Saturday, June 20, 2009

I give up.

Well, I thought 2009 had thrown all it had at me this year, culminating with the $600 repair bust in Iowa a couple weeks ago. It wasn't to be though, as probably the worst week I've had chasing was thrown to me this week. It began with my choice to stay home while Darin Kaiser and Mark Sefried headed to the plains. To me, it didn't look good enough and seemed to me that local ops would make up for sitting out there days out west. They wound up, with many back to back great days and several tornadoes, while I waited for my chance later in the week. How did that play out?

Thursday morning. I wake up around 5:00 am, 3 hours before my alarm because of an early morning bow echo. With the weather radio sounding every 15 minutes with new warnings, a couple of which were tornado warnings. I hopped in my car as the storm entered Champaign County and headed south of town a few miles to let the bow hit me. I was treated to a photogenic green shelf cloud, but very little in the way of winds. I headed back home, and whipped up some chocolate chip pancakes before loading up the car and heading out for the real show in Iowa. I spoke with Jarrod Cook and Colin Davis from the Peoria area, and it was determined that I would pick them both up and we'd share the trip to Iowa. Shortly after picking up the last of the two, that being Colin, the fun began.

While traveling west on Interstate 74 through a one lane construction zone, out of nowhere, a car slammed into the back of my car. I didn't even have time to realize what had happened, but managed to keep the car going straight and come to a stop. Because I was looking forward while coming to a stop, I did not see what followed but heard more tires screeching and more cars being struck. We were rear ended very hard by a woman driving a Cadillac. I can't wrap my head around what she could have been doing to not see my car coming. It was the interstate, we were not sitting around some sharp curve. There were no cars in front of me, so I was not slamming on my brakes, or even braking period. We passed a flagger earlier and were in a part of the zone where workers were present, and were traveling at the posted 40-45 mph. I don't know how fast she was going, but it was enough to total both of our cars, and give the three of us a good case of sore necks. I just can't figure it out. She had to not be looking at the road for a really long time to not see us coming. She just came from nowhere. Anyway, after hitting my car she veered left and hit to other parked construction vehicles. One of the workers shortly after even climbed up on his tractor and said "Dumb bitch wasn't even payin' attention!". He pretty much summed up my thoughts. I was fuming. As any of those who know me, I just put $600 in repairs into that car. Not only that, but we were on our way to what was to be an impressive day in Iowa. Rather than create a scene though, I just went back to my car and sat in the passenger seat until police officers needed to speak with me. The whole process took about 2.5 agonizing hours on the fresh asphalt in the hot June sun. The tow trucks showed up, picked up my car, and drove off. I'm guessing that is the last of it. No way the car is not totaled. Really upset about that, too. I wasn't looking for a new car at all. Absolutely loved what I had, and was hoping to get many more years out of it.

Jarrod's wife Crystal picked us up and drove us up a mile where we were instructed to wait at either the Hardee's or McDonald's. Both were closed due to power outages. We were all very thirsty so we stopped at the little gas station near the exit, which luckily was open. I got all my insurance information from the trooper, and the deal was done for now. Afterward, I was in no mood to chase. However, I had time to cool off and throw down a Red Bull, and was now in no mood to go home and sit and think about what had happened. It was about 2:30 PM, and we could make our target by 5:30. We headed back to Colin's car, threw the gear in back and the three of us were off again.

We all know how that turned out. We made the target area in time to see the sun set with no storms to speak of. I had planned on sleeping at Colin's place and chasing with him the next day with a moderate risk already in place for Friday. Halfway home however, I decided I wasn't in the mood anymore. I was still pissed from the accident, and was getting more sore. The three hours of sleep the night before was also catching up to me. I decided I'd rather just get home that night, and sleep in and deal with the car business.

I rode back to Mark Sefried's place in Morton where I had Tia meet me and drive me back to Champaign. We returned around, 3 I think. I hit the sack, and woke up around 2 PM. I called the doctor and setup an appointment to get my neck checked out as it was now much more sore. It even hurt to yawn. I had Tia drive me there as well, and as soon as I walked in the door, Mark gave me a call informing me of a supercell 30 miles west of town, heading right that way. *eye roll* Luckily, the appointment was quick. I didn't see my regular doctor, but this guy was hilarious. He told me what I assumed, that I was just dealing with some muscles strains for the impact, and that if it got worse to come back in. I was given a prescription for muscle relaxers, and sent on my way. Stepping out, I could see the crisp anvil from the supercell overspreading town. Tia was up for a chase, so we stopped by and picked up my cameras and headed out. My laptop was damaged in the crash, so I'd be without radar or gps. I did not even have my paper maps, because those were in my car.

I don't really feel like writing up about the chase right now, perhaps later. I luckily met up with Mark and Darin, who had gps running and was able to travel with them. We followed a nice supercell that came very close to producing a tornado into Indiana. The kicker on this one? We sat almost directly under a rapidly rotating funnel cloud with the sirens sounding near Westville. An incredible scene! Getting home to watch this on video... I realized I had done it again. The camera was on stand by the entire time. Of all the scenes I filmed that day! Or even all year! In a tornadoless year, this was easily the best thing I've seen all year, and also the ONE thing I have no documentation of!! I couldn't believe it. I shut the camera off, and went to bed.

I waited all week for these two chase days. What did I get? My car is trashed, my laptop is broken, my phone is not working any longer, I have a sore neck that hurts me to yawn, I finally saw a decent attempt at a tornado and a beautiful scene altogether, and returned home to see I did not film any of it. A great 48 hours!

I'm paranoid about the insurance process. My car has not been labeled totaled yet, but it will. Guessing they'll check it out on Monday. I'll be okay if I don't get screwed over and can get an equally as good, or perhaps better car in the end. No way I'm downgrading cars because some idiot slammed into the ass end of my car when I did nothing to cause it. Unbelievable. I get pissed just thinking about it. In fact, I think I'll wrap up this blog now. Below are a couple images from the accident scene minutes after it occurred.

My car:

The woman's Cadillac, and the two construction vehicles that she struck.

The driver of the red pickup was funny. Said "that's alright, I wanted a silver one anyway".


bucket trucks said...

I have seen too many people injured and even killed working with unsafe car equipment. It seems to be all about the bottom dollar to most manufacturers which is why you have to be very careful when purchasing new machinery.

Unknown said...

watching the storm from where I was near 57, I was hoping you found a way to get up under there. give anything for a girl/friends who are also my backup. I have a feeling you'll still redeem before the year is up.

jg said...

just glad your okay man.. all that equipment tho pricey can be replaced.

Dann Cianca said...

Man, I'm sorry Andrew. That sucks man. Hope your neck feels better.

Andrew Pritchard said...

Thanks guys. Certainly lucky to have stumbled upon such an awesome girl that has (unfortunate for her!) admitted that she finds the whole storm chasing deal pretty interesting. I've now got a great partner when she wants to come along, and a great support when these crappy car problems arise. I hope you're right, Paul. Never seen anything like 2009 for me, and hope I never do again.

Utility Digger Derrick said...

That sucks but atleast they had a postive attitude throughout the whole thing. Great blog. Thanks for sharing.

utility bucket truck said...

interesting post! thanks for sharing!