to Tornado Xtreme Chase. Tornado Xtreme is a severe weather and meteorology site created and maintained by storm chaser Bill Tabor. Visit frequently to read often stunning accounts of my adventures in one of natureís cruelest domains
- extreme weather. Browse around to see images of tornadoes, hail, lightning, floods, supercells, and other severe weather phenomenon.
Chasing severe storms is a dangerous pursuit.
This web site is dedicated to the love of the atmosphere and manís interaction with it. However Tornado Xtreme Chase in no way encourages or condones the act of storm chasing or chasing storms. Storm chasing is a hobby or sport which should not be taken lightly. If you have any interests in learning to chase storms I suggest you do as much as possible to learn about severe storm behavior and severe meteorology. Additionally it is highly recommended that you have the proper equipment and vehicle to ensure your safety. If you have any questions about where to obtain the proper training and equipment feel free to drop me an e-mail and Iíll do the best I can (time allowing) to provide you with some information.
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Following is the story of how I got interested in chasing storms:
My family was based out of west Tx. When I was a kid about 3 and living in Knox City my cousins, sister and I were playing in the backyard when my Mom and Grandmother told us a
tornado was coming and to come inside. I recall us looking at it first approaching from the swingset. I didn't understand which part of the clouds and all were the tornado until
someone explained and pointed it out to me. We ran inside and hid in the closets. As I recall I think I can remember all the wind, and noise, and concern from the adults. I wanted to
know when it would end. Finally it passed and everything was fine but it took my swingset and deposited it in a neighbors yard.
My grandmother (Mother's side) who lived in O'Brien was always interested in storms. She
liked to watch them. They said she had a knack for knowing when tornadoes were coming. They also said she had some ability to cure people - such as burns I've heard (but that's a
different story). I also had some relatives in Clyde, Tx that got killed by a tornado. Some survived by outrunning it in a car.Anyway I think I got a lot of my interest in storms from her and from my experience when I was young.
Later in life when I first moved from Dallas to Austin's Hill Country I didn't have a lot of
friends at first, but I had always been into outdoors and interested in weather. Austin's Hill Country was shock to my previous suburban life mentality of living near Dallas. I had
never really been able to see storms before because trees and houses always blocked the view. In Austin I lived outside of town and the cedar & oak trees, hills, and lake made for a
beautiful setting. In my early teens I got to where I would go to the end of the street to watch storms coming in. At that location there was a big drop-off to the hills and a very
large valley extending to the north and in the distance was Lake Austin. This made for a surreal viewing location and watching all the colors and motions in the clouds was
mesmerizing. I always loved the way it would be so hot and overwhelming during the afternoon, and the storms would come in with their cool air and make it comfortable again.
Sometimes after a rain I would go down into the valley and pick blackberries from the vines that had been wetted from the rain. One of my old routines when a storm was coming
was to make a pot of coffee sometimes with my Mom, and sit and watch the rain and listen to the thunder, etc. That got to be a tradition with me for a long time. Back then my view of
storms was simplistic and I never really considered I ever had anything to fear from them much. There were some really bad ones I recall at night. There was also a tornadic one that
passed overhead one afternoon with a rotating horizontal tube trailing high above and followed by clearing skies. For me that time was a thoughtful time and a time of change. It
was also a time to reflect. I've always had the tendency to be reflective of life and things, and so soon I took up poetry, and creative writing on the side. Some of my writings were
about the rain, etc. Over the years I wrote - certainly over a hundred poems. This episode of my life kind of reminds me of the song 'Rocky Mountain High', by John Denver. Yeah, I love mountains too!
Anyway, additionally all this time my friends also shared some of my interest in storms. We
always complained we never got enough. Eventually we talked about the idea of just driving to the next county to see a storm if it wouldn't come to us. This was really before there
were many chasers, and long before they had much media representation or publicity.
Life continued on and many years passed. Later I took a job in Colorado Springs, CO. A
friend of mine from Austin, moved there too and I finally got my pilots license and started flying locally and doing some mountain flying. Many good times were had. This friend of
mine - Jon, had always loved adventure, as I did, and was always by my side for the next one. Together we biked, skied, camped, ran, went flying, and climbed / hiked mountains,
etc. We never really thought at the time of chasing a storm. During this part of the stay in Colorado there really hadn't been many good storms that we noticed. Sadly, one day I
learned that Jon had died. This was of course a shock, and you never really forget such things. In the aftermath a few months later, I saw a PBS show about chasing. It was like a
revelation! Why hadn't I thought of it? I mean I had thought of it, but at the time all those years back my friends and I kind of shrugged it off and went on to do other things
even though there were times it was intriguing. Somehow I found another tornado video, and watched that. There were only a few back then. This was totally amazing! Anyway to some
degree I just put it in the back of my mind and went on with my busy life in Colorado Springs.
One day in the Spring of 1993, I believe I was off for the weekend. Suddenly the
television began emitting tones and the screen displayed a tornado warning! It was for my area. The storm was passing directly overhead, and would continue east. Surprisingly I
didn't think it looked all that bad. It was only light gray clouds coming off the foot hills to the west. Curiosity got the best of me and so I jumped in the car with my road map,
camcorder, and headed after it! This was my first chase! Light gray clouds turned to a low coal black base overhead as I raced east in my Isuzu Trooper. They seemed so low I could
almost reach up and touch them. I didn't know what that black base was back then, but in retrospect considering it with my current knowledge it must have been a very large inflow
rain-free base extending miles and miles to my north and south. Probably one of the largest I have ever seen. There was much turning in the clouds, and even lowerings. The latest
warnings were not that far away to my east, but I never did see a tornado. At the time I pointed the camcorder to almost everything and said 'This could be the beginning of a
tornado', or 'Maybe this is a tornado'. Watching the video now it is funny. I did end up seeing some type of funnel way up in the clouds above me that was swirled with candy cane
type stripes. To my west I also saw an incredible cloud unlike I had ever seen. It was most likely a shelf cloud. It was very smoothed over and it was under a larger cloud canopy that may have also sported mammatus.
Anyway, I was hooked. Too bad Jon hadn't been with me because I know he would have
loved it. Still I think in some way perhaps he was there. That was the beginning. On my next chase under a similar situation and set up I managed to go east and north of Colorado
Springs and intercept an incredible, slowly rotating tower of fog. This thing reminded me of a Stephen King story and it too was an adventure, but that is a different story. Since
then there have been many, many storms and intercepts along with many tornadoes. I'm pretty sure I am close to 100 by now but haven't completed my count. Meeting Gene Moore
at a tornado in Oklahoma in 1997 the day before the Jarrell F5 was also a landmark in my chasing career. As my interest grew, Gene became a regular chase partner who shared many
words of wisdom teaching me both safety, technique, and skill. Today, I combine all that with my own skills and abilities by creating my own forecasts, and challenging myself to
pick a spot and find a tornado. Chasing has been very interesting, fun, and rewarding for me. Probably my only complaint is that now when I look at clouds and storms I no longer see
just the poetic wisps of vapor I once did in my youth. Instead I also see it's destructive potential, and things such as forecasting parameters, and sometimes I have chase anxiety
about being able to make the storm even if it is going to be on the other side of the country. March, April, May, and June have never been the same for me since. Plans with
friends and family, and even business often take backseat to my ongoing obsession with chasing. No doubt I have been bitten by the 'bug'.
Perhaps someday I will be able to return to a more simplistic view of storms, and be able at
times to just sit back with a cup of coffee and take in the beauty and grandeur which is the storm. Perhaps I can find a way to integrate that with the often hurried, rat race which
chasing can become and enjoy both worlds.
I am reminded of older lyrics from Joni Mitchell of Both Sides Now.."I've looked at clouds
from both sides now. From up and down and still somehow, it's clouds illusions I recall. I really don't know clouds - at all".