It was 1996. I was 8 years old, and I remember like it was yesterday. It was a stormy Saturday afternoon & we piled in my dads truck & raced to the Yukon movies! It was the movie that brought more attention to Oklahoma than the oil boom in the early 80’s. TWISTER.
I was known as a dare devil growing up. The first rollercoaster I ever rode was the Shockwave at six flags over Texas. I was 4 years old and stood on my tippy toes to prove to my older brother I could ride after he dared me. As the train pulled away from the station and clicked to the top I freaked! All of the sudden I didn’t want to go, but it was to late. I had to ride this double loop giant rollercoaster all because my brother dared me to. I passed out and had to be carried off the rollercoaster. I loved every second if it. From that moment on nothing could stop me from adventure!
I was fearless, but that didn’t come natural to me. As a baby I would collapse to the floor anytime a plane would fly over our house or a clap of thunder would hit. It stopped me in my tracks no matter what I was doing. If it weren’t for my brother daring me to ride that rollercoaster, my life would look a lot different.
May 11th 1996 was the day my spirit was awakened & my mind was blown. The movie TWISTER was a story of a group of storm chasers from OU who were on a mission to advance the science of studying tornados. Joe, played by Helen Hunt, was my personal hero. She was beautiful, smart, strong, courageous, and unlike any other female character I had seen in the movies. She chased tornados with boys, & was the boss. How freaking cool is that?! That same dare devil that my brother brought out at age 4, evolved again at age 8. I live in Oklahoma where the greatest weather in the world takes place! I realized through watching the movie and living that day at six flags in my head, I could be anything I wanted to be. I was hooked! I started to read every book about tornados, watch all the documentaries, and stay outside all day just looking at the sky. The sound of thunder in the distance and flashes of lightening against the clouds sends my adrenaline into overdrive. Jumping in my daddy’s ford and flying down highway 81 in Canadian county with Gary England’s voice over the radio was my first big adventure! It’s the adventure that is still alive today. Still living in Oklahoma today, I always get excited when the sirens go off. It’s the fear, excitement, and the pure rush of knowing you can see something you may never see again!
Today I spend the majority of the spring and summer months studying radars, and looking at prediction models. I always love to predict high risk areas and Tornado Warnings. It’s a lot of fun when my chaser buddies go out and send me messages asking where they should set up. Although I love to storm chase, I try to do it as safely as I can. I try to only go where I know the road systems and have good visuals and cell service. Seeing a Tornado rush through the open plains is pure magic. Every tornado is unique and has its own spirit. Some are quiet and peaceful, dancing in a field against a Oklahoma sunset. Others are violent and destructive, taking peoples homes and lives away. Every storm presents its aftermath and Oklahomans know how to take care of one another. We know how to neighbor here in the heartland.
I believe I will always love Storm Chasing. It’s helped me become a brave woman, wife, and mother! I fear Oklahoma weather, but I am not afraid of it. Being an adult has forced me to become responsible and less of a FREE SPIRIT, however the reckless daredevil still lives deep within my soul. I will always choose to live life as if I am storm chasing. I may not know where it will take me, but I will follow the gravel roads and enjoy the ride.