The Master Class 2004 was my first storm chasing experience, and I am extremely glad that I chose to do this with Silver Lining Tours. I chose the Master Class and Silver Lining because I wanted to understand the awesome storms that roam across the heartland of America, as well as experience them firsthand. The 2004 Master Class gave me both the most extreme weather I’ve ever experienced, and the knowledge to interpret, (and even predict), the intense storms that we saw.
David Gold was extremely helpful in answering all my questions before the Tour (and dealing with the vagaries of the British postal system), and also sent out high quality training material that would form the syllabus of the tour well ahead of time, so there was a chance to come forearmed with some of the information necessary to forecast tornadic storms.
On the tour, both David and Bill Gargan (fastest manual analyst in the West and driver extraordinaire), were always available to answer any questions we had and went out of their way to ensure we all had a good understanding of the process that led them to choose one area over another to chase in. Coupled with this we had David’s excellent morning lessons which took us from the physical principles underlying severe weather, through hand analysis of data, interpreting sounding diagrams, computer models and when to ignore them ;-), what to look for in satellite images, the principles of vorticity, and hodographs. All this in the morning then the rest of the day out in the field to see if theory matched fact.
The Master Class chases as hard as any other tour, the difference is that you, the participant, gets up earlier and are actively involved in choosing the target area for the day. If you choose this tour, be prepared for long days, lots of information and an intellectually as well as emotionally rewarding experience.
For me, the culmination of the tour was the 20th of June where David and Bill handed over the choice of target area to the Master Class participants, and we collectively chose an area which led to us seeing the first tornado of the tour (as well as a very thrilling time in La Junta – but that’s another story), clearly David’s excellent tuition paid off.