A few days ago was the anniversary of the 2002 La Plata, MD, tornado. This was a big deal to me, as it was the beginnings of storm chasing. I wasn’t there when it happened, but I had just started thinking about weather again starting a few weeks earlier.
A few weeks before that, I had some drama in my life and I had begun to reevaluate what was important to me. As a small child, I watched the NOVA special on tornadoes. Soon after, tornadoes were everything to me; drawings, dreams, books, and so on. The first book I was able to read on my own was, “Night of the Twisters,” which I had checked out of the Carroll County Public Library oh so many times. It was before the days where one could order a book on Amazon and have it magically appear a few days later.
At some point, girls, cars, jobs, and, well, looking cool got in the way of all things related to my interests. Somehow, what had once been a driving force in my life had taken a backseat.
After the drama (a break up with a college girlfriend, really), I started to examine what was important to me. Watching the weather had always been important to me, and I had ignored it for a few years.
With each spring day, the promise of storms in southwest Virginia caught my interest. If storms formed, I climbed up the 12 sets of stairs to the top of Slusher Tower at Virginia Tech, and sat in the stairwell. It was the tallest building around, and I could see for quite a ways.
At the end of April, the La Plata tornado struck a town a few tens of miles north of my parents’ house. It occurred to me, for the first time since my childhood, that I could chase storms.
I had no idea how to do this, and, May of 2002, I had no money to do so that season. Instead, I vowed to get to the Great Plains for the spring of 2003.
The La Plata tornado was a huge turning point for me.
Thank you for reading my little trip down memory lane.