K5KJ & KA5RDR
First, let me explain that Ham Radio operators recognize their fellow Hams first by their callsigns and second by their names.
I saw my first tornado at the age of 6 years from the front yard of my family's home in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. It was the destructive and deadly Dallas, Texas tornado of April 2, 1957. I was first licensed as an amateur radio operator in 1966 at age 14. My first significant SKYWARN severe weather report was of the developing Dallas tornado on May 26, 1976. I was one of the first SKYWARN spotters in Dallas County to intercept and report the classic supercell and its rapidly rotating wall cloud as it approached Dallas from Tarrant County.
My interest in storm chasing developed through my involvement in amateur radio and RACES SKYWARN storm spotting. During my junior high and high school years, I was a "Weather Watcher" for a local TV weather legend, Harold Taft. Before the National Weather Service SKYWARN program got off the ground, Harold Taft trained his group of Weather Watchers to spot and report severe weather. Harold Taft held training sessions each year at the WBAP (now KXAS) studios, located just east of downtown Fort Worth. He had Weather Watchers in almost every county and many small towns across North Central Texas. Mr. Taft also collected rainfall reports and relayed them to viewers during his telecasts on WBAP-TV (now KXAS), channel 5. Harold Taft was one of the vanishing breed of TV personalities who brought both integrity and professionalism to the airwaves, something that is often a rare commodity on television today. However, his successors at channel 5 are carrying on in his tradition.
Technological advances in and miniaturization of VHF-FM transceivers during the late 1960s and early 1970s allowed Ham Radio operators to easily install two-way radios in their cars and form spotter groups. Prior to this time, there weren't many spotter groups or weather related nets on Ham Radio, aside from the H.F. hurricane nets. However, it didn't take long for the National Weather Service, Civil Defense Networks, the American Radio Relay League and Hams in general to team up and form spotter networks.
I joined the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) in 1974. After receiving SKYWARN spotter training from the National Weather Service, my curiosity was piqued further. I wanted to learn more, so I contacted the Fort Worth NWS Warning and Preparedness Meteorologist, Al Moller. Al sent numerous weather related research papers to me over the years (many are now available on the Internet), which I have read over and over again. He has also spent many hours providing me with an informal "education" in the basics of severe weather and meteorology. We have teamed up many times to chase storms since first meeting in 1974. Al is also perhaps the best storm and landscape photographer out of the group of storm chasers that I know personally.
I became a member of the the local chapter of the American Meteorological Society in the late 1970s which provided exposure to additional people, information and ideas. I heard about and met veteran storm chaser David Hoadley in the late 1970s and subscribed to his StormTrack newsletter (now published by Tim Marshall and Tim Vasquez). Storm chasers and weather enthusiasts from around the world stay in contact through StormTrack. They publish photographs and written accounts of their chases and exchange information on tornado forecasting and chase techniques and tactics.
Al Moller introduced me to Chuck Doswell in the early 1980s. Chuck is another experienced photographer, videographer and storm chaser. Chuck was a participant in the original storm chase program at the University of Oklahoma at Norman. He went on to become a professor of meteorology at OU Norman, as well as a major participant in and contributor to the VORTEX experiment at the National Severe Storms Laboratory, also in Norman, Oklahoma. Chuck is currently a Senior Research Scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies. Chuck's appetite for weather research is unending and he is an energetic, prolific and talented writer and editor of scientific papers. To my benefit, we have had numerous discussions, mainly during our annual spring storm chase vacation. I have read many of his fine essays and formal scientific papers. (Al Moller often co-authors papers with Chuck.)
Even with all the exposure to excellent ideas and knowledge from others, there is no substitute for the storm chase experience, if you really want to try to understand the weather.
My formal education is in electronics and management. My interest in weather started out as a hobby, but coupled with photography and videography, it has become my second "profession". Photography and videography allow me to capture magnificent images of tornadoes, lightning and severe weather and then share the experience with others through video and photographs. (During one average year, many storm chasers see more tornadoes and severe weather than the average person may see in a lifetime!) I discovered that I could actually pay some of my storm chase expenses by selling my images, which I have done now for several years. However, my first priority when chasing or spotting continues to be public safety. (One of the foundations of Ham Radio is the basic concept of voluntary public service.) Storm reports always come before shooting photos, video or simply observing severe weather.
Around 1990, I met Martin Lisius, who at the time was a new and relatively inexperienced chaser. Martin was obviously very motivated. He formed the Texas Severe Storms Association (TESSA) which has grown to have world-wide membership and influence by providing a significant public service. Martin has won numerous awards for his film and video productions. Several years ago, Martin formed Prairie Pictures Storm Stock to market and sell storm video and film. I was one of Storm Stock's first videographers.
Over the years, I have observed and reported many tornadoes and severe weather events, not only near my home in Dallas County, but in many other locations across the Great Plains of the United States. It is most rewarding to know that my reports when coupled with the combined efforts of your National Weather Service, local radio and TV, Civil Defense professionals and SKYWARN spotter nets may have helped save lives.
There may be one or perhaps even two hundred active and experienced storm chasers in the U.S. Because of media interest, they get most of the publicity and attention. However, there are tens of thousands of dedicated SKYWARN spotters who put their belief in public service into action by volunteering their time, energy and personal financial support to the SKYWARN program. Their goal is to help save lives and possibly reduce property damage by observing and reporting severe weather. SKYWARN spotters deserve more credit, recognition and thanks both individually and as a group for their efforts.
I owe thanks to my parents who supported my interests in Amateur Radio, weather and science in general through years of encouragement during my childhood, adolescence and entry into adulthood. My wife continues to support and encourage my involvement and interests in these areas. She even goes storm chasing with me occasionally!
My home page contains only a few of the events that I have seen over the years. I plan to post more as time permits and include more of the people I have met while chasing.
June 3, 1993 - These photographs were taken at Black Mesa, Oklahoma, the day after a hail encounter south of Johnson City, Kansas. I was about 1/2 mile or so south of Warren Faidley. We were both racing south ahead of a southeastward moving tornadic supercell. One softball size hailstone inflicted the damage shown above to my windshield. Warren took three hits, one of those to his windshield with similar results. Warren's video camera was running and recorded his windshield shatter. His video has been aired on several T.V. programs.
K5KJ Antenna Setup
Go to my Ham Radio Page
Left to right, Carson Eads, Tim Marshall and Sam Barricklow observing and photographing a storm NW of Abilene, Texas, standing beside Carson Eads' ultimate "chasemobile".
Copyright 1993 - 2007 - Samuel D. Barricklow - All rights reserved.
Storm video is available through StormStock.
Revised November 30, 2008