspout, it was even more disappointing that Jacob had passed up the opportunity to take some photos of his own in order to track me down in the hope I would get some shots.
It was not the first time that Jacob had done something to assist me in my storm photography. As a gift several years ago Jacob had purchased for me a small weather station. One of its features is a small area that provides a weather forecast for 12 hours into the future. Jacob had thought that the forecast feature was like a weather radio and would notify me whenever storms were approaching Northeast Missouri.
While the forecast has not really helped me with my storm shooting, the weather station has proved useful because it also shows the outdoor temperature, at least some of the time.
Late last summer the outdoor temperature stopped appearing on the weather device that we have inside. Normally this is a sign that new batteries are needed. But even after replacement batteries were installed the outdoor temperature display still read double hyphen. That continued to be the case until last fall. When the temperature began dipping below the mid 60s the indoor display once again displayed the outdoor temperature.
Even during the frigid part of February the thermometer dutifully posted the below-zero temperature readings. But just a couple of weeks ago when the outdoor temperature approached the 70s, I could only guess as to how warm it might be.
Of course with spring having arrived I won’t be able to do much more than estimate what the temperature is when it really is getting warm outside.