I remember daylight saving time in the spring of 2003. It meant spring had arrived, and spring meant that I would be going on my first Great Plains storm chase.
At the time, I was going to school full time as a materials science and engineering student at Virginia Tech. I had switched out of electrical engineering, and this was my first semester in my new major.
I was also working full-time at night at Kroger (grocery store), stocking shelves. I was trying to raise the money for storm chasing. My 1988 Nova needed a few major repairs before it could be trusted for cross-country travel.
I had very few friends and was generally bitter towards the whole world. I did meet Dave Carroll, who was leading a storm chase out of Virginia Tech and Pulaski County High School. This meant I would not have to drive my car, but would have to come up with tuition money for his class instead.
I had no idea if it would all work. I had very few friends at this point. My grades in materials were better than in electrical engineering, but not enough for an internship. I didn’t know if I’d be able to find a job once (if) I graduated. I almost quit school and continued to work at Kroger.
I went for a walk along the Huckleberry Trail, not having to report to work until 9:30 PM. As I walked, I saw the 00 Z balloon sounding from the Blacksburg, VA, office float overhead. As it scouted out the world from a higher point of view, it was like a sign of better things ahead.
The storm chase was something on the horizon to look forward to. No matter what happened after the storm chase, at least I will have done that.
15 years later, I’m teaching engineering. I have a degree in meteorology as well as two in engineering. I have yet to miss a single season in the Great Plains, and have caught somewhere around 30 tornadoes. I have probably launched two dozen of those same balloons.
I still have the same feeling around daylight savings time. I’m sure my blood starts circulating cyclonically. The doldrums of winter weather slowly lose their grip on my mood, as the trough and ridge pattern amplifies over the mid-latitudes.
I don’t know if I have a favorite time of the year, but this is pretty close.