There are few things I enjoy as much as sitting on the front porch while a good summer thunderstorm rolls through. That’s one of the trappings of being Weather Freak Boy.
Last night promised to be a good one — until the cell that was bearing down on New Castle prompted a tornado warning, based on the radar returns the National Weather Service guys were watching. I was still ready to watch from the porch, but after checking the radar on the Weather Channel and the NWS Pittsburgh site, it became clear that the storm was going to pass north of Butler.
When you take the certification class to become an NWS spotter, instructor Rich Kane cautions his students about chasing storms in western Pennsylvania. In the plains — where most of that ungodly tornado footage is shot — it’s an easier task; you can see for miles, and the roads are often set up in grids, which makes it easy to calculate where you are in relation to the storm. Here, the hills and winding roads diminsh a spotter’s sight lines; you won’t get as good a look at the storm, and you might find yourself in its path with nowhere to go.
I considered all this last night, but I thought I could drive up to Clearview Mall for a good vantage point — a pretty wide-open view to the north, but still a good distance from the actual weather.
The Wife rolled her eyes when I said I wanted to drive up to the mall to take a look. She’s used to this kind of behavior.
I could see what looked like a wall cloud — backlit by lightning — dangling over Route 8 as I headed up the hill. When I got to the mall’s back parking lot, I noticed I wasn’t the only Weather Freak Person in Butler; a small-but-steady stream of cars pulled through, some stopping, to watch for a while.
After a few minutes, I drove further north on Route 308 — but never really saw much, because of the exact limitations Rich told us about in the spotter’s course. Still, I shot some pretty cool stuff — the still above, and the video below. I don’t know about any damage from the storm, and I don’t think the NWS has confirmed whether a tornado touched down anywhere. But I’m glad I drove up — you don’t get to see an evil-looking storm like that very often.