On March 1, 1997, I volunteered my time and van to help friend and neighbor Jim Spicer move a couple of motorcycles to his friend's house in southeast Little Rock. After unloading the bikes, his friend, a HAM radio operator, heard on the local Skywarn frequency, 146.940, that a large tornado was in Saline County and moving in our direction. At that time, Jim and I decided that it would be best if we got out of the tornado's path. We wished Jim's friend the best of luck and promptly left. Jim later informed me that his friend's house received extensive damage about 30 minutes after we left as the tornado began its trek into Little Rock. Charles, another one of Jim's friends who made the trip in his car to Little Rock and helped us unload the bikes, led the way out since he knew the area best.
Overcast conditions were prevalent, and the skies didn't appear threatening as we worked our way toward I-30. However, after turning east on Baseline Rd., the wind speed began rapidly increasing, and a two-by-four fell through the low-level clouds and landed directly in front of Charles' car (Charles was fortunate that the two-by-four didn't plunge through the windshield).
Jim and I were speechless, and we looked at each other in disbelief as debris began flying past us and pelting the van. We had inadvertently placed ourselves quite near the path of the tornado, which was producing F-4 damage near the Dixon Rd./Arch Street Pike intersection at the time. Seeking refuge, we quickly pulled into a gas station parking lot. However, the attendants, in their infinite kindness, locked the doors and turned us away. Needless to say, I was quite upset.
After being forced to take refuge in the van, everything began to calm down after a couple of minutes, but we remained in our location for probably ten more minutes just to make sure that Mother Nature had spent her wrath. We were fortunate that the tornado was moving away from us to the northeast. Once the event was over, Charles left to check on his grandmother who lived nearby, and Jim and I decided to get out of there post haste and get back to Mayflower, where we lived at the time. After getting on I-30, we couldn't believe what we were seeing.
Except for the occasional emergency vehicle, we were the only vehicle on the road and debris from houses was scattered everywhere. I was amazed and in awe of the sheer power that I witnessed, and even though I was fascinated by storms, I never thought I would have the chance to be that close to a tornado. That was the closest encounter I've ever had or ever want to have with a violent tornado. I would much rather observe a tornado moving over open land from about a mile away.
Needless to say, this event served as a foundation for my growing interest in severe weather, but I didn't actively pursue that interest until a couple of years later after the January 21, 1999, outbreak. I was in my apartment in Conway at the time and was glued to the television while watching the situation unfold. When supercells passed near Conway, I would occasionally look outside to see if I could make out any features, but the only thing I observed that night was some pea-size hail. It was later determined that 56 tornadoes struck Arkansas that day, which coincidentally was also my birthday.
Watching the outbreak unfold on television unleashed a desire in me to learn everything I possibly could about severe weather and tornadoes, and I began studying whatever severe weather material I could get my hands on. Eventually, I contacted Arkansas chaser Scott Blair and asked him what it would take for me to eventually begin chasing storms, and he replied that he would be more than happy to take me on a chase sometime. My first chase took place on April 2, 1999, with Scott, George Hoelzeman, and Jeff Crum, and even though it was nothing spectacular, that was a special day for me as we viewed three supercells from a distance in central Oklahoma. I became a trained National Weather Service spotter on May 18, 1999, and received my HAM license (KD5HRF) on July 13, 1999.
Since then, not only have I learned a great deal about severe weather and had some great chases, but I've also had a fabulous time applying what I've learned to field observations. However, there's still plenty that I have yet to learn, and I look forward to increasing my weather knowledge.
I also have some other areas of interest, including auto racing, which I partook in from 1993-97, and American Civil War history, which inspired me to join the 37th Illinois Co. B, one of the few Civil War re-enacting units in Arkansas that consistently portrays the Federal infantry. I re-enacted with the 37th Co. B from 1993-99. Due to limited amounts of time though, I've decided to take a break from both hobbies. I've met a lot of great people through both racing and re-enacting, and I'm very grateful for all the great times I've had with them. Once I'm able to find enough time, I hope to return to the racetrack and re-enacting.
From January 2000 - May 2001, I also attended college at UCA, and during those three semesters, I maintained a 4.0 g.p.a. However, because of the high cost associated with attending college, I've been forced to take some time off from school and return to the workforce full-time. I hope to resume my college education in the near future, and I plan to complete my major in Geography and minor in Mass Communications/Journalism.
Well, I guess I'm about out of things to say. Besides, I've been rambling on for far too long anyway, and I'm sure I've bored you to death. However, if you stuck around long enough to get this far, I'd like to say thanks for checking out this section of my site and feel free to e-mail me.