It’s dark as a coal mine as we pull off a deserted county road just south of the Red River. In the distance, maybe 20 miles off, twin thunderstorms launch volleys of lightning at each other. A duel in the night.
I’m nearest the door in the Silver Lining Tours van, so I’m first out, stepping cautiously onto the mesquite plain. I take two steps back from the van to allow the door to swing open. I take another step, but there’s nothing to step onto. I go down, sprawling on my side into a dry culvert with little prickly things lining the bottom.
The second guy out of the van, an anesthesiologist from Dallas, rushes to extend his hand to pull me up. Did I mention it’s dark. Like Can’t see nuthin’. He tumbles into the ditch beside me.
Night stalkers we’ll never be. At least we were unhurt; a little scratched, a little sore, but undamaged except for our pride.
Once upright again, we enjoyed a good light show. But to me, the most memorable feature of the night was more audible than visual: thunder rolling and tumbling over the flat Texas plain, punctuated by a chorus of coyotes jamming in the dark.
The bottom line for day one of the great chase: no supercells and a whole lot of waiting (the part they don’t advertise about tornado chasing). We drove a racetrack pattern around the Red River between Wichita Falls and, Texas, and Altus, Oklahoma, and stopped periodically to monitor weather patterns and radar reports.
And we waited. And waited. At an ice cream shop/minimart in Burkburnett; at a Super Wally in Wichita Falls; at a Fina truck stop in… the middle of nowhere. (Fun watching two long BNSF freights blowing down the line, however.)
So we’ll try again today, probably pushing into the Texas Panhandle. But I fear it may turn out to be another day of waiting and hoping. And waiting. And waiting.
All in the name of gathering authenticity for Supercell. (But maybe I’ll leave the waiting parts out.)
-April 29, 2012-