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storm gallery: chase diary 2003



In some ways, this was the chase that didn't happen. This year represents an aberration from my previous chase diaries, in that it really isn't about the storms.


2003: The chase that didn't happen

The year 2003 was the most intense of my life. Ironically, none of that intensity came from storms, which have given me some of my most memorable experiences. I survived serious work stress, major foreign travel, a family crisis, and, on a pleasant note, my own wedding.

With the destruction of space shuttle Columbia on Feb. 1, my work life became a kind of hell. I am a space reporter for Florida Today, one of three. I covered the mission from Kennedy Space Center while the shuttle was still in orbit and before. I had interviewed the astronauts multiple times. I cared about the astronauts before the accident - most reporters didn't even know their names. What followed was not only a sense of trauma and personal loss but an intense work schedule that involved countless hours, a trip to Houston, and, later in the spring, a trip overseas.


A rainbow forms over Moscow's Olympic stadiums in spring 2003.
I was in Kazakhstan to see the launch of the Soyuz carrying the Expedition 7 crew to the International Space Station, and I was in Moscow for the landing of the Expedition 6 crew (off-course, and quite a source of suspense for a couple of hours).

By the time I got back to the United States, most of the season's huge tornado events had already occurred. I arrived in the Plains a day too late for the last one, and on the way out west, I heard that my mother had suffered a fall. It took a few days for the seriousness of that injury to become clear, and after a sad little chase, I made a beeline back to the East Coast to be with my family for a couple of weeks. My mother came near death, but she survived after many weeks in the hospital.

In the meantime, I was preparing for a wedding. There wasn't a lot of lightning to chase in my part of Florida that summer, though I made a few attempts. We had a wedding picnic in a thunderstorm and a ceremony under a rainbow in September, a fitting touch, despite an almost stormless year.

I learned that as desperate as I was to see the storms, some things are more important, and sometimes life has other ideas. The important thing is to value the moments we have with the people we love. If fate is kind and persistence pays off, I'll see storms again, and the chase will be as thrilling and fulfilling as ever.