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dispatches: August 2008

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20 AUGUST 2008

Marty Watson successfully surfs a drainage ditch in Satellite Beach, Florida, as Tropical Storm Fay dumps more than 20 inches of rain
Tropical Storm Fay: I'm not that into chasing hurricanes, because they aren't photogenic. But I ended up "chasing" Fay for work over the past couple of days, as our newspaper provided live streaming Web coverage from ... my car. It's pretty cool technology, really. A colleague rode along to handle the computer and Webcast software while I drove. We both manipulated the dash-cam. And we saw impressive winds yesterday and incredible flooding today, especially in Melbourne, Palm Bay and Satellite Beach. Now, here at our home in Rockledge, we're getting hammered with the heavy precip on the south side of the storm, whose center is offshore and apparently gaining strength. I hope we can avoid the flood monster. I'm ready for Fay, Fay, to go away. But check out the guy surfing the drainage ditch - perhaps not the smartest stunt, but amazing. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

18 AUGUST 2008

Pete Ventre films the Attica tornado as it digests the house it destroyed on May 12, 2004; short music video now on YouTube; select 'watch in high quality' for best view
Storm porn: The word "porn" will probably block me in the search engines, or maybe increase traffic, I don't know, but the "Raging Nature" show that appeared tonight on Discovery was a pretty egregious example of storm porn. And as a result of that show, my butt is famous (fully clothed, I might add). You wouldn't even know I was there in Attica, Kansas, on 12 May 2004 from the script (which, by the way, incorrectly uses the word "decimated" at least twice), except for the fact that my butt appears in front of a tornado, and so does my car, and even my voice, once. My chase buddies Scott McPartland and Dave Lewison were there and captured the most amazing footage ever of a tornado destroying a house, according to the show. And indeed, they did. But (or butt) my butt was clearly there (I sure hope Dave got paid well for that shot), and I know Pete Ventre was there, driving Scott's car, because my butt told me. And let me tell you, my butt can handle a video camera, because I have the tornado video to prove it. My only regret is that my butt didn't get the tripod out of the car. I've chastised it again and again.

Gosh, I love television.

P.S.: At least they used the show to discourage people to stay away from overpasses during tornadoes. That message helped dilute all the "wow, cool, let's look at this thing get destroyed" shots that were repeated over and over again.

In the meantime, we're waiting to see what path Tropical Storm Fay is going to take. The models were quite wacky - but entirely believable - today, with some putting it out to sea, buzzing over us here on the Space Coast, and then bringing it back over us after it stewed for a bit. Once is enough for me, thanks.

7 AUGUST 2008

August 7: Florida lightning branches out
Long time no chase: Finally, a taste of lightning after a drought, but not a drought of rain. We've had some of that, and the plants are as happy as they've been in ages. People assume that in Florida, you see lightning storms all the time in the summer. Well, you do see a lot of them, but many are in daylight, or you're in rain, and it's hard to get photographs. Today was the happy exception. A couple of storms ripped open the sky and set in motion a chain of wonderful convection and, as the National Weather Service says, "excessive lightning." See the photos in the 2008 chase reports (scroll down or go right to the August 7 report).