After pushing northward yesterday from Wichita, Kansas, to Yankton, South Dakota, we got a shutout tossed at our tornado chase team. Thunderstorms did bubble up along a cold front sliding across the northern Plains, but for the most part—-at least where we were in far southeastern South Dakota—-they were run-of-the-mill.

So we packed it in early and bunked down in Yankton. After a marathon run the previous night from Amarillo to Wichita, the decision was welcomed by most of us. It certainly was by this old dog. It was great to actually saw logs for eight hours.

Yeah, I’m the old dog on the tour, probably by 10 or 15 years. But I’m also the only rookie on the chase. Roger Hill, the chief guide for Silver Lining Tours, is the grizzled veteran. I think he said he’s seen something on the order of 400 twisters. Tom Howley, our driver (from Pennsylvania) is on his 49th pursuit. Too bad I’ll miss his Silver Anniversary tour.

My frequent seat mate, Gawain from Chicago, is on his seventh safari with SLT. Andy and Jeff, anesthesiologists from Dallas, are returnees, too. Chris, from Sydney, Australia, is sticking around after this chase for the one that departs immediately after. And Tim, from London (yes, the big one), will be coming back in June.

PHOTO: Departure day for SLT in Oklahoma City. In the center, facing the camera, Tom Howley (L) and Roger Hill (R). WIth backs to the camera are Tim (L) from London and Chris (R) from Sydney.

Today we’re hoping we don’t have to venture far from Yankton. The area from northeast Nebraska into northwest Iowa appears prime. So I’ve donned my talisman, a Silver Lining Tours tee shirt; I’m sure that’ll work. Gawain’s lucky charm, a Junk Yard Dog (a pro wrestler of yore) action doll, failed yesterday, so he’s going back into the suitcase.

Tom said that whenever he runs over a snake (he doesn’t do it deliberately, he emphasized), the tour sees a tornado. It’s worked seven of eight times.

Here snakey, snakey, snakey.

-May 2, 2012-

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