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April Preparations Continue

The biggest part of preparing for any chase trip is prepping the vehicle. You're more or less living out of your car the entire time. Yes, you spend the night in a hotel but you spend the majority of your time in or standing around your vehicle.

To prepare the vehicle, we needed several pieces of electronic equipment in the car: 

  • HAM radio
  • power inverter
  • wireless internet
  • laptop with ...
    • GPS software
    • GRLevel radar software (or another kind of radar software)
    • Mapping software 

So all these devices run on power so we purchased a power inverter that will convert the vehicle's battery power into useable electricity for our electronics. We also had to hook up the HAM radio directly to the vehicle's battery as well. It took us a while to find the spot in the vehicle where the wires from the electronics in the vehicle feed into the power under the hood; known as the "firewall". With help from Mark, we managed to find it tucked away. So we were able to run the power for the radio and the inverter to the vehicle's battery. Due to the amount of power a vehicle can produce and electronics can drain, it was important to make sure the inverter could handle the power, the vehicle could handle the inverter and that the correct gauge of wire was selected to handle the flow of electricity. 

Mark checking underneath the vehicle.

The other important thing to make sure of is that the wires are all neatly organized in the vehicle. This way when you're hopping in and out, you don't risk tripping over the wires or, even worse, tearing the wires out and damaging something. All the wires are tucked away or taped down so they won't be a hazard to anyone. It is also important to make sure there are no loose live wires that could be an electrocution danger. If it is your first time hooking up electronics in your vehicle, make sure you don't do it on your own. Get someone who has done it before or a professional this way everything is done properly.

Visit my Photography section where I've uploaded a few pictures of us preparing the vehicle:

Storm Chase 2012 - April Preparations

So now we have a working HAM radio in the vehicle for communication and a power source for our laptops, wireless internet and any other devices we may need to hook up such as re-charging a camera or cell phone. Another project we've decided to undertake is manufacturing hail guards for the vehicle. We have absolutely no intention of "core-punching" or driving the vehicle directly into large hail. That is not the purpose of these hail guards. There are always risks not only in storm chasing but visit a part of the U.S. prone to storms and hail. Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you're stuck and there's going to be large, unavoidable hail. We, of course, would rather this never happen but sometimes you can't always help it. Here's an example of a situation where Scott McPartland, Dave Lewison, and Chris Kridler were trapped by power lines damaged by an incredible tornado but then had to endure softball-sized hail:

The hail guards are more of a precaution. We could be sleeping in a hotel and a storm rolls through during the night and drops hail. So hail is a real danger than can sometimes be unavoidable. Other big dangers, besides the storms themselves, include deer on the highway, transport trucks, other drivers, etc. But back to the hail guards ...

We found our inspiration in Scott's vehicle; hail guards manufactured and designed by Scott and Dave. Here's a link to the chase vehicle page: Scott and Dave's Chase Vehicle. We of course had to modify the design because our vehicle is different than Scott's XTerra. We have to order some of the materials as well so we're waiting for those to arrive and then we can begin manufacturing the hail guards. They will not be permanent structures but rather held on with very strong magnets and clips. It's important to not only attach the guards with magnets but to make sure they're secured by other means. The weight of the guards can drag the magnets slowly down with time so clipping the guard into the frame of the vehicle is important as well. In the next couple of weeks we will be manufacturing the guards and I'll post pictures and videos with updates.


Reader Comments (2)

The power equation is also a challenge of my own. Would you be open to a couple of questions?

April 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNotanee Bourassa

I don't mind a couple of questions but it's not really my area of expertise. We mostly followed the manuals with the devices we bought making sure the correct gauge of wire for battery / ground were used.

April 8, 2012 | Registered CommenterDayna Vettese
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